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Kartikeya Jain Feb 2018
Why I only wear Shiny shoes?

Every morning,
I would wear my shiny shoes
and run off to the field
for a game of football
and come back bruised and scarred
bleeding out of my mouth
but I was smiling.
You see, my shoes were still shiny.
Every morning,
I would go to school
bragging about my shiny shoes
and come back
with dried tears
and red hands as if
someone hit them really hard
but I was smiling.
You see, my shoes were still shiny.
Every morning,
I would see my friend
waving at me from a distance.
We were our only friends.
I was his SpongeBob, he was my Patrick.
One day, Patrick left.
But I was smiling,
You see, my shoes were still shiny.
All this while,
Nobody cared that the
insides of my shoes were
being torn apart
because my shoes were still shiny,
because I was still smiling.
Esther Esuga Apr 2015
An innovative, creative, calm serenity
A spirit of togetherness and humanism
A patient, peaceful, joyful emotion
Independence
Different shades of Turquoise

A new, fresh, hopeful place of rest
Healing
Natural
Growth and development
Success
Vitality

A joyful, happy warming effect
Energetic
Sunshine
Arousal of cheerful feelings and freshness
Great mental stimulant

A classy, luxury glitz of glamour
A confident, generous, self-work
A victorious , royal, happy-to-go-look
An abundant, shiny, excess extrovert
Sophisticated

Written By; Esther Esuga













An innovative, creative, calm serenity
A spirit of togetherness and humanism
A patient, peaceful, joyful emotion
Independence
Different shades of Turquoise

A new, fresh, hopeful place of rest
Healing
Natural
Growth and development
Success
Vitality

A joyful, happy warming effect
Energetic
Sunshine
Arousal of cheerful feelings and freshness
Great mental stimulant

A classy, luxury glitz of glamour
A confident, generous, self-work
A victorious , royal, happy-to-go-look
An abundant, shiny, excess extrovert
Sophisticated

Written By; Esther Esuga



















An innovative, creative, calm serenity
A spirit of togetherness and humanism
A patient, peaceful, joyful emotion
Independence
Different shades of Turquoise

A new, fresh, hopeful place of rest
Healing
Natural
Growth and development
Success
Vitality

A joyful, happy warming effect
Energetic
Sunshine
Arousal of cheerful feelings and freshness
Great mental stimulant

A classy, luxury glitz of glamour
A confident, generous, self-work
A victorious , royal, happy-to-go-look
An abundant, shiny, excess extrovert
Sophisticated

Written By; Esther Esuga



















A sweet , young , pretty , subtle-charm
   A girly, warm, bright sense of appeal
  A cute, Fun, attractive, soft touch of feminity
  A spark of warmth and tenderness with friends and family
  An unconditional love, friendship and care.
An elegant pink


A royal, noble, selfless form of leadership
An enlightened, balanced state of maturity
A mixture of the feminine and masculine energies
An alluring, luxury of mystic fantasy
A beautiful, calm , calculated sense of wisdom

A color of heat, love, power and hot-passion
A vibrant, provoking, brave sense of will power
A seductive, romantic list of appetite
An attention grabbing, sharp rhythm of excitement
A color of signs

A calm, loyal, productive and conservative effect on humanity
A strong connection with masculinity
A rich, hopeful, desiring-lucky-go charm
A color of intuition and the sixth sense
Mostly heavenly and soothing to the mind and body
A friendly, stable , sincere, expertise of understanding


A cheerful, creative,bright-sunshine
A warm, happy, joyful, energetic summer
A spirit of optimism and success
Shades of orange

Angelic
A meek, peaceful note of simplicity
Pure, heavenly and gentle
An innocent, good act of precision
Positive

A powerful, bold, confident elegance
Wealth
A formal, classy sense of sophistication
Sexuality
Proudly black and beautiful

A color that absorbs
A strong, honest form of endurance
A stable, warm, comfortable, sense of maturity
A friendly note of earthly attitude
A bond with earth and its nature

A mediator between black and white
A neutral, reserved and modest aura
A solid, elegant form of maturity
A reliable, formal dignified class

A shiny, wealthy glitz of glamour
A modern sense of creativity
A gentle , graceful, kind touch of femininity
Sensitive

An innovative, creative, calm serenity
A spirit of togetherness and humanism
A patient, peaceful, joyful emotion
Independence
Different shades of Turquoise

A new, fresh, hopeful place of rest
Healing
Natural
Growth and development
Success
Vitality

A joyful, happy warming effect
Energetic
Sunshine
Arousal of cheerful feelings and freshness
Great mental stimulant

A classy, luxury glitz of glamour
A confident, generous, self-work
A victorious , royal, happy-to-go-look
An abundant, shiny, excess extrovert
Sophisticated

Written By; Esther Esuga
Ana Davhn Aug 2016
A shiny little thing, so small,
So precious, amidst a pile of stone.
Fluttered its eyes open, beaming
As bright as the sun.
A shiny little thing, lost in the stones,
Dark and gray, they gathered, like
Rain clouds in a howling storm.
A shiny little thing, drowned in absurd.
Her shine dulled, her spirit flickered.
She folded her arms, gathered her light.
Shiny little thing, take no mind, for
A stone never knows what it does.
A shiny little thing, weak and dull,
Move under the stones, you
Will be crushed. Look onto yourself,
Crushed, hurt and sad, yet far more
Brighter that those who ripped your heart.
Danny Hefer Sep 2014
The shiny, glossy shoes you wear to go outside,
and show the world how shiny, glossy your feel.
They are the shoes others will use,
to walk a mile in your life.

However bumpy, however ***** the road,
they won't feel the bumps and dirt,
wearing your glossy, shiny shoes.

Those old, everyday sneakers, they're not that bad,
the inside, shaped to your feet, years after years,
the outside a bit scarred, a bit battered.

Lend them, too, for a mile or two,
so all can feel how strong are your fee
sup
Docter Jedingaling here
with mah shiny PhD
so shiny
but u dont have one and u are whiny
but worry not peep
not everyone is as smat as me
trust me
ima docder
meby one day ull understand
that im smarterer than u
and theres nothn u can do
so just acept that fact
and eat a chezburger
with out a PhD
mines still shinyer than urs
because u dont have one
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.
Joseph Flores Jun 2018
Today she recieved ~
A shiny ring ~
From her special man.

Instead of showing off her ring ~
She bowed her head and cried.

Though her tears shed heavy ~
And trickled the long day through~
One never fell in happiness ~
Nor joy.
Nor thankfulness.

She cried because ~
She couldn't show the shiny ring ~
To her mom and dad.
Or her family ~
Or her siblings ~
Nor all the friends she had.

She didnt want the shiny ring at all ~
But couldn't give it back.
And if she could ~
It would only make him mad.

How could a shiny ring of gold ~
Placed around her finger ~
Make her want to cry?

You see, he never set ~
A shiny ring of gold ~
Around her finger.

He gave her a shiny  ~
Purple ring ~
And he put it around her eye.
Kathryn Dixon May 2012
You fade...
Like a bruise.

Like the ones your mouth left on my neck and shoulders with its lustful pressure.
Your teeth, which brought moments of bright pain/pleasure,
Are now bared in an artificial, animal smile.

Your lips, which parted to ******* skin like it was salvation,
Barely part now to speak to me.
You whispered my name like a prayer.
You screamed it like a curse.
You sighed it in contentment,
And now you won't even speak it in passing.

Your hands, which half-playfully pulled my hair...
Now won't pause to brush it from my face.

All these parts of you,
None more telling than your eyes.
Those new windows, which once let me pry...
Now have blinds drawn tight behind them,
Leaving only a pretty, shiny reflection-
A passing, glancing imitation-
Of the passion they once held
When they beheld
Me.

No color left to them but the muddy colors of
Boredom,
And possibly mistrust.

You fade...
Like a bruise.
Like the one you left on my mind with your brilliant conversation
And beautiful, rusty prose.
Like the many you left on my tongue...
Which now can speak nothing but trite and meaningless words,
Which now can barely remember the shapes
Of all the shimmering, liquid phrases it spoke to you
That seemed so important at the time.

You fade...
Like a bruise.
Once lover and friend,
Now barely one
And never the other again.
AlanK Jul 2014
Oh, I love to get a bright new shiny thing,
Marvel at the perfection
Caress the smooth surface
Not a flaw to interrupt my touch
And there is a smell of newness
Hard to describe, but perceptible nonetheless.
I walk around the room
Studying the view from various perspectives
A changed environment, and how it speaks
With this new addition.
Nothing can ever be the same
This bright shiny thing begins to define the space.
It mirrors my life, and reflects the imperfections
My old life is dented and marred and scratched
Lines of age bear witness to the passing of time.
I have a gallery, photos of my bright shiny things
Frozen portraits of hope
But now only the photos survive untouched.
And today, like so many days before,
I discover a flaw.
Just a dimple, but a glaring impediment
To my dream.
My bright shiny thing fades
And soon finds a place on the shelf.
Aleka Aug 27
Dear Shiny Star,
Guiding me from above.
There are millions like you,
but none are as bright.

Dear Shiny Star,
So far away from here.
I stretch my arm to touch you,
but I never seem to reach you.

Dear Shiny Star
Do my pleas fall into deaf ears?
Will you ever embrace me into your light,
and take me away from here?

Dear Shiny Star,
We will finally be together.
May our light fade into one,
now that my end is near.
Azurel Oct 2018
Soft melodies of the deep sea echo
Moonlight dances on my pretty scales
And icy bubbles whirl under my vest
Through my slippery hair
And down into my lungs to clear the way for overflowing foam
Laughter splashes behind my lips as my anticipation rises
Waiting for a night of twisted fairy-tales and uncalled for surprises.

Shimmering bodies swarm in spirals
Grinding in unison with the waves crashing at the surface
We're anxious for overflowing foam and hidden treasures
Purple light pierces the dark like shards of crystals
Casting a ghostly shade on bulbous faces
Pressure rises as each wave surges
Whirlpools of hot breath suffocate our gills
But the sidelines are shallow
And stragglers float motionless

Hair like seaweed at the nape of his neck
Unbuttoned linen soaked and dripping
Her hollow eyes glow green
Like the jelly orbs of a fish under florescent lights
She’s pressed against a boy who has hooks for fins
Searching for the parts that are edible
Tender, Scale-less, Slippery
Nothing wrong with being the catch of the day
Right?

Bubbles rise and pop as the last melodies drown
Schools of us are begging for shiny hooks and bad decisions
A handsome boy has been smiling all the while
He’s caught in a fisherman’s net
Craving salty lips and the spell to make him a man
But fisherman don't care for little mermaids
With hearts like sea glass and no hidden treasures to steal

Sweaty fins splash and cheer
The fishbowl shatters
Sea glass spills out onto sand
We squirm and flop onto land
Gasping without air to breathe
As our mouths and ***** thoughts dry in the sun
Leaving behind fresh meat without mouths to feed.

Rainbow confetti was stuck in the grooves of my scales
Wet clothes left on the floor of a steamy bathroom
Gasping and moaning into tile
With the face of a handsome stranger
Because this meat shouldn't go to waste
And I'm drunken with desperation
For overflowing foam, jewels, and shiny hooks
But I'm just another fish in the sea
Tumbling in the waves with my rainbow confetti scales.
A school dance
McNe Jun 2015
Listen to me, oh bright shiny star
The one in the sky so far
Why is it so hard to reach you?
You just made me sad and blue

Why are you always there?
Each time, I fall into despair
Are you mocking me, my bright shiny star?
Knowing that I can’t be where you are?

Even if you will disappear in time
Even if you’re way past your prime
Even if it leaves me a deep scar
I would still be here, my bright shiny star
I'll still be here, my dearest star. Though I can't be there, I will still be here...
C S Dec 2013
I see the soft, charming ringlets bounce up, down, and around
As my little cousin opens her gift.
I hear the tinkling sound of her excited voice,
but feel sick to my stomach when she tells Mommy and Daddy what it is.
She squeals "Barbie!"
And I want to scoop her up and run,
Far, far, away from the little plastic doll,
On, on, onward toward a safe view of beauty.

Her ignorance is bliss, but I know better,
And I pray with a heavy heart
For that beautiful, creative mind underneath the ringlets.
I desperately ask some higher power
How we can protect her from that little doll.
What were you thinking,
I want to yell at the grown ups.
Didn't you learn from us?

Don't you know that Barbie cut open our hearts and sewed in her plastic ideal
Before they had beaten long enough for us to walk?
That she shoved sharp words in our head
Before we could string together full sentences?
That we never stood a chance,
From the moment we tore open the shiny paper
Dotted with cartoon Christmas trees?
That the "must-have" gift for a little girl
Would enslave our bodies and minds to a "must-have" torture for the rest of our lives,
And teach our brothers and classmates to look for the woman
With not enough calories in her body to sustain a simple memory,
With not enough room in her waist to hold a kidney?

Maybe it's not all your fault, you grown-ups.
Maybe you've been chained to the unattainable images for so long
That you've forgotten the shackles were even there.
But does that not scare you?
Maybe you'll remember the strain
When you see a beautiful young woman's scars,
When you hear a breaking voice speak about her friend's final breaths
At her own fragile hands filled with little pills.

But most of all, I pray to God that you won't have to remember too late,
I hope you don't have to remember when you're chained to her hospital bed
Because the insufficiency you gifted her in a shiny plastic box
Started a cycle of sinister self-hate and destructive delusion
That she cannot outrun.
I won't let you forget, because you cannot remember that way.
I won't let you forget, because she can't end up that way, like we did.
You think you gave her a pretty little toy in a shiny little package.
Didn't you learn from us?
You gave her Pandora's box.

You look at me funny,
When I replace the impossibly-sized plastic "woman" in her hands
With a toddler-sized plastic piano.
You may not remember, but I always will,
And I will dedicate my life to making sure
These beautiful ringlets will never have to.
for Sophia
You're personality is just so shiny,
it comes out and shows the best in me.
When you're near everything seems to just gleam,
if someone's near they'll see what I mean.
The shadows disappear into a glittery mist.
They lights come out to say hello in your midst.
Your waves cause sparkles,
causing my heart to grow,
and allowing it all to flow,
into what it's meant to be,
because you're shiny.
Heading to get what I need,
and there I see,
your halo,
it's so bright that I can't keep you out of sight,
although try as I might,
there you go making my world full of rainbows from your afterglow.
When I look at you I confuse you for the sun.
You're so bright and so much fun,
I just feel lucky to have come across that glint.
In case you need another hint,
you're just so shiny,
it's amazing just to get a glimpse of you.
You're so shiny,
I cannot dream that there'd be a being so bright,
but then you came and I knew,
that things are different,
it's all better,
I see what's made you tick,
you've seem to do the trick,
of taking any pain,
and filling those holes with sunlight.
septemb3r Dec 2013
Your hands cling to the rim of the toilet.
Blood drips out of your mouth into the porcelain bowl.
A throbbing pain is in your side.  

The last thing you remember:
Sitting on the bridge,
It was dusk.
Her hand in yours, and leaves falling all around.
A family of ducks floating down the River.
She pulls out something shiny;
She loves anything sharp, anything shiny.
You feel a sudden pain in your side.

Next thing you know:
Tied to a chair,
Broken ribs,
Blood everywhere.
The pain in your side ceases to throb, and pulsate.
Everywhere is dark,  
Except where you sit, tied.
You can hear faint breathing,
Until the light diminishes altogether.
You know you're not alone. . .
You're here with those eyes you look into every morning,  
And something shiny.
Purcy Flaherty Jan 2018
Initially she began contacting me over the course of a year or so and increasingly over the last few months she started visiting me, helping me, caring for me and occasionally employing me in different ways.

She’d just had a break up a few weeks before, explaining that things hadn’t been right in the relationship for some time!

She presents herself as respectful, thoughtful, gentle, kind and considerate and after what seemed to be a very short length of time; unexpectedly declared that she had feelings for me; regarding love, admiration, desire and some other adventures.

She then began to bombarded me with love talk; occupying around 70% of my time gaining my trust, I was swept off my feet; she took a great deal of interest in me, learning everything about me, what I liked, where I would go, always asking what I was thinking feeling, how she could help and I was flattered and she was charming, though a little awkward at times.

As our friendship grew she started sharing her back story, including some tragic life experiences; she vilified her past lovers, and ex-partners and branded them as crazy, or bitter liars and troubled souls; slowly gaining my sympathy, whilst securing my allegiance, and keeping me on side; keeping me close; drawing on my compassion loyalty & trust!

During intimate moments she would sometimes seem a little awkward, false, over enthusiastic, or a little insincere and I made allowances for this given my knowledge of her backstory. Re: (The tragic life events & experiences)

She began to choose and buy me clothes; outfits, take me shopping, gradually altering my outward image and appearance.

She introduced me to her friends; but was careful to keep me and them at arms-length, I realise now that she was building an alternative profile of me in their minds and that the people she introduced to me rarely exhibited the behaviours or characteristic that I was led to expect.

She soon started to embroil me in her own rituals and compulsive behaviour’s, explaining that tasks needed to be performing in very specific ways to prevent her getting distressed!

She made many promises : ‘Hooked’ It was my expectation i.e. waiting for some of those promises to materialise that kept me hanging on; This increased her control and exited her too. (None of her promises came to fruition!)

She gradually had a hand in almost every aspect of my life i.e. my home, my work, my friends, family, my finances, the way I dressed, the food I ate and many other things besides, much of which I didn’t realise until our relationship was finally over.

She often took immense pleasure in duping, individuals or companies out of something through theft, shoplifting, or getting something for nothing, a profiteer, a chancer!


To question or challenge her authority would result in seeing her façade slip and watch her decline into meltdown. It's at that point, she would lose composure, and I would see her irrationality come to the fore; revealing the real person underneath; childish, contrived and very fragile; It’s as if control is the glue that holds her together, without it she just falls apart, during this time she can’t be consoled and it’s impossible to calm this escalating situation; in fact; at this point that she would attempt to regain control by ‘gas-lighting’ me, she would distort the truth; who said what; in an attempt to damage my self-esteem, to make me question my own mind, my words, my intention and any actions, apportioning blame, pointing fingers, making me feel guilty, use rejection, or using hurt, sorrow, tears, shame and even threaten liable or legal action, and then use *** to pacify or regain control over me and my actions.

These episodes would appear often; though irregular and without provocation, I would always be deemed at fault! I found silent compliance was less stressful than engaging in discussion.    

She never took responsibility or made any apologies for her conduct.

She would set me tasks and go out a lot and lie or bend the truth as to where she had been; I never challenged this behaviour!

When the relationship was finally deemed over! I was both devastated and relieved.


I began to see my new position in the cycle; as she immediately begin to vilify me in order to give credence to her new backstory, I felt very confused, disorientated and emotionally fraught, shell shocked! questioning, how much of our relationship was true and how much was a lie? For everything I thought I knew was now knitted together with a very complex web of loyalties, lies and half-truths.

Her pattern of repetitive and controlling behaviours have seemingly remained unchanging throughout all her relationships!; (I know! as I was contacted by many of her previous partners and other casualties since I shared this account.)

Within two weeks of being apart she told me that she had fallen in love (My replacement) someone she’d had her eye on for some time, some-one she admires, someone kept in the background, a friend a mutual acquaintance, and thanked me for bringing them together.
The grooming of her new lover would have come about in exactly the same way as previously described. It's her M.O. (Her pattern of behaviours, her techniques have remained fixed.)

She’s incredibly self-conscious, her biggest fear is that other people will find out about her true demeanour, her image and appearance is everything to her. She's afraid that people will shun her for being so very different. She is a wolf, that’s not a malevolent creature par-say; and quite beautiful and beguiling in her own way but you don’t want to be her pray.

Full circle:
I too have joined the ranks of the discredited; labelled a liar, troubled, bitter and crazy. (I Know this because secretly contacted members of my, family, friends and some fellow musicians; and they shared these conversations with me.) I suspect that she may even attempt to vilify me with authorities or threaten some form of legal action; as she has to others in the past!

I'm still drawn to her despite my knowledge of her sociopathic nature, and all the things that go with it, her charismatic boldness, her ****** power and her Svengali like intelligence.

I’ve had to block all means of contact and cut her off entirely to curtail my pathological interest, for despite everything that’s transpired, her lies, her infidelity, her deceit and appalling behaviour, I feel no malice towards her; quite the opposite, I'm drawn, intrigued, bewitched, beguiled by the person hiding underneath the façade!

Now the dust has finally settled; I’ve somehow remained sound of mind, and I don’t feel guilty anymore; I’m aware that I’ve been manipulated into thinking and acting in ways that don’t truly represent my character; and that I’m just one of many people seduced by a sociopath.

She’s just another natural human variant , an attractive person devoid of empathy for others, that’s developed a narrow set of skills and mirroring behaviours, that allows her to blend into mainstream society in order to feel safe, secure and in control.

She would have preferred to keep me hanging on, like many other dependants, adding me to the hareem; a bank of beguiled individuals that she occasionally calls upon to perform simple tasks, or to simply monitor and re-assess her handwork.

The last time I saw her she opened with nervous politeness and finished with veiled cruelty, I left feeling drained, uncomfortable and quite fazed.

I’ve written this account to help further understand what had transpired during this complicated relationship, I’m not sure publishing this account will be useful as to others.

But I’ve not mentioned any names; and at any rate the next person targeted; will ignore any pre-warnings as just bitter ramblings, and most individuals are driven by the natural pursuit of love, *** and romance rather than following advice of some seemingly bitter ex.

Bittersweet! The reason you and I might attract the attention of a sociopath is because we shine like stars; stars are both attractive and further enhance the image and status of the sociopath and the people around them; a sociopath will orbit a shiny star and use its energy to slingshoting into a larger more attractive orbit, either stealing a bit of its shine or destroy it in the process; To these people love, *** and desire is simply a tool for manipulation and gain.

Expect high drama.
She loves to watch you *** unstuck!
Danny Valdez Apr 2012
My Mom needed something from the store
So I told her I’d walk up there for her and get it.
We were barely getting by
The two of us.
She was living on a disability check
And I was in between jobs
Again
So these little walks to the store were all I had.
I got her some Epsom salts and was walking back
Had just walked past the hardware store
When a small, sleek, black, BMW pulled up next to me.
To my surprise it was a chick
A big titted redhead with pink sunglasses.
There was something in her eyes
When she peeked below the sunglasses
I saw something in them
that frightened me
A voice inside was screaming at me
Just keep walking
Just keep walking
But like a fool
I ignored it
And bent over the passenger seat
In the convertible that smelled new.
“How big is your ****?”
The lady asked
Her chest just heaving and jiggling
With every breath she took
And every word she spoke.
“What?”
“I said….how big is your ****?”
“Ha ha!”
I took a look around
Expecting to see a hidden camera
Or a film crew in a van across the street.
There was no one
No witnesses.
I leaned back down
“7 inches? Maybe 8? I don’t know lady, I haven’t measured my **** since the 11th grade!”
The redhead took off the sunglasses completely and looked me up and down
Those bright green eyes scanning me
From my worn out Converse to my greasy pompadour on my head.
It seemed like an eternity
I got uncomfortable.
Just standing there
Squirming
While the redheaded fox
Kept inspecting me.
“Okay. Get in. Hurry up.”
I wasn’t even thinking
Just reacting to it all.
I’d always dreamed of this
When I was walking down that
Same old ******* street
The only street that I ever saw
Dreaming of
A beautiful woman in a sports car.
And now here she was.
Here we were
Driving down the street
The breeze blowing in our hair
She made an immediate right turn
Onto a suburban side street.
She parked in front of a house that was up for sale.
Again she took off the sunglasses.
“Let me see it.”
She said, staring at my crotch.
“Whoa, whoa, lady. What’s this all about?”
“My husband and I…..we have certain…..tastes. Things we like, things we enjoy. He’s an older guy, so he likes to watch young guys **** me. I mean, just really give it to me good, make me scream. And of course after your services have been….rendered….you’ll be paid two-thousand dollars. Now do you think you can do that?”
“Uh……I—I think so.”
“Well, I need you to know so. And if you were bullshitting me, if that **** isn’t at least 7 inches, you can get out of the car right ******* now.”
“No it is, it is.”
“Well...”
“Well...you gotta start my engine first—“
Before I could finish my cheesy line
She was in the passenger seat
Climbing on top of me.
“Rip it open” She said looking down.
I did as I was told
And ripped the front of her blouse open
The buttons flying in all directions
Bouncing off the windows and rolling on the dashboard.
Her two, round, fake, **** sprang out of the top
Hitting me in the face
As she rubbed them up and down
And all around.
She kissed me sloppily
And then started in with that biting *******.
She met my lip so hard
It drew blood
acting purely on reflex
I grabbed her by the arms very hard
And pulled her back from me
Staring at her with those crazy, intense, eyes
That I sometimes got when startled.
“Oh…..” She said looking down, at the ******* in my Levi’s.
“Alright. You wanna see the house?” She asked.
I let go of her arms and she rolled off of me,
hopping into the driver’s seat and starting the car up.

She drove all the way to the edge of the city
Where the Red Mountains in the east
Meets the long winding road out of town
And into the desert.
It was a large ranch style mansion
Decorated with cowboy themed ****.
The redhead parked the sports car in
A massive garage
Filled with dozen of rare and expensive automobiles .
She told me to leave my plastic grocery bag of Epsom salts
In the car
She said I could get it later, when we were done.
I followed her to an elevator at the back of the garage.
We took it all the way down to the very bottom.
Stepping out of the elevator
I found myself in a large expansive grey room.
The floors were concrete
But they were shiny and slick
Reminded me of the floor in the meat department
At the job I had just lost.
The room had a few beds in it
Some custom built sets were erected all over the room
An office, a jail cell, a medieval dungeon, a medical examination room,
There were a lot these little sets built all over
In the back of the room
The corners
Were pitch black and covered in darkness.
I wondered what they had over there.
“So what do we do?” I asked, fidgeting in my pants
thumbing my switchblade stiletto in my right front pocket.
“We have to wait for my husband to come down. I just texted him.”
“Oh okay.”
“You should take your clothes off and put this on.”
The redhead said, taking a hospital gown from a hanger
Next to the medical examination set.
“….put that on and I’m gonna go get into character.”
She said, walking behind a white privacy screen
The old kind, like they used to have in doctor’s offices.
I undressed myself and got into the hospital gown.
I can’t say what it was exactly
But I still had that real nervous feeling
I couldn’t ignore it
So for some reason
I hid my switchblade on me.
Put it in the waistband of my underwear.
And that made me feel a little bit safer
This whole thing was beyond belief
I was never this lucky
Something was rotten in Denmark
I could feel it in my bones.
But there was no backing out now
I was riding this all the way
No choice.
I took a seat on the medical examination table
The thin paper crunching loudly beneath my ***
They had it down to the finest detail.
Even the little slots with the Highlights magazines.
I watched the black & white clock on the wall
And it took them 28 minutes to finally come out
The two of them together.
The tall, beautiful, redhead and the rich old man.
But they matched in an odd way
His face was nearly the same color as her hair.
A red faced, big nosed, drinker,
I’ve seen that face a thousand times
Ain’t no mistakin’ it.
He had white hair all spiked up
Like how young people have it
And he wore nothing but gold
All over himself.
Gold necklace, full fists of rings, bracelets,
I couldn’t ******* believe it
I tried my best not to laugh
I was snorting to myself
The ******* had a Mercedes medallion around his neck
Like Flavor Flav or something, it was that flamboyant.
But the guy was like 70 years old
None of it made any ******* sense.
The florescent lighting above
it did this thing where
his eyes were so sunken in
that it created these two black shadows
where his eyes should’ve been
just pitch black
endlessly hollow and empty
with a red face.
Satan himself, covered in gold and diamonds.

“What’s up?” He said, extending his well tanned, leathery claw.
“Hey.”
“Alright, so let’s not waste any time. Let’s get down to business? Huh?”
“Yeah, sure.” I said.
“**** yeah! Let’s ****! You wanna **** him baby?”
”Why do you think I got him? Hell, I almost ****** him on the way home.”
“Did you now?” He said, looking over at me with this look
I couldn’t tell if it was pleasure or rage.
“Alright, alright then.”
The chick started to walk up the three little steps
Of the examination table
Her feet were pale as snow and her toes
Shiny and red like a the paint job on a brand new Cadillac in 1956
I remember that.
She climbed on top of me
Started kissing me and
Rubbing my ****
Under the examination gown.
From the corner of my eye
I saw the husband moving over to the camera
Which was setup a few feet away
Looked to be hi-def ****.
She bit my lip again
Really ******* hard
Pulled a big chunk of skin off
“*******!” I yelled.
“What?” The husband shouted back.
“He hates it when I bite him!” The redhead shouted with a smile
blood on her lips, from mine.
“Well, don’t take any **** son! If she does that again, you just give her a good smack!”
“What?”
“Yeah, don’t be timid boy! This ain’t ******’ Sunday school! We’re ******’, here!”
She did it again
And I wasn’t even thinking of what that old coot was yelling about
I just hit her on principle.
A good open handed smack across the cheek.
“There ya ******’ go! That’s what I’m talkin’ about.”
The old man threw his hands in the air
And started doing this little dance it was the weirdest ****
I had ever seen.
The redhead grabbed my face with her hands
Taking my eyes off the old man
Who was now singing some song
And shuffling around the floor.
She looked right into my eyes
Those mint colored eyes
She whispered to me
But I read her lips
“I’m sorry.”
And she pulled me in and kissed me
Put my hands to her *******
And proceeded to kiss me
Like a long lost love
Not some guy off the street.
And that’s the last thing I remember.
Besides the ***** of the needle in my neck.
Just her red hair hanging in my face
The florescent light shining through.
When I came to
I was standing upright
But I was strapped to a table
My arms
My legs
My head
Every part of me strapped down
Tight.
I wasn’t going anywhere
This was that bad feeling I got when she looked at me.
This was where it ended. Right now.
They were both standing there
Staring at me
Smiling with drinks in their hands
The cameras rolling
They had multiple cameras setup
Some 80’s techno playing from an iPod dock.
“What? What are you gonna do?” I slurred, it was hard to talk.
“I know, I’m sorry. Okay, look. We both agree that you probably are owed an explanation, I mean….these being your last moments and all…”
The redhead interrupted, looking at me, like she had before
There was love in her eyes
“Honey…remember what I said? About how there are things that we like and things that we enjoy? I’m sorry, but this is what we like.”
“*****?” I managed to choke out,
just the sound of the words chilled my ******* blood.
“Yeah. Hey…son, let me tell ya…we’re actually saving you a whole lot of heartache and disappointment. You weren’t gonna go anywhere, you weren’t going to accomplish anything. You’d work the same **** jobs, bouncing from one to the other, until you finally died of either ***** or drugs.”
“It’s for the best, sweetie.” The redhead said.
And I’d love to tell you that
They left the room for a few minutes
And I was able to free my hand
Taking the switchblade
From my underwear
Cutting myself free
Killing them both
And cleaning out their safe’s cash and diamonds.
But this was no movie.
Well not the kind with a happy ending anyway.
That’s when she walked over to the table
And grabbed the knife.
The song on the iPod changed
And I instantly recognized it.
It was the song.
I never could explain why
But as a boy
This song would come on the radio
This 80’s electro song
And it always scared the **** out of me
Turned my stomach
I never knew why
But now it all made sense.
That song would be the last thing I ever heard.
With the cameras rolling
The redhead gave me one more kiss.
I closed my eyes and pretended.
I pretended that she was a girl that loved me
That she was kissing me goodnight
Sending me off with a smile.
I just kept my eyes closed
Squeezing them tight
And I didn’t even feel the knife
When she slit my throat right there
In that slick, shiny, grey basement.
It didn’t hurt
I didn’t feel any pain.
Just warmth.
The blood flowing down the front of my neck and chest
pure warmth sliding down me
And I started to get light headed
Everything getting dark
Very quickly.
I could hear my heartbeat
In sync with a high-pitched ringing in my ears.
The last thing I saw
Was the redhead standing there
Luckily the husband had his head behind the camera
So I didn’t have his scary face as the last thing I ever saw.
No
It was the redhead
And those mint green eyes.
They never found my body.
The couple put me through a wood chipper
And fed my scraps to their dogs
After slicing off my biceps for dinner that night.
They went on doing this for years
Picking up guys and girls from the streets
who were down on their luck
And wouldn’t be high profile missing persons.
They acquired hundreds of DVD’s
Selling these ***** films
To their elite and powerful
Friends in high places.
But they justified it all.
Surely I wouldn’t be missed.
I didn’t have a mother
Like they had a mother
I didn’t laugh and love
Like they did
I was expendable
Disposable
Use once and discard.
The rich eating the poor
Blood meal for their insatiable & gruesome appetites.
It’s okay though.
I’m not mad or anything now.
It’s just blackness
A dreamless sleep
I don’t even know how I’m telling you this
But the worst part
The thing I still think about the most
Is my mother.
And what she must of thought
When her only son
Went to the store for her
Epsom salts
And just never came back.
Hannah Dubrow Feb 2018
You know those beautiful shiny girls?
They are the sun the world revolves around
The warmth feels so good
So bright they blind you as
you fall in love with them
She has color in her hair
and sparkles on her face
She's always glowing
All the moths worship her
She shines so bright
Everything feels dark without her
Look away
Let your eyes adjust to see
the rest of the beauty in the world
You will waste your life trying to be seen by her
These shiny girls have built a force field
They can't see out
and they can't let anyone in
God bless those shiny girls.
Salty rancher spackle is to Earthy diva smackers as Swinging hotel number is to?
Rippling cling bread is to Three lizard chariots as Indigo lime tangent is to?
Nighttime reunion planet is to Nettle lane scuffle as Soaking spider *** is to?
Fancy trance logs are to Sticky fudge lather as Vivacious gator college is to?
Cheerful blossom face is to Secret tractor rocket as Canned gremlin emblems are to?
Jealous pitchfork generals are to Heartbreaking patchwork veranda as Folding robot noise is to?
Pretty rhino rash is to Lost locket vengeance as Back pocket weather is to?
Frosted candy sidewalk is to Sneaky kook code as Shiny waffle smoke is to?
Sapphire cloud romance is to Magnetic comet lava as Blue triangle envy is to?
Vanishing honey melody is to Thermal elf pajamas as Whistling iceboat shampoo is to?
Peach mint politics is to Frozen doll pennies as Rusty anchor catapult is to?
Swollen pony fever Throbbing sword kazoo as Silent turbine science is to?
Obese germ thunder is to Stacked lemon towers as Corrupt moon jockey is to?
Demented insect whistle is to Glass trophy cleanup as Purple geode bubble is to?
Nighttime razor slime is to Lacquered dragon maps as Tint paper mittens are to?
**** camel drops are to Velvet ****** shoes as Slippery red muffins are to?
Flying hot drool is to Pale chocolate telescope as Tin trumpet ballet is to?
Expensive puppy speed is to Flowered duck mirror as Cosmic needle factory is to?
Fractured laser doodles are to Cracked butter gravel as Rubber holster straps are to?
Majestic panther fortress is to Jeweled cork target as Iron swan taxi is to?
Poisonous pepper bouillon is to ****** goat soap as Chrome feather pirates are to?
Digital gorilla scriptures are to Timid hunter stench as Frozen domino video is to?
Eccentric troll opera is to Transparent wax village as Spoiled coral agony is to?
Bizarre green metal is to Pillow eating hamster as Leather cavern ***** are to?
Eternal hurricane evidence is to Powdered rainbow perfume as Smoking yellow prune is to?
Liquid wish cleanser is to Exploding meadow ladders as Brittle rose hammer is to?
Caged foam filter is to Cherry balloon string as Ivory cactus spider is to?
Carbon puppet watch is to Sad kings compass as Elastic lace whiskers are to?
Nitrogen trolley dust is to Lazy elephant toffee as Orange toad choir is to?
Dark pole zodiac is to Blue finger blanket as Illegal bug nozzle is to?
Stinky towel cookies are to White jade caskets as Sticky snail tea is to?
Converting stellated caramels is to Mythic aerosol socks as Rubber raspberry jokes are to?
Flying clock carousel is to Whisky nut worms as Plastic fish platforms are to?
Queasy Vaseline queens are to Moody pigeon pills as Aqua mice fur is to?
Spotted bowl shadow is to Idiotic radiance lotion as Bungalow toad hearse is to?
Gushing chimney fungus is to Funky lamb acrobat as Utopian **** sprinkler is to?
Twinkling bungalow tablet is to Botanical duck rope as Bug hat ram is to?
Broken clock fossil is to Black ginger confetti as Parisian cobra meatloaf is to?
Silly Xerox ribbon is to Obedient raccoon carny as Traditional cat linguini is to?
Last astral advisor is to Elastic badger riddles as Broken circle rifles are to?
Bagged squire channel is to Temporary mosaic cake as Ancient bacon thread is to?
Wireless math army is to Moronic neon money as Pearl razor radar is to?
Rubber buzzard blizzard is to Troubled bubble wizard as Crushed hash ******* is to?
Purple birdy cure is to Tangled frost blossoms as Silken bridal saddle is to?
Unisex owl accordion is to Sugar bottomed boat as Optical nougat treasure is to?
Flavored saline rain is to Black arrow clan as Transistorized clam guitar is to?
Sharpened twig scar is to Mutant beet sonar as Baked troll mask is to?
Boxed noodle secrets are to Traditional guru buttons as Glossy marshmallow strategy is to?
Vibrating melted jelly is to Silver furniture dream as Spewing collated seats is to?
Burnt mountain pickles are to Baby preacher shoes as Sympathetic pilot pain is to?
Narrow portal treaty is to Monkey warehouse vacancy as Painted tornado trap is to?
Porch penny sulfur is to Glowing pony fat as Patched mattress bait is to?
Frigid waitress fallacy is to Graphic shrimp salute as Misted sneezing window is to?
Moist apple moss is to Daddy’s zoom seed as Downtown Pope cart is to?
Tired felon trickle is to Holographic squirrel candle as Wild ray hay is to?
Deadly zero chalk is to Folding wilderness chart as Curved ******* vacuum is to?
Hollow porcelain pellets are to Strawberry rain stencils as Microwave taxi nomads are to?
Wasted machete balcony is to Crumpled creature confessions as Fridge fuzzed fruit is to?
Sloppy demon damage is to Squeaky puppet chuckle as Mental arcade combat is to?
Monster trout stories are to Lewd pirate cocktail as Locked mammal grommet is to?
Rotting rope network is to Tragic toy goat as Cotton submarine shoes are to?
Complex pepper dance is to ****** cloud cushion as Marching taxi holiday is to?
Mental petal collectors are to Spooned barn putty as Dork factory fiction is to?
Hot spotted tops are to Timed stepping pests as Yogurt notching tartar is to?
Crazy dog comics are to Ambitious cartoon sphinx as Pavlov’s zinc ballet is to?
Soiled spinster wedding is to Padded razor wound as Floating fish map is to?
Slippery leopard pants are to Perfumed nut button as Dart wizard party is to?
Needy alien elephants are to Barking garden gnats as Quasar focused paper is to?
Slanted heart **** is to Bronzed cliff sandals are to Cunning jockey jokes are to?
***** thumbprint massage is to Holistic princess memory as Sliding dental sword is to?
Drifting wood whistle is to Fluorescent carpet powder as Foam dragon whistle is to?
Chopped web shadow is to Immortal vermin soup as Collapsing porch conspiracy is to?
Stolen thunder chant is to Haunted comet heart as Swollen throat portrait is to?
Fragrant frost parfait is to Grumpy caveman *** as Random stingray solo is to?
Squeaky polar turbine is to Silent lava fever as Oversized lunar fulcrum is to?
Synthetic dew droppers are to Pocket poster paste as Hypnotic screen dog is to?
Symbolic whirlpool nausea is to Dreaming tree phantom as Log badge bracket is to?
Camp hippo map is to Horseradish seizure insurance as Distant insect mirror is to?
German lady sherbet is to Stuntman laundry wax as Hungry butterfly ghost is to?
Fly smudged foil is to Amped maze coil as Shifting optic terror is to?
Automatic sheep floss is to Panoramic tanker anchor as Throbbing bone pillow is to?
Mutant clown village is to Nightmare translation treasure as Spotted spectral chakra is to?
Blind roach tweat is to Hermit worm tiara as Divine logo ritual is to?
Glueless gun stamp is to Malicious spam pump as Floral toffee pods are to?
Dudgeon mist removal is to Menacing bolt smacker as Boating duke shadow is to?
Costly metal plungers are to Creaky buzzing gushers as Glowing star cushions are to?
Raked barge sludge is to Crusted cream glitter as Zircon gutter babble is to?
Fake gold scholar is to Amish ******* mogul as Faithful ***** choir is to?
Sacred limo prayers are to Fried mice café as Splintered ****** thimble is to?
Dealing rabbit decals is to Pelican bongo festival as Patched equator rot is to?
Freedom gourd gasoline is to Cobblers studying acorns as Desecrated dice crater is to?
Tattered tapestry rod is to Busted particle scanner as Bogus piffle catalogue is to?
Trifle truffle raffle is to Last lamb laminate as Segmented cake goggles are to?
Domestic tackle tactic is to Ticking tic talk as Cordial corps coordinates is to?
Tucked duck caftan is to Sunken ramp ruckus as Wretched ranch rhetoric is to?
Clearly incomprehensible directions are to Useful archaic nonsense as Antiquated skeletal outline is to?
Bewildered beasts feasting are to Lazy busybodies resting as Vaccinating brave volunteers are to?
Lucky wagon dragons are to Famous gargoyle gargle as Formal postman funding is to?
Furrowed shroud chowder is to Borrowed tartan pajamas as Martini mixed algebra is to?
Cowgirl balloon helium is to Chewy glucose habitat as Stationary monument movement is to?
Diamond powered powder is to Diagonal diameter diagram as Purposely condensed expansion is to?
Organic iodine capsule is to Gleaming beach probe as Dominant dome static is to?
Shaving wrinkled targets is to Petting sensible monsters as Selling invisible whiskey is to?
Frozen piano architecture is to Note dotted clouds as Screaming Korean worms are to?
Sonic plant website is to Telepathic climbing clam as Bored protein exercise is to?
Gourmet mollusk cone is to Numb poodle caravan as Asian raven radar is to?
MdAsadullah Nov 2014
Peacock's legs you must hide.
Show only Its wings and tail.
Hide slums behind high-rises.
Spray perfume on things stale.

Years ago a hero was born.
New hero has taken birth again.
Paint his ***** hands with white.
Show choice of society sane.

For God' sake hang someone.
Land's prestige is at stake.
If culprits cannot be hanged.
Size of my neck you can take.

Display your esthetic creativity.
Utilize your unmatchable art.
And let's show the shiny part.
And let's show the shiny part.
Julia Elise Sep 2015
you my shiny armored knight
oh, I have not seen you, are you alright?

my minds gone crazy, I'm going insane
without you, but a battle in my brain.

the towns going mad because you'd gone
oh please come back, for only you I long

may it be the stars have not yet aligned
or maybe the oracle has not seen the light

if only I could see you one first or last time
then maybe I cold think of one last little rhyme

to explain how I feel about your sweet heart
we've never met but we're never apart.

I will be waiting, for you I swear.
my precious prince, I promise,  I'll be there.
Äŧül Apr 2017
^_^
Angel?
In That Moonlit Night Standing In The Abaft,
Watching The Towed Flaccid Wooden Raft,
I Thought That I Saw An Angel Resting,
Lying Exhausted There In That Craft.

I Called The Girl Out Without Knowing Her Name,
"Hey Young Lady!" To Which She Didn't Much Respond,
She Looked Up Towards Me Once In Anguish & Collapsed,
I Thought I Saw Despair In Her Amber Eyes & Must Help Her.

The Crewmen Had Now Been Doing The Paddles After Resting,
I Called My Captain & Asked, "Do You See A Girl In That Raft?"
The Captain Just Replied Kindly, "Commodore, Get Married,"
I Looked Apprehensive And He Just Said, "There's No Girl."

True He Was As She Had Simply Disappeared,
I Started Thinking Of My Sleep Needs That Day,
Looked Around Again In A Hope To Find The Girl,
I Had Compromised My Routine As The Commodore.

Then I Immediately Realized It Was My Wild Phantasm,
Now This Was Just A Plain Illusion Of A Tired Sailor's Mind,
No Mermaids Could Have Ever Existed In Reality & Were Fake,
I Turned Towards The Deck To Go Back To My Bunk For Sleeping.

As I Enter My Room Down The Stairs Amazed & Confused,
She Floated There As She Waited By The Side Of My Bunk,
I Accepted That Delusion Of Hers And Start To Lie Down,
She Said, "I'm As Real As Your Thoughts, Don't Fear Me."

She & I-Me & Her, Had The Best Time That Night,
In The Morning She Was Gone & Was Just Gone,
Disappeared Into Thin Air While I Was Asleep,
Each Day I So Dearly Long For Her To Return.

7 Paragraphs of a Beautiful Open-Eyed Dream


Angel Again?

Now I reached the lands again,
Still dazzled and confused I was,
From the encounter with that Angel,
Oh, how she had filled my twilight,
Unable to forget her divinely touch.

Magical touch had enchanted me,
Able to recall it from the voyage,
I stumbled when disembarking,
Oh, it was the first time for me,
My thoughts would last along.

After so many days at the sea,
I planned of bathing properly,
Her illusion tricked me thereto,
Oh how her traces remained on,
Facing mirror, I stood perplexed.

Still unable to accept the reality,
I longed for that night to repeat,
My heart beats Angel in each beat,
Life staged a drama too crazy,
Unwilling to accept the reality.

My body carries the vestiges,
I turn crazier with each bath,
Her lips' traces keep appearing,
Driving me mad is her memory,
God! Bring her to life once more.

I had my powers as a commodore,
I sent for the captain of my ship,
"What bothers you, my commodore,"
And so he asked of me kindly,
Then I told him of her traces.

Smiling he told me yet again,
"I had told you to get married,"
I agreed this time and nodded,
"Alright, search for me a bride,"
Going outside, he smiled plainly.


Angel Surely?

Till Few Months Of Reaching Back,
I Kept Seeing Her Images All Over,
It Drove Me Crazy Her Presence...

Taking Time Out To Search Her Out,
I Went For The Mountainous Path,
It May Cease I Hope These Dreams.

The Horse Made Me Look A Knight,
I Set Out Solo For The Dark Creeks,
It Helped Me Realize My Solo Aim...

Then She Came Into My View Again,
I Prepared For Tackling My Illusion,
It Started Snowing Out Of Nowhere.

Took Me To A Safer Place She Then,
I Was Bewildered Again Once More,
It Was Clearing But She Vanished...

Then On My Way, I Stopped To Rest,
I Looked Around For A Place To Sit,
It Came To My View A Huge Tavern.

Tavern On A Mountain Was Weird,
I Still Went To It Hoping Some Rest,
It Had Appeared Out Of Nowhere...


Angel Illusion?

I Peered Out Of The Room Windows,
I Was In This Desolate Guesthouse,
It Was A Comfortable Rest House,
And Here I Was In Anticipation,
Angel Or Whosoever Was Awaited,
Will She Pop Into My Vision Here Too,
Was It Only A Seasick Mind's Illusion?

Was All That Really Just An Illusion,
Thinking This I Prepared For Bed,
Then I Felt A Flute Was Playing,
Looked Into Sound's Direction,
All I Saw Then Was Foggy Night,
My Own Reflection Was Also Visible,
Slightly If Not Entirely Can Be Seen.

I Recalled The First Night At The Sea,
She Did Appear On The Towed Raft,
A Beautiful Mermaid I Had Seen,
Now I Did Remember It Clearly,
My Face Was No Longer Mine,
Yes It Was The Beautiful face of hers,
She Wasn't Sad As I Did Remember.

She Was Smiling So Very Divinely,
Her Brown Eyes Stared So Cutely,
More Divine Felt She Was Really,
I Thought That It Was So Early,
My Pocket Watch Showed Three,
I Took My Eyes Off And Went To Bed,
Then & There She Was Lying For Me.

I Again Let My Mind Play Games,
Never Did Imagine Turning Mad,
Now I Was Not Feeling As Bad,
Neither I Wanted To Break It,
Nor It Felt Like One Anymore,
This Was The Dream I Loved To Live,
As If The Boon Was Presented To Me.

She Smiled As I Sat On The Bed,
I Asked Her, "Are You Real?"
"Yes, Just As Your Thoughts,"
I Then Just Stared At Her Lips,
She Then Touched Me Again,
Hands As Soft As That Night At Sea,
I Just Felt Like Opposing Her Touch.

I Blankly Smiled And Thought,
'My Thoughts Are Surely Real,'
Then I Just Let Her Guide Me,
The Moon Shone So Bright,
It Just Felt Really So Very Right,
Resigning I Just Let My Illusion Win,
It's Love We Were Sharing, Not A Sin.


Angel Not Again!!!

I recovered from the night again,
She had disappeared once more,
Was she using me as a ******???

I was frustrated & also saddened,
My self-control got strengthened,
For I was not a tissue to be used!!!

I have my feelings & my emotions,
Presence and absence torture me,
Ego I had tamed got hurt by now...

I won't let that elusive Angel come,
Questioning I must be her realities,
Illusions will end this time finally!!!

I'll establish an identity of my own,
Dependent I'll not be on the angel,
Was she only a dream & no more???

I had duly asked the aged captain,
To search for a lovely bride very soon,
Oh, so sure I am about afterwards...

I was tailed by the spirit-like angel,
So irritated by her dreary dreams,
On-off, came-gone, again & again!!!

I now would learn to catch angels,
With the plan, I went to the mage,
Should I now learn some spells???

I entered through a dark alleyway,
Was told to visit this strange place,
What comes across - I wondered...

I knocked on the door & she appeared,
Very young she seemed to me now,
Just the age of the angel of dreams!!!

I noticed that she wore a long robe,
So shiny it was silvery like her hair,
Just like the angel of dreams wore...

I rubbed my tired eyes in disbelief,
"Who're you?" I asked very loudly,
"Are you the mage's daughter???"

I wondered for long & she replied,
"Your guess is correct, kind Sailor,"
She beckoned me into the shack...

I set my foot on the wooden floor,
I looked for any sign of the mage,
I want to be set free of the cage!!!

I just thought & thought about it,
But the witch was not to be seen,
Curious I asked, "Where is she???"

"I am my mother," she said calmly,
Perplexed I couldn't say a thing,
My mouth opened once & shut...

I was now about to rise & go away,
But she stopped me with her arms,
"I must show you," so she did say!!!

I did not believe what my eyes saw,
How she changed into the old mage,
Then back into her own daughter???

O I had become confused a lot now,
Why would she transform like this,
I feared if it was actually the angel...


Angel Forever?

Seeing me anxious more than a lot,
The old witch relented a little,
She let me breathe freely,
Back transformed into her daughter,
She touched my forehead,
Then I realized it was sweaty,
Seeing her lovely care I smiled a bit.

So she now lit up a fragrant incense,
The incense seemed so soothing,
She then edged closer to me,
Transcendental wings were visible,
She came even closer to me,
Then the wings simply vanished,
So traceless as if never been there.

It must have been another illusion,
The very day I had set sail to sea,
It was probably carrying over,
Troubling me each non and then,
In my wild dreams, I had seen,
True she could not be & was not,
In my life, the torment was written.

Soon I was pleading to her teary-eyed,
"Please don't torment me, it hurts!"
She looked at me with affection,
And said, "But I truly love you, sailor,"
She advanced forwards further,
"Have you forgotten all those nights?
Did you even forget the night at sea?"

I first remembered that night at sea,
The night back at home came next,
I had been seduced by her magic,
This was the real picture every time,
I was weak but I still felt warmer,
The night ship feels like yesterday,
I was in confusion about what to do.

Her face was transitioning rapidly,
The old mother to her daughter,
Her daughter to that very angel,
And back to the old mother witch,
Her smile turned into laughter,
The witch laughing at my cries,
Her face here was contorted a lot.

She seemed to be struggling a lot,
As though fight ensued within,
Soon I figured it out by myself,
First I must **** the witch to help,
So I looked around & grabbed,
The axe that I did spot lying there,
Spot on I killed the witch right then.


Angel Ultimately?
The saga in her eyes converts into a constant downpour soon after she realized her freedom from the spell of the dark witch, the curse had turned her a prisoner in the evil witch's body.

"Kind sailor thank thee for freeing me."
Her words reverberating throughout,
What wind - what land - what sea,
Everywhere is her presence as I can see,
The wind whispers her name in my ear,
Since a long long time now all I wear,
Is her scent in my immortalized memory.

"Will you stay with me forever, or,
Will you go back to the heavens?"
Though I really wanted her to stay,
I love her and realize what she felt,
I offered her freedom and a choice,
I was not binding her to me in turn,
Everything was instinctive for me.

She seemed in a serious dilemma,
Struggling hard she was in herself,
I again offered & insisted this time,
"It's better you went back to your world,"
But I knew that she loved me a lot,
She tried hard controlling but said,
"I am in love with you for long."

So I am quite right that she loves me,
I am sure even she can forget me not,
Beading all our memories together,
I now know how I can gain salvation,
Not being another self-centric tantric,
"But you don't belong here dear,
So you shouldn't restrict yourself."

After this, she now looks comfortable & composed,
Ready for making a choice she wore a heart of stone,
Her lips slowly parted revealing a perfect smile,
Pearly smile again ensured me of permanent happiness,
Bright eyes and shiny eyelids of hers seemed so good,
"You can't make me stay away because you love me too,
I will keep coming in your dreams and entice your nights."

But I wanted her in my real-world now,
I prevented her from vanishing again,
I said, "Please stay, now do not go away,
Because I really can not bear that pain,"
She had almost vanished by then,
Listening to my words she chose to wait,
She said, "Even I want forever to stay."

Continuing with her divine dialogue she said,
"Say those golden words to make me stay,"
I immediately confessed, "I love you, Angel,"
"Say you love me too, oh my divine Angel,"
She didn't wait for anything more to say it,
"I love you too, oh my kind & loving sailor,"
Her powers soon left her in a flash of light.
On public demand, I clubbed The "Angel?" Series into one poem.
Warren Mar 2019
“What were things like when you were young, What were people like”

“Let me tell you my young friend,
Things were different when I grew up,
Men were men, women were women,
There were a few gays but no one cared one way or the other,
It was about how you were not who you were,
People should remember that nowadays,
People were different when I grew up,
We’d never seen anyone that wasn’t white,
It was exciting and different when we started to see new people,
Not what we were used to,
I think it’s amazing that people want to be who they are,
They should be free to be themselves,
Things were just different when I grew up,
We didn’t care for fancy names and new things,
We were happy to have shoes on our feet and food in our bellies,
I heard someone was killed for their sports shoes,
I don’t get it,
Shoes ?
Things really were different when I grew up,
We’d leave our doors unlocked without a care,
I think we were so grateful for what we did have that we didn’t stop to think about what we didn’t have,
We would wait for things to come,
Not like today where everyone wants things yesterday,
So busy thinking of what they want I think they’ve forgotten what they have,
No one seems to live in the present,
They don’t want to talk to me,
They’d rather talk to a stranger in another country,
I suppose I’m the same,
Living in the past,
But things were different in the past,
We were never prejudiced,
Why would we of been,
We had not much to offer and not much to lose,
It’s a new thing,
The fear and the bullying,
The greed and the violence,
I think a lot of people have gone mad,
If you keep showing people nice shiny things they’ll want them,
Then if you tell them it’s not shiny anymore,
They’ll want a new one,
And if they can’t afford a new one ,
Well,
We were better off without all the new shiny things,
Things weren’t so shiny back then,
Maybe it made it easier for us,
Too much choice isn’t always a good thing,
Most of us were good people though but we did have our bad,
But there was enough good to deal with it,
I think the balance has shifted somewhat,
Then there’s this social media your all obsessed with,
Giving the bad people a mask to hide behind,
It’s a shame,
Things were more honest back then,
All these technical media things are amazing but it’s changed people,
I think it gives them power to control a lot more stuff,
It’s a lot of pressure,
I wouldn’t want all that responsibility,
I think that’s why i struggle now,
Because I remember a better time,
When people were generally better,
The world was so different back then,
This isn’t  my world anymore,
I often wish I was back then.
I've not long left though then I can rest,
Maybe go back the and see my  friends,
Thanks for asking and listening though,
It doesn’t happen much at my age,
I hope you do well,
Good luck my young friend.”
Jackie Mead Dec 2017
Prince Simon, Prince Jason and Princess Sophie lived a regal life.

Slaying dragons and battling witches by day, monsters and zombies by night.

Each day brought adventures new, trips on boats and to the zoo.

One particular day when feeling bored, Prince Simon decided to explore.

Down to the basement, he slowly sneaked, quietly to take a peek.  New adventures he did seek.  
Simon decided to explore.
A rickety old wardrobe he did find and suddenly an adventure sprang to mind

Searching in the wardrobe what do you think he found…

“Come on Prince Jason, Princess Sophie too, come into the wardrobe and look what I have found
A snow globe, all beautiful and round”, “shake it Princess Sophie what do you see a festive setting with us three.”

Climb into the wardrobe pull your dress in tight, we are about to take flight.
Into the wardrobe all three did climb, and soon the wardrobe started to rock and shake, getting higher and higher and faster and faster it suddenly left the ground.

“Where are we going” shouted Princess Sophie, “destination unknown” said Prince Simon, “no change of clothes” Prince Jason asked, “not this time” said Prince Simon, “we are fine as we are, I’m not sure if were going that far”.

Soon enough the trip had ended, and the wardrobe landed on the floor, Prince Simon, Prince Jason & Princess Sophie opened the door and set off to explore.

This new land they had found, had lots of white snow all over the ground and white snow in all the trees.
Prince Simon, Prince Jason and Princess Sophie fell to their knees, delighted to see such a lot of snow they started to make snowballs and began to throw them at each other, laughing and wheezing with delight, they took aim and threw with all their might.
30mins later and wet through they weren’t sure where they had landed or what they had come to do.

They began to start looking around when on the floor Prince Jason found some footprints that looked quite small, not as big as horse or as small as a mouse, Prince Jason thought they belonged to a reindeer, all three of them began to cheer.

They set off following the small footprints until they found themselves on top of a small hill looking down the hill they could see a Fairyland Grotto, sparkling and white a sheer picture of pure delight.
They looked around to see if they could find a map, which would show where all the stalls were at.

Princess Sophie was the first to shout, “let’s take a tumble down the hill and check under the mat of the first Chalet to see if that is where the map is at”

All three agreed and tumbling to their bellies did roly poly down the hill, the first to come to a standstill was Prince Simon who looked under the mat and found the map was exactly where they'd thought it was at.

Prince Simon, Prince Jason and Princess Sophie looked excitedly, the very first stop was at the Toy Factory.

Situated to their left they entered the doors very slowly, then took a deep breath as they did see hundreds of Elves making toys in all their glory.
Working hard to make toys of wood and of metal too, from board games to cars, puzzles to bikes the Princes and Princess could not believe their eyes.
The Elves were working very fast and all the toys they made were sure to last.
The Elves were delighted to have company and agreed to stop and have a cup of tea, with all three.
Cups of tea and plates of cakes, mince pies and scones were soon assembled, and hurriedly eaten. The children were delighted to be having tea with the Elves, couldn’t help themselves but ask, do you know if we three are on the Good List or the Naughty?

Ha! Ha! Said the Elves wouldn’t you like to know but we still have several weeks to go.
It isn’t until the last minute the decision is made, so Santa asks that you are good all year round and not just today.

Once tea was over the Elves did say that they could move on to the next stop which was to groom the reindeers, feed them too and clean the stable of their smelly poo.

The children laughed and giggled they really were excited they exited the Toy Factory and went next door, the reindeers were in a stable and the children started to explore.
They were joined by the Head Groomsman a very elderly Elf who had a long white beard, moustache and hair and a pointed hat upon his head.

Prince Jason asked the Groomsman if they “could feed the reindeers please?” Princess Sophie was so excited she started to shout and wheeze “Please Mr Groomsman, Please?” “Can we feed the reindeer a carrot and some milk too? I don’t mind if I have to clean up his smelly poo”

Prince Jason and Prince Simon were not too sure and began to walk backwards towards the door, ready to make their escape should it occur that they had to clean the stables for the reindeers.

Mr Groomsman began to laugh, his belly began to shake, “it is OK young children please come in, you can feed the reindeers a carrot and milk, then brush them clean, you don’t need to clean up anything else, that is the work of the younger Elves”

The children were delighted and ran into the stables, first the Head Groomsman gave them a brush and showed them how to groom.
Next the children gave each of the reindeer a carrot and saucer of milk, smoothed the reindeer some more then the Head Groomsman said, “I hear that the three of you are expected next door, where Santa awaits to hear your list, don’t keep him waiting you do not want to miss the chance to speak” “Today will be the last day for a while, as he is working hard to bring a smile to every child’s face on Christmas Day”.

“A few rules before you go:
“Talk quietly and real slow, if you talk too fast or begin to shout you will not make sense and then you may miss out.
“Ask for Toys or Books or sweets, maybe socks for your feet but do not ask to solve world peace, Santa is always working on this, but it is very hard as you can imagine and takes more than one person.”
Ask for things for your mummy and daddy, your brother and sister, thinking of others is a good trait and will please Santa, now run along be good children and don't be late”
One last thing before you go Rudolph is looking forward to meeting you today, but his Red Nose is poorly and won’t come out to play, so please don’t tease or laugh or wheeze when Rudolph Nose does not come shiny and bright “

The children promised the Head Groomsman they would behave, said farewell and went on their way.

Next door to the Stable Hut resided Santa’s hut before they knocked on the door Prince Simon looked at Prince Jason and Princess Sophie and began to implore “let’s think about what we are going to ask, we don’t want to fail this task”

The three children stopped and put their heads together and slowly they began to say which each thought would be a nice surprise for their Parents to open on Christmas Day.

Prince Simon said, “for Mummy that’s easy she likes dressing up a new scarf and gloves to match her coat”
Prince Jason declared “for Daddy a book or cd for the car”
Princes Sophie sighed and said, “for Granny and Nanny a new duvet for their beds”

All three agreed it was a good list, Prince Simon stepped up to knock on the door.
Slowly the door opened and revealed the room inside. Santa was sat on a chair with Rudolph by his side.
“Welcome, welcome, children” Santa cried, “come in, come in don’t be shy, don't stand there  it’s awfully cold outside”.
The children entered and dutifully closed the door, waiting patiently for Santa to speak.
Santa called them by their names and asked if they had a special gift they would like on Christmas day.  
The children became quite shy and uncertain what to say.
Again, Prince Simon, Prince Jason and Princess Sophie put their heads together to agree what would be best when Santa laughed and said, “I was only putting you to the test”
Of course, I know what each of you would like but it depends on whether you’ve been Good or Bad
The children started to pull a face and looked very Sad, they weren’t sure if they had behaved well enough throughout the year.

Santa decided to put them out of their misery turned to each of them and said:

Prince Simon – you have attended school every day you could, you’ve completed your Maths Homework, made a book rack out of wood and in addition your Teacher has been pleased to say that you are cheerful every day.  

Prince Jason – you too have attended school every day that you could, you’ve excelled in English and Sports.
Your Teacher is delighted to have you in her class and you can easily cheer everyone up with one of your hearty laughs.

Princess Sophie – finally you have attended school every day excel in English and Ballet
Your Teacher is happy to have you in her class and trusts you to help new pupils orient their way around the school on their first day.

These are very good reports, but we give the final say to your Parents, so let’s see what they have to say:

Prince Simon – our eldest son makes us very proud he studies heartily and never is too loud.  
He looks after his brother and sister and includes them in his fun, he really is a very well-behaved number one son.

Prince Jason – our middle child is fun to be around, he never gets too angry, always makes his bed and doesn’t let his intelligence go to his head.
He takes his studies at school seriously and hands his work in on time, he really is a well-behaved middle child.

Princess Sophie – our youngest child, has a little bit of wild but not too much, just enough to keep us on our toes that is for sure, she makes friends easily and always has a smile for everyone to see. she really is a well behaved youngest child.


Santa sighed, “I wished all children had these same reports, for certain if you do nothing naughty in the next 10 days your names will be on the Good List come Christmas Day”.

The three children cheered and wanted to ask what presents Santa had in mind but decided to decline, the three children decided to wait and be surprised.

All this time Rudolph had sat quietly by Santa’s side not saying a word and trying not to look at the children he really didn’t want to be noticed or heard, he wasn’t feeling right, his usually very Red nose did not come shiny and bright.
Princess Sophie noticed him out of the corner of her eye, ran to kneel by his side and put her hand around his neck lovingly declared “You are our very favourite reindeer”  
The Two Princes joined Princess Sophie and sighed and said “Rudolph have no fear that your nose is not Red at this time of year, there’s ten days to go before your nose is required to light up the way for Santa on Christmas Day”
If you rest and hydrate it is not too late and your nose will be right and shiny and bright for Santa on Christmas Eve night”

Rudolph was delighted and gave the children a nudge and a sloppy kiss to their ears, all three children giggled sillily.

“Now, now”, Santa said, “you have been gone a long time, you really should return home, your Mummy will be worried about you and that will never do”

They climbed into the rocket and, set the destination to their home not quite a million miles below.
As they approached their home, the roof started to open wide and the rocket began to slow, the ride was nearly over they did not have far to go.
Very soon the wardrobe landed safely on the floor, the children were exhausted and ran to open the door; out they fell full of excitement and looking for their mummy, The Queen.
Princess Sophie ran out first excitedly shouting “Mummy you never guess where we have been, we’ve been to Lapland to See Santa’s Hut and Rudolphs Nose which did not light and a Head Groomsman who was a real delight, plus all the Elves took tea with us too, we really did have fun, can we go again next year”.
“Slow down” Mummy smiled and said, “it’s getting late, it’s almost time for bed”.
If you run along to your room, get dressed for bed and clean your teeth, I will be along in a while to read you a story and you can tell me all about your trip to Lapland today, I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say”
Mummy closed the door and said “Good Night sweet children, sleep tight, say your wishes with all of your might, may all your wishes and dreams come true for you on Christmas Day”
A big thank you if you read this to the end, I hope you enjoy this seasonal story, it's a work in progress but let me know what you think.
Merry Christmas everyone ☓
Tristan Keane Sep 2012
Shiny copper eyes look up (glazed with a film that people aren't interested in paying for),
(carrion for those who carry-on)             black feathers dancing in slivers on the asphalt,
                              the only hot body the mass of the sun.
             Underneath the flesh curling and writhing
maggots dance, gliding past beads of hemoglobin sweating
through the epidermi like tears
she cries when he walks out,
      the door slamming like the bass upstairs and the pounding
     of the drums in her ears as she tries to leap the first
hurdle of getting over the gate,
knowing his money is on this and God won't
      help him when he loses the debt money that everyday builds up; hiding the letters
                            from his wife has become an art
exhibition that he's wanted to attend since high-school
            and now, laying on the ground, perfectly still and in a pose locked by rigor-mortis
                                           with
Shiny copper eyes.
Afrodita Nestor Sep 2014
Unknown friends with
Unknown faces
Unknown ways to
Unknown places

Unknown depths
Yet to find
Unknown heights
Yet to climb

Unknown beauties
Yet to see
Unknown things
Yet to be

Unknown waters
I am not afraid
Unknown future
I am not scared

The shiny sun
During days
Will give me strength
On my way

The countless stars
So far above
Will keep me safe
With their tender love

My dearest one
My one and only
Will kiss me softly
When I feel lonely

I cannot wait
to meet you soon
I am prepared
For new typhoons

Unknown, Unknown
Yet to be
You have never met
Someone like me
Copyright Afrodita Nestor
Let go, just let it go
It's your past
Don't let it keep you
From moving on with life
I know it's shiny and it makes you happy
But it's doing more harm than good.
He moved on and so should you.
Don't be the raccoon who
Took a gander at something shiny
And got stuck in place
When she she could have just let go and left.
Viola Nov 2015
To awaken asleep
In a sedation so deep
No relation to a reality so obscure
No elation to basque in thats pure
Just lost in the system you have lost yourself in.
Frost bitten and bitter by the cold awful truth.
Your youth was sapped away and monetized
So you could be indoctrinated by thier lies.

Stand up straight,
pledge your heart,
tuck in your shirt,
forget about art,
shake hands,
make money,
make plans,
play your part,
nod and agree,
this won't hurt,
bend over and take it while the upper eshelons make it.
You're stuck in the dirt.
breed hate,
make war,
but wait theres more.
Be sheep,
eat garbage,
ignore the carnage on the screen,
open your eyes,
shut up,
listen to this party music pop,
be seen in these clothes,
drive these cars,
live in these suburbs,
Hang out at these bars
kiss the fat plastic ***** of these reality stars.
Get drunk,
get high,
get ******,
get by,
Work, dont stop.
why do we try to survive?
Why is the society we live in one where desparity thrives,
taught to covet a shiny rock,
Then told it is not for us to hold,
So we dig our own graves until we get old.
Hoping to find a nugget of gold.
a concept favored by the elite classes,
a smart lazy man with a shiny rock tricked the masses into believing that he possessed value with no skills,
we still believe
so we try to achieve the thrills that come with obtaining the shiny rock,
we will do so until the world stops.
Ken Pepiton Dec 2018
Taken, gotten, or made, the point of anything
can pierce through everything…

slow
Slow think,
make real

re-al-ize
what fighting for life is…
this is the only
try,
it is not a test.

Take your time, use it wisely,
if that means anything.
Wise, I meant.
No offence, if wise is anathema to your kind,
die,
die if I knocked the reason for being right
outa you,
did you hear cognitive dissonance?
did it sound like
this. LOUD?
listen,
rolling rolling rolling
crash crumble rolled in nurse rime frosted
fables of monsters and maids
Thor, witharoar likka Lion King?

or the light brigade,
CHARGE?

thunder words from lost generations of
reasonless riddles for children,

Why did Peter Pumpkin-eater have a wife, but
couldn't keep her here?
Was that okeh? Oh, wait.
Ah, I see, I say,
they never tell that whole story any more.

Know why? They forgot it. In the war.

Duck'n'cover,no
crying, how long?
When begins forever? Did no one tell you, child?

Taken or made, the point of anything
can pierce through everything
like it was nothing, given
enough pre-sure-sup
poser-power

War, as a game, has a reason.

Battle, hitting, slapping

stop touch, stop now slap
slap back

or cry
oh no no ma

waddayahsay?  A theist or atheist
who started this war?

space case, or
lover of wisdom, met on the road
to Emmaus, discussing Weil's proof
firming Fermi's connection to the matter of fear,
3, 2, 1

Kaboom, but with a whump you feel in your teeth

1, 2, 3 Fermat's last theorem ,
easy as pi an no re me

ABC to
Michael Jackson to
Howard Bloom because he

inadvertently, began
an-ionic converstatic re-vibe time warp
meme,
which vibe, started the legendary Sixties. I was alive.
Radioman,
a sixty cycle white-noise humm heard every where these days

There was a gospel song, "Turn Your Radio On".
my theme, open the window in the top of your head,
as it were,
a new,
as new as

a novel-state of water, H three Ohs, re-al-ity ification,
Ah, a shared Oh, I remember now, how this works…

like a poem

at the edge of a water vapor bubble in a boiling body of water,
at the edge of the bubble, water becomes a wall of water,
not vapor, not flowing liquid,

but a wall, insulating the vapor in pressing opposing force
to permit, from permission,
meaning with a message same as the message,

is that the right word? per-mission-grant, is power given,
agency,
that idea….
wait for the sign….?

By sharing an ion ic bond as a quest to make a point
for a free story to go,
the question marks you. Let the snake dance.

Press your point,

whetted edge,

slice through ties holding worthless axioms
with withered dendrites dangling disconnected
in participles
unfired for centuries muttering,
enchanting, enthralling enchained melodies
of ambitious syllables vying for idle minds
to rope in,
unbranded, wild
bucking ideas,
whip-twig, slap-face,
tanglewood  thicket, catclaw and mesquite,
willow,

wait.
And the old man remembered the willow whistle,
so He asked Grandfather,
How is such a whistle made?
And when he knew,
he made one.

A willow whistle with two notes,
like an Oscar Meir Wiener one.

-- and that was a different time
I got lost here, bucked up…
maybe
--- listen, way back--- we-ain't whistlin' Dixie---
we ain't marchin', as t' war.

D'thet mean some sign to pro-phet -ic take?
Tophet?
Ancient cannon fodder shield walls,
a moaning
Pro-phy-lactic warning of the danger of not
knowing exactly
what a war is for?

Get back on,
relieved of any idle baggage words believed
to mean other than I say.

Nullify
Idle words with cultural meanings from
what you thought you knew when you feared hell.

Loose
those peer-locked memes
made of meaninglessness, per se,

shaped and molded into fashions
of expression, once needles and awls,
now, dull as tinker's damns for swearing,
with any effect.

But tools, none the less, a stitch in time took a tool.
An awl or a needle, and a thread, thick or thin,
dependin' on the mendin' needed
to redeem an idle word,
its meaning all bloodied with the tyranny of time.

An awl or a needle,
a tool for a task, mending a tear
where curses, never meant, spent
the entire dark ages, lying, lying, lying

powerless, pointless aimless, proverbial proverbial proverbial
verbiage, vaneless shafts launched at unseen marks,
signs, as it were, a spark,
triggers,
rumored since the sixties,
the first sixties, when Cain killed Able.
Howard Bloom was but a mere gleam
in our mito-mother's eye,
but, no doubt,

his role is real,
in loosing the forces Ferlinghetti locked in
City Lights mystery of secret meanings room,
which un
mystified and blew away upon opening
the door to
meanings mapped on
scrolls rolling and unrolling
idle ideas,
rites of passage, as it were,
Pre-bat-bar-mitz vah
as a fashion
like VBS,

to tickle little minds and make em wiggle.
MEMEMEME, I did it,
mea culpa,

the holy place
Here we are…

On Vacation, leave a message.
-----

See, wee hairs in your ears wiggle, making,
signaling, the need

to scratch that itch, that itching hearing feeling ear… hear that

don't scratch, listen

listen

60 cycle humm, steady, bass, but no thump whumpwhump;
soft, deeep.
ooooooooo or mmmmmmmm or in betwixt, steady thrumm
hear another, and another… sixty in a second,

one in every million ambits twisting,
threading qubits, radiating signals in the field
wireless, blue-tooth... satellite...

can you feel that?

hummmms, all around us, since the womb.
We are not the children of the greatest generation,

We are the children of the last generation of
**** sapiens sapiens non-augmentable-us.

We, the augmented, recycled ideas,
possessing
minds of Adamkind,

is that a secret or a sacred?
Is this
a new thing, an
unknown unknown known known now?

Ah,
novelty.

Whose is fear? Who was afraid of Virginia Wolf?

Should I remain in fear of her now, if I knew why then?
God would know such answers.
Proving my imagined AI guides are not God,
but lesser beings,

haps I recall.
I defined these things,
these thoughts that shape themselves,
forming words and phrases
I saw
shiny. Crow-like,
gleams seen, captured and claimed mine,
I tucked them away,
a sign in a thought in an imagined image made 4
real once more, to be seen from the shore,
new land new world
a fourth for some, a fifth or more for others...

haps happen, I'm not sure how,

Born or emerged, as a bubble, what do you say?

Reserve judgment.
Grant me your grace for now, until you solve my riddle.

Ah, the old way.
Right. Which way,  'ere, 'ear
and do we roll the rock with silent haitch or harsh, shhh

someone's waking up,
a bit grumpy,
don't you dare oppose me in this, the kid is certainly my son

Michael went stark raving mad when I told him, Billie Jean knew better all along...
the link, axiomatic,
the fatherless child has been claimed

hence, the thread to Howard Bloom, meme-ic,
meme-ic, like the Roadrunner,

but with the real Coyote, as the hero in this bit of
whatever, such meandering maundified maun maund  
mound

wind blown crystal silicon dunes
mounded up to that point where granulated
beens and dones

begin to slide at an angle,
a ***** deter-mind by the weight of the rock

We made it.
I know where this is.

This is a novel that has Sisyphus being happy
as the main premise behind the idea of anyone ever being
able, en abled, or un-dis-abled or un-dis-enabled,
if one of those is right,

Sisyphus being happy
is the main premise behind
the idea of anyone ever being glücklich,
happy, blessed, lucky.

How happy is your ever after?
When did forever begin?

"A man is as happy as he makes up his mind to be"
Abe Lincoln, is said to have said,
after the seance, maybe.

You push on, dear reader, make some sense
re-ligare or relegare, but take a stitch,

pull-tight,
do what works the first time as far as it goes, and try each, as needed,
it may be that we invented this test.
To make us think it is a test,
to sort ourselves out.

Get back on,

see who went crazy and who found the thread, if the same thread
this is that, right,
the same train of thought,
the same idea
spirit wind
sign
?
A snake facing west standing tippy-tail on a singularity;
a point in time?

Why are you reading this?
Curiosity Shoppes trade in interesting, alluring, click-bait

Pay attention, watch, you shall see

imagine this is the dream,
the stream, the flow, the current, the cream

in a dime coffee at the drug store on the corner

the rounded-corner, in a square-cornered town,
the most right corner of the twelve that quarter what it was

Punctuate, wait, imagine you read ancient Hebrew or Greek and there
are no dyer diacritical's who can twist one's
end tensions into knots

dread extensions, we could sell those,
is that an idea? did somebody
sell white folks dread extensions and black folk dolly pardon wigs?

Did that happen the real real?

-----
Battlefield Earth, oshit
scientology ology ology ology

allaye allaye outs in free

WE we wee every we you imagine you are good in, we

We have a war to win again, we heroes rolling from your
myths of Sisyphus torn from minds trampled
in the mud beyond the Rhine,

Mushrooms. magi are aware, you are aware, of course,
this course includes Basic Mycelium Net Adaptation or Augmentation
BMNAA, eh? So you know.

Camus and many of his ilk were ill-treated, the questions
they asked were memorized, maybe in our cribs ala
Brave New World.

We are all Alphas, always were, of course, you know.

Shall we imagine

more? Re-legare, eh, sistere. Point .(Back to the top.)

or agree? Make peace.
Practice, like Eazy-Bake,
the cook must swallow the first bite. May the best cook win.
A continuing examination of opposing forces when good is the goal, who could be against that? The old word war is festering, inflaming evil to start a try, therefore,  I whet the edge and swing wide
for leather accrues
The miracle of the streets
The scents & smogs &
pollens of existence

Shiny blackness
so totally naked she was
Totally un-hung-up

We looked around
lights now on
Top see our fellow travellers
~~~

I am troubled
Immeasurably
By your eyes

I am struck
By the feather
of your soft
Reply

The sound of glass
Speaks quick
Disdain

And conceals
What your eyes fight
To explain
~~~

She looked so sad in sleep
Like a friendly hand
just out of reach
A candle stranded on
a beach
While the sun sinks low
an H-bomb in reverse
~~~

Everything human
is leaving
her face

Soon she will disappear
into the calm
vegetable
morass

Stay!

My Wild Love!
~~~

I get my best ideas when the
telephone rings & rings. It’s no fun
To feel like a fool-when your
baby’s gone. A new ax to my head:
Possession. I create my own sword
of Damascus. I’ve done nothing w/time.
A little tot prancing the boards playing
w/Revolution. When out there the
World awaits & abounds w/heavy gangs
of murderers & real madmen. Hanging
from windows as if to say: I’m bold-
do you love me? Just for tonight.
A One Night Stand. A dog howls & whines
at the glass sliding door (why can’t I
be in there?) A cat yowls. A car engine
revs & races against the grain- dry
rasping carbon protest. I put the book
down- & begin my own book.
Love for the fat girl.
When will SHE get here?
~~~

In the gloom
In the shady living room
where we lived & died
& laughed & cried
& the pride of our relationship
took hold that summer
What a trip
To hold your hand
& tell the cops
you’re not 16
no runaway
The wino left a little in
the old blue desert
bottle
Cattle skulls
the cliche of rats
who skim the trees
in search of fat
Hip children invade the grounds
& sleep in the wet grass
’til the dogs rush out
I’m going South!
my friends said last night
I should write something light
something shiny and bright
to the readers’ delight

no fights and no terror
no soldiers no war
no suicide bombers
no refugees galore

after all   it’s the season
when altogether we sing
of the love that we bring
to each other
    within reason

so I am doing my best
NOT   to make a clean breast
    of the worries that plague me
cuddle deep in my nest
only welcome the guest
who brings me good news
and carefully wipes
all the dirt from the shoes
ere s/he enters my house

so  to rouse our good feelings
we all listen to the chimes
of the church bells so pealing

and to a poem that rhymes
Madison Aug 2018
Staying still
I try to drain
Every last
Little drop.
Tilting back, I
Grip the neck but
Don't break it, God forbid
I'm in no shape to clean up a mess
Though I'm an expert at making them,
I tell you what, I hate the television, all
those shiny happy people like in that
song I don't know the words to, but it's
obviously true, watching these shiny
happy lives with all of these beautiful
people who are probably ugly on the
inside, just like me, going home to sit
in their expensive new recliners and
grip the neck but don't break it, don't
make a mess that you can't clean up
drain every last drop even if you don't
really want it, 'cause it used to make
you feel much better, and now it's just
routine, like brushing your teeth and
trying to sleep and telling old friends
that you're fine, fine, just tired, so very
tired and I'm trying to stare through the
television to see these stupid phonies at
home in their own chairs, drinking from
a bottle like this one as if it might save
their sorry lives, like I'm trying to do
right now, tilting it back for just one
more drop, ****** there is no more
and I'm not done drinking but the neck
is slipping from my hands and I'm trying
to drink it down, **** it up when I let go
of the neck and drop it and there is a mess
for me to clean up, I tell you what, all that
broken glass and those elusive little drops
that could've made everything so much better,
could've fixed me but oh well, guess I can't
watch TV anymore, 'cause I've got a mess to
try to clean up right now, yes siree, guess
that even the shiny happy people have to
**** it up and fix it every now and then
just like me and you and everyone else.
My first attempt at shape poetry. Probably messed up a bit, but oh well.
s Aug 2018
Hi there.
Sometimes it hurts to think.
I'm driving around in my hometown
I saw this old park that me and my friends would run and laugh and play at all the time.
We played cops and robbers
Lava Monster
Freeze tag
We acted like knights in strong armor and princesses with glittery dresses and we all slayed the dragons
Well now here I am staring at this old swing set that no one swings on anymore.
I used to think that I could touch the clouds with my feet if I swung high enough.
There is something so lively about a group of kids laughing and playing on a playground.
There is something so eerie about an old empty playground where no one goes.
That playground used to be so alive.
Now the swing creaks as it sways in the slight breeze.
You can almost hear faint whispers of the kids laughing from years before.
Now all those kids are adults with lives and responsibilities that are much more important than slaying a dragon.
The wood has splinters that get stuck in your fingers.
It is not shiny and fun anymore.
It used to be new
But I have found that everything changes eventually.
I wish people didn't leave so unexpectedly.
Anyways I am just rambling
but next time you see a playground
just try to look away.
it hurts to think too long
Bye.
I am so sad. So many people keep dying
Dreamer May 2014
There she goes,
dressed in yellow
wearing a gaudy red cap.
Standing tall,
standing proud,
high on her shiny black heels.
She steps onto that lacquered white floor
As the girls around her
stifle with silent envy.
She leaves her elegant trail
everywhere she goes
when

Whoops!

She broke her little heel.
(Written in 4th Grade)
They put me in the oven to bake.
Me a deprived and miserable cake.
Feeling the heat I started to bubble.
Watching the others I knew I was in trouble

They opened the door and I started my life.
Frosting me with a silver knife.
Decorating me with candy jewels.
The rest of my batch looked like fools.

Lifting me up, she took off my wrapper.
Feeling the breeze, I wanted to slap her.
Opening her mouth with shiny teeth inside.
This was the day this cupcake had died.
feel free to LIKE COMMENT REPOST AND FOLLOW
Duncan Brown Aug 2018
Archie was smart; at least he reckoned he was, because he had what he considered to be the good things in life: dosh in his wallet, a Cat in the garage, and a detach. in the green belt; all of which he had worked hard to acquire. Worked, is not exactly the word for it. Archie did deals. He reckoned he could always turn a fiver into a tenner an’ a tenner into a pony; a pony into a ton and a ton to a grand. He was one of the cash economy’s natural alchemists.  The folding stuff was the measure of a person, he reckoned. Archie never thought about anything; he reckoned everything, and nothing on God’s good earth was beyond reckoning, he reckoned. An ever-ready reckoner; that was Archie, and he loved himself for it. Only John Wayne did more reckoning than Archie, his old dad, bless him, used to say, thought Archie. In Archie’s world a grand was currency; less than that was just spare change. He reckoned he gave superior meaning to the expression ‘it’s a grand life’. The only blemish on Archie’s horizon as far as he could see was the lack of a class bird, or ‘ream sort’, as he preferred to say; hence this evening’s extravaganza at a posh French restaurant in the company of a beautiful lady. Archie only had two serious weaknesses in his existence: a fondness for the last word in a dispute about anything you care to mention, and his infatuation with his dining companion, the beautiful Carmela.


Carmela shared a common background with Archie. They grew up on the same council estate in the inner city. They were aware of each other’s existence as kids and teenagers, but they didn’t really know each other. Carmela was a quiet child and very singular; even in company she could be by herself. None but she was wise to her sense of solitude. She had three passions in life: knitting, sewing and weaving; the blessed trinity of her existence. Carmela interpreted the world by these three gifts. Here she was, she thought, weaving her way through an evening, in the company of three strangers. One she knew, herself, another she didn’t know at all, despite proximity and semi-shared origins. Then there was the complete stranger to the trinity: the waiter in his new and very polished shiny black shoes, “You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes”, Carmela’s mum used to say, she was thinking about that as the waiter appeared to almost pirouette into vision.


The waiter was a patient soul, it goes with the territory. The waiting game wasn’t something you should rush in to, he often told himself, in one of his more existentialist moments. He appreciated the irony of the comment in a Sartresque kind of fashion. He was from a steel town in the Rhonda Valley of South Wales. Iron was in his veins if not his appearance. A creature of paradoxes, that’s what he told himself he was. He liked that assessment of himself. It complimented his passion for all things French: French food, French wine, French philosophy, literature and art. He was learning the language at night school. Alas, his accent was as lyrically refined as the landscape that bred him He shovelled the words onto a conveyor belt of sound and meaning as best he could in the general direction of the person he was talking to, more in hope than in faith that they understood what was being said .The other passion in his life was tap dancing, and as luck would have it he could wear the same outfit for work and leisure, hence the very shiny shoes which allowed him to dance around the tables of the restaurant, practising his language skills on the clientele, His life work and leisure dovetailed with his ambition and he was pleased to wake up in the morning and set about the mortal trespass with a skip in his step. The waiter imagined himself to be a cosmopolitan and enlightened soul, in a very Fred Astaire kind of way, and life was a flight of stairs which he could ascend and descend in a Morse code type of style, just like Mr Bojangles.


The fare was fine. the wine was rare, but the conversation was spare until the cheese board arrived.” Good grub”, said Archie to the waiter. “We don’t do grub, sir, we only serve the finest Gallic cuisine in this establishment,” replied the waiter, in his usual mangled French, whilst smiling that smile that only waiters can manage when registering disapproval. Archie looked blank. It was Carmela who spoke: “C’était magnifique! Mes compliments au chef.” “Streuth! You speak better French than Marcel Proust here” said Archie.” I studied Fashion and Design in Paris for five years “replied Carmela.” “An’ I joined the Common Market many moons ago. It’s good for business” said Archie. The waiter was impressed: “Food, fashion, wine, Proust and Paris. This must be Nirvana” he said. “Great band, but a very dubious heaven.” replied Carmela, knitting together the threads whilst changing the pattern of the conversation in a very subtle fashion that was more to her liking.” “It’s only rock ’n’ roll” said Archie, an’ if you’ve ever heard French rock ’n’ roll it’s enough to make you believe in Foucault” “Foucault, my hero!” said the waiter, “a philosophical genius”. “According to Foucault, a knitting pattern is the hieroglyphic of a consumerist and decadent capitalist society.” intoned Carmela.” “And ‘A recipe is a critique of a cake’, said the great Structuralist philosopher,” interjected Archie, so if you serve the gateaux we may effect the collapse of western civilisation as we all know and love it”. “Allors, Let them eat cake” said the waiter, and everybody smiled at the irony of the comment.

The waiter bojangled his way into the night, tapping and clicking the pavement as he went.  Carmela and Archie got into a black cab. “That was a night to remember,” said Carmela, “very Proustian”. “A la recherche du temps perdu”, replied Archie, pleased as punch to have the last word. Carmela just smiled as she looked at Archie’s shoes.
Alyssa Underwood Mar 2016
I

He did not wear his scarlet coat,
  For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
  When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
  And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
  In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
  With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,
  Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
  A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
  “That fellows got to swing.”

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
  Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
  Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
  My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
  Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
  With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved
  And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
  By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

Some **** their love when they are young,
  And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
  The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
  Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
  And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
  Yet each man does not die.

He does not die a death of shame
  On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
  Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
  Into an empty place

He does not sit with silent men
  Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
  And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
  The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see
  Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
  The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
  With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste
  To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
  Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
******* a watch whose little ticks
  Are like horrible hammer-blows.

He does not know that sickening thirst
  That sands one’s throat, before
The hangman with his gardener’s gloves
  Slips through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
  That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear
  The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the terror of his soul
  Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
  Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air
  Through a little roof of glass;
He does not pray with lips of clay
  For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
  The kiss of Caiaphas.


II

Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,
  In a suit of shabby grey:
His cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
  Its raveled fleeces by.

He did not wring his hands, as do
  Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope
  In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
  And drank the morning air.

He did not wring his hands nor weep,
  Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
  Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun
  As though it had been wine!

And I and all the souls in pain,
  Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
  A great or little thing,
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
  The man who had to swing.

And strange it was to see him pass
  With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
  So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
  Had such a debt to pay.

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
  That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
  With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
  Before it bears its fruit!

The loftiest place is that seat of grace
  For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
  Upon a scaffold high,
And through a murderer’s collar take
  His last look at the sky?

It is sweet to dance to violins
  When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
  Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
  To dance upon the air!

So with curious eyes and sick surmise
  We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
  Would end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
  His sightless soul may stray.

At last the dead man walked no more
  Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
  In the black dock’s dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
  In God’s sweet world again.

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
  We had crossed each other’s way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
  We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
  But in the shameful day.

A prison wall was round us both,
  Two outcast men were we:
The world had ****** us from its heart,
  And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
  Had caught us in its snare.


III

In Debtors’ Yard the stones are hard,
  And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
  Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
  For fear the man might die.

Or else he sat with those who watched
  His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
  And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
  Their scaffold of its prey.

The Governor was strong upon
  The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
  A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called
  And left a little tract.

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
  And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
  No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
  The hangman’s hands were near.

But why he said so strange a thing
  No Warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher’s doom
  Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips,
  And make his face a mask.

Or else he might be moved, and try
  To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
  Pent up in Murderers’ Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
  Could help a brother’s soul?

With slouch and swing around the ring
  We trod the Fool’s Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
  The Devil’s Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
  Make a merry masquerade.

We tore the tarry rope to shreds
  With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
  And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
  And clattered with the pails.

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
  We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
  And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
  Terror was lying still.

So still it lay that every day
  Crawled like a ****-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
  That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
  We passed an open grave.

With yawning mouth the yellow hole
  Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
  To the thirsty asphalte ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
  Some prisoner had to swing.

Right in we went, with soul intent
  On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
  Went shuffling through the gloom
And each man trembled as he crept
  Into his numbered tomb.

That night the empty corridors
  Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
  Stole feet we could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
  White faces seemed to peer.

He lay as one who lies and dreams
  In a pleasant meadow-land,
The watcher watched him as he slept,
  And could not understand
How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
  With a hangman close at hand?

But there is no sleep when men must weep
  Who never yet have wept:
So we—the fool, the fraud, the knave—
  That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
  Another’s terror crept.

Alas! it is a fearful thing
  To feel another’s guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
  Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
  For the blood we had not spilt.

The Warders with their shoes of felt
  Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
  Grey figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
  Who never prayed before.

All through the night we knelt and prayed,
  Mad mourners of a corpse!
The troubled plumes of midnight were
  The plumes upon a hearse:
And bitter wine upon a sponge
  Was the savior of Remorse.

The **** crew, the red **** crew,
  But never came the day:
And crooked shape of Terror crouched,
  In the corners where we lay:
And each evil sprite that walks by night
  Before us seemed to play.

They glided past, they glided fast,
  Like travelers through a mist:
They mocked the moon in a rigadoon
  Of delicate turn and twist,
And with formal pace and loathsome grace
  The phantoms kept their tryst.

With mop and mow, we saw them go,
  Slim shadows hand in hand:
About, about, in ghostly rout
  They trod a saraband:
And the ****** grotesques made arabesques,
  Like the wind upon the sand!

With the pirouettes of marionettes,
  They tripped on pointed tread:
But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
  As their grisly masque they led,
And loud they sang, and long they sang,
  For they sang to wake the dead.

“Oho!” they cried, “The world is wide,
  But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
  Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
  In the secret House of Shame.”

No things of air these antics were
  That frolicked with such glee:
To men whose lives were held in gyves,
  And whose feet might not go free,
Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
  Most terrible to see.

Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
  Some wheeled in smirking pairs:
With the mincing step of demirep
  Some sidled up the stairs:
And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
  Each helped us at our prayers.

The morning wind began to moan,
  But still the night went on:
Through its giant loom the web of gloom
  Crept till each thread was spun:
And, as we prayed, we grew afraid
  Of the Justice of the Sun.

The moaning wind went wandering round
  The weeping prison-wall:
Till like a wheel of turning-steel
  We felt the minutes crawl:
O moaning wind! what had we done
  To have such a seneschal?

At last I saw the shadowed bars
  Like a lattice wrought in lead,
Move right across the whitewashed wall
  That faced my three-plank bed,
And I knew that somewhere in the world
  God’s dreadful dawn was red.

At six o’clock we cleaned our cells,
  At seven all was still,
But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
  The prison seemed to fill,
For the Lord of Death with icy breath
  Had entered in to ****.

He did not pass in purple pomp,
  Nor ride a moon-white steed.
Three yards of cord and a sliding board
  Are all the gallows’ need:
So with rope of shame the Herald came
  To do the secret deed.

We were as men who through a fen
  Of filthy darkness *****:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
  Or give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
  And what was dead was Hope.

For Man’s grim Justice goes its way,
  And will not swerve aside:
It slays the weak, it slays the strong,
  It has a deadly stride:
With iron heel it slays the strong,
  The monstrous parricide!

We waited for the stroke of eight:
  Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
  That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
  For the best man and the worst.

We had no other thing to do,
  Save to wait for the sign to come:
So, like things of stone in a valley lone,
  Quiet we sat and dumb:
But each man’s heart beat thick and quick
  Like a madman on a drum!

With sudden shock the prison-clock
  Smote on the shivering air,
And from all the gaol rose up a wail
  Of impotent despair,
Like the sound that frightened marshes hear
  From a ***** in his lair.

And as one sees most fearful things
  In the crystal of a dream,
We saw the greasy hempen rope
  Hooked to the blackened beam,
And heard the prayer the hangman’s snare
  Strangled into a scream.

And all the woe that moved him so
  That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the ****** sweats,
  None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
  More deaths than one must die.


IV

There is no chapel on the day
  On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain’s heart is far too sick,
  Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes
  Which none should look upon.

So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
  And then they rang the bell,
And the Warders with their jingling keys
  Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,
  Each from his separate Hell.

Out into God’s sweet air we went,
  But not in wonted way,
For this man’s face was white with fear,
  And that man’s face was grey,
And I never saw sad men who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw sad men who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  We prisoners called the sky,
And at every careless cloud that passed
  In happy freedom by.

But there were those amongst us all
  Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
  They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived
  Whilst they had killed the dead.

For he who sins a second time
  Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud,
  And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood
  And makes it bleed in vain!

Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
  With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round
  The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,
  And no man spoke a word.

Silently we went round and round,
  And through each hollow mind
The memory of dreadful things
  Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
  And terror crept behind.

The Warders strutted up and down,
  And kept their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were ***** and span,
  And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at
  By the quicklime on their boots.

For where a grave had opened wide,
  There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand
  By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,
  That the man should have his pall.

For he has a pall, this wretched man,
  Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,
  Naked for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,
  Wrapt in a sheet of flame!

And all the while the burning lime
  Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bone by night,
  And the soft flesh by the day,
It eats the flesh and bones by turns,
  But it eats the heart alway.

For three long years they will not sow
  Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot
  Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky
  With unreproachful stare.

They think a murderer’s heart would taint
  Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God’s kindly earth
  Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but blow more red,
  The white rose whiter blow.

Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
  Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,
  Christ brings his will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
  Bloomed in the great Pope’s sight?

But neither milk-white rose nor red
  May bloom in prison air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
  Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal
  A common man’s despair.

So never will wine-red rose or white,
  Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
  By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who ***** the yard
  That God’s Son died for all.

Yet though the hideous prison-wall
  Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit man not walk by night
  That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may not weep that lies
  In such unholy ground,

He is at peace—this wretched man—
  At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,
  Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies
  Has neither Sun nor Moon.

They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
  They did not even toll
A reguiem that might have brought
  Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,
  And hid him in a hole.

They stripped him of his canvas clothes,
  And gave him to the flies;
They mocked the swollen purple throat
  And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud
  In which their convict lies.

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
  By his dishonored grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
  That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
  Whom Christ came down to save.

Yet all is well; he has but passed
  To Life’s appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
  Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourner will be outcast men,
  And outcasts always mourn.


V

I know not whether Laws be right,
  Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
  Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
  A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
  That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother’s life,
  And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
  With a most evil fan.

This too I know—and wise it were
  If each could know the same—
That every prison that men build
  Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
  How men their brothers maim.

With bars they blur the gracious moon,
  And blind the goodly sun:
And they do well to hide their Hell,
  For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
  Ever should look upon!

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
  Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
  That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
  And the Warder is Despair

For they starve the little frightened child
  Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
  And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.

Each narrow cell in which we dwell
  Is foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
  Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
  In Humanity’s machine.

The brackish water that we drink
  Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
  Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
  Wild-eyed and cries to Time.

But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
  Like asp with adder fight,
We have little care of prison fare,
  For what chills and kills outright
Is that every stone one lifts by day
  Becomes one’s heart by night.

With midnight always in one’s heart,
  And twilight in one’s cell,
We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
  Each in his separate Hell,
And the silence is more awful far
  Than the sound of a brazen bell.

And never a human voice comes near
  To speak a gentle word:
And the eye that watches through the door
  Is pitiless and hard:
And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
  With soul and body marred.

And thus we rust Life’s iron chain
  Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
  And some men make no moan:
But God’s eternal Laws are kind
  And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
  In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
  Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean *****’s house
  With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy day they whose hearts can break
  And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
  And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
  May Lord Christ enter in?

And he of the swollen purple throat.
  And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
  The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
  The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
  Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
  His soul of his soul’s strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
  The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
  The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
  And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
  Became Christ’s snow-white seal.


VI

In Reading gaol by Reading town
  There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
  Eaten by teeth of flame,
In burning winding-sheet he lies,
  And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
  In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
  Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
  And so he had to die.

And all men **** the thing they love,
  By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!
Anna Rose Sep 2015
She lays awake,
Trembling in the dark
Whispers echoing around,
Cracking the glass
Shiny liquids fall slowly
From eyelids to floor
Hopelessly awaiting
For a knock on the door
The darkness surrounds
Each and every soul
The girl's heart melting
For it couldn't bear breaking
As the light made its way
Through the cracked glass
The tiny fetal form
Breathed in a rasp
Soon the weak heart
Slowed the last beat
The cracked window opened
Spreading the heat
But the darkened eyes
Light had no more
The soul had wandered
To the deadly shore
In between   (a poem)
.
my mind struggles against its own illusion
nightmare tumbles out into still morning
light is heavy,
a fog of echoes...
and I am caught
.
day dreams the sunlight
dreams light the day
and I am caught in between
mourning echoes...
like a stillborn ghost
who can't take a breath in the present

….
  
I live on a tropical island and just want to go surfing with my husband, but the nausea in the early morning as I try to eat  breakfast and drive with him to the beach is so uncomfortable.  Day after day it makes even surfing a chore, and I consider not going anymore.  Background anxiety and unreasonable irritation interferes with our marriage, frustrates him enough to want me out.  

For me, a trip to the grocery store or meeting a group of people awakens the same dreadful fear as rockclimbing a cliff. Perspective has been lost in the extremes.  I try to gain some control over this hindering nuisance, seeking situations that bring the same surges of adrenaline so I can learn to master it.  If I can just push past the avoidance that would keep me inside doing nothing, if I can just ignore the feeling I want to throw up, if I can just get out there, I am rewarded with life’s potential beauty eventually.  Many days I do enjoy the thrill of mountain biking or connection with nature when surfing, but there are too many days of internal struggle that reduce what should be enjoyable to a relentless chore of wrestling inner demons.

The VA offers a few sessions of marriage counseling, and the doctor begins to explain PTSD.  ***, I’ve learned to cope with an unreliable brain, but now there’s this?  From what I understand (and that’s just me, an amateur philosopher) Sometimes the brain is so traumatized, that the memory is literally sealed off, encapsulated, protecting it from changing.  If later something happens that is similar, the brain triggers avoidance responses as a take-no-chances survival mechanism.  Literally the brain is protecting one’s self from one’s self.  This all-or-nothing strategy works fending off potential dinosaur attacks, but in our complex society, these automatic avoidance behaviors complicate functioning and well being.  Life becomes an attitude of constant reaction instead of motivated intention.

The website for the National center for PTSD says.  “After a trauma or life-threatening event, it is common to have reactions such as upsetting memories of the event, increased jumpiness, or trouble sleeping. If these reactions do not go away or if they get worse, you may have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.”  

“Common reactions to trauma are:
• Fear or anxiety: In moments of danger, our bodies prepare to fight our enemy, flee the situation, or freeze in the hope that the danger will move past us. But those feelings of alertness may stay even after the danger has passed. You may:feel tense or afraid, be agitated and jumpy, feel on alert.  
• Sadness or depression: Sadness after a trauma may come from a sense of loss---of a loved one, of trust in the world, faith, or a previous way of life. You may:have crying spells, lose interest in things you used to enjoy, want to be alone all the time, feel tired, empty, and numb.  
• Guilt and shame: You may feel guilty that you did not do more to prevent the trauma. You may feel ashamed because during the trauma you acted in ways that you would not otherwise have done. You may:feel responsible for what happened, feel guilty because others were injured or killed and you survived.  
• Anger and irritability: Anger may result from feeling you have been unfairly treated. Anger can make you feel irritated and cause you to be easily set off. You may:lash out at your partner or spouse, have less patience with your children, overreact to small misunderstandings.  
• Behavior changes: You may act in unhealthy ways. You may:drink, use drugs, or smoke too much, drive aggressively, neglect your health, avoid certain people or situations.”   It lists four main symptoms: reliving the event, avoiding situations that remind of the event, feeling numb, and feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)”

Four words strung together: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  They’ve become a tired cliché, exhausted from the endless threat of random cruelty camouflaged in banality, weary of the weight shouldering back the wall that separates death and gore from the living.  Living was a reflex beyond willpower and devoid of choice. Control was self-deception.  The mind was so preoccupied with A: survival, B: sanity, in that order.  Rest was a cruel illusion.  The tank was drained, no room for emotions ditched.  Empathy took too much effort, fear was greedy.  Hopefully they can be remembered and found on the other side, if there is one.  Sleep deprived cells were left hyper-alert from the imminent, shot up and addicted to adrenaline.  Living was Fate and Chance, and meant leaving that time and place sealed in forgetfulness.  

Now PTSD is a worn out acronym, a cold shadow of what it feels like.  I try to think of something more personal that can describe the way it randomly visits me, now resigned to its familiar unwelcome influence.  It steals through my brain, flying ahead of me with its own agenda of protecting sabotage.  Its like the Guardian Trickster of Native American legend.  Its an archetype but real enough to make mistakes: Chulyen, the black raven.

A decade after the ER, contentment is found in a garden of slow tranquility as a butterfly interrupts a sunbeam.  My heart fills with bittersweet as I’ve finally found something I love and want to keep.  Just then Chulyen’s grasping black claws clamp my heart with painful arrhythmia and it fills to burst, tripping in panic trying to recover its pace.  The sudden pain drops me to my knees, in the dirt between fragrant lavender and cherry tomatoes.  Pain stops breath and time and makes me remember the ER, when my heart rebelled its ordained purpose for a week.  I had tried to throw my bitter life back in God’s face but He didn’t take it.  Now that I have peace and a life that I treasure, He’s taking it now.  The price for my mistake is due.  It was all just borrowed time and I’m still so young, my children just babies.  God with a flick of cruelty reminds me not to put faith in the tangible, especially when its treasured.  The sharp claws finally relent and I can breathe, looking up with a gasp and the Raven takes flight overhead leaving a shadow.  Bright noon warmth, unusually heavy and foreboding, seems to say ‘there will come a time when you will not welcome the sun.’   Doctors run an EKG and diagnose ‘stress’.

The bird perches on my shoulder two more decades later, always seeing death just over there.  So I sit on the porch just a little longer and check my list again, delaying the unavoidable racing heart and rush of tension when I fix the motorcycle helmet strap under my chin.  I know all those stupid drivers have my life in their cell-phone distracted hands and hope my husband knows how much I love him, and my daughters too.  

Chulyen wakes me at 3:00 am when autumn’s wind aggravates the trees.  His rustle of black feathers outside unsettles summer’s calm night.  He brings an end-of-the-world portent that hints this peace is just temporary, borrowed.  Tribulation will return.

Ravens are attracted to bright shiny things.  Chulyen steals off with treasures like intention, and contentment.  I don’t realize they are missing until occasionally I find myself truly living in the moment.  I guess that is another reason why I crave adventure, for those instants and epiphanies that snap me out of that long term modis operandi of reacting, instead of being.  The daily list of ‘I must, or I should’ can for a brief while become ‘I want’  and I am free.

My companion the black bird perches relaxed in the desert on the gatepost of a memory.  A bullet-scarred paint-faded sign dangles by one corner from rusty barbed wire:
    No Trespassing    
    That Means You
I have a haunted idea what's behind the fence.  Chulyen implies the memory with a simple mistaken sound:
a Harley in the distance is for a second the agitating echo of a helicopter...
or those were the very same words they said when...
or I hear a few jangling clinks of forks in our warm kitchen...
hinting a cold cafeteria at 5:00 am smelling of fake eggs and industrial maple flavored corn syrup,
and everything else that happened that day...
My cells recollect, brace with the addictive rush of adrenaline.  But the raven denies access to the memory, distracting with discomfort.  I trip and I fall hard into the gritty dirt of irritation at the person who unknowingly reminded me.  Anxiety floods in along with fatigue of the helplessness of it all, back then and still now.  I can't go further.  Chulyen’s tricking deception says Leave This Memory, you never wanted to come back.
But I already knew from just recognizing the bird patiently sitting there a sentinal,
recalling every other time he tricked me with nausea and depression.
I tried to tell myself again that behind that gate,
the past has dried up from neglect.
Disintegrated into dust,
Blown away,
doesn't
exist.



After everything else, how to work through this?  The VA gave me a manual, a crudely printed set of worksheets with a government-looking blue cover page:  Cognitive Processing Therapy.
“In normal recovery from PTSD symptioms, intrusion, thoughts, and emotions decrease over time and no longer trigger each other.  However, in those who don’t recover, the vivid images, negative thoughts, and strong emotions lead to escape and avoidance.  Avoidance prevents the processing of the trauma that is needed for recovery and works only temporarily.  The ultimate goal is acceptance.  
There may be “stuck points”, conflicting beliefs or strong negative beliefs that create additional unpleasant emotions and unhealthy behavior.  For example, a prior belief may have been “ I am able to protect myself in dangerous situations.”  But after being harmed during military service, a conflicting belief surfaces, “I was harmed during service, and I am to blame.”  If one is ‘stuck’ here, it may take some time until one is able to get feelings out about the trauma, because one is processing a number of rationales.  “I deserved it because…” , or “I misinterpreted what happened, I acted inappropriately, I must be crazy…”  The goal is to change the prior belief to one that does not hinder acceptance.  For example, “I may not be able to protect myself in all situations.”

(chapter continues with recovery methods)

— The End —