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Steve Page Oct 2018
The shorter the time
The more personal the view
Between the heads of those in front of you

The shorter the time
The stronger the lingering taste
The more intense the take away experience

The shorter the time
The easier to scoot and duck under
The inconveniently well placed barrier

The shorter the time
The more focused the afternoon stretch
On the sofa of your oh so limited rest

The shorter the time
The quicker, the swifter, the tighter
You'll find the undaunted feature writer

The shorter the time
To that unreasonable deadline imposition
The sweeter the release of the completed submission

The shorter the time
The better
Writing to order is an art.
Tommy Johnson Dec 2013
You can hear the voices of our peers being silenced, ignored, shunned and distorted.
Staggering out of their bedroom doorways to the street corner to score a dime bag.
Bright, insightful millennials freezing in search of warmth from something to believe in that will encourage them to look forward to see another day.
Where our economy has made financial prudence clear when talking about education, yet price tags of university tuition's skyrocket.
The refused, the ones with hope but no money or scholarships; tread the streets with the echoes of electro house pulsing in their skulls.
Those who strip themselves down and shred their own morals to scraps just to find themselves and to see their own limitations.
Searching for answers to the unknown, to ascertain what they are, who they are and why.
Timid in high school, pushed along with nothing and no one to put their creative vigor into.
The squeakiest wheels that were never even considered to be given a good greasing.
Faculties giving them lethargic hellos on the first day of school, bestowing celebrated goodbyes to them on graduation day, diplomas in hand.
Now are the ones slumped over in a lackadaisical position contemplating how they can afford an education.
They work eight to ten at seven twenty five an hour Monday to Friday; and weekends staying in as not to blow their earnings.
Those who commute to university and balance a job with it, I applaud you.
The bewilderment of adulthood, the overabundance of pressure and responsibility.
Awakened from nightmares of lost opportunities, missed trains and lost contacts.
To step out of bed and splash water onto a severely distressed face and staring into a mirror with a despairing look.
Then hoping a bus to Garfield to bring back weight for all the embryonic smokers not yet at the point of make or break, just save up enough to pave my own way.
Gazing at the town on a roof top, chugging down the tenth…no…twelfth beer of the night wondering how this all happened.
Wild sensations of kissing an attractive stranger, the rush of touching on things never felt, tasting pleasures only the lucky have known.
The passionate, yet dissolute yearning for that ever eluding ******* adrenaline. Pounding, Pounding, Pounding until the culmination of energy has come.
Flip sided to those dizzying, tear jerking thoughts of suicide, annihilation of ones being, the contradictions of their faith in themselves and the people around them.
Unexplainable waves of anxiety crashing onto the shore of a diminutive island of optimism
Striving to look past the panic, the gloominess and fury that may or may not be present. But to remain composed and press forward to what awaits them.
Coffee keeps them going. Cup after cup, late night cramming every bit they can; into their caffeine driven psyches until the indisputable crash and failure.
Packs and packs of menthol cigarettes to calm their rattling nerves but at the same time killing them slowly. Their lives will seem shorter than the time it took to finish one bogey when death is near.
Marijuana induced ventures to run down burger shacks, laughing hysterical in the car ride, eyes heavy with a most ridiculous elastic grin extending from ear to ear. While inside millions of thoughts and realizations of consciously simple speculations and troubles become clear and unproblematic. So the joy is mirrored outside in.
LSD trips in Petruska dancing and singing in the rain! Making music, making love; playing pretend and creating art. Becoming a family while kicking back under the warmth of an illuminated tree on a cool fall night.
MDMA streaming through the body, everything is as it should be
Beautiful, lovely to touch, wondrous to stroke, marvelous to move.
To contact and connect, converse and converge with the dwelling desire to share what you feel with everyone for it would be selfish and unpleasant to keep it in.
Mushrooms oh the emotional overflow I need not say more but ****.
Then there are over the counter candies, Oxycontin, ******, Adderall and Xanax, painkillers and antidepressants. Ups, downs, side ways and backwards.
Selling addiction and dependency legally to kids. Making heroine, ******* and speed easily obtainable to them. Changing the names and giving out prescriptions so the parents can feel like they're actually helping their children but are subconsciously making it easier on themselves because they cannot handle the way their offsprings actually are. Some parents a feel it is the only way, I wish it wasn't so. Becoming zombies, mindless addicts before they even start to mature into puberty. I've seen it, firsthand front row.
Oh, the monotonous, mundane rituals and agendas of our lives. School, work, sleep eat, the sluggish schedules and repetitions of yesterday's conversations and redundancy of itineraries we had plotted months prior.
Same people, the constant faces of boredom that groan in apathy and hold the fear of complacency.
We talk about how hum drum out lives have become and what we could to put some color in our world but don’t.
We speak of how unfair the system is but ultimately confuse ourselves and everyone else due to lack or organization and dedication so nothing is changed.
We speak of breath taking women we want to share ****** fantasies with but can’t even muster enough courage to send a trivial friend request.
Texting away for hours trying to court those who now occupy our minds and possess our hearts hoping they may allow us to acquire their attention and affection. Calling them only to receive futile dial tones and know we are being evaded.
Weeping on and on for seemingly endless time frames of a dilapidated relationship that was so strained that a miniscule breeze could cause it to collapse but still clinging to every memory as if they were vital hieroglyphics depicting your very essence.
Brilliant theories blurted out in a drunken stupor.
Ingenious hypothesis shrouded in marijuana smoked out room.
Remembrance of friends long gone.
The marines, the navy.
The casualties of drug addiction.
The conquerors or their afflictions.
The scholars.
The insane locked away on the flight deck never to be seen again.
Teenage mothers unsure of themselves, abandoned by their families for they believe that they brought fictional shame upon the family’s name. The fate of the child is unclear but the mother’s everlasting love shines through any obscurities in its way.
Dear mother of the new born winter’s moon may the aura of life protect you and your baby.
The father gone without a trace.
He will never know his daughter.
And it will haunt him forever.
Parents bringing up their kids with values and morals, The Holy Bible, mantras and meditation, the Holy Quran, The Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishads. Islamic anecdotes and Jewish parables.
The names all different
The message the same
The stories unlike
Goals equivalent
Faith
Kabala, Scientology and Wicca
Amish and Mormons
All separate paths that intertwine and runoff each other then pool into the plateau of eternal life.
But do we have faith in our country, our government?
They do not have faith in us. Cameras on every street corner, FBI agents stalking social media, recordings of our personal lives and police brutality. 4th amendment where have you gone?
We say farewell to Oresko the last veteran of the last great war. And revisit the Arab spring, Al-Assad’s soldiers opening fire on innocent protesters, one hundred fifteen thousand lay dead. Bin laden dead, Hussein hanged, Gaddafi receiving every ounce of his comeuppance. War, terrorism, the fear of being attacked or is it an excuse to secure our nation's investments across the sea? Throwing trillions of dollars to keep the ****** machine cranking away, taxes, pensions, credit scores, insurance and annuities all cogs in the convoluted contraptions plight.
My dear friend contemplates this every night laying in bed, fetal position; the anxiety if having to be a part of this.
Falling apart on the inside but on the outside, an Adonis, *******, Casanova wanna be. Who worshiped the almighty dollar, gripping it so tightly until it made change, drank until he had his fill falling face first into the snow. The guy who lead on legions of clueless girls wearing their hearts on their sleeves not knowing he had a girlfriend the entire time. Arranging secret meetings in hidden gardens, streaking into the early morning. Driving to Ewing in his yellow Mustang to woo a sado masochistic girl. The chains and whips do nothing to him he is already numbed by the thrill. Then he comes home, lays in bed until one, with no job and having people pay for his meals.
He knows what he does and who he is wrong. He recites and regurgitates excuses endlessly. He cries because he knows he is weak, he knows he must fix himself. I sit on the edge of myself with my fingers crossed hoping maybe, maybe he will set himself straight.
My chum who can talk his way out of any confrontation and into a woman’s *******. Multitudes of amorous affairs in backrooms, backseats, front rows of movies theaters. Selfish, boastful and ignorant, yet woman fling themselves at him like catapulted boulders over a medieval battle field just to say hello. These girls blind to see what going on, for their eyes were taken by low self esteem. A need to be accepted, to feel wanted even only for fifteen minutes. Poor self image, daddy issues, anorexic razor blade slicing sirens screaming on about counted calories and social status. Their uncontrollable mental breakdowns and emotional collapse. Their uncles who ***** them, their parents who split up and confusing their definition of love and loyalty for the rest of their lives. Broken homes, domestic abuse and raised voices, sending jolts of fright into the young girl’s fragile minds. I send my sorrows to you ladies, to see such beautiful creatures suffer then be used and thrown away with the ****** that was just ****** deep into their *****.
Then I see women and men of marvelous stature, romantic in the streets holding everyone and everything in high regards. Finding beauty in anything and anyone. Enjoying every second as if the rapture was over head eating exotic foods from unheard of countries and cultures. Bouncing to the sound of whimsical , reverb ricochets and sense stimulating music. Huffing inspiration to create something out of thin air. Dancing to retired jazz and swing albums as if no time had past since their conception. Wearing bold colors and patterns, thrifty leather shoes or suede.
Dawning pre-owned blazers because why spend hundreds of dollars on new clothes just to look good but feel uncomfortable with a hole in your pocket. Dressing up but dressing down, so class yet urban I love it, chinos, pea coats and flannels so simple but chic.
At night they go to underground dens, sweaty bodies, loud music and freedom. Expressive manifestations glowing fueled with MDMA and other substances to further their enjoyment of the dark glorious occasion. Kandi kids sporting colorful bracelets, not watches for time is of no concern to them, they have all eternity they know that.
Going to book stores, coffee shops just to have some peace of mind and a moment of silence to themselves so that can weave the tapestry of imaginative innovation. Writing their own versions of the same story, endless doors of perception, reading news papers and taking it with a grain of salt. Watching the news on TV with a hand full of salt. Searching for the real story so they can know if the world they all live in is actually safe.
She who made her own way breaking hearts, rolling blunts and making deals. The flower child of the modern age, left the rainy days in search of radiant sunshine, idealistic. Reality was subjective, purple dyed hair, multicolored sweater with sandals on her feet. A ten inch bowl with bud from California packed in tightly. Coming from Dumont to Bergenfeild then on to Philly to Mount Vernon. Off to Astoria and the Heights. Now to Sweden laying in the grassy plains below the mountains. Good for you my friend whom I have loved, may fortunes of unsullied joy come to you and all you meet.
Since you’ve left I have encountered drunken burly firemen just trying to have a good time. Pounding down Pabst Blue Ribbon as if it were water; as if it were good tasting beer. But heroes none the less.
EMT's, young eighteen years old high school graduates, saving lives reviving people who are a mere inch close to death.
Sport stars getting scholarships thanks to their superior skills and strength.
Striking beauty school students who are into making the people of this world a little bit more beautiful on the outside.
All these people, successful, doing things. Departing to their desired destinations. I see inside them, they carry baggage, loneliness and insecurities. I can feel their guilt slowing them down. All have their loads but it’s the way they carry them that shows who they really are. And to me their all gems.
Not far in Paterson I watch the junkies limping across busy winding street, perusing a severely needed fix. “Diesel!” they shout beneath flickering streetlights, asking for spare change and if bold enough a ride to some shady sketchy place. I give them a dollar and politely decline. They’ll die without it. Vomiting up bile and blood, twitches and shivers are all you feel when it’s not in you. They cannot stop, they need help. Why not help them instead of “assisting” those who are homosexual? Cleansing so they can be granted entry to the kingdom of God. Looking down on people who have found love and understanding and a deep attraction to others who just so happen to share alike genitals.
Narrow minded uproars about the spread of AIDS, nonsense! The puritanical onslaught of those who want nothing more than the rest of us, love. "Gay", "****", "******", "queer", how about "kind", "funny", "genuine human being"? The right to be married and divorced should be an option for everyone to enjoy. The strains and hardships of matrimony are yours if you want them. If you don’t agree don’t hate or harm just allow them to be peacefully. Same goes for anything for that matter, Jehovah's going door to door, Mormons from Burbank. New ideas are never a bad thing, they’re not a waste of time. On average you have about eighty years to mull over your options.
Some people don’t live long enough to do so, cancer is rampant, blood diseases, ****** diseases, natural disasters coming right out of left field and blindsiding the innocent bystanders of both hemispheres. Some go through life handicapped, autism is apparent these days. Schizophrenia, Asperburgers, ADD and ADHD. Some lose their golden memories of their many valuable years walking down Alzheimer's Lane, not being able to remember whatever transpired only a few moments ago but revisiting gold nuggets from from fifty-some-odd years ago with ease. Some go through life delusional or bipolar. Some can't even sleep at night but they still carry on. And if assistance is needed it is our job as a race to help our brothers and sisters, no one deserves to be excluded from the gala of life. Or be denied by society and pumped with brightly colored pills from doctors promising a cure but prescribing a crutch.
Finding solace in sincerity.
The serendipity of it all hasn’t been uncovered and that keeps me going.
“Radiate boundless love towards the entire world above, below and across. Unhindered without ill will without enmity.” Oh Buddha the truth as it ever was.
Who is he who keeps these thoughts from the conscious minds of the population?
Who is it that distracts us from the humbling beauty and overwhelming devastation of this place of existence we’re in?
It’s they who do under the table parlor trick behind our backs.
Those who broadcast mind numbing so called reality TV shows without an underlying value or meaning.
Those who produce music, proclaiming extravagance to be the end all be all gluttonous goal we all should aim to achieve.
And those who turn noble causes into money making scams and defile pure ideas.
And of course those who give false promises of easily obtained  bright futures, those who don’t care, those who steal, ****, curse, bad mouth and lie. But still manage to get elected into positions that more or less decide out fates. Monsters, demons, banshees howling inconsequential worries and leaving us deaf to hear the real issues.
The
RAJ NANDY Aug 2018
Dear Poet Friends, I conclude this series on The Enigma of Time by mentioning few important features about the concept of Time according to Modern Philosophy and Science. I have used a
simple format, and also tried my best to simplify the concepts for your kind appreciation. Unfortunately, there is no provision on this Poetry Site to show Diagrams to elucidate! If you like this one, kindly repost the same for wider circulation! Thank you, Raj Nandy, New Delhi.
            
       CONCLUDING THE ENIGMA OF TIME IN VERSE:
                      PART THREE – BY RAJ NANDY
              
              TIME ACCORDING TO MODERN PHILOSOPHY

UNREALITY Of TIME : Mc Taggart’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ Series:
Now skipping through the pages I come to Modern Philosophy, with Mc Taggart the British philosopher of the 20th Century.
He had acquired a substantial following with his 1908 paper on the ‘Unreality of Time’ initially.
With his quibbling argument he states, that moments in his ‘A’ Series of Time are either of past tense, present tense, or of future tense.
It is all about human perception, since we experience the past through our memories;
Become aware of the present through our senses, while future is pretty unknowable.
Here time appears to be flowing through us, as nothing remains stable around us!

In his ‘B’ Series of Time Mc Taggart expresses differences in moments of time as either Before or After,
Without using the tenses used in his ‘A’ Series of Time.
All parts in time can be expressed equally as points along a time line, in the absence of past, present, and future tense;
While here we appear to be flying through time in a metaphorical sense!
Thus in the ‘A series’ time appears to be flowing through us, but in ‘B series’ we seem to be flying through time on a timeline created by us!
Therefore, Mc Taggart finds both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ Series describing Time to be inadequate and also contradictory;
And he finally concludes that Time is unreal and does not exist in reality!

How Mc Taggart’s Theory Was  Updated :
Modern Philosophers have re-casted Mc Taggart’s theory in term of findings of Modern Physics.
His A-Theory is updated into ‘PRESENTISM’, which holds that only thing that is real is the ‘present moment’.
In ‘Presentism’ time has no past or future, and time has no duration either!
All things come into existence and drop out of existence, and past events no longer exist;
And since the future is undefined or merely potential, it too does not exist!

His B-theory is re-formulated into ‘ETERNALISM’ or the ‘Block Universe’, influenced by the later Theory of Relativity.
‘Eternalism’ holds that past events do exist even if we cannot immediately experience them, and future events also exists in a very real way.
The ‘flow of time’ we experience is just an illusion of consciousness.
Since in reality, time is always everywhere in an eternal sense!

Theory of Growing Block Universe:
It was proposed by the Englishman CD Broad in 1923, as an alternative to ‘Presentism’ where only the present exist;
And also as an alternative to ‘Eternalism’ where past, present, and future together also exist.
In ‘Growing Block Universe’ only the past and the present exist, but not the future.
Since the growing of the block happens in the present, with a very thin slice of space-time continuously coming into existence;  
Where consciousness as well as the flow of time are not active within the past,  
But they can occur only at the boundary of this ‘Growing Block Universe’!
Few scholars this concept did criticise, saying that in this theory the word ‘now’ can no longer be used to define Time!

But according to Einstein, this perception of ‘now’ that appears to move along a timeline, creating the illusion of ‘flow of time’, arises purely as a result of human consciousness;
And the way our brains are wired due to our evolutionary process, enabling us to deal with the world around us in a practical sense.
“People like us, who believe in Physics, know that the duration between the past, present, and the future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion,’’ said Einstein.

A poem on ‘The Paradox of Time’:
Now to lighten up my Reader’s mind, I present only the first three stanzas from ‘’The Paradox of Time’’, composed by the British poet Austin Dobson:
  “Time goes, you say? Ah no!
   Alas, Time stays, we go;
      Or else, were this not so,
  What need to chain the hours,
  For youth were always ours?

  Ours is the eye’s deceit
  Of men whose flying feet
     Lead through some landscape low;
  We pass, and think we see
  The earth’s fixed surface flee,
     Alas, time stays, we go!

  Once in the days of old
  Your locks were curling gold,
     And mine had shamed the crow.
  Now, in the self-same stage,
  We’ve reached the silver age,
  Time goes, you say? - ah no!
       Alas, time stays, we go!”
            
HOW LIGHT IS CONNECTED WITH THE CONCEPT OF TIME:
Brief Background:
I commence with quotes from the ‘Book of Genesis’ - Chapter One, along with my thoughts about Light and Time,
Before concluding this series with Albert Einstein’s concept of Space-Time.

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. ……And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth. And it was so.”
                                                      - BOOK Of GENESIS Chapter One.

Since ancient days, Light had acquired a religious and a spiritual significance.
Since Light became associated with goodness, intelligence and ultimate realty;
Light accompanies transcendence into Nirvana of Buddhist religious philosophy.
In due course the Sun began to be worshipped as an important live-giving deity.
As seen in the symbolic form of Egyptian Sun God Ra, and the Greek gods Helios and Hyperion as the Sun god and god of Light respectively.
In Hindu mythology Surya is the Sun god, and Ushas the goddess of Light.
Huitzilopochti, both the Sun god and god of War of the Ancient Aztecs was kept pleased with human sacrifice!

SOME PROPERTIES OF LIGHT:
Plato, during the 5th Century BC said that God was unable to make the World eternal, so gave it Time,  - “as the moving image of eternity.”
While some seven hundred years later St. Augustine in his ‘Confessions’ said,
That when God created the universe out of darkness with light, “the world was also created with Time, and not in time.”
Thus along with light, time also began to flow, while our scientists discovered a connection between the speed of light and time, few centuries ago!
To understand this connection between light and time, we must first understand something about the properties of light.
Light is the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum* which can be perceived by our human eye.         (See Notes Below)
As seen in the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet colors of the Rainbow in the sky,
When water droplets acting like countless prisms break up white sunlight!
Now this electromagnetic spectrum also contains the ultra violet and infra red spectrum which our eyes cannot see.
But this entire electromagnetic spectrum contains Photons, which are discreet packets of zero mass less energy.
In a vacuum light photons travel at 186,000 miles for second, which Einstein declared as the cosmic speed limit, and as an universal constant.
When a photon strikes the eye, it is turned into electrical energy that is transmitted to the brain to form an image which we call sight.

NOTES : Gama-rays, X-rays, Ultraviolet lights, have shorter wave lengths & more energy than Visible light. But Infrared, Microwave, Radio waves, with larger wave lengths are less energetic than the Visible spectrum of light. Sir Isaac Newton using a prism had discovered the spectrum of visible light, & used the word ‘spectrum’ for the first time in his book ‘Optick’ in 1671.

EINSTEIN'S SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY 1905 :
In his Special Theory of Relativity of 1905, he stated that nothing can move faster than speed of light which is 186,000 miles per second.
This speed of light always remains the same, irrespective of its source and frame of reference.
Now the mass of an object would double if it travels at 90% of light’s speed.
But if the speed of light is reached, mass of an object would become infinite!
Since photons, the quantum particles that make up light have a zero mass, they move at the speed of light.
Even inside the World’s Largest Particle Collider (LDC), located near the French-Swiss Border,
Experiments are carried out only around 99.99% of Light’s speed, in accordance with the Laws of Physics.
Einstein had also shown mathematically that on reaching Light’s speed, Time will come to a standstill!
And should this Light’s speed be exceeded, then Time would start to travel backwards, which becomes a mind boggling concept!
Here we enter into the realm of science fiction, which has been described by HG Wells  in his popular novel ‘The Time Machine’.
But to become a time traveler shall always remain our cherished desire and dream!

NOTES: Only mass less particles like the photon can travel at light speed, photons experience no time, they do not age. Objects with mass cannot reach the speed of light since in that case its mass will become infinite. Also, one cannot see the fourth dimension because of Lorenz Contraction, which is also related to stopping of time, for at the speed of light an object will shrink to zero length! Also, particles interact with the Higgs' Field present all around to pick up mass, excepting photons which do not interact with this Higgs' Field.

Now Einstein’s theory of 1905 is called ‘Special’, because it explains how space and time are linked for objects that are moving in a straight line at a greater speed but which is constant.
Time moves relative to the observer, and objects in motion experience ‘Time Dilation’.
Meaning, time moves slowly when it is in motion, as compared to one who is standing still, -  a relative comparison.
This can be further explained by the ‘Twin Paradox’, where a 15 year old travelling in a spaceship at 99.5% speed of light for a period of 5 years,
Returns back to Earth to find himself to be only 20 years old.
But to his surprise he finds, his twin brother on Earth who was left behind, has reached the ripe age of 65 !

Limitations of Special Theory of Relativity:
It was confined to non-accelerating bodies only, and after ten years of deliberation,
Einstein added gravitational force field, space-time curvature, and acceleration, -
To formulate his General Theory of Relativity with satisfaction.

   SPACE-TIME & GENERAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY 1916 :
Isaac Newton during the 17th Century spoke about 'absolute time' and 'absolute space', accordance to the understanding of science of his Classical Age.
Space was the arena where the drama of the universe was played out, and this arena was passive, eternal, and unchanging no doubt.
Time too was absolute with an independent existence, and continued to beat independently like the heart beat of Space!
Newton also gave us the Laws of Motion, and Gravity, with more massive objects exerting more Gravity than a less massive one in reality.
Now one aspect of Special Relativity is that space and time are merged into a four-dimensional space-time entity,
They do not exist as separately as envisaged by Newton and Descartes during the 17th Century.
Some 250 years later Albert Einstein, defined Gravity as a curvature of Space-time.
Einstein also tells us that gravity can bend light, which travels along the curvature of this space-time.
Gravity is flexible, it could stretch like a fabric warping of space-time caused by objects present within it, in fact Gravity is the shape of space-time itself!
The Moon rolls around the curvature created in space-time fabric by the heavier object the Earth,
Just like the massive Sun which creates the depression and curvature around it for the planets of our solar system to orbit round the Sun. *

Einstein’s space-time has been likened to a stretched out vast rubber sheet,
Where heavier the planet, more depression it creates on the fabric of space-time along with its own gravitational field.
Einstein’s Space is not passive like that of Newton, but has a dynamic presence.
Interwoven with Time, Space tells Matter how to move, while Matter tells Space-Time how to curve - in this dynamic presence!
The constant speed of light at 186,000 miles per second, is just a measure of space of something which travels over time;
But both space and time had to adjust themselves to accommodate the constant speed of light!
Thus space, time, and the speed of light are all unified in the General Theory of Relativity,
We owe all this to Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists of our Century.
NOTES: **Planets orbiting the Sun do not fall back into the void of space due to the attraction of gravity, and also due to their individual speed of acceleration maintained in orbit as per Kepler's Second Law of Planetary Motion. Mercury has the fastest orbital speed of 48 km per second, Venus at 35 km per sec , and Earth at 30 km per sec. as their orbital speeds. Planets further from the Sun require lesser orbital speed.

UNFINISHED WORK OF EINSTEIN:
During his later years Einstein was secretly working to find a ‘Theory of Everything’,
Which would ultimately replace the erratic tiny micro world of Quantum Mechanics.
His Theory of General Relativity had dealt with the functions of gravity at the greater macro level of the universe only.
So he hoped to extend this theory to find an all embracing Unified Field Theory.
For at the subatomic quantum level, as the Englishman Thomson discovered in 1897,
The electrons inside an atom at times behaved in an alien fashion and were very unstable!
This world of the subatomic particles is a wondrous world where time becomes chaotic;
Where the position of the electrons cannot be predicted with certainty!
Einstein called this unpredictable and unstable behaviour of electrons as "spooky action at a distance"!
In the ‘double-split experiment’ it was seen, that the light photons behaved both like waves and as particles, -
Even though the speed of light remained constant.

EINSTEIN'S NOBLE PRIZE For PHYSICS AWARDED IN 1921:
Now despite Einstein's dissatisfaction with Quantum Mechanics it is rather ironical,
That the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Einstein for his work on the ‘Photoelectric Effect’ at the Quantum level;
Which for the first time had suggested that Light travelled in Waves and also as Particles ( i.e. as photon)!
This observation led to the development of electron microscope, solar panels, night vision devices, at a later date.
Since his Special and General Theory of Relativity considered as ‘The Pillars of Modern Physics’, was still being examined by the Scientific Community;
And they could be proved and accepted only subsequently.

'STRING THEORY' PROPOSED AS THEORY FOR EVERYTHING:
During the 1970s the proponents of ‘String Theory’ had claimed, They found a Theory of Everything, following Einstein’s quest.
They claimed that micro vibrating open and closed looped strings gave rise to some 36 particles at the subatomic level;
But also required 10 dimensions for this 'String Theory' to operate!
In our Standard Model of Physics we have only 18 particles as on date, therefore due to lack of scientific evidence,
There was no Noble Prize for those ‘String Theory’ proponents!
Efforts are on to find a Unified Theory of Everything, and to understand the mysteries of God’s infinite universe, -
We finite humans have just made a beginning!

Now, to reduce the length of my composition I conclude with a short verse by the famous novelist and poet DH Lawrence, -
Who had shocked Victorian England with his explosive ****** novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”,
Which later inspired Hollywood, and a film got made.

               RELATIVITY
“I like relativity and quantum theories
because I don’t understand them,
and they make me feel as if space shifted about like
a swan that can’t settle,
refusing to sit still and be measured;
and as if the atom were an impulsive thing
always changing its mind.”  – DH Lawrence.

Thanks for reading patiently,
‘All Copy Rights Are With The Author Only’, - Raj Nandy of New Delhi.
1506

Summer is shorter than any one—
Life is shorter than Summer—
Seventy Years is spent as quick
As an only Dollar—

Sorrow—now—is polite—and stays—
See how well we spurn him—
Equally to abhor Delight—
Equally retain him—
Styles Dec 2015
Appreciating her subtle tones, as they turn me on.
Far past my boiling point, my temperature rising,
I’m burning up in this joint. There's no surviving.

My eyes all over her curves, as I observe.
Conversation shorter than sure.
Flirted with our eyes, now our hands asking for more.

I started ******* on her lips, now they were my own,
Kissing on my tongue, turned my tongue to her clone.
Pulling her into my hips, like I wanted to bone.
Sending shivers up and down her backbone,

I could feel her body shiver, as she rubbed it against my hard bone.
looked deep into her eyes and she moaned and groaned.
I filled my mouth with the taste of her own,
swallowed her lips with my mouth, as she moaned.
As we kissed on each other, the moment kept getting better.  
Her body language making a point, leading me on - very clever.
the deeper we got, she got even wetter.

Her erogenous zone, and other places to be known -
got me harder than a stone, my head spinning like a cyclone -
as I endured her weather.  
My fingers wore her scent like cologne.
wet as a puddle, I want to play in forever.  

She, lost in the pleasure.
This love session close to closure the further they go.  
As much as she wants to, her body can never say no.
Jeffwtfries Jul 2018
1 . Die, all of you.

2. Flip her skirt up.

3. Let everyone be happy.

4. Bring the most righteous person back to life.

5. Bring back everyone who died.

6. I want eternal life and youth!

7. Confidence.

8. I want to stop being a warrior.

9. I want more talent.

10. A harem, of course!

11. Disappear, all of you.

12. Expand my power to one thousand paths.

13. Money! Money!

14. I want to be friends with everyone in the world.

15. Rule the world!
Ruling the world is hard.

16. I want a girlfriend!
But would that really be love?

17. I want wisdom.
Foolishness makes you who you are.

18. I want to know the future.
But what fun would be living then?

19. I want to be a pro baseball player.
But you would have to work out every day then.

20. Telekinesis.
Then why I have hands?

21. I want to fly.
Then why I have feet?

22. I want to speak all languages.
You don't like to talk anyway (RELATABLE).

23. I want an X-ray vision.
That would lead to misunderstandings.

24. I wish for an end to war.
But it won't end exploitation.

25.I want to climb mount Everest.
But you would have only yourself to rely on.

26. I want a smartphone that can't run out of battery.
It would last only a few years still.

27. I want to pilot a giant robot!
What you would be fighting?

28. To never stub my toe again.
Why not just watch where you walk?

29.I want a cool supercar.
It won't feel the same if you don't buy it yourself.

30. I wish everyday could be Sunday.
Go to work on Sunday?

31. I want to be a bird.
Being a human is much better.

32. I want to read people's minds.
You would start to distrusting people.

33. The ability to wake up early.
But you would just go back to sleep. (Totally relatable)

34. I want to enter a manga.
What if you couldn't get out?

35. I want to be invisible.
You are already invisible in the classroom (that hurts, you know).

36. I want to not feel pain.
That's dangerous.

37. I want that rare book.
It's only rare because no one else have it.

38. I want that limited edition item.
Would it still be limited edition then?

39. I want a best friend.
What if they knew you were friends only because of a wish?

40. I want to be a great man.
That greatness wouldn't last.

41. I want to talk to animals
They probably don't have much to say.

42. I want to travel the world.
It's likely harder than it sounds.

43. I want to live in a mansion
All by yourself?

44. I want a fighter plane
Where would you park it?

45. I want to play all instruments!
But buying them all would be expensive.

46. I want to see a ghost!
Like hell you do!

47. I want to meet a great person from the past
But they would have a lot of lectures for a modern person.

48. I want my dormant power awakened!
What if you don't have any?

50. I want power to stop time!
That's like saying you want a power to commit crime.

51. I want better penmanship.
In digital era?

52. I want to meet an elf
In this day and age?

53. I want youth.
What do you think you have now?

55. I want an eye that sees long distances.
You mean like a third eye?

57. I want to hire a maid.
Just go to cafe.

58. I want to be a manga artist.
Answer one of the Young Jump recruiting postings.

60. I want to live in a deserted island!
You would probably want to leave it right away.

61. I want a time machine!
Do you have an idea how to get energy to power it?

62. I want to be free of stress.
You need stress to grow.

63. I want world peace.
Would you still exist in a peaceful world?

64. I want a loving family.
But artificial one?

65. I want to eat the world's most delicious food.
But you want to eat cup ramen too.

66. I want to go to amusement park
What are you, a girl raised to be a living weapon? (This is surely an allusion to something, I just can't get what)

67. I want to be on the front page of a newspaper!
Are you going to commit a crime or what?

77. I want to be a cyborg.
Who would repair you if you broke?

78. I want an art collection.
You don't even like that stuff. Don't pretend to be an intellectual.

79. I want to buy a penguin.
Can you even take care of an animal?

80. I want to talk to famous people.
About what? Any subject in mind?

82. A world free of evil people.
What would be left?

83. I want to be taller.
And then you would want to be shorter again.

84. I want courage.
What are you, a lion?

86. I want prestige.
Unearned prestige?

87. I want to never be late for a bus.
But then the buses would be late.

88. I want to be the strongest in world.
Why, so you can bully the weak?

89. I want to invent something amazing.
All inventions ultimately become weapons.

90.I want to film a movie.
You would bring down any set you were on.

91. I want to be someone who will never lose again.
The moment you wish for this, you become an eternal loser.

92.I want to become a master swordsman.
Dishonestly?

96. I want to learn the truth of the world.
No, you don't.

97. I wish misfortune on people I hate.
Wishing misfortune on others is a ****** thing to do.

98. To grant your wish instead.
Cancel that immediately.

99. I want to turn my wish into 100 wishes.

100. Let me forget
howard brace Sep 2012
He'd been conceived in Flamborough, so his little sister assured him some eleven summers ago, which was a tad hard for Rocky to swallow, she was a whole eighteen months his junior and then some... and at that age, well... what did she know, she was only a kid, "on this very rock" River insisted, kicking her heels in delight, "next to this very rock pool" they were both sitting beside, "one sunny afternoon eleven years ago..." and that was how he came by the name of Rocky... she taunted as the rest of the colourful story unfolded... and that she had it all on the best possible authority... although the more she thought about it, had she meant concealed... she wasn't quite sure now, it was all so very confusing at her tender age but thought it sounded close enough not to matter too much and that she would just wait and see which way the wind blew.
        
     It was conceivably an ill wind that blew no one any good that day, especially if you were a boy and just happened to be sat by a rock pool next to your little sister...  Having just taken a well earned drink from a neighbouring rock pool, Sockeye the floppiest Springer Spaniel this side of the Pecos decided that he was going to dig a hole and that he would be digging it deep, then changed his mind mid-dig and decided to have a more down to earth back scratching wriggle instead... then promptly flopped over and slid into the hole... life was sweet.  Now covered from nose to tail with every species of deceased shore life usually found frequenting the high water mark Sockeye, in a blinding flash of canine inspiration judged it would be in everyone's best interest were he to have a really good shakedown which always appeared to go down well on these occasions... and give everyone a good peppering, just so they could see exactly what they'd been missing all their lives.  

     "A rock of all places, for goodness sakes..." and what's more, it was this rock, "Yuk..." he jumped up and wiped his palms on the back of his jeans in disgust, then onto his tee-shirt, then sat back down again and began exploring his left nostril in quiet contemplation before finally jambing his hands back into his pockets... what in Heaven's name had his parents been thinking of..? what on earth was his little sister talking about..? and more to the point, what in fact did conceived mean..?  these were the questions that were uppermost in Rocky's mind as he poked an exploratory stick into the rock pool...  a baby crab marooned by the tide scampered sideways beneath a large pebble and stuck one beady eye out at him... Rocky's sister, seemingly in a world of her own, much like the baby crab sat on the edge of the noteworthy rock kicking her heels, an innocent smile curled the corners of her mouth as she quietly hummed a little song of tuneful bliss to herself and considered what further mischief she could possibly pass her brother's way.

     Rocky tossed a piece of driftwood over his sisters shoulder at a nearby flock of seagulls, squabbling over what appeared to be a discarded bag of fish and chips... Sockeye, simply knowing that his little master wanted to play a game of fetch gambolled after the stick, his ears flying courageously in the still Summer air and burst, amid a melee of feathers into their midst, only to romp back moments later, the stick all but forgotten in the excitement but now proudly sporting the derelict bag of leftovers and the odd splash of guano, his tail lolloping magnificently from side to side... and for the moment at least, leaving the fratching seagulls wheeling noisily overhead and to go about their daily business without further interruption... as for Sockeye, it had been a no contest situation.

     After fourteen years of valiant endeavour his father... Red, so named for his vivid shock of wiry hair, was still engaged in man's eternal struggle to win his significant other half's approbation with the manful art of deck-chair assembly, beach barbeque and other significant gentlemanly pursuits, all while strutting his manly stuff, sporting top of the range beach wear in accordance with the social etiquette of the previous decade... his masculine paunch slumping gallantly atop his waistband...  

     After the same fourteen terms of domestic servitude and the same thirteen identically overlooked anniversary cards a certain someone had no intention of allowing another certain someone to forget so much as one of them... his better half, so she insisted would ride rough shod, administering her own brand of justice at every given opportunity, in much the same way you'd brandish a royal-flush on poker night... or better still, a loaded revolver... and that she personally carried the burden of every ill-fated card that Lady Luck had dealt strung about her neck like Adam's original sin on Judgement Day.  

     Red much preferred the shorter, more condensed name of Rock for his son, rather than the longer more protracted Rocky, as he struggled with the wood and canvas lounger badly trapping the mound of his thumb in the process, "Aaargh...!!!" plunging his throbbing hand deep into the cold, soothing rock-pool "aaah...!!!"   Still marooned by the tide, the baby crab stood poised and ready for action as it considered giving this latest intrusion a good offensive nip, then hang on spitefully as it gave Red the final withering once over with the same baleful eye it had successfully used earlier.

     Acknowledging her husbands misfortune with a perfunctory grunt as she rummaged in her beach-bag for the thermos, she refused to be drawn in where thumbs were concerned right now, after all with his DNA sequencing she was convinced he could probably grow a new one within the month... whilst Tina, well... she was just plain worn-out... but still rejoiced in telling anyone who cared to lend a sympathetic ear in her direction... and who in turn was more than happy to listen to the woes of others and went somewhere along the lines of... 'and had she heard any more of poor Mrs Dorey's lingering martyrdom recently..? you know, the downtrodden lady who lives in the next street but one... and how they would all miss her when she was gone... and how she couldn't wait...' and as rumour had it, neither could her husband...

      Feigning to be otherwise engaged, Tina... as her husband, now blowing frantically on his mangled thumb, stumbled backwards over the half erected lounger and with a spine jarring "Ooomph...!!!" landed squarely in Sockeye's subsiding earthworks... professed total disassociation with the entire fiasco as she plunged her nose even deeper into the overdue library book she'd purposely brought on holiday for just such an occasion, making it perfectly clear that she was a tourist and furthermore, planned to stick with the same itinerary once they returned home... and that while she was here, she did not under any circumstances wish to be disturbed, the notice was clearly displayed hanging from the door handle... but if anyone should, then whoever it was did so at their own peril... and she was keeping score... although a mangled thumb she luxuriated, with the same roguish smile curling the corners of her mouth as the one normally found playing around her daughter's... was equally as heart warming.

      All Tina wanted was one week of uninterrupted peace and quiet in Flamborough, preferably with a certain someone out from under her feet then spend what might pass for several undisturbed hours sitting quietly by the rock pool comparing notes on eye makeup and the feminine merits of pedicure with the little crab who, still marooned by the tide was now sat busily knitting four pairs of matching leg warmers in the cool, still water but that was only if that certain someone... a shrill  "AAaargh...!!!" somewhat more desperate than the first, ****** itself upon the as yet unaggressive afternoon as it gyrated across the warm Jurrasic rock and recoiled out to sea... "now where was I", twisting her book uppermost "oh yes..! someone was going to pay..." only now it was going to be sooner rather than later, but only if that certain someone didn't finish the seating arrangements before the Sun disappeared and drift into some backstreet tea-room before all the lemon cheesecake sold out, or was that she reflected, simply too much to ask.

     It was his Surname that Rock found so objectionable, or it had been right up until his little sister's enlightening disclosure, now it was both names Rocky disliked, it would have been far kinder had Rock Salmon been sandwiched between sliced bread and given to Sockeye... who's solemn duty, from the first mouthful to the very last, was to gaze up beseechingly from beneath the kitchen table  and devour anything that passed his way, even the postman had to be quick about his business or have his arm follow the mail through the letter box... then Sockeye would just smack his lips and help himself to seconds.  

     All Rocky's mum had thought about for the last fourteen years was seconds... every last solitary one of them since she'd suffered with an infection of matrimonial neurosis which had deprived her of common sense and her maiden name, from Chovey to that of Salmon and how with hindsight she should have taken an Aspirin instead, wedlock she asserted was everything the name claimed to be and was without doubt the worst move she'd ever made... and what's more was seen as a bad move in whoever's wedding album you just happened to be paying your condolences to.

     Rocky would never be so fortunate on that score, unlike his sister he was stuck with Salmon for good, his grandma-Ann by all accounts had been dead set against the union from word Go and saw his father as someone who would always be out of his depth in whatever rock pool he found himself in, swimming against the tide as it were, rather than going with the flow... and it appeared that Rocky, almost eleven years into a life sentence, was about to flounder in the same murky undertow as the rest of the Salmon family... only he couldn't swim.

     "There"! her husband exclaimed "all finished... better late than never eh', who fancies trying it"? his wife luxuriated over the words 'better late' and wondered whether her new earrings, her latest acquisition would complement formal mourning attire.  Red dusted off the palms of his hands with the certain knowledge of a job well done and cautiously took one step back, looking with justifiable pride at the outcome of his manly exertions of the last two hours, this was what holidays were all about he declared, one man pitted against insurmountable odds...  His wife meanwhile was getting to grips with more odds of her own than you could safely expect to shake a stick at... her husband being one of them.  

     Having gathered her offspring with the promise of verbal earache if they didn't... and finished packing the beach-bag, Tina finally located Sockeye peering out from the shade of an adjacent rock, wisps of feathers poked tellingly from the corners of his mouth, his tail beating mischievously on the shingle decided in one further blaze of canine brainstorming, as Tina attempted to slip his collar on that a game of tag would just about round the day off nicely... Tina then devoted the next ten minutes chasing him amid unrestrained salvo's of cheering from the rest of the family... then bid goodbye to the little crab who, still marooned by the tide waved a friendly pincer in return... and trusted that she wouldn't have too long to wait for the next rising tide back home, then she slid off the rock with a corrosive... "the deck-chair attendant would have shown you" she snapped "and don't forget the deposit when you take them back" then double checking that she landed squarely on his foot she marched past, her floral sun hat jammed resolutely on her head at what she considered a jaunty angle with her equally jaunty, angular children scrambling in hot pursuit, back in the direction of their lodgings.  

     "Woof "..? said a bewildered Sockeye, bringing everyone to an abrupt halt... and with paws the size of place-mats, he wasn't going anywhere he didn't want to... he hunkered down with a look of hurtful accusation on his face, "oh yes you are my lad"! said his mistress "I've met your sort before" and knew exactly where to place the toe of her dainty size-5 as Sockeye, digging his heals in even further created swathes of canine furrows up the beach, leaving her husband the unwitting holder and in sole possession of the overlooked guest-house keys... and somewhat resigned to clean up his own masculinity and dismantle the recently assembled, now redundant deck-chairs by himself... as for Tina, well... she'd had quite enough excitement for one day thank you very much.

     Morning register was always the worst he thought, as they trooped back along the shingle beach, Rocky making surprisingly good furrows of his own... but the rest of the class loved it and saw it as the highlight of each day... Rocky's form teacher, despite showing a brave face was always hard pressed to avoid bursting into hysterics every time she worked her way down the register to the letter 'S' and would attempt to bypass it altogether, jumping from 'R' to 'T' and just prayed that no one else had noticed, but it hadn't taken the class very long to point out her oversight and... "please Miss" they'd all chant "we haven't had Salmon all week" and while the rest of the class were having convulsive fits, Rocky would elbow the lad sat at the next desk in the ribs... and promptly get one hundred lines for his trouble... thank goodness it was school holidays.  Why couldn't they have been given respectable names like Seymour Legge, Rock wondered, who sat over by the window or perhaps the teachers pet, Anna Prentice or even, Robyn Banks at a pinch, but definitely not what they'd been given and certainly not Salmon, they were the most hilarious names he could imagine and if someone was looking down on them right now he thought... then they had a very unique sense of humour indeed and Rock said so... "why" his little sister asked sweetly, "what's wrong with River Salmon".

                                                      ­                         ...   ...   ...*

a work in progress*                                                        ­                                                              240­6
divinity m May 2018
this world is far uglier
than the evil trolls
from my old fairytale books
Anne-L Mar 2015
People come and go,
Like waves....
Sometimes they stay longer,
Like big waves ...
Other times,
they stay for a shorter amount of time....
Like smaller ones
That is why,
You have to keep moving forward
And try not to get too attached to them
Or
You will drown...
Poemasabi Dec 2013
A tall man shakes hands with a shorter man.
No big deal.

But it is a big deal.
Years ago the shorter man bloodied the tall man's nose
when they were younger
after the shorter man had rebelled against his father
whom the tall man liked
because the father was his friend and
despite the terrible things the father did to his family
the tall man liked him
because the father did things for him.

When the shorter man rebelled and threw the father from his home
the tall man, much younger then, tried to throw the short man out
and return the house to his father
but when the tall man burst through the door full of youthful indignation,
the short man bloodied his nose, turned him around and threw him back out the door.

For over fifty years they lived next door to each other never speaking
but now
at the funeral of a mutual friend
they meet face to face
hands are joined
and a smile is exchanged.

A very big deal indeed.
Camila Feb 2014
I cut my hair,
the tips that you liked curlying around your fingers while you sang are now gone.
I painted it with sunshine rays,
To surround me with all the light I've been needing since the last time I got blinded by yours.
And that flock of hair that was shorter from that time I accidentally burned it trying to light you a cigarrette, the one that made me smile with its stubborness to stay still, the one that reminded me of our first night, it has growned.
RM
There's a certain peace that settles inside you when you hear the wind whip through the forest, the sound soothes you until your muscles quiver with joy and you begin grinning with delight as the cool air runs soft fingers down your spine and sends shivers back through you. That was the feeling going through Fayowin as he stalked his prey, a nimble buck that mindlessly grazed in the snowy glade. Fayowin was a wolf, tall and regal, his fur ran a silver-white with intricate blue lines spiraling and writhing around his muscled body. His eyes glowed pure white in the night and shimmered in the daylight. The fangs lining his jaw were longer than the other wolves'... then again he was also larger than his alpha as well. Fayowin saw everything clearer and faster than the most skilled hunters in his pack, and he was also the swiftest. He should have felt proud of his uniqueness, but he felt outcast instead. The other hunters shunned him and disliked hunting alongside him, leaving Fayowin to hunt alone.

Today was no different. It was his turn to hunt and he had to hunt alone. If he failed, the pack would force him out into the cold. "If the pack starves, the hunter freezes," was the motto of his alpha, Alexei. Fayowin narrowed his white eyes and drew in the scent of the deer. As he did, he caught the hint of a she-wolf nearby, not of his pack. Distracted for an instant, he snapped back and sprinted for the deer, lunging for it and tearing into its throat and ripping out the windpipe and blood vessels all in one bite. As the smell of blood coated his senses, he began to feel uneasy and whirled around to see a silver wolf snarling at him. It was the she-wolf he had sensed earlier. She stood just a little shorter than him and had strange markings of her own: she bore black marks under her eyes and one on her forehead that resembled a paw. What struck him the most was the band around her upper foreleg. His eyes wandered as he observed her and she growled, bringing his attention back to her glaring green eyes.
"That... was my ****!" she growled. "I don't know how you managed to get it before me, and I don't know how you managed to escape my notice. Who are you?!"
Fayowin sneered and raised an eyebrow, "This, my dear, is MY ****. I've had my eyes on it for a while now. And frankly, this is my territory as well, and unless you want to become part of my territory, I'd suggest you treat me with respect."
She edged closer to him, surprised and infuriated at this male's straightforwardness. But there was something about that and his scent that appealed to her though. "I'm not leaving without this deer."
Fayowin chuckled, "It looks like you will be leaving without it, whoever you are."
"My name... is Feiria!" she licked her lips hungrily, "and that is MY deer!"
Fayowin narrowed his eyes thoughtfully as he studied her. Even through her winter coat, he could see the outline of her ribcage and could smell the desperation on her scent. He saw Feiria's muscles contract as she prepared to lunge at him. He sidestepped and she landed face-first in the snow, a mere inch from the warm deer meat. She looked at him hungrily, almost pleading. Fayowin sighed and nodded his head once, after which Feiria voraciously tore into the carcass.

He slowly meandered towards the center of the clearing and flopped down into the snow. He could hear the she-wolf eating ravenously behind him as he thought of his next move. If he returned to the pack, he'd be ridiculed and forced to live in the snow. If he stayed out here he faced the same problem.

Fayowin flattened his ears back and started to doze off, still listening to Feiria eat his ****. He began dreaming of gaping mountain passes, tall forests, and warm valleys. He felt oddly warm, not freezing cold as he had expected. He didn't care though, warmth was a gift in the winter. He slept peacefully until nightfall overtook the forest and the moonlight shone down and illuminated his fur, the lines becoming like blue fire. His eyes would have glowed if they were open, but they remained oblivious to the change in scenery until a cold wind blew through his fur and he shivered awake. He nearly jumped when he realized why he was so warm: the she-wolf lay curled up, pressed against him, sound asleep. He tilted his head slightly as he watched her sleep, probably the most peaceful she'd been in a long time. Fayowin would've hated to ruin his gift to her, albeit an unwilling one.
Feiria woke up soon after midnight, and gazed fearfully into Fayowin's glowing white eyes, taking in his
Cynical stare and his glowing body. She whispered, "I've heard of your kind..."
he looked curiously at her, "my kind?"
"the star wolves.."
he averted his gaze, "Never heard of them.. I'm just a normal wolf.."
Feiria glared at him, "You're glowing, *******.. Not normal. Unless.... Unless your whole pack is made of star wolves!" her face seemed to light up as she said it.
Fayowin whipped his head around, "No! I'm the only one like this..." he looked solemnly down at his feet as he finished.
She blinked, dumbfounded. Clearing her throat, she said, "I really should get back to my pack. They'll be worried about me if I stay out for much longer." she glanced at the massive deer behind them and sighed quietly.
"Your whole pack is starving...aren't they?" said Fayowin quietly.
Feiria nodded and he stood up and walked through the snow silently towards the deer. "you'll need to lead me to your pack if they're to get this meat."
Feiria blinked again, then nodded, getting up and starting off  
Towards the north. Fayowin gripped the deer's neck and drug the carcass behind him as he walked. After a half hour of walking, Feiria howled long and low, signaling her pack that she was near. Fayowin sighed as he heard their howls respond. He thought, there will be no howls for me tonight...
As they neared her pack's clearing, a group of young wolves sprinted towards them, rushing past Feiria and surrounding Fayowin. "Who is this outsider, Feiria? Why did you bring him here?"
there were five of them and they all went into attack mode, growling and circling him.
Feiria attempted to stop them before they got into a fight, but one of them pounced, and in a flash Fayowin had him pinned to the ground with his fangs around the wolf's neck. Fayowin watched the wolves around him react, stepping back and glancing at each other. Feiria shouted at them to stop but they didn't seem to hear her immediately, backing down only as Fayowin's growl tore through the trees, echoing throughout the forest
. They finally heard her, "he's a star wolf!" by now a crowd had gathered around them, Feiria's packmates watching Fayowin closely. He let go of the young wolf beneath his paws, who quickly scampered away, and Fayowin sat up straight and tall, his markings and eyes glowing for all to see. The wolves ooh'd and ahh'd amongst themselves before the alpha stepped forward and looked him up and down. "You killed this deer, yes?"
"I did."
"Why bring it here? We are strangers to you."
Fayowin glanced at Feiria, who shifted, uncomfortable with the silence. "I brought it here because i could tell that this pack needed the meat more than my own." Fayowin looked directly at Feiria and continued, "besides... She saw it first."
[[][][][][][][][][][][]
(End of day one of writing, really enjoyed it, look forward to writing again)
[][][][][][][][][][][][
Fayowin perched high upon an rock outcropping, overlooking the clearing below and the wolves within. The alpha had allowed him to stay, grateful for the meat. Feiria was pressed against him again, but this time Fayowin didn't mind. He enjoyed the warmth that she provided and felt at ease around her. She nuzzled his cheek affectionately, a move that surprised him enough that he turned to face her, brushing her nose in the process. He gazed fondly into her eyes for a moment before standing. "I have to return to my pack."
Feiria looked shocked, "No, stay here with us. We could use a hunter like you. Plus you're a star wolf, and it doesn't seem like your pack appreciates that."
He let the words sink in before replying, "I have to go. I'll return in the morning." Seeing the desperate and doubtful look on her face, he added, "I promise. I will come back."
Fayowin walked to the edge of the forest, the glow of his body soon disappearing from Feiria's view.
[][][][][][][][][][][][][]
...
[][][][][][][][][][][][][]
F­ayowin sprinted relentlessly back to his territory, smelling the familiar and not so pleasant scents of his packmates. The smell of blood ran thick in the air as he neared the clearing. The moonlight cast eerie shadows around him and he could feel the eyes of the wolves watching him as he reached the gore pile. The mound of bones and rotting flesh dripped blood into the white snow.
"You're late. And emptypawed. You know what that means, filth." the voice was that of his alpha, Marroy, who stood three feet tall at the shoulder, a whole foot and a half shorter than Fayowin. His fur was a mottled black with a grey underbelly.
Fayowin bared his fangs, the longest being three inches long, and he growled, "My name.. is Fayowin."
Marroy cackled in the darkness, "So straightforward. That's unlike you. No matter, you failed to bring us fresh meat. As punishment, you'll be reminded why we protect you in the first place."
Fayowin heard growls emanating from the trees. The pack of around 25 wolves was massive compared to other packs, and there were enough hunters to go around. Fayowin took a step back and let his eyes adjust so he could see them in the trees.
"You don't protect me, Marroy! You fear me!"
Marroy laughed again, "Not from where I'm standing, Mutt. You look pretty frightened." Fayowin took another step back. "Run! Run! Give us some entertainment!"
The wolves started bounding out of the trees and began chasing Fayowin out of the clearing. They seemed to be pouring from every shadow. He ran faster than ever before, the trees blurring past him as he tried to get away. He ran for what seemed like an eternity before seeing the snowy valley at the edge of the forest. He added a burst of speed and instantly regretted it. A rock beneath the snow tripped him and pain shot up his left foreleg. He tumbled end over end in a heap of blue and white, coming to a stop twenty feet away. Fayowin heard the pack coming for him and he tried to crawl away, but to no avail; the pain was too much. He whimpered as he was surrounded, and shut his eyes tight as he felt them bite and claw at him, retreating only after there was a ****** pool around the star wolf. Marroy walked slowly up to him after they had gone and said, "I hope you die out here. If you aren't, we'll make sure that changes." Then the alpha left him there, cold, ******, broken and alone.
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* (End of Day two/Start of day three of writing and i'm really hooked on this, I believe this may be one of my better stories...)*
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Feiria lay silently on the rock outcropping above the pack and she thought of the star wolf. Something about the breeze brought thoughts to her mind.  
Feiria lifted her nose into the air as the smell of blood became present. She sniffed intently and heard her packmates do the same. She looked in the direction that Fayowin had left in and saw a dark form slowly shambling through the shadowy flora towards her. As it neared her she could see that it was dripping a dark liquid, trailing it through the snow in a scarlet path. "Its Fayowin.." she thought to herself. "Why are his eyes so dark? Why isn't he glowing?"
she rushed to his side and the smell of his blood was almost overwhelming. There were numerous bites and cuts all over him and his left foreleg seemed broken.
Feiria called for the healer, an older female named Sheya, and supported Fayowin as they walked to the glade and waited for the healer. Fayowin collapsed in the center of the clearing, the moonlight hitting him directly, making the blood seem black against his white fur.
Feiria whimpered helplessly, waiting for Fayowin to answer, but his eyes seemed so lifeless that
She felt it was almost a false hope. When Sheya finally arrived, the blood had stopped flowing and his breathing had slowed until he was asleep. When the healer examined him, she looked puzzled.
"what's the matter, Elder?"
Sheya pondered a moment before saying, "His wounds have healed. I'd say its a miracle, seeing as he lost so much blood."
Feiria examined the sleeping wolf herself and found the elders words to be true; there wasn't a scratch left on him. "Leave him here, the sunlight will warm him once daylight comes and his fur is thicker than ours so the cold will not affect him as much." the gathered wolves sat in silence as Feiria washed the blood from his fur with snow and lay down next to him, pressing her body against his. The blue lines on Fayowin dimmed and brightened in tune with his heartbeat, and Feiria listened as her own beat matched it.
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...End of day 3....
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Fayowin felt like he was in another world, this one so much quieter, but at the same time he could sense every noise, every movement, every vibration. His fur was no longer the bright white it once was, but rather a deep black with crimson lines flowing round him. He was lying down, surrounded by a wolf pack, Feiria pressed against him for warmth. He saw, or rather sensed her spirit energy, a type of green fire that outlined her entire body as she slept. Fayowin stood up, thinking to wake her and let her know he was alright, but she hadn't moved. And neither had he; his white furred body remained as it was a moment ago, but he was looking at it as if in another body. He took a step back as he realized he was roaming about in his spirit form. He looked around at the pack and none of the gathered wolves seemed to notice him. He exited the circle of onlookers and gazed up at the falling moon, watching it descend into the horizon, chased away by the rays of the sun coming over the mountaintops to the east. As the sun peeked over the ridge, Fayowin caught something out of the corner of his eye, a dark mass that didn't fit right with the rest of the environment. He looked and saw two sets of glowing purple eyes in the shade. He called out to them, hoping they might hear. "Hey! Can you see me?"
The eyes looked at each other and then back at him, staring for a moment before turning and running.
"Hey, wait!!" Fayowin called after them and began to chase them deeper and deeper into the mysterious forest.The beings moved faster than Fayowin had anticipated, disappearing soon after the chase had begun. Fayowin stood there in the middle of the woods, panting and searching for the elusive forms. After a moment he saw them at the very edge of his vision, their eyes glowing brighter, almost as if they were taunting him forward. Snarling, Fayowin bolted towards them and they led him on a winding path marked by a barely discernable scent trail. The smell was that of burnt wood and crushed pine needles and was oddly alluring to Fayowin as he ran. It seeemed as if he were running for ages, the sun and moon rotating numerous times around him as he traveled over mountains and rivers, through forests and valleys. On the thirteenth solar rotation, the figures finally stopped, joined by eleven other figures surrounding a circular rock with vines and overgrowth covering its base.
As he neared the figures, he saw that they all looked like him, long furred and covered in glowing lines. "Star wolves... Like me..."
The wolves all surrounded the dais and watched him with razor sharp eyes, watching his every move. As he gazed back, Fayowin noticed that each of them had some form of a trident mark right below their left eye, the color matching the lines tracing their bodies. He felt the urge to move forward, as if an instinct were telling him to stand in the center of the circle. Fayowin stood, all eyes on him as he waited for whatever was about to come.
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....I have nothing to say to you HP... I dislike you at the moment....
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Nightfall was coming swiftly, the moon and the stars swirling into place above them, reaching their peak and then halting completely. All of time and
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.
Ellen Joyce Jun 2013
Its my body, my money, its up to me what I do with it.
But everyone else is wearing it.
I cant help the way I feel.
Blonde
Red
Orange
Brown
Purple
DMs purple with pink laces
school skirt altered in the textile lab 3" shorter
hormones racing, zipping, vibrating, fizzing till the top pops
stairs made for stomping and storming
cackling laughter crackling down the telephone wire
clothes left on the bedroom floor abandoned for a girl crisis.

You cant read my mind
read my lips
read my body
read my journal sandwiched between the midriff covering cottons gran bought for Christmas and the skimpy lace thong I'd be grounded for buying

Mother's mattress sanitary towels tossed aside
for shamefully purchased tampons
instructions included

and time has passed
and masks have fallen
and I find you there in the muck and the mire
and dust you off
until

I see your face - all mothers lipstick and glittering pink eye shadow
and the smile that stores secrets in a treasure chest.
Your legs shake like Bambi's but you get to your feet
and nestle yourself into me warmly, strongly until you fall right into me
and you run and you run and you run and you run and you run
right through my veins
giggles throbbing through my pulse
pajama parties and homemade perfume radiating in my eyes
and there you are
and there I am.
This poem was inspired by and dedicated to Eve Ensler and her book 'I am an Emotional Creature' which expresses girlhood in relation to men and women as something which we are all encouraged to surpress.  This is a snippet of my girlishness - the girl I was, am and will always be.
Written 2011
Amarys Dejai Jul 2018
I often wish that I was still a child.
So many things change when we grow up.
Innocence becomes lost,
days become shorter,
the nighttime still scares me,
playing house becomes a game of survival,
boys become men, men become frightening,
I become sad, worried, anxious, and self-aware,
friends will lose their half of the necklace or their friendship ring,
being loved by someone will determine my worth,
I no longer feel small next to the kitchen counter,
but in the presence of everyone around me,
“Forever” loses its meaning,
everyone will eventually leave,
death is no longer a myth,
I will not smile as often as I did,
I will not cry as little as I did,
I will not feel safe in school anymore,
I will not go outside and play anymore,
I will try and pick the imperfections off of
my skin until it is red and bleeding,
**** in my stomach whenever I walk,
work myself into exhaustion,
feel overwhelmed by every task,
have anxiety attacks in public places,
and wish that I was a child again.
We all know about Rudolph
and how his nose lights up the night
And olive, the other reindeer
Who help Santa with his flight

But, there's one who is forgotten
From the Christmas songs and rhymes
And I think you should hear about him
Yes, I think it is about time

Randy was a reindeer
He liked to play the reindeer games
But he too, was like Rudolph
And the others called him names

Randy, wasn't much at flying
Didn't like going out most nights
Randy, well, he was just different
You see, he was afraid of heights

He couldn't see where he was going
Either in the day or night
You see Randy needed glasses
He had a problem with his sight

His balance was in question
Always falling to the ground
If a reindeer falls in the forest
Does that reindeer make a sound?

He had a skin condition
He needed special cream to help
The harness didn't help him
In fact, it made him yelp

He was shorter than the others
And his stride was a bit off
And when Santa came to see him
Randy had a nervous cough

He didn't like the female reindeer
He liked the males, more than he should
Randy was "light up in the antlers"
And to Santa, that's no good

Santa couldn't fly with Randy
Randy's name, it was all wrong
It screamed out Broadway not of Christmas
It didn't work in all the songs

Santa said "you're a strange reindeer"
"You can't fly, you're blind and gay"
"And if you led my team out"
"We'd not be done in just one day"

"I'm sorry, reindeer Randy"
"I have to cut you from the team"
"They play one side,you're another"
"If you know what Santa means"

So, Randy, he just wanders
Round the north pole all the while
Bumping into things and falling
With his light antlers and strange smile

He's not a famous reindeer
And I think that it's ok
That Santa has a reindeer
Who, we now all know is gay.
Alexa Picaulima Oct 2014
He's twenty-seven,
still dreaming about his dreams.
I'm nineteen,
still not sure of my dreams.

Eight year difference...
People say I've got so many years ahead,
that I've still got a long way to go.
Do I really?

I was 11 when I thought life would be a journey of forever.
Eight years later...
I found out
life is short.

Even if I live til I'm eighty,
or a hundred, or a thousand years old,
life would still be short.

It is shorter than a shot of tequila
Shorter than the memory of a goldfish
Shorter than the form of Zacchaeus
Shorter than the shorts Jakarta teenagers wear to malls these days

Time does not run slow like a snail
Time flies faster than the speed of light
Eight years from now is gonna be tomorrow
Who knows what lies ahead?

Eight years from now is gonna be right now
What could stop time?
Don't have an answer to that.

I don't know.

What I know is
that in the end,
we're all basically just shadflies crying for more days.

Pity.
Kelly Roland Jun 2013
seven pages
of carefully picked words
arranged and placed
where they'll get the biggest bang for your buck
because
you never leave the house
without a goal

no, I wasn't astounded to
find that when you cut away the hair
that used to cover your ears
you were even more deaf, than before

your great you know
that charm, it shows
a smile and slicked
back hair style
and you make the rounds
safe and sound
behind the sunshine image
that you've questionably earned

but I made sure
to go light on the accessories tonight
and there is nothing to stop
the clairvoyance that fights its way to my mind

hidden behind my eyes
brown and smiling
long exiling thoughts of you
being like this

but you didnt hear a word i said
no point in discussing your retention
I'll ask although
I already know
have you ever not been
the center of attention
Mateuš Conrad Aug 2018
. she was 19, i was 21, and i guess i was the first boy who treated her decently, allowed her to slap me in the face and stood like a copper statue before her... she wouldn't have made it at university among all the English yuppies, being pregnant... turns out, she might have opted for the Juno (the movie) route... all i know is that she graduated with a masters in anthropology... she was up in Edinburgh, i was back in London, roofing with my father doing the Scottish Widows HQ and then some other project, trying to weave myself into a managerial position in some roofing company... but then? the psychosis spiral... oddly enough - no hammers, no hearing voices wielding a hammer running down the street naked... contained... walked into a church near King's Cross st., lay on beside a the side altar, pulled the cloth from the altar, and wrapped myself in it... then heard singing, had my iPod with me... turned it off... turned it on again, turned it off... the singing still echoed the church... got up, put the cloth back onto the altar and started running around the church aisles... then a great wind dispersed the singing... what kept my sanity? well... given that i was smoking marijuana and fasting? one word... sátān... the whole 40 days in the desert? cut short... in a concrete desert... i phoned my then ex-girlfriend to meet me at this spot outside the church - right across from a royal mail HQ - and i remember the words: can you bring me bread, and water? nothing... on my own then... no... that sort of experience is no cause for jubilation, there is no ******* euphoria: you're talking about ******* it - in my case? thankfully that's only metaphorical... and i'm not buying the psychiatric *******, the easy way out answer: ooh... but youz ver in a church... what?! what the **** are these people talking about? sober people are allowed to have these experiences? well, really?! so why so many of them are negating or doubting intellectuals?! negation is the new doubt... somehow i managed to fend off the atypical munchies routine while smoking marijuana while walking in public... never bothered me... i was a reggae ***** at the time... notably Israel Vibration, Stephen Marley, Damian & Culture... & ***** and the Maytals... cliche, i know... but **** and rap?! seriously? gangster whatever the hell that means... i've just read an article about cultural appropriation... so what has the Jamaican Rastafarian culture have to do with Old Testament prophets?! JAH... they're always singing about JAH... it's a ******* yak! yah! a german YA! cultural appropriation my ***! it's Jamie Oliver's **** sauce! ****'s sake! yeah, right, Bambi on Jamaica smoking a silly one doing the reinvention of king David's psalms... no cultural appropriation there... nope... none... nothing... nothing wrong with Alpha Blondy singing about Yerushalem... nope... no cultural appropriation.... nope... none... nothing! i mentioned these bands to my Jamaican **** seller... big on the Illuminati conspiracy theories, i liked to listen to him ramble... hardly a Charlie Temple paranoid... loved his ox tail broth, his grandma made it for him... and a pretty daughter, but no mother... eh? his Thai ****? i'd prefer the shorter span of a tobacco high... where? near my old high school, Canon Palmer R.C. - now a ******* academy! whoop! whoop! sound the klaxon! you don't experience what i've experienced and start a cult with *** ****** in mind... like **** if you think you do... you... lay low... you puncture the existentialist exodus from Cartesian doubt - namely outright negation - and you wait for the revitalization of doubt, namely the pop culture variant of belief... doubt is, oddly enough, a variant of belief... and belief? be a leaf... just remember you were once attached to a branch of a tree.

yeah...

        a catholic school isn't
exactly a Jesuit school...

but being asked questions
about abortion
and euthanasia

   aged 15 or 16?

in real life?
  you short-circuit, glitch,
become ronin -

    the personal life, details?
too messy...
   she tells you she's taking
contraceptives,
   she's ends up self-harming...
she says she was abducted
and held for ransom,
she's a russian citizen,
her ex-boyfriend is still
hanging around,
  a son of some Russian oligarch...
you've only dated for a
bunch of months that do not
even make it half a year...
you don't mind condoms,
because... hell...
you'd love to see her wearing
latex...

     you know, the usual bits & bobs...

voodoo...
    for some strange reason i woke
up, and the ring finger blister
on my left hand, made by burning
out a cigarette on it
started bleeding:
  close to the bone -
and look! you get a slot motion
of your body recovering!
  no disclaimer concerning
the pros to what sharp objects
women do, by cutting...

but you know...
      asking a 15 / 16 year old
about his opinion
  about either abortion
or euthanasia?
  bad ******* move...
           at this point i'm thinking:
thank ****...

what does it even mean,
when a woman says it,
she's not exactly point-break
on Cartesian logic...

'matt, i think i'm pregnant'
'well, you know what you should
do, get an abortion.'

mind you... i am a citizen of a country
where abortion is legal...
hell, it might have worked,
*** was good, she could
reciprocate that sentiment...

oh, but if there is a kid at the end
of the tunnel?
i **** sure hope he doesn't
contact me, like a kid from
a ***** donor clinic...
      there's something malicious
waiting for him for me
to add about his mamma -

   aligned?
oh you know... *****, Henny,
  Diana and the Egyptian...
   go Charlie go!

                  please please keep
your name... we need a Charles trinity!

so yeah... Roman Catholic school...
****! oh right, outer east end of London...
Paddy central...
               i wonder...
                  but i'll never know...
the Polish Catholics are leaving...
               good on 'em...
          (yadda yadda, yeah yeah, for them)...

i'll never know...
   am i angry?
               i listen to Byzantine and Templar
chants and drink to a well earned
excess...
               sometimes the odd Bulgarian
******* to hug...
    
oh right... that one last time?
i didn't forget my genitals...
   i did an uncourteous lax of etiquette...
****!
           now it makes sense!
i forgot to trim my ***** hair!
(mumbling out) ******* eureka.
Round and round the wheel’s spun
Here and there your time has come
In and out your lights have gone
Out and about to forget what’s going on
Scream and shout into the barrel of your gun
Come on you *****, you can’t do this wrong
Walkin out don’t seem so hard now

Easy going’s a myth that’s over preached, that’s my ******* problem...
Or maybe it’s that I depend on other people to solve them.

I’ve broken all the legs on which I used to stand
No more shoulders to cry on, and no one holding my hand
I fall, I cry, I swear, I’ve tried, no matter what I do, I’m just barely getting by.
I’m tired ofliving life one day at a time, fighting every day in order to survive.
I have to make it on my own.

Order’s tall, without law, just a lie.
Time just flies by, we fall in love alone and knock the hourglass on its side.


I’m staring down the medicine cabinet menu trying to pick the perfect dish.
I'm done playing dumb, matter of fact, I'm just plain done.
I’ve given you more chances than losing the lottery hon’
So zip your lips, you should be used to it, the silence is what tore us apart to begin with
Zip your lips, take your trip, and figure out how to make the pieces fit.

This guilt in my head and this weight on my back is making me crawl past the finish line and
Into another trap, Each time that I pass, I’m still behind another lap.

They say I think too much and then I lose touch.
It’s either stay on the couch or lean on a crutch.
My life revolves around daily brain damages.
They say the best things can only come out of the darkest passages.
Lather, rinse, repeat the cycle, I’d rather not cheat and compete with these savages.

You’re nothing I haven’t seen before, the fact of the matter is
We are all just someone else’s recycled garbage

I’m sick of livin’ every day with one foot bout to step into another’s grave.
I’m too tired to keep hold of these stagecoach reigns, how the hell am I to conduct 12 runaway trains?
Don’t tell me to watch out when you yourself don’t have an ounce of strength
Depending on pretending that tomorrow will be a brighter day
The grass is never greener, get off my ***, and stay out  my way
Head to head, face to face, fight and compete to defend your title belt of last place

I can’t wait for the day that nothing feels the same as every yesterday until then I’ll just repeat and repeat all the things that I hate. 

 
I am the angel and the devil atop your shoulders.
I give and I take in the eye of the beholder.
I bend and I shake, each breath, sharper and shorter.
No start, no stop, just endless disorder.


Growing up just means that you’re getting older
The dark is getting lighter, and each day is feeling colder.

How absurd are the streets of this wretched city?
Common sense is a rarity to those who beg all for their pity.
Mercy me, oh I admit defeat, I was born to fail at making ends meet.
The scraps and the bones, the trashed and the filthy.
I’ll live on the edge attempting to make this home a reality.
But there’s no room in any ******* realty
For a man who contributes nothing incessantly,
Yet, continues to **** dry every hand that tries to feed.

Maybe there's something in the medicine cabinet that can set me free
Oh, why do I turn to the medicine cabinet every time I want something to eat?

It’s kickin' in now, I’m seeing things a lot clearer now that it's just about over.
Stranded at the crossroads, I made a deal that cost me two souls, one of which, I am not responsible for.
So, still my flawed remains stand there with no closure,
I signed the line and sold my time.
Now the best thing I can do is become an ***** donor.

Lesson learned a bit late, a penny shy, now the world’s a buck shorter
All you’ve left behind are half-written songs full of spite on your Dad’s old tape recorder

From everyone here at the daily grind news team, to those who shout biased headlines with ******* Meanings, we hope you have fun while it lasts, your shows cancelled next quarter.
This concludes our report on young lives growing shorter.
Before we sign off, here’s the final say from our most admonishing reporter:

You have no idea what it means to have something to scream about.
You’ve spent your whole life never shutting your ******* mouth
Tell me what you think of me, don’t tell your friends on the internet
You’ve bitten more than you can chew this time, no more free rides, it's time that you pay your rent.
If you're not the lord of this land,  then I'll be the one to decide how the rest of your life is spent.

You can start by choking on your pride as you attempt to swallow all your miserable times and past Regrets. Pay close attention, this is the last warning you’ll get.
Thoughts swirling about the mind of a man who's been over-medicated, under-appreciated, and has taken his own strength away by blaming everyone else. Desperately, he attempts to re-gain control over his own life.
Stephen E Yocum Jul 2018
Spring is the awaited child,
seeds to plant, plans to explore,
conjuring promise and renewal,
That awakens our soul.

Summer inspires with long
sunny days basking in the
embrace of green crops growing,
relief from heat under leafy trees,
leisurely nights of clean skies,
bright stars on high to infinity.

Fall comes as a warning beacon,
days of long shadows,
cool nights with chill breeze,
bedecked trees
in reds and yellow.
The report of hunters guns
from the depths of the forest.

Winter's a prelude to gloom,
short days, low sun when it
appears, wind-chills that burn.
Snow to shovel, ice to befuddle.
Conjuring envy and impatience
for the return of Spring.

So the seasons flow
one into another,
while every year lived
the cycles grow shorter,
with no guarantees of
how many more may follow.
Emily Chambers Apr 2016
Womanhood

In my ever eternal fight between
Pain and rapid mood swings
I have learned to accept
What I have been given by my mother.

Womanhood

In my ever insulting fight between
Objectification and misunderstanding
I have come to understand
"My body is a temple"
Is not a complement but an insult.

Womanhood

As my hair grows longer and longer
And I cut it shorter and shorter
And people tell me to "look more feminine"
I can't help but dress "more masculine."

Womanhood

Because I have to accentuate my assets
With tight jeans and skinny dresses
And if I forget a push-up bra
"It's a boy" jokes are made.

Womanhood

Because my knowledge of cars
And my firm hand shake
Awes men and makes them test me
Instead of conversing with me and moving on with their day

Womanhood

Because I am scared to leave the house by myself
And my father's overbearing protection
Instead of believing I can protect myself
In any given situation

Womanhood

Because my brother can go out whenever he wants
And can curse like a sailor
But I have to be a sweet southern belle
And answer a million and one questions just to take a walk

Womanhood

Because we have to justify ourselves
Because guys have to be perfect in the eyes of "feminists"
Because all of this bullsh!t has gone over the edge.

Womanhood

I can't call myself a feminist
And I sure ain't a misogynist
I'm just trying to scrape by
Just trying to get through this trying

Womanhood
This is my first slam poem that I decided to write out. Started it a while ago and I think I've gotten everything I wanted to emphasize down.
b e mccomb Oct 2016
found myself washing dishes
in a bra and pajama pants
watching the rain like
i would watch a movie
with half my attention
and my hands full

anxiety and rage
had hit me again
but halfway through
what i had set out to do
i found myself so tired
i had to sit down and
watch through the oven
door as my life burned away

and i knew that my
five a.m. had
come this time at
five p.m. and
things had finally
gotten bad

but i have to pretend
i'm okay as long as
it's still daylight out
thank goodness
the days keep getting
shorter and shorter
because i do so get
tired of lying to myself.
Copyright 9/30/16 by B. E. McComb
Sara L Russell Apr 2013
Every day was the same as the one before. She
Every day was the same as the one before. She
went to the cupboard and took out a box of Wheetie Krisps
went to the cupboard and took out a box of Kheetie Wisps
just to survive another morning shift, or so it seemed.
just to survive another afternoon shift, or so it seemed.

Why wouldn't Sam in Sales notice her? After all,
  Why wouldn't Irving in the Post Room notice her? After all,
he was only a Trainee Executive; and she was good enough for him.
  he was only a souped-up errands boy; and she was desperate.
Of course today, as with yesterday, he would simply walk past her.
  Of course today, like yesterday, he would just run away.

The ground floor cafe queue never seemed to get any shorter at lunchtime
  The sandwich trolley lady seemed to get shorter and shorter of sandwiches
The bistro down the road was no less crowded; the food was expensive,
  The local pub's parrot kept screaming "TIME!" and the food was crap,
No-one ever spoke to anyone outside of their clique; it was just another working day.
  No-one ever had any time to chat; it was just another pointless day.

And so the days went on. Until one day her reflection reached out and pulled her into the mirror.
And so the days went on. Until one night, her dream reached out and pulled her through the vortex.

**To be Continued...
For we have thought the larger thoughts
    And gone the shorter way.
And we have danced to devil's tunes,
    Shivering home to pray;
To serve one master in the night,
    Another in the day.
Cass Apr 2014
last week i told you that the inevitability of the end was near
you couldn't stop it
i am a patch of black ice and you are a semi
but we refuse to let go,
refuse to throw out what we have
just because we're young and stupid
and you can't fall in love until you have a college diploma on the office wall
and a mortgage to pay
a hundred thousand regrets
and a lost love who you gave up on
simply because you didn't believe in the resilience of young love
we fell in love in spring,
and there's something to say about the innocence of that first love
unparalleled spontaneity and discovery
that will never be duplicated
so why would you throw it away?
your forever is shorter than mine,
so i'll never promise forever
all i can promise you
is now
Tatiana Jan 2015
Everything is so tight.
Jeans, leggings, dresses, shirts, skirts, jackets
and summer wear is even worse and more revealing with
crop tops, shorts, and even shorter skirts and dresses.
How are we all able to breathe?
Victorian fashion had corsets
and those made them faint!
So why does the fashion have to be tight?
Don't get me wrong,
I do like skinny jeans, and tight shirts and dresses
I am a girl after all,
we all give in to the status quo of fashion at times.
But, sizes are even smaller now than they were before.
I haven't gained or lost weight,
my waist size hasn't changed,
nothing has.
Except for the clothes.
Are we trying to make women smaller and thinner
by just shrinking the clothes?
It should not be ¨Survival of the fittest¨
in the dressing rooms.
That isn't cool.
Also, why are the pants so short?
I have long legs, okay,
and because my waist size matches someone who is smaller than me
then that must mean that I am short
according to clothes.
Therefore I have difficulty finding pants
that fit my waist
and my legs.
I am not blind to my surroundings.
Every single girl
Goes. Through. This.
We all have shopping woes,
some worse than others.
We all gain uncomfortable experiences
whether it be from something not fitting,
or from the attention on the streets
that we get for wearing it.
Then of course, don't forget the media!
Remember all those pictures of perfect people
being shoved down our throats
strangling us until we accept the fact
that we should be just like them.

Suffocation is the latest fashion,
and we are expected to wear it well.
You know, I would very much like to have pockets in my jeans...
 © Tatiana
Birdy Thyne Nov 2012
Anticipating the anticipation,
Anticipating the living-life-on-the-edge days.
The ones you hear about
Or you think you've heard about.

You, you've fallen into monotony,
An inescapable feeling of restless contentment.

Some call it depression,
You call it boredom.
They're one in the same,
Except boredom has a much less negative connotation;
And a much shorter life-span.

Mostly, it depends on your age;
The children are bored,
The adults are depressed.

Filling days with self-innovated anxiety,
The kind that didn't always exist,
Or you don't think it always existed.

A drive to be taken by storm
Overwhelmed.
Engulfed.
Something to shake you out of this trance you have been stifled by.

Like a visitor from afar,
You continue to sit in that hotel room,
Anticipating the anticipation of travel.

While you glance
Between the alarm clock,
The room service menu,
The T.V. Guide.

Bored.
Depressed.
Anticipating the anticipation of living.
Big Virge Mar 2018
Ya Know ....

I'm beginning to think ...
The Truth is ...

A LOT of Folks are ... STUPID ... !!!

You can tell by ....
The Way They're .... "Moving" ....

and who they choose to ...
..... "Move With" .....

It's CLEAR ...
Some NEED ... Improvements ...

Because they deal in ..... Looseness ....................................... !!!!!

Like ....
CLAIMING ... Their ... " Religion " ...

DEFINES ....
How they be ... Living ... ?

Here's what I mean ...

You ...
DON'T EAT PIG ...
because it's ... UNCLEAN ... !!!!!

Is Your ... Religions' theme ...

BUT ..... !!!!

One Night ...you're at home ...
and your hunger says ...

"Yo it's time for some food !"

So ...
Do you start to ... Cook ... ???

NO .... !!!
You go to the ... " Phonebook " ...
INSTEAD ... and have a look ...
for something you can ... " Order " ...

An Option ... CLEARLY shorter ... !!!
than cooking for ... yourself ...

So you then ... GET ...
.... " A FEVER " ....

to ....
Order Up ... Some Pizza ... !!!

Ya' hunger says ... " Oh well " ...

You order up ... " A VEGGIE " ...

I guess cos' ...
that is ... " Healthy " ... ?!?

ONLY ... To FIND ...
Later ............................ That Night ........

That something ... MEATY ...
was ... "inside" ... !!! ...

Because .... That Night ...
You spent the time ...
with the toilet ... by your side ... !!!!!!!

It now becomes ... CLEAR ...
STUPIDITY .... steered .....

Your *** ... to a place ...
where it had to ............................................................. DISPLACE ...... !!!!!!!!!!

WHATEVER ... You ate ...
from that .... " Takeaway " .... ?!?

Next day when you ... Check ...
The Pizza then said .... !!!!!!!! ......

"If you didn't want meat,
why did you eat me,
without double checking !
Why now are you stressing ?
You were stupid to believe,
that you'd really receive,
what we say we'll provide.
The sales what rules our vibe !
If you truly were, all that concerned
about SWINE being a part
of food you ingest, that makes you **** !
You'd of got off your ****, and cooked at home,
so that you'd of known, what it was you had,
and wouldn't of eaten, a piece of ham !"

You'd of marked your own card
and then ... Wouldn't try to ... BLAME ... ?!?
to .... "cover up" ... Your SHAME ... !!!

It seems ....
Your brain is ... lame ...
cos' STUPIDITY ... Holds it's ... "REINS" ... !!!

Your ANGER ... is a ... FARCE ... !!!!!

You people ... make me laugh ...

Actually .......
YOU DON'T ....... !!!!!!!
cos' STUPIDITY .... ROAMS .............................
RIGHT THROUGH .... Your Bones ... !!!!! ...

and into ... "Zones" ...
where it ... SHOULD NOT GO ... !!!!!

It seems that ...
ALL YOUR .... Bleating ....

DEFINES .....
Much like your ... Leanings ...

Your ... " Faith " ...
to be a ... SHAM ...
and Quite Stupid ... at that ... !!!

Just like wearing ... " Lions " ... ?!?
as if they are ... YOUR TRIDENT ... !?!
when NOT ONE Lion ... Roams ?
in the place that ... You call ... " Home " ... !!!

Isn't that something ...
You .... STOLE .... ?!?
from AFRICAN ... Time Zones ... !?!

Somebody's ....
CLEARLY ... LYING ... !!!!!

and DOESN'T ...
Come from ... ZION ... !!!

I Clearly Am ... STUPID ... !!!
to see THAT as .... FOOLISH ... !!!
and PROOF of ... POOR Schooling ...
that is ... Mind POLLUTING ... !!!!!!

Who'd they think they're ... " Fooling " ... ???

A ... GREAT MANY ... People ... !!!
Like those ... Under Steeples ... !!!

CONFESSING Their ... SINS ... !!!

because of ... BAD THINGS ...
That they have been ... Doing ....

It's Church ....
They are .... USING ....
to ... ACT as ... Their CLEANSER ...

These STUPID ... "pretenders" ... !!!!!

USING ... " Religion " ...
to give themselves ... " Visions " ...
of AGAIN .... Being PURE .... ?!!!?

That's STUPID ...
... Fa' SURE ... !!!!!!

A Leopard ....
DOES NOT ... Change his spots ... !!!

He's A LEOPARD ... Forever ... !!!!!

YES Humans ...
Can ... BETTER ...
Themselves ... YES IT's True ...

But ....
NOT in a morning ... !!!

That's STUPIDITY ... Calling ... !!!!!

Is it stupid to say .....
These things ... Nowadays ... ?!?

NOT IN ... My View ...
But MANY ... Would Choose ...

to say .....

" It is true,
cos expression moves,
and causes issues,
and if you're not careful,
may turn and bite you !"  

Man .....
Fear of ... " Your Truth " ...
Seems like ... FEARING ... You ... ?!!!?

Something ... I View ...
as a YES .... STUPID MOVE .... !!!!!

Stupidity ... REIGNS ...
When FEAR ... " Takes The Strain " ... !!!!!

That's now what's ..... IMPRINTED .....
and Runs Through ... My Veins ... !!!!!!!

I try to use ... THINKING ...
To Avoid ...

... STUPID TRAINS ... !!!

Cos' Thought ... OVERPOWERS ...
STUPIDITY's ... power ... !!!!!! ...

As does ... DISCIPLINE ... !!!

which is where ... I Begin ...

NO RELIGION ... within ... !!!

Just Faith in ... " Reflection " ...
and ... Thought FILLED ... Selections ... !!!
On Life ... and it's ... LESSONS ... !!!

to give me ... "PROTECTION" ...
Against the ... INFECTIONS ... !!!!!

STUPIDITY ... Spreads .................................................................­........
In ... UNDISCIPLINED .... Heads ....

It's CLEAR TO ME ... Now ...
That FOOLS Run ... Most Towns ... !!!!!

and My Thinking ...
That ... THOUGHT ...

In people ...
Runs ... FLUID ... !!!!!!

Gives me ... LIVING PROOF ...
That I'm being ........

..... " STUPID " .....
Stupidity is a SERIOUS Thing ....
George Carlin's wife died early in 2008 and George followed her, dying in July 2008. It is ironic George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's - could write something so very eloquent and so very appropriate. An observation by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to ****. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.
after some research...it appears this may not belong to Mr. Carlin...so forgive me for not digging a bit earlier. Especially, my sincere apology to George!
Sjr1000 Aug 2014
The first comment
I received
a "*******"
with a smiley face
I laughed off
wouldn't you?
Kind of crazy
kind of creepy
put it away as some one
we all know.

The second comment
came
with the usual language refrain
I was a "hack"
my words were "dreck".
The disparaging words about
my dead mother
gave me pause to reflect.

The third comment and more
began to recall
information of past
faux pas
secret affairs
one or two personal pecadillos
never mentioned beyond
the
dialogues in my mind.
Embarrassing I know.

I, of course,
went to the home page
to see
if it was someone
known to me.

No identifying data
but a picture I remembered vaguely
from a past I didn't know.

The trolling continued
relentless I would say
pulled the plug
put up a block
but
wouldn't you know

The comments continued
to come into my dreams
brutal criticism
of
every move I made
the day finally arrived
when I realized

Alter personalities were shedding off of me
like
psychological psoriasis
They were
hitting the ground running
I was
finding poems
I didn't remember writing
clothes I never bought
People kept hugging me
I had never met before
they
knew me far to well
called me many names
none of which were mine.

The silence of my nights were broken
when I found myself
in my car on Highway 101
returning from where I did not know
with a smile on my face
illegal drugs in my pocket.

How did I get here?
How did we get there?
Where are we now?

Another account opened
on Hello Poetry
with an anagram of my name.

I find my days
getting shorter and shorter
it became clear
I had become the dream
The others
had become me.
JL Jan 2012
I have waited for so long
To find something to make it go
I was looking for a way to make it all go
And so I saw your picture and read your words
I felt them wrap around my heart

I used to go out looking for something to do
Just to get my mind off of you
But now the sun shines
In the afternoon
I haven't felt like things could work
In a really long time
All my gears seemed broken
My engine out of steam
Nights were getting shorter and shorter
I think I forgot how to dream
I saw your picture go around my head
Take me once or twice
I have nothing to lose and everything to gain


What is money to me
What are objects to me
A waste
Of time that I could spend
Looking at your hair
Living in your eyes
And dying in your smile
Paolo C Perez Oct 2012
His Funeral was today.  Well, his wake rather.  It was in his old colonial home on Elm Street, a bought of irony that Paolo would never get.  Anyway, it was an odd set up at his house. Family and friends downstairs in the living room, acquaintances and honorable mentions meandering through the hallways clearly more interested in the intricate little floral patterns that adorned the wallpaper than how his family was holding up.  The company of the house was split, everyone either legitimately full of sorrow, or completely full of ****.  In everyone’s grasp either handkerchiefs or hand grenades it was as if the invitation read “Come see it to believe it!” In the study across the hall a small memorial was set up.  Big cards, tons of photos, some flowers, anyone who actually cared stayed there and stared at his once happy face, who knew what it looks like now.  
He had died of some sort of overdose, one that destroyed his heart, so he would have looked fine in an open casket.  The doctors say it was *******.  I don’t believe them.  Paolo had his fun in college, ***, *****, sure, but coke?  There’s no way.    The services weren’t to take place for another two hours, so his family rolled him onto the second floor balcony.  It was actually his dad’s decision, something about a “disgrace” and not wanting to look at his face.
Apparently his mom had felt bad letting her dead son chill on the porch for a few hours, so she rolled him across the hallway to his own room him and kind of laid him out on the bed, as if letting her baby boy take his eternal sleep where he’d have had most of his shorter ones.  
Picturing him lying up there was the first negative connotation I ever had with the image of him on that bed.  He had that kind of headboard that when we started getting at it the bed would hit the wall with each rhythmic movement.  Steady and almost tribal as our bodies danced to the ever increasing beat of a talking drum.  Our clothes off and our skin glazed with sweat it was like my own personal method for getting high. Now don’t get the impression that our relationship was based purely on a physical connection, we’d been dating for three and a half years, the love was there all right.  
We had met in the strangest of ways, through a mutual friend that I was kind of, almost, sort of, but not really having a “thing” with, you know?  Cisco was his name.  So we were together one day and he, being the adorable spaz that he was, had forgotten that his own birthday party was that same night.  He asked if I didn’t mind tagging along, it was a celebration for him and two friends whose birthdays followed his in sequence.  
This had been going on for several weeks, and I know we weren’t dating but I still had a feigning interest in the guy.  So we arrive to this girl, Cristina’s, house and I noticed this other boy almost immediately.  In a backwards cap and pair of boot cut jeans he was jumping around, tossing his arms, right in the middle of reciting some hilarious anecdote to any of his friends who hadn’t heard it yet; even those who had seemed riveted.  He was so full of charisma and with such assurance.  Besides that he was kind of cute so, though pathetically, I tried flirting with him for the rest of the night; he didn’t really catch on.  We left that night without having exchanged more than ten words between each other, I thought I’d never see him again, turns out I was wrong.  
“Broadway CAREols.  Show others that you care by enjoying a night of with your favorite blend of Christmas ditties and Broadway biddies” And before you ask, Yes, I did come up with that title, I think it was great and it was at the top of each flyer in big red and green letters and if you asked me “If you could do it again…” I would do it the same each and every time don’t judge me.
It was a show I had to direct for a community service project and of all people he played the piano for my show.  Only me and several other girls made up the cast, and I knew how easy it was to mistake a positive attitude for flirtation when it comes from a handsome young man.  He ran the music over three or four times individually with each cast member before the night of the show, but when Paolo and I worked that night he stopped me and just sang. For me.  
Each night after rehearsal I had to give him a ride home, I was a year older and thus had my license a year sooner.  I’d never mind allowing myself more time to bask in the glow of his perfectly understated confidence, so I was happy to oblige.  Technically Connecticut state imposed a law forbidding new drivers under the age of 18 to be on the roads past 11 at night.  My mom, being a government employee, really stressed this one.  His house was a solid ten minutes drive from our rehearsal spot, and my mom often warned me to allow myself enough time to get back home before 11.  What started as me beginning to drive faster and faster during the trip home ended as a routine each night, where I would finally allow him to step out of my car just as the clock read 11:00 PM.  
Our first kiss was in that car, my first uncontrollable breakdown was in the car, hell the first time he told me he loved me was in that car…right at the lip of the driveway.  I learned to ride my brakes perfectly to the point where I could park just beyond the edge of the sidewalk yet just before the point where the porch light would flash on, reminding his mother that his son is out past ten on a school night.  It was so warm.  I’ll never forget the cadence of his laughter as it trailed off, seamlessly merging with that next statement “Anna, I love you”.  I could have sworn the porch light went on.  

Now I know it may seem like I don’t care for his being dead right now, but the thing is, I did something.  I did something really bad.

You see, I had mentioned that he was up in his room, right?  Still, stiff, simply waiting to be brought down in a few hours as the catalyst to another round of tears.  Now don’t get me wrong, I did my share of crying the night before.  He’d been in the hospital for only a few days and when they told us he was dead…God, he was just so young, two years into college, the friend you have who was chasing his dreams down with a brand new pair of sneakers.  That kid the whole town knew because of the multitude of silly town functions he attended.  He would always insist.  Every other weekend was one silly thing or another “Oh you’re gonna love this.  Two words – ‘Poetry showdown’.  If you can’t take the heat, don’t stay in the kitchen”
The day of the funeral I just had to see him.  I snuck up the two floors to his room on the third floor.  As I neared his door at the top of that final flight of stairs each creak of the floorboard seemed to resonate through the house, followed by the hollow silence of my stillness.  I paused with each step as if stepping in larger spans of time would make what I was doing seem less suspicious, should someone hear me.  Upon touching his doorknob I felt an immediate chill. I couldn’t tell whether it was some ghostly feeling of being in the presence of a dead person, or the fact that the thermostat had been turned down to keep his body prime for viewing.
I held my breath as I opened the door, and blinked a couple times when I saw him.  He was wearing what everyone else was in downstairs, black tuxedo and a dark tie.  I know he would have scowled had he known he was going to be buried in a constricting penguin suit.  We had a conversation about it, you know?  Out on Academy Hill, right in the middle of a picnic. We were in enough shade that his transition lenses were only half tinted, and when he sat up, it was abruptly.  Pushing my head off his chest he kind of leaned in to the cemetery in the distance and pointed out how sad it is that no one really ever gets the chance to choose how they want to spend the rest of eternity dressed in.  He would have preferred his puma sneakers, still white after seven months, his striped green and blue socks, his only pair of ripped designer jeans and that express shirt he loved so much because it showed off his natural physique.  
I moved closer, inching toward him at first, then quicker as I broke through a place where I just relaxed, and for a moment he wasn’t dead.  For a moment he was just sleeping, all ready in his fancy get up simply waiting for me to wake him up.  I found myself sitting next to him, my eyes cast downward, half expecting his gaze to meet mine, and while stroking his hair I got an idea.  It happened quickly, and I kind of have a problem with acting upon my impulses, it’s something he used to criticize me on that and I never really improved.  Without thinking I threw open his drawer and pulled out what I knew he’d have wanted to be dressed in, should he have gotten the chance to create a will concerning his death-wear.  As I pulled of his starchy shirt my hand brushed against his chest, chilled as the room was, eerie as nothing else.  I finally got him down past his pants and saw, of all abominations, that he was outfitted in a fresh pair of tighty whities.  God, it’s as if the funeral home was asking to be haunted by his tormented soul.  I found his single pair of silk boxers and reassembled him in the way I knew he’d have wanted to be.
So great, now everyone will think I’m a loon for having desecrated his body.  Well what do they know; I’m the only one who ever really knew him! But how the hell would I explain it to his parents when the pallbearers march in and there he is, laying face up in his street clothes?  
This wasn’t right.  He didn’t belong here, he needed to be somewhere comfortable, someplace he enjoyed, not sitting upstairs in a suit with the lights off and the air blasting.  He hated the cold!  Certainly he would have hated a hundred people staring at his dead and lifeless shell, and he would, without a doubt, hate being six feet under, pushing daises at the Nichols Road cemetery.
I wrapped my arms around him, and as the building adrenaline made my breaths deepen I inhaled several moments of ecstasy off his clothes that still clung to his musty scent.  I lowered him gently to the floor and took care as I dragged him across the carpet to his door.  After fumbling, for what felt like several minutes, on his door handle I got him onto the awning introducing the stairs.  I even made it down the first flight of stairs without freezing up at the tiniest creak when I heard someone coming my way.  ******, they must need to use the bathroom, why couldn’t they just use the one downstairs like any normal person?  Without hesitation I throw open up the window near bottom of the stairs, heaving myself and him, sending us tumbling onto the garage roof.  Ignoring my probable bruises I spring up and slam the window behind me while taking special care to hide us both as far away from the bathroom window as possible.
Sitting up there, my heart racing, I felt his hand in mine and it was probably because my palms had gone clammy but I swear for a span of time he was alive again.  I closed my eyes and felt the breeze in my hair and was transported to a place where I spent a single moment in each day we ever shared.  Each beach side sandcastle, each afternoon spent cloud gazing, those same afternoons turning into evenings of star gazing, each and every night spent utterly and irrevocably lost with this silly boy that chose to love me.  
I was torn from my oasis as I heard the bathroom’s occupant exit and continue downstairs.   Knowing that my van was parked on the other side of the street I pushed his body as close to the edge of the roof as I could without his falling off and let him be. I hopped back inside and ran downstairs, but not before flying through the doors of the memorial and interrupting his mothers eulogy.  In an act of sheer brilliance I mustered a few tears and tore out the back door.  Everyone figured I was just so taken away by his death that I couldn’t stand to be there anymore.  Who knew anxiety could be mistook for remorse so easily?
I ran down the driveway, losing the grace I had composed in my dress in high heels the moment I slammed that door.  I jumped into Emmet, my van, because only crazy people drive around in un-named vehicles.  
I pulled out of my spot, nearly ruining the paint job on both my and his Uncle Ed’s car.  I flew my trunk door open and set the third row down, the general idea being his landing securely in my back seat.  I reversed up the driveway with the precision of a surgeon and the speed of a leopard right back to the edge of the garage where I had tossed his body.  I jumped out of my car nearly forgetting to put it into park before I shut off the engine.  I barely got halfway around my car before becoming transfixed on his hand, hanging off the gutter as if reaching for mine to grab hold and pull him to sweet salvation.  I jumped up a few times, unsuccessfully before I took off my shoes and got a good running start.  I flew up, grabbed his arm and ****** towards the car in a sideways downward motion.  He nearly cracked his head on the pavement coming down, he would have too if it wasn’t for my body breaking his fall.  I got up, too distracted by the sheer volume of my own heart to realize the pain I felt.  I shoved him into my back seat, slammed the trunk, stumbled into the car, stuck it in reverse and stepped on gas without even putting my shoes back on.

I told you I had done something bad.
This is a first draft, please, I welcome your critiques.
Sombro Jan 2015
Fluid chords of memory and mind flow down my scalp like hair
And fall from me as I see my last winter
Before that shorter death of the pillow and sheets.
Such as it is to be tired.
I'm exhausted. Goodnight, perfect poets.
Something Quiet Sep 2015
My friend cut his hair.
Many weeks ago.
His hair was long,
But now it's short,
Much shorter than before.

My friend cut his hair.
It's softer to the touch.
I pat his head,
A gentle tap,
He didn't like it much.

My friend cut his hair.
It used to hide his eyes.
I see them both,
Like pretty jewels,
No longer in disguise.

My friend cut his hair.
It makes him different now.
His eyes light up,
His smiles are warm,
As warm as he'll allow.
A friend of mine used to have long, shoulder-length wavy hair and he got a haircut just before the summer holidays. I saw his new, much-shorter haircut in person a few days ago, and the change was so great I couldn't help making a tribute to it. A transition like that can really change a person.
Whitney Aug 2013
I can not voice or write
What it feels like to be betrayed by
The man you trusted mor than any
Human being in the world

You watched yourselves grow old together
In your dreams
You named your future children together
You faced the world together and
That was the only thing that mattered
Being hand in hand

No distance was far enough our fingers
Could still grasp at each other
At the idea we would matter to one another
Forever

Forever is shorter than we think
Especially on the day we grow up
And realize what they've been telling us all these years
Love
Love is a lie
And if it is real it is sly and mischievous
Unforgiving and unkind
It blows my mind how people can
Lie and
Lie and
Lie
Lie
Lie
Lie
Every words of trust
Every moment of vulnerability will only ever be rewarded with
Disappointment
In another for letting you down
In yourself for being naïve enough to believe it could have ever ended different.
Phone
Dondaycee Nov 2017
Next lifetime just let me be,
All lost souls that noticed me,
Over killed the hope in me,
Helpful hands unnoticed, feet,
Blistering I’m growing weak.
I have questions for the runaways,
How did your feet get so strong?
Why couldn’t I tag along?
Did you leave home to be alone or vice versa, got cold and was searching for warmer days in the week?
What is life without a friend dependent on I,
Is trust nonexistent when there’s a mention of side,
Is it not selfish to love yourself before mind,
A system that houses a light linked throughout time,
“-What do you want?”
For you to love me like you love all.
Look in the mirror, what about this person,
“I’m always here, all you have to do is call”
Where’s the assertion? I’m looking for words because the ones I’m using aren’t working.
Never felt too good in crowds, because there’s folks around, and they’re always thinking,
Never felt too good or proud, when joyful sounds touch my heart before they’re leaving,
“-Loving others isn’t a bad thing, lose the fear, it’s a state of being.
Don’t hate yourself for seeing a reality that others aren’t capable of seeing.”
But, Am I dreaming?
“Do not confuse yourself, you don’t want to lose yourself for dreams are other realities, you are currently in a state of being.”
But what is being?
“To be or not to be is the question.”
… Give me clarity
“Everything is being, it’s all existing, everything existing is living.”
Is this another lesson?
“Is death to exist and not be, or to be and not exist?
That is my suggestion-”
-How can you be and not exist?
“To exist is to have objective reality, a reality that exist independent from our minds.
Consciousness construct realities through imagination in space, which is time,
So, does the world end when we die,
Or does the experience of this reality end and our consciousness move into another reality beyond the human mind?
Would the state of being then not exist after existences?”
Let me go the distance with an analogy to make sure there’s nothing I’m missing.
Is it pain to love in a world that perceive it with ignorance, or to fully understand it and not have the experience?
“A little personal but the balance is understood.”
I just needed some clarity to be reassured,
Because sometimes I’m insecure,
There’s never been a life that’s “similar”,
And I see things in my life that will occur,
Pretty lady, baby don’t you close the door,
With other opportunities of loving me more,
Arkyi, Dondaycee, keep my knees from the ground,
In times I forget to stand, and am feeling less than a man should when his woman’s aroused,
By another… that feeling’s profound.
“-Jealousy found, that energy is not allowed when there’s confusion around.”
Where’s that soothing sound that moved me in dreams,
That had me chasing angels confusing chicken with wings,
Searching for permission in missing some things,
Like the giggle or a touch that slowly faded through change,
Like that love at first sight that never made it to name,
Those “unspoken” relationships that never made it to name,
Those misunderstood moments I forgave and delayed an encounter because I couldn’t forget the feeling she gave before  pain.
Those hideaway hearts is where my shelter remained,
Because they kept the love pure when it was easy to drain.
It isn’t easy to contain let alone obtain a power source linked to the brain and refrain from allowing an equivalent vibration; being fear, creep into the domain and create a disease of insane.
“-Insanity is just as contagious as stupidity-”
-Please explain how to maintain love’s stability when hostility is blurred into a thin line.
Inhumane is humane when the word justify emerges in a reign of ignorance which solidifies the moment the sane become repetitive credited to an infection that dried the terrain of perception,
Unreceptive the brain becomes when love is trying to sustain which leads to strain that results in pain and fear burst as a supernova leading to actions in vain again and again,
Oh lord, the power of a woman.
If men could be before doing, we wouldn’t often do things we “shouldn’t”,
“It’s not a matter of wrong or right but evolving into light.”
Is it odd that I acknowledge you, voice inside my head?
“Just as odd as the words left unsaid before night.”
This solitude thing, it isn’t enough anymore, I need something new.
I learned to love myself from red to blue,
And I just reached purple, now all I see is white,
May that energy continue to heal and rise,
Frequency, continue to create shorter and steeper hills, so that I am able to write,
Documentations of this experience  discovering love that’s unforgettable,
Because self hate should never be unforgivable.
That illness is always hospitable,
The existence of love is aboriginal,
Individually being is medicinal and additional if traditional.
Through ourselves is how we connect to all, an adventure to,
Dive within thyself but too many times I forget myself.
Every time I learn to stand, I project and fall like I forget my shell,
Because it’s easier to live life as light than with the body, odd of me to dismiss my health,
Physical problems; wanting love, a senseless touch; tempted to rush a manifestation of her beside me.
That’s the biggest lie when all I need is I and the being inside me.
If this is a human experience, neglecting the body is a serious condition, mysterious as if ID.O.M and 3D have been misspelled,
Then what is hell?
“Death.”
I thought death doesn’t exist?
“It doesn’t, it’s a reality when the state of being is no longer well.”
To be… or not to be…
“That is a question of wealth.”
when he kissed me i got that feeling you get when you hear your old favorite song
like his lips were melodies id heard before
and his teeth bit familiar lyrics onto my lips
it doesnt usually feel like this
its my favorite feeling
pity it never lasts longer than a hickey
or a paper cut
ollie Oct 2018
They call it dysphoria
When I was ten it started
I cut my hair because we were going on a summer trip and didn’t want me to get too hot
A pixie cut
I was only allowed to get it after I stopped referring to the hair as “boy short”
I let it get messy
The tousled, boyish look felt right on me for reasons I couldn’t explain
They called me “he”
“Him”
“Sir”
“Will your son want an adult menu?”
I was ten or eleven
At a fair we went to every year
I don’t remember what the man said
But I do remember he referred to me as my mother’s son
And she did not correct him
She ruffled my messy enough hair
And said “my little boy”
I should have known something was wrong when my chest inflated
When I felt happier than I had in weeks
And all I had wanted was for her to say it again
Because I did not know that I wanted so badly to be my mother’s son and not her daughter
I wanted to **** myself when I was twelve years old and she made me grow my hair out
It went to my shoulders
And it felt so wrong
It wasn’t me inside my skin
I cut it when I was thirteen
To my ears
Then shaved half my head
Then shaved most of it and cut off most of the top
Begged to shave my whole head
Because the less hair there was the more likely they’d call me what I saw
“Ollie” someone suggested one day
And new air
All over
“Ollie” they called me
As if it took no effort
As if it meant nothing
How could it ever mean nothing when it finally felt like someone was saying my name
“Oliver” they started to say when I was too energetic
“Oliver” they said when they had a serious question
Like they knew
Like they didn’t care who I was
And it was me
So me I wanted to cry
So unnatural I wanted to break off the tops of mountains and bury my embarrassment in the rocks
Some days it’s my jaw
I know that’s odd
But when you want so badly to be someone you tend to study their features
My jaw is pushed back an inch farther than it needs to be for a girl
Sometimes when I push it forward my jawline sharpens
It feels more masculine
More square
Some days it’s my height
They tease me for it
My 5’0
‘Cause you can’t find anyone shorter than me anymore
And I know just nine more inches would be average if I were who I wanted to be
My hands
And how my wrists fit in everyone else’s
Because they’re too skinny
Sometimes it’s my voice
And though I know it’s lower than most boys even
It’s wrong
It speaks like a woman wants it to
My hips
Too wide
My shoulders
Too narrow
My hair, somedays too flat
My chest
My chest
I want it to be flat
Like my hair
Somedays
I press my hands down in an attempt to push it off of my body
Because it does not belong there
These two lumps I’ll never use
I subconsciously started wearing baggier shirts
Not because they were more comfortable
Partly because they didn’t carry clothing in my size
Partly because if it were baggy enough, no one could tell I had *******
I want so desperately for them to be gone from my body
Because until you know what it feels like to only be able to love yourself when you’re looking up you can’t understand
But the worst part
Is the name
They call me a name that makes me flinch when I hear it
I want to cry sometimes
Because it’s wrong
It’s not me
Boys don’t cry, they say
But do you want to know a secret
We are the boys who flatten our chests and cut our hair
Who run along the train tracks in the hopes our legs will build the muscle the average man has
We are the boys who want to be strong and do not know how
We paint our faces in the colors they do not respect and let our tears streak through
We are the boys who cry
Boys will be boys
Even if they have to pay thousands of dollars
And fight for the right to call themselves such a thing
Boys will be boys while we have the chance
We did not when we were younger

— The End —