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Mario Cervantes Mar 2016
Skin I choose to live in
Skin I lose when living
Skin we love we feel
Skin we hate we ****
Skin some old some young
Skin some sold some hung
Skin the largest ***** on our body
Skin the largest reason we're divided
Skin a pigment of our imagination
Skin a figment of our imagination
Skin your skin my skin feels the same
Skin my skin your skin tales of shame
Skin in it we mourn we cry
Skin in it we born we die
Skin that shields my soul
Skin that takes control
Skin we must look beyond
Skin just a phenomenon
Skin your skin my skin bruce alike
Skin your skin my skin same at night
Gunner May 2017
Skin.
Skin by definition is a thin layer of tissue forming a natural outer covering of the body.
Skin is for people to tan, to clothe, apply make up to... to touch.

Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.

Mosquito bites.
Mosquito bites by definition are the itchy bumps that appear after mosquitoes use their proboscis to puncture your skin and feed on your blood.
Mosquito bites are for people to feel, to itch, to bleed, to scab and repeat. The entire cycle.

Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.

Summer.
Summer by definition is the warmest season of the year.
Summer is for t-shirts, shorts, exposure, swimming, tanning, skin, skin, skin, skin, skin.
"It's Summer, put on some shorts."
"It's Summer, why aren't you wearing a t-shirt?"
"It's Summer, let's go swimming!"
Summer is a time for these questions, these statements, these words to fester, to breed like muosquitos, to sting like the bite of a bug.

Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.
Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.

Dermatologist.
A Dermatologist by definition is a doctor that treats diseases, in the widest sense, and some cosmetic problems of the skin, skin, skin, skin, skin.
The Dermatologist tells me to use this and to use that. Lotions and potions, as my mother would say. Slather, rub, treat, swallow.

Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.
Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.

Skin care.
Skin care by definition is the range of practices that support skin integrity, enhance its appearance and relieve skin conditions.
Get up, shower, sterilizing soap, body oil, steroid cream, medicated lotion, drink water and repeat the process before bed. My daily cycle.

Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.
Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.

Seesaw.
A Seesaw by definition is to change rapidly and repeatedly from one position, situation, or condition to another and back again.
Seesaw, to push off the ground, into the air with a sense of victory and joy, only to fall hard to the ground with stinging ankles and sore calf's.
This isn't a playground anymore.
The Dermatologist says that if I don't get better, they'll have to put me on the pill.

Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.
Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.

The Pill.
The Pill is an oral treatment for my condition. My eczema.
One pill every morning at seven AM with food and an entire glass of water.
The risk associated with the pill- Osteoporosis,  Muscle weakness, Mood and Behavioral changes, Increase in chance of developing cataracts,  Stomach Ulcers and Liver Failure.
One pill every morning at seven AM with food and an entire glass of water. The daily cycle.

Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.
Itch, bleed, scab, repeat.
Itch, bleed, scab.... **** it.

I would rather my liver fail and my bones go brittle then to be stared at on the street!
"What is that?"
"Are you okay?"
"What's wrong with her?"
"Is it contagious?"
"Don't touch me!"
I itch, my nails dragging over my scarred skin and pulling at wounds. I bleed, the welts that crack and leak drops from the red river that flows silently beneath my skin. I scab, leaving horrible lumps of ugly, hardened flesh to coat the once smooth area. I repeat....

Well, I don't want to repeat! I want to be able wear the clothes I want, to walk the streets with out the judging and questioning eyes of the passersby on me, to be held and touched by a significant other without the fear that their fingers will fall upon my skin and recoil in disgust!

Without looking in the mirror and wondering when I can finally begin to love myself.

I decided that today is the day! No more Itching! No more Bleeding! No more Scabs! It's time to break this ******* cycle.
almat011 Feb 2019
Juicy, sweet, hot chocolate skin...black girls are black goddess
**** black girls For guys and men. The most beautiful, attractive, seductive, **** and exciting in African and African-American women is their sweet, juicy, chocolate skin color. Honey caramel mulattoes. Sweet brown chocolate color. And inviting, savoryly pure black-sugar skin color. This is the most delicious, beautiful, sweet candy in the world. You feel like a sweet tooth in a pastry shop when there are a lot of them around you. If you marry one of them and get her children from her, and live with only one of them all your life, and you will be faithful only to her alone. Your life will be the sweetest. Skin of black color and color of dark chocolate are the sweetest, seductive shades of sincere, hot passion. The skin of dark-skinned girls seems to be radiating the heat of ***, burning sweet, sensual passion, this color of temptation, attraction. There are drums of ethnic, traditional music, it's the sound of ***. . The black skin of a girl with which sweat and moisture is flowing, as if she still radiates ardent, hot, passionate, and a little stuffy *** in the sauna and her sweet moans are heard. This skin color is like a powerful aphrodisiac replacing ******
The skin of black and dark chocolate is the sweetest, seductive shades of sincere, hot passion.
The women of three races are beautiful: the sultry, torrid, hot chocolate of hot passion of the deep passion of black fire of love and ***, a paradise oasis of tenderness of the east, and snow-white, sensual pearls.
For guys and men. The most beautiful, attractive, seductive, **** and exciting in African and African-American girls and women is their sweet, juicy, chocolate skin color. Honey caramel mulatto. Sweet brown chocolate color. And alluring, relish pure black sugar color of skin. This is the most delicious, beautiful, cute candy in the world. You feel like a sweet tooth in a candy store when there are a lot of them around you. If you marry one of them and get children from her, and you will live only with one of them all your life, and you will be faithful only to her. Your life will be the sweetest.
Your skin is the color of one hot, unforgettable night, your libido is the word lava in your hot body, burning passion, only your photos can excite me, only your beauty turns off my brains, you have a ****, ****** tune in my head, you are like a hot bath after a hard of the day, like an ****** massage, like a soft pillow with sleeping softness.
Dark skin
The black skin of a girl with which sweat and moisture is flowing, as if she still radiates ardent, hot, passionate, and a little stuffy *** in the sauna and her sweet moans are heard. This skin color is like a powerful aphrodisiac replacing ******.
The skin is black and the color of dark chocolate are the sweetest, seductive shades of sincere, hot passion.
Dark-skinned beauties are a deep passion of black fire - this is a hot safari, a wild savannah, an exotic havana.

My new love poem, i hope you will like it.
For my dear light brown girls
Captivating honey caramel is like a shining dawn, life with you is like a sweet ****** dream. Juicy sweet fabulous fantasy beautiful. From your sexuality, the glasses of the captured ****** force in your eyes are sweating, this is the amazing magic of charm concealed in them. You are my depraved temptation ***** temptation. The sweet temptation of a tenderly roaring passion is a breathtaking juicy caramel berry, sometimes pouring with a picturesque modulation, tender sensual shades of red sunset, incinerated with the burning heat of passion. From your hottest, sultry beauty, the brain seems to turn off and faint from your sweetest kisses.

Author: Musin Almat Zhumabekovich
irma pielle Jul 2018
I go to a school where
because of my skin color I’m trouble
because of my skin color I’m a minority
because of my skin color I’m a victim of “subtle” racism
because of my skin color ... I’m treated differently
I live in a society where
because of my skin color I'm paid less
because of my skin color I need to be more careful
because of my skin color … I’m a “****”
I live in a country where
because of my skin color I'm rude
because of my skin color I'm inferior
because of my skin color ugly
because of my skin color … Im not human
I live in a world where
because of my skin color my people were “animals”
because of my skin color my people were take and enslaved
because of my skin color my people stripped of their rights
because of my skin color my people .... weren’t even considered people
deny all you want it’s okay I know it’s all true it’s
because of my skin color...
theo holland Oct 2011
I am Private and he is mine.
  I see him follow in the feet of the other men  
  when his white eyes are turned so is his face  
  he sits in an aisle behind a glass too straight  
  I call to him but the glass is too thick  
  I am he and he is I so how can the separation be stopped  
  my heart is pattering and he sees it  
  a small bird wakes in the nest  
  eyes open  
  the cold salt  

It is all over yet only to those who remember  
  there is always the now if the then was kept forgotten  
  the then is me and he is the now  
  the others stand around us with long hair
  one has white eyes and skin too cool  
  he is dead and standing
most stand in lines straight on forever  
  some turn around in small shuffles  
  some glance over one shoulder slowly  
  those most eat and drink and eat and drink and eat and drink  
  there is nothing to eat no space to turn and no features to see  
  we look and move and eat to go  
  the one with the white eyes and the skin too cool knows but cannot die fully  
  he first scared me and now he is here
we are here and there  
  he and I  
  the one with the skin too cool too  
  the small bird cries out on the edge of the nest as the wind whips around  
  it cannot fall so alone  
  we cannot see it fall  
  there is no space and nothing to eat  
  the white eyes drift away with no movement  
  they seem to be searching

We sit now  
  although surrounded there is no one around  
  the glass is too thick 
  I can hear the thoughts of the others and he can hear their actions
  the walls seem to go on forever
  forever blocking the light
  his light
  the whites of his eyes signaling recognition and reflection  
  the light allows his sight to see me through the glass  
  he is mine  
  he is not dead  
  I am he  
  the cold salt  
  the pattering heart holds me still and devours me
  I am not dead  
  take that heart away from me so I do not wrench it from you  
  the others look on and see nothing for there is nothing  
  it is only in my pattering heart  
  the bird sees something on the ground in the shape of a open heart  
  the bird falls to the other  
  the cold salt

Before I felt him  
  I tried to save him but the glass was too thick  
  the aisle was too crowded before and now it is too  
  everyone dressed in their best black but wearing nothing of meaning  
  they are the same the others  
  I patter at the one sided glass  
  he cannot hear me  
  the darkness of the shadow hides me from him  
  the shadow of the cross deafens him to the birds song  
  I am he and I cannot hear me  
  I pray for the book under the aisle to be true  
  I pray he will see me soon  
  I pray my prayers are needless  
  he wants his pattering heart  
  I want the cold salt on the cheeks of the best black dressed    
  the bird has no cold salt left    
  the fall took them away  
  the heart shaped ground stopped the cold salt forever
before the men and the women were together and now they are the same  
  the one man with the white eyes moves closer  
  I like his skin too cool  
  the buildings mixed and separated them  
  together was complicated  
  together and alone was complex  
  he is large  
  yet there is space for me  
  when he is I cannot be touched  
  no one knows he is dead and I am alive  
  they do not remember  
  that small bird feels another    
  the cold salt and skin too cool

I am still alone but with him alive  
  here is where I can see him  
  this place too small is where I wait  
  I saw him in the rain and fell to him  
  the bird fell to the pattering heart  
  he is still down there  
  his skin too cool and his eyes too white  
  I want those eyes  
  they smile up at me through the lighted glass even  
  the skin too cool reaches me and I am fed  
  there is no food but his skin  
  there is no sight but his eyes  
  he is the smile   
 I am the happiness  
  I am him  
  the bird smiled on the way to the heart shaped ground  
  it hit the ground and the cold salt stopped  
  the cold salt
the ground hits
  the pattering of my heart beats all the louder against his one sided glass  
  now illuminated
  the light warms his heart and cold salt 
  it patters in time with the rain   harder and harder like the ground the bird hits 
  over and over until his patters with mine 
  he is me
  he is mine 
  his cold salt 
  I miss those 
  I lose them to rain down on him and he feels their sound 
  he is not the smile now 
  I feel his heart pattering 
  mine patters the hardest against his glass too thick and too straight now lit 
  in this room too small surrounded by the others but without him I am alone 
 I am his happiness 
  I want his skin too cool and eyes too white 
  I am his smile 
  the cold salt and the skin and the eyes and the smile are me
he was lost to me one too many times
  my not dead man was kept hidden behind a glass too thick and too straight 
  I cannot see what is hidden even though I am hiding 
  the others sway now   there is no room in here to move 
  the ground is gone 
  the small bird sings 
  he is mine 
  he looked up when I first pattered on the glass 
  he saw nothing 
  he was not going to then without the light 
  now the cold salt illuminates the pattering heart 
  his cold salt
  
I am sitting at the top of a building in the rain 
  the rain falls just as the bird and my heart 
  the ground fast approaches 
  a glass too straight through which I see him 
  he is alone in his room 
  the one with the skin too cool 
  his heart now pattering through his wrists 
  it falls and patters like mine did and does for him here 
  I want my skin too cool
the best dressed do not want to really see him 
  they do not want to see me 
  so they remember 
  I am in a room too small wanting his skin too cool
the others with the long hair carry ropes in their hands or a gun or a bottle 
  we are all in a room together but cannot fit 
  there is no room 
  there is no light 
  the aisle is now empty and the glass is still too thick 
  I am he 
  I walk 
  the cold salt drops 
  I am not dead until we are all dead 
  he is dead the room was too small and could fit no one 
  the small bird loved his skin too cool 
  the man sees the small bird jump for him 
  I am the bird 
  I am the man 
  he is me 
  he is mine 
  I have his skin too cool and now pattering heart  I am here 
  the cold salt falls now with his smile and my happiness



Private, he my friend.
He mine.
See.
  He come back to me even now.
  I don’t have to tell him anything, he knows.
  They all looked at me, but to him I say nothing, nothing needs to be said.
  He reached safety and came back for me.
  His love penetrated, and now mine patters even more.
  I cried cold tears when I saw him fall.
They never left my cheeks and he dried them.
  I see him in my room and play with him like all friends.
  The church glass was the last place I saw him.
  Wet with rain from my tears he was a bird, broken and small.
  Sundays were hard for him and me.
  I had love for him in the pattering of my heart.
  I tell him that over and over now, and he understands.
  He my friend.
  The one I only have tears for anymore, even after the rainy day took them from me;
  after his body reminded me of the small bird on the ground under the nests.
  He did not come back to the school or to his home, but to me.
  I am his pattering heart, only fully opened now.
  I don’t have to explain that the men and priest made me into this.
  They took my love and warred against it.
  They told me to feel this and not that.
  Love was red and boys were blue.
  Now I know why the stained glass which separated me and him was all colors.
  Now I’ll be on the lookout.
  I tell Private what a new winter this shall be, another one to warm my cool skin.
  We’ll be warm together, Private.
  Private.
  I don’t remember the verses of the Lord.
  The black book under the pews, those hated aisles, have no rememory to me.
  All is he, and he is mine.
  We would be one again, you tell me in my room late at night.
  Private came back to me by falling, like the baby birds on the farm under the nests too high.
  You warm my skin and catch my tears.
  You got close and I am now.
  When you fell I wanted to lay with you and now I can.
  My pattering heart and its contents now flow freely from the arms longing to hold you again.
  I am close. 
  I should have been close then.
  I wanted to.
  Nowhere I had lain in peace since the rain and the fall.
  Now I can lie like the birds and their young.
  He come back to me, Private, my friend, and he is mine.
Let me dispel now the allegations that will surely follow: this is a piece written in the poetic form of Toni Morrison from her novel "Beloved" and is in no way meant to plagiarize, but rather to build on the genius of her work.
Lappel du vide Jan 2014
naked skin,
sun-baked brown and sunkissed freckles, and ***** white, an olive from overseas.
we traipsed down the road, the never-ending black of concrete.
we yelled. we screamed like there were marching bands in the cages
of our ribs.
we drew in smoke and our instruments played the music
of lit tobacco
“you're a hurricane”
one of the best things ive ever been called

cut skin,
as blackberries slapped our legs,
leaving marks of red and purple,
as we ran through secret forests,
our laughs rising into the sunshine,
filtering through the leaves,
like chiming bells in an empty sky
we started a fire, dancing as earthy smoke
slithered on our skin.
we lit cigarettes in the flames.

icy skin,
as we stumbled,
springs bubbling inside us,
down the brown, mud painted hills,
and cried in wonder as we saw a treasure in the thicket of trees;
a frozen lake staring us straight in the eyes like an
antarctic cyclopes,
daring us to take a step closer.
first, tentative,
then we went rawly, crashing through the undergrowth
like small houses,
headfirst onto the ice,
with all our skin for its one eye to see,
our clothes in a mountain,
and our vulnerable bodies free
on the cold surface of a
secret winter in the middle of a
sun coated town.

warm skin,
as we raced down asphalt mountains,
like goosebumps on the skin of the earth.
we ran like tigers and cougars and cats and
lions,
roaring in the afternoon sun
as we embraced the completion,
of a four piece puzzle of our
youth.
warm,
as throat burning brandy from the womb of my couch,
and burning pain
as we poked holes into our skins,
red tattoos of a flamelike
trilogy.

red skin,
as blood dripped down through the
cracks of the Balcony,
as we painted the walls with it,
laughing squeezed between every
long drag of our cigarettes,
burning like two new stars in the
oncoming night,
tattoos and shapes appearing on our skin
faster than bruises
showing a young girl the ways of our corruption was almost as
fun as learning them
ourselves.

goosebump skin,
as we sank into reality again,
halfway in,
other half still shaking
hearts beating fast
i trembled
as i screamed across at a cat eyed girl
i was too shaking to fight like this,
and you are too lovely to cry like that,
and my dear sunshine,
your blue hair is almost as soft
as your voice floating in the
after dusk darkness
assuring that things would be
alright.

tired skin, as we lay on my sheets,
and kissed one anothers soft cheeks,
tired skin as we dragged our drugged up
skin
all the way home,
in a careless sack.

yes,
maybe “three ****** up girls”
one tall, soft words,
one kneeling on the pavement,
one shaking like an
earthquake,
but thats what makes it like
dawn,
beautiful.

wouldnt you rather be a tornado of impulsive decisions
raw twilight words
whiskey ridden breath like summer
air
sunset tears
and icy skin painted with shivers?

alive skin.
katewinslet Oct 2015
Moles is essentially an epidermis disorder prevalent to be able to kids, yet Many individuals will occur to prospects at everyone. Most about moles will be innocuous, but also in hard to find conditions, many individuals could become dangerous. A lot of us can be smooth or perhaps elevated. They sometimes are on spherical or possibly oblong and also smaller than your pencil eraser fit and healthy . Most people have among 0 as well as 40 of them flesh-colored, light red, tanners, and / or brownish zones on the epidermis. Brand new most individuals can be into mid-adulthood, also, since moles carry on approximately Five decades, some most individuals might fade away once you years. Keeping track of most individuals along with other colored pads is really a help the diagnosis of cancer of the skin mbt shoes clearance outlet, in particular dangerous melanoma. But not almost all melanomas acquire coming from pre-existing many individuals, quite a few come from or simply next to a fabulous skin mole or other dark appropriate your skin mbt shoes outlet. A lot of us are overgrowths within the skins coloring tissue (melanocytes). Many of us have them. A lot of us will not be usually provide located at beginning although can be purchased in younger years not to mention first teen years. With the time of 20 years Melbourne young people provide an average of greater than 55 moles. An important epidermis (as well as melanocytic naevus) is usually an unusual collecting color muscle present in the pores and skin. These kind of solar cells are melanocytes. Skin moles are really normal. So many people are given birth to with a bit of most individuals and also acquire some others during their life. Causes of Moles Melanin can be a natural and organic coloring which offers your body it has the colors. It is really manufactured in tissue called melanocytes, in some of the best core on the epidermis (skin area) or maybe the outer layers with the skin's secondly stratum (dermis). Melanin may be transported into the outside solar cells of the epidermis. Routinely, melanin is distributed evenly. A lot of us usually are complexion pigmentations and be dark-colored if come across the sun.

Many individuals would possibly not occur in to start with you receive already familiar with ultra violet rays, it's accounted from the time that you aquire subjected up until present. Perhaps you waken within a day that you really got many individuals within your body. Skin moles furthermore surface because of poor improvements brought on by puberty or perhaps gestation. By far the most being held responsible on your dangerous of experiencing a lot of us could be the sun's heat. The powerful Ultra violet rays the fact that lead to pores and skin sun burn accumulate on the skin area through the adolescence to offer leading to dangerous most cancers. Attending tanning saloons not to mention sunshine bed frames were proposed to cause a lot of us. Risking potential cancer cancer is definitely observed as soon as your skin color socialized in another way to discontinued mbt. Find out if your epidermis coloration ranges whenever a several colors. Your many individuals should really be not higher than 6 millimeters in proportion. A line of your most individuals has to be simple instead of tough brink.

Techniques for Healing Many individuals are ) Normally skin are usually simple in addition to protected not to include as well as doesn't will need treatment plans ) Sporting a good sunscreen lotion as well as minimizing also stops numerous a lot of us A few) Get rid of removal. On this solution, a family doctor numbs the vicinity about an important epidermis after which it operates on the all smaller sharp edge so that you can shave off that skin color mole all around skin. A number of) Put biopsy. Health care provider may take off a new pores and skin having a smaller incision or maybe deal biopsy procedure, using a compact cookie-cutter-like apparatus. Your five) Excisional surgical treatments. skin color mole together with a surrounding perimeter in nourishing body are actually restrict surgically
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stranger Jul 2019
Skin
Too much skin.
Too much space.
Too many flashing lights.
Epilepsy.
Too much skin.
Carnal wishes without discretion.
Killing me.
Too much skin around me.
Too much skin for me too see.
Smoothly.
Lights pulsating under the layers.
I want to feel skin other than mine.
I've gotten tired of wasting time.
Coliding and condoning myself for not looking better.
For not making other layers of skin want mine the way I want them.
No-one particularly.
Tonight I just want to feel loved and I just ain't enough.
Skin.
Kilometers that my fingers want to run over.
Skin stretching over structured bones, taking the hues of the blood passing through.
How does it feel you fool?
To have someone love you thoroughly?
From your veins to nose cartilages ?
How does it feel tell me?
Incoherently I'm thinking if I can find love in my own skin.
Too used to it so negative.
Tell me how does it feel?
To have skin touch yours that is not evil?
How does it feel to not hate the skin you're touching?
How does it feel to love feeling?
Skin.
Too much skin.
Too much space.
Epilepsy.
How would  one's skin ever survive loving me?
Skin haunting me
Dhia Jan 7
Body to body
Skin to skin
Hold me close and let me in
Body to body
Skin to skin
How do i put out the fire you started within ?
Body to body
Skin to skin
Have mercy on me for you are my twin
Body to body
Skin to skin
The spell you've cast on me made my head spin
Body to body
Skin to skin
You complete me, the yang to my yin
Body to body
Skin to skin
Your voice is music to my ears, a violin
Body to body
Skin to skin
Your paradise is where I wish I've been
Body to body
Skin to skin
I can't hold it anymore, set me free, you win
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.
almat011 Feb 2019
With each step, the heat of passion of love and excitement only intensifies. I burn with fire from the love of passion, he can fill the whole world. And the sky turned pink. The sky glitters with glitter. The air is filled with the fragrance of love and the world is more beautiful and you are becoming more and more divine in my eyes, I bow to your extraterrestrial beauty and belong to you alone, the goal of all my lives for all eternity. You are the one that I will always dream of and my heart will forever love and want you alone. The goddess appearing to me in ****** thoughts and depraved dreams of passion. Up close you are beautiful to tears - these are tears of sincere happiness and admiration.
You are more beautiful than the most beautiful. Merge together forever and ever with the spirit of yours, and your inner world, my lonely soul dreams. See the depths of your amazing me. To give you your eternal devotion: you are my life, eternity and my destiny, you are my only right choice, you are everything that I love and want. Both my heart and my mind are open only to you. You look so romantic and beautiful, your charm, your spell beckons my mind to you, it is useless for them to resist you, they can only fully obey, surrender to you alone. My legs go only to you, my eyes look only at you, and I focus only on you. Everything in me is overwhelmed with you. And inside, from the love of you, is incredible, absolute lightness. And from the fact that you are not with me, my heart hurts almost to a heart attack. Epochally, I fell in love with you totally, beyond ******-poetic, overly ****. Yes, truly, you are my empress, and only I worship you, look at this temple of my love, dedicated to you, on this great altar, look around, you are everywhere, sit on this throne of love, my great and beautiful goddess. Each your kiss is indescribable and priceless, it is vital. Every your look, fantastically-romantically-touchingly beautiful. He kindles the fire of love and passion in men. Your charm is a powerful force that attracts everything and everyone to itself.
Awakening true, sparkling love for you, of universal scale. This throne of eternal praise and worship is only for you alone, and the chorus, singing about your beauty only for you. In you, every millimeter of your perfect, hot, hot-**** body is beautiful. My world is in your uniquely beautiful eyes, in your feelings and emotions, and I’m not tired of talking about your perfect proportions. Only your caresses give such feelings as love and happiness. Striking, powerful, attractive appearance. The magnificent grace of your body has no equal. Only your divinely beautiful body is worthy of the highest praise and points. I am only waiting for you. You're all I think about. The empress of my subconscious, in my inner world, dreams, and memories, you are everywhere. I always wait only for you. You are my only eternal thought that helps to live in this world, my beautiful emotion, and an amazing feeling. Only, like you, can excite with a look and fall in love with yourself forever. Life without you is unthinkable, impossible. Believe me, I know this for sure, your beauty shines gently with honey, golden light and brilliance. Your beauty is powerful hypnosis.
You are tremendously in love with you totally. You are the highest goddess: beauty, love and erotica. For me, you are the supreme being of all universes. You rule and command over male minds and hearts. Please do not be offended by this truth, but you are so beautiful that you don’t even need cosmetics, only you can look so natural and beautiful, but you are also very powerful ****** attraction, arousal, my only hobby, I’m madly obsessed with you. Your voice sounds sleeker than a violin, more touching than a piano, lighter than a harp, thinner than a triangle. So amazing, your beautiful skin glitters sexually, it is perfect, sweet, juicy. And your perfect figure, perfection itself. You are not replaceable and priceless. You are the most important, most valuable thing in my life. Your infinitely amazing, impressive, external and internal beauty sets you apart from all living and nonliving. So stunningly passionate, your beautiful body is a powerful magnet attracting a huge amount of affection and passion. You are perfect, your beautiful figure is so perfect that you don't even need clothes. I am struck down on a feast, and I bow deeply, taking off my hat to your royal authority, for me it is a great honor and a great honor to be with you by your side, you are my idol and autograph, I take it from me and keep it from my heart, exposing it to the honorary a place in your altar of love, where only you are everywhere, I am your eternal, devoted fan. You have no equal, I adore everything in you. You are the highest, absolute aerobatics. You are a beautiful and perfect image that you can imagine. This is what a beautiful goddess looks like. You are the highest good, pleasure and pleasure in this universe. I put a madman of points and a sign of infinity to boot, your unique beauty. You are so beautiful that you immediately want to marry, and live with you all eternity.
Your teasing sexually exciting figure keeps my mind completely under your control. You are a thermonuclear *** bomb-boom babe. You are all my eyes want to see. Your gently saldko-**** voice is all that my ears want to hear. The smell of your skin is all I want to breathe. I breathe only because you are near me. When you're near the heart of love knocks more. And the level of excitement from your beauty reaches the highest degree. About how beautiful you are and how I love you, that's all I want to tell you. Your gorgeous flesh and soul is all that your flesh and soul wants to feel forever. Your love is all I want to feel forever from you. You're so beautiful, just a sight for sore eyes. You are much higher than blue blood. I am only obsessed with you. You are ****. Cool babe. Unreal beautiful. Drooling flow in men only from you. Resist such as you are simply useless. Your sweet laugh, your **** smile, soft look, impeccable outfit, battles everybody in a row. You are the most juicy relish, sensual, tender, feminine passion. You are my love and soul outlet.
You are absolute, the highest *****. Eternal novelty. It is unbearable, excessively, supremely, beautiful, and only you look overly ****. You are in the highest stage of evolution, you are the most ideal, you are my idol, my ideal, the most true and authentic embodiment of beauty. You are the sexually ****** heat of love and passion. Your body brings you to the highest level of arousal. You yourself tenderness and femininity. You are 1 000 000 000 percent luxury, priceless, the only, eternal value. All the pleasant moments in life are associated only with you. Your sweet caresses and kisses are a very powerful drug. You are the most valuable gift of the universe. You are gorgeous in any kind of image frame, everywhere, always and in everything. You feel a surprisingly soft, sensual, tenderness. The beauty in your eyes is something amazing, uniquely beautiful, it is very beautiful fascinating magic. Very beautiful and indescribably pleasant feeling. Your amazingly beautiful image touches the most delicate and barely visible strings of souls easily and gently. By causing a special vibration of the true love melody, he finally falls in love with you.
So beautiful and bold, spectacular. 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 likes you alone and a sign of infinity to boot. The ******, ****** heat of love and lust emanates from you. You set a new world record for beauty. Which is impossible to achieve. You are a beautiful, socialite. You are synonymous with beauty. The eternal standard and *** symbol in the history of mankind. Absolutely beautiful. Every millimeter of your beautiful body is beautiful in you. The jaw drops and the gift of speech from such incredible beauty is lost. Just do not be offended, please forgive me if something is wrong. But from such a beautiful appearance as you have in men, a powerful ******* of the *****, guys and men end up in their underpants. Unlimitedly beautiful. Sexiest in the whole universe. So **** that you don't even need clothes. You are for the happiest and luckiest man in the world. You are a jackpot. Flash, full house. *** symbol.
You are synonymous with beauty and ideal. You are so beautiful just amazing. you have a direct view of a ****, sultry predator. You are the sweetest. From you comes a powerful, ****, ****** energy. you are indescribably beautiful. You're spectacular, juicy, ****. M, You sound cool, like a mega cool, percussive, lyric rap beat. As a platinum and gold vinyl record, you are a super hit. You are a bestseller of poetry and prose. You're my princess. Queen. The Empress Goddess. The ultimate creation of all universes, spheres and dimensions. I think so. To doge to what extent a girl can be beautiful. Just amazing. The queen of my mind and heart. Your tender image overwhelms my soul with light, beautiful love and lust. You have such a soft pearl skin. Your beautiful appearance forever and ever conquered my heart and my mind. You are the most beautiful of its kind. You are endowed with the rarest beauty at all times. Fashion model. Just the thought of you excites and falls in love. You are a masterpiece of nature and of God himself. Your infinitely amazing beauty, the rarest and most amazing, the most beautiful in the history of mankind.
The most desirable, silk, velvet skin, gorgeous, beautiful, always and everywhere. Strikingly beautiful, your **** body as if calls for kissing and licking, caressing, satisfying you again and again. You're too ****, hot flame of passion. You are the best prize, a gift that can only get a man, the best among all his lives. You are perfect and perfect. The more I look at you, the more I fall in love with you because you beat all the beauty and mind records, my super **** top model, everywhere in the first place in beauty and mind. In you, every millimeter of your body is perfect, with you all seconds are beautiful. The body shines brilliantly: luxurious chic, beautiful. The title itself is a beautiful girl in the world. The supreme creation of all universes. The finest children are born only with you. Aerobatics. Girl high hummingbird.
Your charming charm is a super **** mega power that is simply impossible to overcome. The sweetest gourmet, I adore your gorgeous body, when I see you, only one word sounds in my head: yum, I will completely give myself to you. I will always love only you unconsciously, unconsciously, your gently ****** image sat in the depths of my mind completely. From your amazingly contagious beauty, your mouth opens and you lose your voice. Dizzyingly, stunningly beautiful, you are like a giant tornado, from which everything attracts you. And the heart and soul yearn all the time only for you. It doesn't matter if you love me or not, the main thing is that I still love you, and in my subconscious mind, I will only love you forever. Your luxurious appearance of the highest quality, this is a workshop, the filigree work of Mother Nature, this is just a masterpiece that constitutes a unique example of true beauty, you have no equal, you are a girl of high caliber. You are absolutely beautiful to such a degree, so beautiful, so exotic, ******, and your image sounds poetic like very beautiful music of love that I’m just afraid and shy to come to you, I’m afraid to talk to you, as if standing next to a goddess, or with a super mega star, a world scale model that even aliens probably know. My heart beats more often, I can’t speak normally, from excitement, goosebumps all over my body, and it just shakes.
All these are symptoms of true love for you, well, just: oh), wow). To be your boyfriend and husband is the greatest honor in the world, he knelt in front of you with flowers in his hands. Your appearance is perfect just like Barbie. You are so beautiful that only you want to have *** forever, countless, infinite number of times. You are unattainable, you are like a star whose light of the soul, like a searchlight, illuminates me in the deep darkness of solitude. In love with you thorough. You are simply amazingly beautiful. You are the best of the best. Goddess of all goddesses, empress of all empresses, queen of all queens. More beautiful you just can not imagine a girl. Sexier than you just can not be anything. Beautiful soul just is not found. There was nothing more perfect than you and never will be, simply because I think so. Laponka, I am your faithful fan, you are my only idol, idol, icon of beauty. It doesn't matter who you are, I will accept you any. Because in any case I am eager to be only with you. You have a **** smile, and your sensual look is just awesome. And from your voice and look a pleasant shiver all over your body. You are special, the best that is in all worlds, universes and dimensions. You're just a sight for sore eyes. To you I feel the most powerful, love and ****** inclination. You're cooler than any ****** and afrodosiak. From your beauty just cling to the constraints and embarrassment.
**** Barbie, fell in love with you powerfully for sure. Wow. God, how beautiful you are, God, hell, let me see you, wow, this is just super, just super, my God, it’s necessary to what extent a girl can be beautiful, you're just awesome, just awesome, you're beautiful. My Goddess. About you, I will dream of all eternity, desire and crave only you alone. You're high, ecstasy. In your eyes there is some special fairytale beauty. Lady of my heart. You are the continuation of my soul. Billions of suns of joy, happiness, and love explode in the soul and this every time you see. With you every second is overflowing with the warm, divine, sunshine of true love, happiness and joy. You are like hypnotic sitar music. I would kiss your hands and feet every day. I want to constantly have *** with only one you. You are the embodiment of ****** and ****** passion. Only your skin color is infinitely exciting and falling in love. Your **** voice excites, and intonation falls in love. In you, literally everything excites. You are beautiful in any form, place, dress. If I see you, then the day is not in vain. Your image is powerfully falling in love. Oh meamor, goose bumps run through when you touch me, your breath stops when you look at me.
You're too beautiful. You are a **** lioness. You are the flame of sensual passion. You are a thermonuclear *** bomb. I admire your amazing beauty. You are amazing, perfect, you are perfect. I think so. Your flesh is sweeter than sweet. In bed, sultry lioness. The color of your skin is so ****, ******, and very attractive and beautiful. You have a rare and amazing beauty. You are the most beautiful in the universe, all universes, dimensions, all worlds. You are the supreme creation of nature and of God, the highest, perfect being. This is true because I think so.
Your charming charm is a super **** mega power that is simply impossible to overcome. The sweetest gourmet, I adore your gorgeous body, when I see you, only one word sounds in my head: yum, I will completely give myself to you. I will always love only you unconsciously, unconsciously, your gently ****** image sat in the depths of my mind completely. From your amazingly contagious beauty, your mouth opens and you lose your voice. Dizzyingly, stunningly beautiful, you are like a giant tornado, from which everything attracts you. And the heart and soul yearn all the time only for you. It doesn't matter if you love me or not, the main thing is that I still love you, and in my subconscious mind, I will only love you forever. Your luxurious appearance of the highest quality, this is a workshop, the filigree work of Mother Nature, this is just a masterpiece that constitutes a unique example of true beauty, you have no equal, you are a girl of high caliber. You are absolutely beautiful to such a degree, so beautiful, so exotic, ******, and your image sounds poetic like very beautiful music of love that I’m just afraid and shy to come to you, I’m afraid to talk to you, as if standing next to a goddess, or with a super mega star, a world scale model that even aliens probably know. My heart beats more often, I can’t speak normally, from excitement, goosebumps all over my body, and it just shakes. All these are symptoms of true love for you, well, just: oh), wow).
To be your boyfriend and husband is the greatest honor in the world, he knelt in front of you with flowers in his hands. Your appearance is perfect just like Barbie. You are so beautiful that only you want to have *** forever, countless, infinite number of times. You are unattainable, you are like a star whose light of the soul, like a searchlight, illuminates me in the deep darkness of solitude. In love with you thorough. You are simply amazingly beautiful. You are the best of the best. Goddess of all goddesses, empress of all empresses, queen of all queens. More beautiful you just can not imagine a girl. Sexier than you just can not be anything. Beautiful soul just is not found. There was nothing more perfect than you and never will be, simply because I think so. Laponka, I'm your faithful fan, you are my only idol, idol, icon of beauty. It doesn't matter who you are, I will accept you any. Because in any case I am eager to be only with you. You have a **** smile, and your sensual look is just awesome. And from your voice and look a pleasant shiver all over your body. You are special, the best that is in all worlds, universes and dimensions. You're just a sight for sore eyes. To you I feel the most powerful, love and ****** inclination. You're cooler than any ****** and afrodosiak. From your beauty just cling to the constraints and embarrassment.
I am obsessed only with you, my miss universe, I put madness billion points of your beautiful appearance, and a sign of infinity to boot. No offense, my sweetest, but your beautiful body excites, your imagination completely amazes you, you are so beautiful that you do not need, neither cosmetics, nor clothes, such perfect, natural beauty, only your divine beautiful body is endowed. Merge together the whole with your body, soul, heart, and mind, for all eternity I thirst. You dominate in my heart, mind, and soul, you are deep in my mind and subconscious, everything is filled only by you my goddess, and I see you in my dreams and I am sincerely happy when I see you in them. If I saw you in reality, then it was a happy day that was not in vain. Be with me dear, as you decorate with you all the eternity that I want to spend only with you one-on-one. You are my beautiful goddess of love and eroticism, and only I worship you. Rare, beautiful beauty, natural gave only you. The closer you are, the more beautiful. Your delicate skin shines so beautifully in the light, you have a stunning perfect skin color. I am overly in love with you. You are super beautiful. I tirelessly crave you, you are extremely, infinitely beautiful, you are too, too attractive. You're cooler than any ******. Impeccably beautiful, like a doll. You are so delicious. You are the light of happiness, the light of love and happiness comes and goes with you. You decorate everything with you, everything suits you, because you are beautiful.
You are stunning, fantastically breathtakingly beautiful, the only unique sample of the true, pure form of beauty. You are the hottest, **** topic, about the beauty of which it is impossible to stop talking, so beautiful that you want to sing out of love for you, the girl from whom it is impossible to take your eyes off. So amazingly beautiful, perfect, ******, hot, passionately savory, juicy forms, your divinely beautiful, endlessly, stunning beautiful, seductive body sound so captivatingly beautiful, sweet, gently voluptuous. Who wants to caress and caress, kiss, lick, stick to intimate places all the time, and give your tenderness with your hands, and bring it to ****** so that you feel the heat and tremor of your heated body, and kiss a satisfied body and kiss. Each cell of the soul and body is supremely filled with only you, love and excitement. Truly I am thirsty to belong only to you and to spend all eternity only with you alone.
I will be frank with you. Oooh yes, it says heart and mind. Eyes are eager to see you forever. Your image throws on the highest stage of love. Without you, life is meaningless and empty, and you know that for sure, so why are you torturing me. You know, I appeared in your life for a reason. That I was created only for you. You are special, I can not live without you. You are my obsession, my passion. Your beautiful image sounds so beautiful and sublime, the degree of love and arousal rises uncontrollably, leading to a higher dimension called love. When you stand next to me. Your ******, ****** image is the highest, divine, legendary *****. You are the sweetest in the whole universe. You are sensual, ****, ****** power. You are so ****** and **** to such an extent that when you look at the guys, it’s ironic that you guys, at the sight of you from excitement, end up in your underpants. You are the one whose appearance is envied by all people, gods, all higher beings, you are the only eternal value. You are a hipper, a turbo is ****, you are a hyperrealism of sexuality.
You have the most juicy **** skin color, it is so sweet, so beckoning and eager caress. You are the goddess of love, *** and erotica. Every millimeter of your body is just perfect and perfect. You are all that my heart and soul wants. Only your body and your kisses can excite me. Only to your body, I feel *** addiction. You are the highest value in my life. You are tempted and tempted, you want to have *** countless times. Your skin is the color of one hot, unforgettable night, your libido is the word lava in your hot body, burning passion, only your photos can excite me, only your beauty turns off my brain, you are a ****, ****** melody in my head, you are like a hot bath after a hard day, like an ****** massage, like a soft pillow with sleeping softness.
Every day I am drawn to you more and more and it can not be stopped because it is uncontrollable every day my ****** ***** wants you more and more aggressively he is waiting for endless *** only with you and I once again make sure that you are I will want forever and ever. Because I am truly in love with you in your body and soul. And this feeling is only enhanced with time on the mental and physical levels. Looking at you in the head is only one word Goddess, the empress of my heart, or one ***. It's just an ecstasy of excitement, every movement you take is so ****** and beautiful, burning your skin's passion and in your eyes so much ***.
You are a **** lioness. you are the flame of sensual passion. I admire your amazing beauty. You are amazing, perfect, you are perfect. I think so. Your flesh is sweeter than sweet. In bed, sultry lioness.
Author Musin Almat Zhumabekovich
almat011 Mar 2019
**** goddess
With each step, the heat of passion of love and excitement only intensifies. I burn with fire from the love of passion, he can fill the whole world. And the sky turned pink. The sky glitters with glitter. The air is filled with the fragrance of love and the world is more beautiful and you are becoming more and more divine in my eyes, I bow to your extraterrestrial beauty and belong to you alone, the goal of all my lives for all eternity. You are the one that I will always dream of and my heart will forever love and want you alone. The goddess appearing to me in ****** thoughts and depraved dreams of passion. Up close you are beautiful to tears - these are tears of sincere happiness and admiration.
You are more beautiful than the most beautiful. Merge together forever and ever with the spirit of yours, and your inner world, my lonely soul dreams. See the depths of your amazing me. To give you your eternal devotion: you are my life, eternity and my destiny, you are my only right choice, you are everything that I love and want. Both my heart and my mind are open only to you. You look so romantic and beautiful, your charm, your spell beckons my mind to you, it is useless for them to resist you, they can only fully obey, surrender to you alone. My legs go only to you, my eyes look only at you, and I focus only on you. Everything in me is overwhelmed with you. And inside, from the love of you, is incredible, absolute lightness. And from the fact that you are not with me, my heart hurts almost to a heart attack. Epochally, I fell in love with you totally, beyond ******-poetic, overly ****. Yes, truly, you are my empress, and only I worship you, look at this temple of my love, dedicated to you, on this great altar, look around, you are everywhere, sit on this throne of love, my great and beautiful goddess. Each your kiss is indescribable and priceless, it is vital. Every your look, fantastically-romantically-touchingly beautiful. He kindles the fire of love and passion in men. Your charm is a powerful force that attracts everything and everyone to itself. Awakening true, sparkling love for you, of universal scale. This throne of eternal praise and worship is only for you alone, and the chorus, singing about your beauty only for you. In you, every millimeter of your perfect, hot, hot-**** body is beautiful. My world is in your uniquely beautiful eyes, in your feelings and emotions, and I’m not tired of talking about your perfect proportions.
Only your caresses give such feelings as love and happiness. Striking, powerful, attractive appearance. The magnificent grace of your body has no equal. Only your divinely beautiful body is worthy of the highest praise and points.
I am only waiting for you. You're all I think about. The empress of my subconscious, in my inner world, dreams, and memories, you are everywhere. I always wait only for you. You are my only eternal thought that helps to live in this world, my beautiful emotion, and an amazing feeling. Only, like you, can excite with a look and fall in love with yourself forever. Life without you is unthinkable, impossible. Believe me, I know it for sure, your beauty shines gently honey, golden
light and shine. Your beauty is powerful hypnosis.
You are tremendously in love with you totally. You are the highest goddess: beauty, love and erotica. For me, you are the supreme being of all universes. You rule and command over male minds and hearts. Please do not be offended by this truth, but you are so beautiful that you don’t even need cosmetics, only you can look so natural and beautiful, but you are also very powerful ****** attraction, arousal, my only hobby, I’m madly obsessed with you. Your voice sounds sleeker than a violin, more touching than a piano, lighter than a harp, thinner than a triangle. So amazing, your beautiful skin glitters sexually, it is perfect, sweet, juicy. And your perfect figure, perfection itself. You are not replaceable and priceless. You are the most important, most valuable thing in my life. Your infinitely amazing, impressive, external and internal beauty sets you apart from all living and nonliving. So stunningly passionate, your beautiful body is a powerful magnet attracting a huge amount of affection and passion. You are perfect, your beautiful figure is so perfect that you don't even need clothes. I am struck down on a feast, and I bow deeply, taking off my hat to your royal authority, for me it is a great honor and a great honor to be with you by your side, you are my idol and autograph, I take it from me and keep it from my heart, exposing it to the honorary a place in your altar of love, where only you are everywhere, I am your eternal, devoted fan. You have no equal, I adore everything in you. You are the highest, absolute aerobatics. You are a beautiful and perfect image that you can imagine. This is what a beautiful goddess looks like. You are the highest good, pleasure and pleasure in this universe. I put a madman of points and a sign of infinity to boot, your unique beauty. You are so beautiful that you immediately want to marry, and live with you all eternity.
Your teasing sexually exciting figure keeps my mind completely under your control. You are a thermonuclear *** bomb-boom babe. You are all my eyes want to see. Your gently saldko-**** voice is all that my ears want to hear. The smell of your skin is all I want to breathe. I breathe only because you are near me. When you're near the heart of love knocks more. And the level of excitement from your beauty reaches the highest degree. About how beautiful you are and how I love you, that's all I want to tell you. Your gorgeous flesh and soul is all that your flesh and soul wants to feel forever. Your love is all I want to feel forever from you. You're so beautiful, just a sight for sore eyes. You are much higher than blue blood. I am only obsessed with you.
You are ****. Cool babe. Unreal beautiful. Drooling flow in men only from you. Resist such as you are simply useless. Your sweet laugh, your **** smile, soft look, impeccable outfit, battles everybody in a row. You are the most juicy relish, sensual, tender, feminine passion. You are my love and soul outlet.
You are absolute, the highest *****. Eternal novelty. It is unbearable, excessively, supremely, beautiful, and only you look overly ****. You are in the highest stage of evolution, you are the most ideal, you are my idol, my ideal, the most true and true embodiment of beauty. You are the sexually ****** heat of love and passion. Your body brings you to the highest level of arousal. You yourself tenderness and femininity. You are 1 000 000 000 percent luxury, priceless, the only, eternal value. All the pleasant moments in life are associated only with you. Your sweet caresses and kisses are a very powerful drug. You are the most valuable gift of the universe. You are gorgeous in any kind of image frame, everywhere, always and in everything. You feel a surprisingly soft, sensual, tenderness. The beauty in your eyes is something amazing, uniquely beautiful, it is very beautiful fascinating magic. Very beautiful and indescribably pleasant feeling. Your amazingly beautiful image easily and gently touches the most delicate and barely
visible strings of souls. By causing a special vibration of the true love melody, he finally falls in love with you.
So beautiful and bold, spectacular. 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 likes you alone and a sign of infinity to boot. The ******, ****** heat of love and lust emanates from you. You set a new world record for beauty. Which is impossible to achieve. You are a beautiful, socialite. You are synonymous with beauty. The eternal standard and *** symbol in the history of mankind. Absolutely beautiful. Every millimeter of your beautiful body is beautiful in you. The jaw drops and the gift of speech from such incredible beauty is lost. Just do not be offended, please forgive me if something is wrong. But from such a beautiful appearance as you have in men, a powerful ******* of the *****, guys and men end up in their underpants. Unlimitedly beautiful. Sexiest in the whole universe. So **** that you don't even need clothes. You are for the happiest and luckiest man in the world. You are a jackpot. Flash, full house. *** symbol.
You are synonymous with beauty and ideal. You are so beautiful just amazing. you have a direct view of a ****, sultry predator. You are the sweetest. From you comes a powerful, ****, ****** energy. you are indescribably beautiful. You're spectacular, juicy, ****. M, You sound cool, like a mega cool, percussive, lyric rap beat. As a platinum and gold vinyl record, you are a super hit. You are a bestseller of poetry and prose. You're my princess. Queen. The Empress Goddess. The ultimate creation of all universes, spheres and dimensions. I think so. To doge to what extent a girl can be beautiful. Just amazing. The queen of my mind and heart. Your tender image overwhelms my soul with light, beautiful love and lust. You have such a soft pearl skin. Your beautiful appearance forever and ever conquered my heart and my mind. You are the most beautiful of its kind. You are endowed with the rarest beauty at all times. Fashion model. Just the thought of you excites and falls in love. You are a masterpiece of nature and of God himself. Your infinitely amazing beauty, the rarest and most amazing, the most beautiful in the history of mankind.
The most desirable, silk, velvet skin, gorgeous, beautiful, always and everywhere. Strikingly beautiful, your **** body as if calls for kissing and licking, caressing, satisfying you again and again. You're too ****, hot flame of passion. You are the best prize, a gift that can only get a man, the best among all his lives. You are perfect and perfect. The more I look at you, the more I fall in love with you because you beat all the beauty and mind records, my super **** top model, everywhere in the first place in beauty and mind. In you, every millimeter of your body is perfect, with you all seconds are beautiful. The body shines brilliantly: luxurious chic, beautiful. The title itself is a beautiful girl in the world. The supreme creation of all universes. The finest children are born only with you. Aerobatics. Girl high hummingbird.
Your charming charm is a super **** mega power that is simply impossible to overcome. The sweetest gourmet, I adore your gorgeous body, when I see you, only one word sounds in my head: yum, I will completely give myself to you. I will always love only you unconsciously, unconsciously, your gently ****** image sat in the depths of my mind completely. From your amazingly contagious beauty, your mouth opens and you lose your voice. Dizzyingly, stunningly beautiful, you are like a giant tornado, from which everything attracts you. And the heart and soul yearn all the time only for you. It doesn't matter if you love me or not, the main thing is that I still love you, and in my subconscious, I will only love forever
you. Your luxurious appearance of the highest quality, this is a workshop, the filigree work of Mother Nature, this is just a masterpiece that constitutes a unique example of true beauty, you have no equal, you are a girl of high caliber. You are absolutely beautiful to such a degree, so beautiful, so exotic, ******, and your image sounds poetic like very beautiful music of love, that I’m just afraid and shy to come to you, I’m afraid to talk to you, as if standing next to a goddess, or with a super mega star, a world scale model that even aliens probably know. My heart beats more often, I can’t speak normally, from excitement, goosebumps all over my body, and it just shakes.
All these are symptoms of true love for you, well, just: oh), wow). To be your boyfriend and husband is the greatest honor in the world, he knelt in front of you with flowers in his hands. Your appearance is perfect just like Barbie. You are so beautiful that only you want to have *** forever, countless, infinite number of times. You are unattainable, you are like a star whose light of the soul, like a searchlight, illuminates me in the deep darkness of solitude. In love with you thorough. You are simply amazingly beautiful. You are the best of the best. Goddess of all goddesses, empress of all empresses, queen of all queens. More beautiful you just can not imagine a girl. Sexier than you just can not be anything. Beautiful soul just is not found. There was nothing more perfect than you and never will be, simply because I think so. Laponka, I am your faithful fan, you are my only idol, idol, icon of beauty. It doesn't matter who you are, I will accept you any. Because in any case I am eager to be only with you. You have a **** smile, and your sensual look is just awesome. And from your voice and look a pleasant shiver all over your body. You are special, the best that is in all worlds, universes and dimensions. You're just a sight for sore eyes. To you I feel the most powerful, love and ****** inclination. You're cooler than any ****** and afrodosiak. From your beauty just cling to the constraints and embarrassment.
**** Barbie, fell in love with you powerfully for sure. Wow. God, how beautiful you are, God, hell, let me see you, wow, this is just super, just super, my God, it’s necessary to what extent a girl can be beautiful, you're just awesome, just awesome, you're beautiful. My Goddess. About you, I will dream of all eternity, desire and crave only you alone. You're high, ecstasy. In your eyes there is some special fairytale beauty. Lady of my heart. You are the continuation of my soul.
Billions of suns of joy, happiness, and love explode in the soul and this every time they see you. With you every second is overflowing with the warm, divine, sunshine of true love, happiness and joy. You are like hypnotic sitar music. I would kiss your hands and feet every day. I want to constantly have *** with only one you. You are the embodiment of ****** and ****** passion. Only your skin color is infinitely exciting and falling in love. Your **** voice excites, and intonation falls in love. In you, literally everything excites. You are beautiful in any form, place, dress. If I see you, then the day is not in vain. Your image is powerfully falling in love. Oh meamor, goose bumps run through when you touch me, your breath stops when you look at me.
You're too beautiful. You are a **** lioness. You are the flame of sensual passion. You are a thermonuclear *** bomb. I admire your amazing beauty. You are amazing, perfect, you are perfect. I think so. Your flesh is sweeter than sweet. In bed, sultry lioness. The color of your skin is so ****, ******, and very attractive and beautiful. You have a rare and amazing beauty. You are the most beautiful in the universe, all universes, dimensions, all worlds. You are the supreme creation of nature and of God, the highest, perfect being. This is true because I think so.
Your charming charm is a super **** mega power that is simply impossible to overcome. The sweetest gourmet, I adore your gorgeous body, when I see you, only one word sounds in my head: yum, I will completely give myself to you. I will always love only you unconsciously, unconsciously, your gently ****** image sat in the depths of my mind completely. From your amazingly contagious beauty, your mouth opens and you lose your voice. Dizzyingly, stunningly beautiful, you are like a giant tornado, from which everything attracts you. And the heart and soul yearn all the time only for you. It doesn't matter if you love me or not, the main thing is that I still love you, and in my subconscious mind, I will only love you forever. Your luxurious appearance of the highest quality, this is a workshop, the filigree work of Mother Nature, this is just a masterpiece that constitutes a unique example of true beauty, you have no equal, you are a girl of high caliber. You are absolutely beautiful to such a degree, so beautiful, so exotic, ******, and your image sounds poetic like very beautiful music of love, that I’m just afraid and shy to come to you, I’m afraid to talk to you, as if standing next to a goddess, or with a super mega star, a world scale model that even aliens probably know. My heart beats more often, I can’t speak normally, from excitement, goosebumps all over my body, and it just shakes. All these are symptoms of true love for you, well, just: oh), wow).
To be your boyfriend and husband is the greatest honor in the world, he knelt in front of you with flowers in his hands. Your appearance is perfect just like Barbie. You are so beautiful that only you want to have *** forever, countless, infinite number of times. You are unattainable, you are like a star whose light of the soul, like a searchlight, illuminates me in the deep darkness of solitude. In love with you thorough. You are simply amazingly beautiful. You are the best of the best. Goddess of all goddesses, empress of all empresses, queen of all queens. More beautiful you just can not imagine a girl. Sexier than you just can not be anything. Beautiful soul just is not found. There was nothing more perfect than you and never will be, simply because I think so. Laponka, I am your faithful fan, you are my only idol, idol, icon of beauty. It doesn't matter who you are, I will accept you any. Because in any case I am eager to be only with you. You have a **** smile, and your sensual look is just awesome. And from your voice and look a pleasant shiver all over your body. You are special, the best that is in all worlds, universes and dimensions. You're just a sight for sore eyes. To you I feel the most powerful, love and ****** inclination. You're cooler than any ****** and afrodosiak. From your beauty just cling to the constraints and embarrassment.
I am obsessed only with you, my miss universe, I put madness billion points of your beautiful appearance, and a sign of infinity to boot. No offense, my sweetest, but your beautiful body excites, your imagination completely amazes you, you are so beautiful that you don’t need, neither makeup, nor clothes, such perfect, natural beauty, only your divine beautiful body is endowed. Merge together the whole with your body, soul, heart, and mind, for all eternity I thirst. You dominate in my heart, mind, and soul, you are deep in my mind and subconscious, everything is filled only by you my goddess, and I see you in my dreams and I am sincerely happy when I see you in them. If I saw you in reality, then it was a happy day that was not in vain. Be with me honey, as you decorate with you all the eternity that I want to spend only with you tête-à-tête.
You are my beautiful goddess of love and erotica, and only I worship you. Rare, beautiful beauty, natural gave only you. The closer you are, the more beautiful. Your delicate skin shines so beautifully in the light, you have a stunning perfect skin color. I am overly in love with you.
You are super beautiful. I tirelessly crave you, you are extremely, infinitely beautiful, you are too, too attractive. You're cooler than any ******. Impeccably beautiful, like a doll. You are so delicious. You are the light of happiness, the light of love and happiness comes and goes with you. You decorate everything with you, everything suits you, because you are beautiful.
You are stunning, fantastically breathtakingly beautiful, the only unique sample of the true, pure form of beauty. You are the hottest, **** topic, about the beauty of which it is impossible to stop talking, so beautiful that you want to sing out of love for you, the girl from whom it is impossible to take your eyes off. So amazingly beautiful, perfect, ******, hot, passionately savory, juicy forms, your divinely beautiful, endlessly, stunning beautiful, seductive body sound so captivatingly beautiful, sweet, gently voluptuous. Who wants to caress and caress, kiss, lick, stick to intimate places all the time, and give your tenderness with your hands, and bring it to ****** so that you feel the heat and tremor of your heated body, and kiss a satisfied body and kiss. Each cell of the soul and body is supremely filled with only you, love and excitement. Truly I am thirsty to belong only to you and to spend all of eternity only with you alone.
I will be frank with you. Oooh yes, it says heart and mind. Eyes are eager to see you forever. Your image throws on the highest stage of love. Without you, life is meaningless and empty, and you know that for sure, so why are you torturing me. You know, I appeared in your life for a reason. That I was created only for you. You are special, I can not live without you. You are my obsession, my passion. Your beautiful image sounds so beautiful and sublime, the degree of love and arousal rises uncontrollably, leading to a higher dimension called love. When you stand next to me. Your ******, ****** image is the highest, divine, legendary *****. You are the sweetest in the whole universe. You are sensual, ****, ****** power. You are so ****** and **** to such an extent that when you look at the guys, it’s ironic that you guys, at the sight of you from excitement, end up in your underpants. You are the one whose appearance is envied by all people, gods, all higher beings, you are the only eternal value. You are a hipper, a turbo is ****, you are a hyperrealism of sexuality.
You have the most juicy **** skin color, it is so sweet, so beckoning and eager caress. You are the goddess of love, *** and erotica. Every millimeter of your body is just perfect and perfect. You are all that my heart and soul wants. Only your body and your kisses can excite me. Only to your body, I feel *** addiction. You are the highest value in my life. You are a temptation and a temptation, you want to have *** countless times.
Your skin is the color of one hot, unforgettable night, your libido is the word lava in your hot body, burning passion, only your photos are able to excite me, only your beauty turns off my brain, you have a ****, ****** tune in my head, you are like a hot bath after a hard of the day, like an ****** massage, like a soft pillow with soothing tenderness.
Every day I am drawn to you more and more and it can not be stopped because it is uncontrollable every day my **** wants you more and more aggressively he is waiting for endless *** only with you and I once again make sure that you are I will want forever and ever. Because I am truly in love with you in your body and soul. And this feeling is only enhanced with time on the mental and physical levels. Looking at you in the head is only one word Goddess, the empress of my heart, or one ***. It's just ecstasy.
excitement your every movement is so ****** and beautiful, burning passion of your skin and in your eyes so much ***.
You are a **** lioness. you are the flame of sensual passion. I admire your amazing beauty. You are amazing, perfect, you are perfect. I think so. Your flesh is sweeter than sweet. In bed, sultry lioness.
Author: Musin Almat Zhumabekovich
Peace Jun 2018
This skin..

Has hardened over the years. It went from innocence to mystery to misery.

This skin, has lived through times. This skin, has lightened, darkened, shaded and scarred overtime.

This skin, cannot be replaced; changed or reversed. I am what I've lived. I am what I've seen.

I am what I've touched, I am what I've done..

This skin, tells stories. This skin, gives vibes and history to those looking upon me.

This skin, is a road map of me. This skin, cannot be denied, transformed or unhinged.

No matter how hard I may have tried to hide. My skin will always expose me.

This skin, has and will always be writing history until the day I die. I cannot change what my skin has endured.

My name is Shiloh and I am this skin..

Sincerely,
a servant
Kaylin Apr 2019
Brown mahogany skin rich like forbidden soil of  Africa

Deep colored pigment that drips melanin

Angels rub coconut oil on your skin and harmonize with songs of your ancestors radiating from your bones

Open wounds filled with blood is replaced with fertile soil that holds the caskets of the Sun lovers

Coffee black skin can't get no darker, the sun rays make love to your skin

Wearing chains to wearing gold,
You are gold,
you shine even though your country doesn't see how much value is under that dark brown skin you wear

The stripping away of each woman's self-being because of society doesn't even tear at the flesh of your skin

We don't tear our skins,
they have already tore when the white man whipped us on our backs,
difference is we are healed

We stand as the healing replica of our ancestors,
we stand as the freedom they spoke from their tongues

Bitter dark chocolate turned sweet,
our body is displayed with authority,
this is what the white woman is now trying to be

Your Thick hair, thick thighs, curvy waist, black is the beauty of you no longer afraid to hide

Every single shed of brown skin was ripped away from our mother land,
We are in a land that's someone else's mother land

Our bodies reside in a uninvited place where we play house

Brown faces all over known magazines,
It's our season

They say the times are over of picking cotton seeds,
whenever a black baby is born another black body is hanged off a poplar tree

Our skin may be black but we still shine in the dark

One day the soil will cradle our skins and bones ripped and passed from our ancestors

We will be sent to a place where ears will be filled with Whitney Houston and Karyn White

Where the smells of cocoa butter will dance in our nose

Where the amount of black skin releases so much melanin that the white man is overpowered

Where coffee black skin won't be kissed by the sun because the light is already radiating from us

We will be in a place where our mahogany black skin isn't forbidden
Jennifer Cheung May 2010
In my own skin,
I fit like a glove.
In my own skin,
I look as I always have.
In my own skin,
I look in the mirror
And see someone unfamiliar.

I slip into my skin,
And it irritates my entire being.
I slip into my skin,
And I feel like I’m sinking.
I slip into my skin,
And for so long I wriggle
In order to lessen the struggle.

I move in my skin,
And the material chafes all over.
I move in my skin,
And the resistance grows stronger.
I move in my skin,
And it doesn’t seem changed at all
To those who don’t look and never see me fall.

In my own skin,
I fit like a glove.
In my own skin,
I look as I always have.
In my own skin,
I’m screaming for my life,
and no one’s here to listen.
Written on my 17th birthday, November 11, 2009
Chloe Sep 2014
You make my skin crawl,
Like writhing maggots beneath,
Like the innocent child's scrawls,
Tainting my canvas, my skin.

Your words, they pierce me,
Like the ***** of a needle.
Caressing, so fatally,
Over the scarred, raised skin,

The years of mistreat,
Has treated me harsh,
Showing meat so starved,
Brittle bones over skin.

The world! Such a joke,
Made of him, her and you.
My existence, mere smoke,
Our stories, nothing but skin.

For skin show where we've traversed,
The roads we have trod,
A beautiful canvas,
Of cools, brights and skin.

I am proud of my masterpiece,
It's whittled into my skin.

From the lines embossed to my chest,
To the intricate blend of colors,
The white spiraling scars,
Etched deeper than skin.

Here I stand,
Here I scream.
Proud of the bands,
That bind me as one, my skin.
Sofia Paderes Sep 2013
The next time someone says that
someone else is skin and bones
I'll say that they don't know
what the heck they're talking about
because they haven't seen you
and the way your skin grips tightly to your
tired old bones
the way it sags in some parts
because there's barely any bone to cling on to
or how your skeleton of a body
just lies there uncomfortably on the bed that isn't your own
I can hear you crying out for home
you are the epitome of skin and bones
skin and bones
skin and bones
you are the epitome of skin and bones

But you are the strongest skin and bones I know.

I've never seen you in pain before.
Not even when you cut your finger
or fell down the stone stairs
You complained about everything and everyone else but
not once did you complain about your bones creaking
or back aching
or feet hurting
or knees shaking.
You never told me when you were sick.
I'd only find out from the medicine bottle beside your plate
or from Mom who'd say.
You never told me you were sick.
I only found out from Dad and the way
your body slowly faded every
single
day.
I found out from your headaches
your new scars
your bloodred skin in some parts
your speaking
your breathing
You struggled with your  breathing
yet you refused to be confined
because you wanted to make sure
someone would take care of me.
I can take care of myself!
I should be the one taking care of you so
why would you...
how could you...

You are the strongest skin and bones I know.

But I saw you in pain today.
I didn't think that
it would hurt me that much
to see your face white and crying
your brows knitted together
your bony hands clutching your stomach.
You didn't want me to see you so
I left the room because even in your agony
you didn't want me to watch.
I bet you were pressing the cancer down, telling it,
"I'm not going
The eldest hasn't graduated
The youngest isn't in high school yet
and I still need to teach the second to make chocolate cake."
Or maybe you were telling it,
"Stop it.
My apo* shouldn't see me like this.
If I'll go, I'll go quietly.
I know when I'm defeated.
Just stop the pain
because more than me, it's hurting them.
Stop."

You are the strongest skin and bones I know.

Lolo was a fighter.
He fought it tooth and nail.
They gave him a month
He showed them a year and a half
because he refused to go down
without a battle
without seeing the face of
the grandson he'd been waiting for.
He saw him and held him.
He was hairless and his lungs were blackened,
but he saw him and held him.
But you are a fighter, too.
In your own way.
You don't want to fight like he did
no, you don't want us to see you like that.
You fight with your eyes
with your silent love
with the way you finally let my rough lips
brush against your soft forehead today
with the way you gripped Mom's hand tightly
for the first time
with the way you let my brother clumsily kiss your eye
with the way you let us stay the whole day
even though we were kind of sort of rowdy
with the way you want to go home
with the way your lips silently
formed an amen when we prayed for you.
You never did that before.
I know you'll keep fighting like that
and I know you know when it's time to fight
and when it's time to surrender.
I don't know what's going to happen
but please promise me you'll surrender in peace
without pain
without troubles
without fear
and please, before you go
I want to tell you that

You are the strongest skin and bones I know.
*apo - grandchild or grandchildren
have you seen my skin?
my skin is rough and worn;
It's covered in scars from the pains of my past.
The skin on my knuckles are angry and red,
the skin on my lips is torn and chapped.
no-one notices my skin until it bleeds,
maybe that's not enough.
maybe I'm not enough...

But what's worse than my scars are the wounds of today,
pouring out beneath my skin.
no-one can see them,
but that doesn't mean that they're not there.
But no-one wants to see.
And no one wants to care.
No-one wants to take my hand and see my scars, my knuckles, my wounds, my lips and love my skin for what it is.
but no-one wants to touch my skin,
and no-one wants to look at my skin.

My skin is rough and worn and cold and scarred
but my skin is still beautiful.
Now do you see my skin?
Under my skin,
Your words are digging in.
Ripping, tearing,
Pulling my flesh away.
Peeling back the skin
And settling in.
To a host of which
They are unwelcome.

Under my skin,
Your words are digging in.
Lying, defying,
Numbing the realities.
Peeling back the skin
And settling in.
Whispering nothings to which
There are no meanings.

Under my skin,
Your words are digging in.
Confusing, undoing,
Ignoring all truths.
Peeling back the skin
And settling in.
Crafting lies which
Are filled with sin.

Under my skin,
Your words are digging in.
Mending, fixing,
Stitching the wounds.
Peeling back the skin
And settling in.
Making a home in which
They shouldn't be existing.

Under my skin,
Your words are digging in.
Peeling back the skin
And settling in.
KiTrell Tracy Aug 2016
my how beautiful black bodies are
your black body
my black body
is oh so beautiful
our melanin glows and sparkles
because we contain the stars
but it also highlights the scars
we are not allowed to love our black bodies
why is that?
the strong, dark brown lines that zig-zag
up and down
side to side
to form into the skin of my mother
is the pure definition
of an ethereal being
with locs cascading down her back
and dark brown eyes that sees all lies
and hands that when they hold you
they hold all of you
yet she is not allowed to love her black body
from a young age we are told that
our black is ugly
to be light
is to be right
young babies begging for skin lightening cream
mothers yelling at these same young babies
to get out the sun for fear they will become too dark
we are raised to hate the very sun who gives us life
the very sun that feeds our melanin
that same sun who's sole purpose is for our existence
our black bodies are a gift to this world
but they raised us to hate them
why?
I'll never forget what my mother told me
that when she found she was pregnant
she prayed and pleaded with God
"please let my baby be pretty.
Light skin, pretty eyes and long hair. Everything that I wanted to be."
and she sat there
and smiled a sad smile
with so much longing in her eyes
as she gently pushed one of my braids out of my face
and I stared at her with so much
shock and confusion
because I wondered if she even knew
how often I would get on my knees
every night
and beg and plead with a God
that I still question the existence of
to make my skin darker come morning light
and I would awake with excitement
"maybe He answered my prayers this time."
only to feel disappointment and betrayal
when I raised my arm
and still saw this cursed light skin
staring back at me
taunting me
all I ever wanted was to walk down the street
with my mother
and not have our relationship questioned
not have people assume that she's my aunt
or as I got older
my "friend"
all I ever wanted was to make
those wretched kids
shut their putrid mouths
as they pinned me down
and forced their words down my throat
and nestled them into my very nervous system
that it was obvious I was adopted
there was no way I was fully black
or according to one boy
not black at all


I hope one day soon
but I know it won't be today
I can look in the mirror
and love the way
this lightly dusted brown hugs my skin
ever so gently
I hope that one day
my darker skinned kin will no longer
be demonized for what they shouldn't have to change
I hope that little dark skin girl
looks herself in the mirror and smiles
at the skin the color of a raven's feather
and realize that every bright color
was made in her favor
I hope that one day
that little dark skin boy
will see how the dirt he was just playing in
resembles galaxies across that ember skin
this is your skin
this is my skin
this is our skin
this is our blackness
we are valid
we matter
and we **** sure are allowed to love ourselves
Nat Lipstadt Mar 2014
I am addicted to skin,
not a particular woman's skin,
all and every woman's skin

(stop here,

If you are uncomfortable,
with this writ, for me then,
it be a consoling poem,
an adoration of skin,
a comfort food,
that I cannot live without)


see what you cannot see,
inside this one's
brain-eyes-tongue-soul-whatever
whatever you name his five sense-sifting-all combination,
I don't care

I drink skin
all textures
all colors
every woman
every woman ageless  
every woman street passing
touched and taken
no fabric but the
fabric of her skin
tween my thumb and forefinger
on my stippled senses
enlivened

I taste skin,
like a good poem,
the cheek, the shoulder bare,
the in between spaces,
the minty hint of décolleté,
the ankle chain,
turning my breath heated,
tips of red noses,
I take and
I keep
and no,
no refunds, no returns

I see
your skin, as a gift to myself
created, donated, by you,
and by me,
aggregated

tho you think I am selfish
I thank you always

I hear
you cells splitting,
rejuvenating,
you nourish,
I flourish

I smell your
skin-scented au naturel aroma,
and inward smile,
a parfume
named after me,
who knew?

you knew

stop enough!

softly, no, softly never enough...

every wrinkle, every blemish
every tablecloth of skin so
lovely set, so smooth glowing,
I weep,
I seep
inside
and
touch me touching you
and
for every cell of mine dying,
two of you,
two for you,
so you may live longer,
one of mine,
lingers
within you
evermore

you nourish,
I flourish
Sunday afternoon
March 23rd, 2014
Robin Carretti May 2018
You are clawed at him like a

Red hot
Las Vegas Jack-***
Lobster
"Persuasive Mentor"
Sling-shot
Underlie Supervisor
Skin softer He's Mr.
Softee

He molded me
to build me
Not to love me
So planned to
Deceive me
Fish desires
Mermaids
Flirt their tails
underwater
emails

Like the Greek word

"Synecdoche" we call

French hot bread
Brioche
His mustache
Underlie
Attache case

You're over his
Head

"Now" face to face

Fly••• First- Love- Yourself

Why? W- wait like H 4 hell
Y- Yell!!

Who's going to tell

I was head clicked
heels
Watered down
my shrimp

Enjoy your now
"Big Gulp'
Help wanted

He got me under

his skin
Pulp Fiction
The rain in Spain
stays
manly
in the lie diction

Wha?ever he got to me

So erotically smooth skin

The next of kin

Aromantic overly
romantic
Like the
Interstellar

It felt like
Marlon Brando
Ditto
Hello!

A= hot brandy with

Stella
waterfront

Being upfront skin kissed

The espresso I got you intense
dark under the mood weather
Cold-Hot-Mood swings she got

what life can bring better
Menopause or Men on pause

Am I hooked?
Another eye
full look
The more
four more

I got to you I see
It comes in three's to
die for the need
I say more

That part of you
bare-mitten
So smitten

The skin chilled fire fit


Moms scent and you felt her

touching you her mind
and yours

Cut out hearts
Red Riding hood
Grandmas out of bed
What was said
Tough skin what
big brown eyes
Looking mad
That's what U got blowing
in the wind
on her skin to begone
Girl is gone
One call Jailbird


Our eyes leave the world
blind but speak more words

you opened up the blinds

Hot desired I got you, babe,

How in a spiritual sense

Was this in your character

by the quintessence


Or always a coincidence

You were being raised

Why is life so much to crave

Like your the side order
and he she and fee fi fun


The main entrance
Starfish dish the
Goddess sun
Undertaste
The dinner mint
gave her refreshing
rush

Fifty times being burned

Over just a bite on my neck

of French fries

Not so overly touched by your lies

But you do have amazing eyes

Traveling through a skin-tight

maze the light fixture retracing

How tough skinned you are

I got to give you some credit

This is not the website

How you read into me

Like "Reddit"
I got it

So many time you have

done it lies

I never planned to get

you under my skin
Who wants to die

*** rebound always
Goodbye

Those fifties those dames

hot club smoking and
jamming

But feeling the tightrope
Fishnet
hooked
Supernatural spooked

I don't see you smiling

I couldn't breathe I felt

like choking

The devil own scripture

Our eyes perceive as the spies of

Boom explosion the hunger gets

intense face to face

Like we are the
TV on a binge

You cannot tune us but the
hot flame

can never tame us

Embedded by what we see

And touch-Oh! Me
U-C who would want to
go through this
2 B Me
Waiting for something
Like the Freebird I am
the Robin

How the earth confines us

Who is the one who

got something on us

Somes deep feelings

The Cole Porter

I got you under my skin

Someone on the pull
arouses

But he knows your
pleasure but where is the
promises
On the premises
He stacked her roses

One smell he got
The words spelled on U

He said with an
Under__line

" My Rose"
  Underlie
  My skin
  Smells brilliantly
  Like the eye of an
  Apple pie
I got someone maybe not U. That underlies big piece of the pie tough skin regardless if its a little lie
Benji James May 2017
If love lives forever
I want your name inked into my skin
But they say don't do it
Love never lasts forever
But she's not just my heart
She's my soul. She's my life
She's the air that I breathe
I would do anything for her
Even if it meant losing my life
So bring on the pain
Inject the ink into my skin
These are some lyrics with a meaning

Nobody's perfect, You see
Have you ever hurt so much
You wanted to take your life
Well you see time after time
I wrote how hard it was living without you
But it got me wondering
If I loved you so much
Why am I not dead
And it came to me
Your my drive, Your my hope
Every time I see that picture of you
I know I'm not alone
So sick of writing songs about death
I mean I don't want to die
but a life without you is hard to bare
But they say love hurts anyway
You just got a find the one person
Worth suffering for and your worth
Your wait in gold

If love lives forever
I want your name inked into my skin
But they say don't do it
Love never lasts forever
But she's not just my heart
She's my soul she's my life
She's the air that I breathe
I would do anything for her
Even if it meant losing my life
So bring on the pain
Inject the ink into my skin
These are some lyrics with a meaning

Girl, I haven't been talking to you
I wonder if you ever notice there's
a person missing from your life
remember the boy that stuck by you through
every hard time but all of a sudden he's gone
But truth is this was a test
To see if you cared
It seems like you failed me this time
You said you would be there
But I was hurting and I'm still all alone
But its okay, I'm alright
(Yeah) Almost turned to drugs
Took up cigarettes
Because I couldn't stand
The pain of knowing you weren't there
But I quickly gave it up
Because I wasn't thinking clearly
Death was on my mind every night
See I started writing a song
Saying it was all over
But then I thought of you
Scrunched it up
Tore it apart and threw it away
Because I ain't given up

If love lives forever
I want your name inked into my skin
But they say don't do it
Love never lasts forever
But she's not just my heart
She's my soul she's my life
She's the air that I breathe
I would do anything for her
Even if it meant losing my life
So bring on the pain
Inject the ink into my skin
These are some lyrics with a meaning

I'm still here, Your the medication to my pain
But your the pain to my pain
It's like ******* it drives you insane
I wrote these other songs about you
And in it, I kiss you
But the truth is our lips have never collided
I kissed you in my dream. It felt so right.
It changed my life
Not sure if you understand, What I'm saying
But if anybody hurts you again, I'll be there
I know it seems like I'm gone
But I've been here all along
Better watch out baby because I'm on my way back
Ready to fight, I'll be ready to save your life
Bet you never could imagine you were my saviour
And protection and you didn't even have to say anything
See I have this picture of you and whenever I'm feeling down
Feel like I'm up against the world
I just look at your smile. It lights me up
Feel Like I can see my name in city lights
Importance returns to my mind
And I feel the urge to pick myself up from the dirt and
Take on the whole universe
You see I'm gazing at stars knowing that somewhere out there
You're looking at them to
Just hope you can feel the love I'm sending you

If love lives forever
I want your name inked into my skin
But they say don't do it
Love never lasts forever
But she's not just my heart
She's my soul she's my life
She's the air that I breathe
I would do anything for her
Even if it meant losing my life
So bring on the pain
Inject the ink into my skin
These are some lyrics with a meaning

Remember I said I dreamt of you
Well it was like heaven on earth and when I kissed those cherry lips
It felt so good, It took me higher than I've ever been
It never felt more right, If thats what it's like
I'll take the pain and the suffering
You might be the girl I've never had
The girl I'll never have
And I know I can never replace you
Truth is I'll probably keep crying and feel like I'm dying
But I'm movin up, Movin on
Baby, Benny's home
And he's never felt more right (alright)
Creativity has taken over tonight
Look out he's back on a high
look towards the sky and see him flying
Your gaurdian angels back with a vengance
Nobody's gunna want to hurt you again
Because if they do he'll be there to hurt them
I get jealous when I see you with another man
But I'll hold it in
Because seeing you happy is worth it
Sometimes I wish I got a text or a facebook message
Saying you miss me
It makes me feel invincible and amazing
But its okay, I'll be alright
Because I see that picture of you
And it eases my suffering
It keeps me happy
I feel like it's our destiny to be together
But even if it's not your always gunna be the one I want
I would give it all up for you
If losing my life meant saving yours
I wouldn't question or give it a second thought
Baby I would take that bullet to my heart

If love lives forever
I want your name inked into my skin
But they say don't do it
Love never lasts forever
But she's not just my heart
She's my soul she's my life
She's the air that I breathe
I would do anything for her
Even if it meant losing my life
So bring on the pain
Inject the ink into my skin
These are some lyrics with a meaning

I've never felt more amazing than I do tonight
Just think who's missing out of your life
Think back to all the things I said to you
Then you'll know this songs for you

©2017 Written By Benji James
Pretty sure this is the longest lyrics I have ever written. :P
I am skin and bones, bones and skin
barely held together from within
all the hopes that held my dreams
didn’t really know what to be
but skin and bones, bones and skin
now I’m floating out in space
didn’t leave a bread crumb, not a trace
don’t follow me into the darkness
I’m hopin’ you will see the light

wraith-like, an apparition of humanity
a daring definition of me
I’m not really here, not really standing in front of you
one sneeze and I’ll blow away
‘cause I’m just skin and bones
you know it, bones and skin
so thin you can see right through me

cradled by the world, in a tiny little house
balled up in my covers, quiet as a mouse
you walk in and call my name
I hear it, I breath in an exclamation
it’s all the same, it’s all the same I fear
don’t call me baby, don’t call me dear
I’m just skin and bones, did’nt you hear?
standing in the darkness, I know it’s true
that light was never meant to be, not me and you
can’t you hear the crying of all the bells?
can’t you hear the lighting of torches and yells?

I am skin and bones, bones and skin
hold together, don’t let me in
no dreams ‘cause hopes are ignited by flame
it’s a curse, don’t call my name
I didn’t really know what to be out there
a part of me told me not to care
for I was meant to be skin and bones
bc moon raven Oct 2018
Growling and hissing, a storm formed along the road, portending the merging of the chaos that had been gripping our minds for months.  This day, this type of day, we could have dreamed up in the novel of our love affair.  The conversation along our drive into the country was as full and ***** as all other tête-à-têtes shared in our two months together.  We were never at a loss for words and his conversation had been more educated than the older men I had dated since the divorce.  I was forever astonished at him and with him.  

The first time I met him, I was sitting behind my desk and planning for another monotonous day of office politics and all the drama connected.  Lost in thought, I sipped coffee and read emails until, there was - him.  He opened my office door with such fervor and drama, I knew someone had just entered into my life that would leave me forever changed, and I welcomed it.  A mess of auburn hair, neither combed nor styled and yet quite fitting, haloed around his head and gave the visage of an angel.  He had a freckled nose and cheeks with blue eyes staring from behind all that wildness and they were the only calming feature about him.  I turned my head and grimaced a bit, “how dare someone charge into my office as if to own it”.  “How can I help you?” made its way from my lips with a bit of a sigh.  And he smiled, that smile which would make his face even younger and more deceptively angelic.  

“Hello” danced off his lips and in two syllables was able to sound singsong and my anger soon turned to anticipation.  He introduced himself as Parker and explained his new position as Junior Editor.  He went on to say someone instructed him to introduce himself to me since I was Senior Project Manager for the organization.  His fervent entrance into my office had sent a gush of wind that disheveled my tidy desk and his wide blue eyes looked around at the chaos he had rendered.  He seemed unable to offer apologies, and I soon learned this was his way.  His confident facade prevented admission of mistakes and the word “sorry” could not escape the tightness of his will to be correct.  This was my lover’s way and it was the structure built that only wrecking ***** could destroy.

As is expected of me, I extended my hand to welcome him, overmuch aware of my grip and strength in presenting my hand, I felt the need to dominate the grip.  I was a woman in a senior position inside the male dominated echelon of upper management.  I took his hand and with rehearsed quickness attempted to demonstrate my dominance, my superiority.   It was then, the first time I saw a devil behind his angelic face and I remember my expression churned up my secret thoughts.  He saw my eyes searching those thoughts and delight shone from his blue eyes like cold fire and I was burned.   Our hands soon contorted into a dance of dominance with fingers twisting as if in a finger shadow play.  No time for games or plays for control, I simply took the shake he offered and turned towards my coffee, my drama, my emails and without looking at him welcomed him again and gave a wave of dismissal.  He greeted my brush-off with a laugh and made his way to the chair in front of my desk.  He was tall and the light from behind silhouetted his broad shoulders and upright posture.  He was confident and sure.  His clothes were expensive, well-tailored and not at all the measure for his age.  He had a style about him and I believe it came as naturally to him as did the confidence in which he clothed himself.

I wanted to be angry at his overconfidence, his interruption, his disregard.  I was, instead, amused but annoyed.  He sensed he was beginning to irritate me and it seemed to delight him.  He would speak without taking a breath, eager to finish his thoughts, aware perhaps that time could steal the moment away and he would forever wonder.  He spoke with an accent I did not fully recognize and attempted to invite me to lunch or even coffee.  My lover was bold.  

I was succeeding in this corporate world, my world.  I was not ready to lose my focus for a moment alone with the delightful creature staring back at me, awaiting the “yes” he expected would be my answer.  He was a man who did not accept the “no’s”.    He would get what he wanted and would wait in predator mode until his prey was wounded, weak, ready.  He was not a predator in the malevolent sense, more in the need for survival mentality.  He would lift the wounded and weak above the limits of their afflictions and a “yes” would flow from their lips in fond gratitude.  Today I was not a “yes” and it did not feel like a final answer.  Somehow, I knew one day I would be naked with this man, my lover.  I knew I would take him inside me, and he would show me how to love in ways I had never known.  The “no’ and the explanations of the “no” exuded from my lips, and I could see him grow even more eager to know me.  He would learn the stories of my life from rumors and talk.  He would learn of my divorce, of the men I dated with expensive homes and cars.  He would hear about the occasional woman who would occupy my bed.   I had wished all of it to be true but only the divorce was correct.  I was not exceptional or exciting.  I was driven and focused.  

He stood there hearing my “no” with the sun behind him igniting the fire in his hair with his shoulders pinned back exposing his sculpted chest.  He stood there and allowed the silence after my rejection to hover the room, and there it was.  We locked eyes, and neither could emancipate from the other.  I wondered who he was and what he looked like naked in the morning with his disheveled hair, and we stared, locked in our gaze until my phone rang signaling the end of round one.  

Wrapped in my shawl, I moved between sipping coffee, as was my usual, and typing on my laptop.  He was behind me in the cabin.  I felt him approaching and knew he would quickly whisk me away from the overwhelming din of office emails and calls.  His presence behind me now was no longer disquieting but natural.  

The cabin had been his grandfathers and he had a noticeable pride about it when showing me through the door and gateway to his childhood memories.  He had a smile on his face I had never seen.  I delighted in how young it made his face appear, almost as if the childhood memories possessed him and he became the blithe youth here with his grandfather.  


It was fall at the cabin and the smell of musk and rotting leaves and ozone from the storm, filled the cabin and each deep breath was taking in a memory from my youth.   I was happy to be here with him and yet afraid.  Two months we flirted and touched over our shared lunches, eager to get inside each other physically, mentally.  The office was replete with stories of the happenings between the older woman executive and the younger up and coming man, how he must be using her to advance his career and how she was using him to heal the wounds of her recent divorce.  We heard these stories and watched them grow to the point we ended our touching, our flirting.  Soon the denial of our feelings and time apart turned to foreplay.  Soon there were stares across conference rooms, perceptive smiles as we crossed paths.  The total of it led us to this moment, to time alone together for the first time, this time.  

Fall in the country was the vangaurd to a glorious death.  The earth would explode with color announcing its final breath and moment upon the stage and we had arrived during the final bow and curtain call.  Trees draped in gold - and red - and orange heralded the fire to come and we too were ready to pour forth in glorious blaze and inferno.  During the entire ride into the country an ironical mist of dew and rain dotted the windshield as if nature attempted to douse the desires clawing to escape in each other’s arms.  There was a devil sitting next to me and I had to smile as his auburn hair blended so naturally with the landscape.  I was obviously lost in thought and he looked at me and asked if I was okay.  Him next to me, him crookedly smiling at me.  

“It’s nothing.  It’s just nice to see you in your element.”  My replay was short but my heart was beating so hard I was almost afraid he could see it bouncing behind my blouse, so I began to cover up but was met with his hand before I even reached the edge of my coat.  

“No.  I want to see you.”  His voice was soft but demanding and strong.  Often there were hints of a struggle for power between us.  His youth and position within the company prevented me from accepting his seriousness and his face would ***** into a grimace.  I never gave it much thought other than a bit of a nuisance.  His hand led mine to my lap, and I expected him to hold it, but he let go with a smile.  I enjoyed his show of power but refused to reveal a glint of it for fear I would lose the respect and control necessary over a subordinate.

Soon the cabin filled with the sounds of rain and thunder and as I stared out the window jealous of the drops of rain and their randomness, he touched my shoulder and looked down at me with his eyes bluer than wild lupine.  I smiled a painful smile and he knew I was overthinking the moment.  Taking my hand, he brought me to his chest and into his arms, arms that would embrace all of me and at times felt as if they could wrap around me twice.  I placed my head on his chest and began to reach for his belt.  The *** I had known was always routine.  This was expected, that was not allowed.  I fell into that routine naturally and was happy to oblige his needs in order to meet mine.  He kissed my forehead and still holding one hand, led me to the door of the cabin.  “What are we do…”  He stopped me with a single “shhh” from his lips.  I followed him and felt myself shiver.  I was not sure if I was shivering in fear or from the nip of fall air.  

“Don’t be afraid.  You have nothing to fear from me.  There’s no need to shiver my little poppet.”  He stepped back from me and stared as if I were a tiny bird in need of nestling back into its home.  “I’ve never seen you afraid.”  He touched my cheek and I felt so small and helpless, lost from home, and he was the only way back.  With a smile he took my hand and led me outside to the rain, lifting his face and savoring the drops bouncing off his cheeks.  

“W..w..what are you doing?”  I was trembling now and wondered if I had misjudged this man and he was in fact a lunatic ready to strangle me to my death.  My silk blouse, now drenched, clung to my ******* exposing an imprint of lace from my bra.  He reached for my shawl and pulled it off my shoulders.  He was looking at me so lovingly my body and mind calmed and I was once again in the moment.  Our moment.  This moment.  

His face, stern now, official, his mouth opening with such deliberateness that I was sure he had been in this situation before.  Once again my mind wanted to race to thoughts of not being good enough or that I was too old or too plain.  His voice pierced my thoughts and brought me to attention.  “There will be no talking unless I tell you to.  Nod if you understand”

My mind wanted to slap him with reminders of my superiority to him at work, how he was MY subordinate and how dare he.  My mouth would not open and my head began to nod in understanding.  My body and mind were bending to his will and acting upon his orders.  Shivering gave way to shaking now and I wanted to run to the warmth of the cabin and watch the fire burn the logs to a black crisp and wake up in his arms naked and giggling.  

Having seen my compliant nod, he began to speak.  “Undress.”  One word.  One word in response to the shaking mess of a woman standing in the rain, cold and afraid.  My hands were barely able to form the necessary movements to reach for the top button of my blouse.  I did not want to fail him or appear as if I were unfamiliar with tales of ***** men overpowering and having their way with a willing lover.  My fingers moved quickly now, wanting to end the scene and move on to the *******.  He stared.  He did not blink.  He did not nod or move.  He was enjoying every subtlety of me.  He was pleased.   I was a willing participant in his fantasy.  Nothing made me happier than to please him.  I began to feel hot and something inside me broke.  Was it my will, my pride, my fears?  I was not sure, but I felt alive.  Every thirsty pore of my skin opened up and lapped at the rain so very eager to feel it on my skin and the randomness of the drops was no longer something I envied but something in which I participated.  

My hands began to tug my blouse free from my skirt and the wet silk now draped over my hips like curtains, revealing the curves I was so painfully aware of hiding to keep anyone from noticing my *** and concentrate upon my words and actions.  I knew now I had one button remaining before I would, for the first time, display myself to him.  He did not flinch, rather, he maintained his stare and for a second I pleaded to him with my eyes not to expect me to do this.  He was resolute.  I spread open the soft, wet cloth and began to drape it off my shoulders.  I let it slide from my wrists, then fingertips, then to the ground blissfully unconcerned that my Hermes blouse was now draped over wet grass and mud.  

I looked down at my skin dripping and alive with goosebumps.  I had bought this bra in anticipation of this moment, in fear of this moment.  White lace bra and perfectly matched ******* were demonstrative of my control over even the small details.  My skirt was loose and heavy with the rain.  It was low on my waist and lay just below the navel leaving me the most exposed I had ever been with him.  I reached to touch the button on the back of my skirt.  Undone, I slipped my fingers along with the zipper feeling each click of the tiny teeth holding together the disguise of a powerful woman.  My hands traced the banded edge of the skirt pushing it over my hips allowing it to fall to the ground.  

His face looked stern but pleased, stoic and fixed.  I was in my bra, ******* and stilettos now.  I began to reach for the hinged part of my bra when he stopped me.  “No.  Stop.” He walked over to me.  He was close now and I was so cold I could feel heat from his body.  I wanted to kiss his lips, his full lips, but I did not move.  I knew now the rules and I would do only what was asked of me.  I stood rigid with no flinching.  I waited for any words that would pass from lips to ear.  He did not speak but leaned into me and reached over my right shoulder undoing the chignon in my hair.  He draped my shoulders with strands of liquid filament.  He took his time there, placing each strand in the exact order in which he was pleased.  With two steps back, he looked at my wet hair with the deliberate strands, as if he had created a masterpiece and for a moment I was unsure if the artwork he saw was me or his work.  

“Now be still.  Allow me to touch you, to admire you, my beautiful Moira.”  When he said my name even after these two months, he had the ability of saying it as if he were speaking it in serenade and for the first time.  He moved his hands to my back and unlinked my bra, one hook at a time with such dexterity I knew he must be a professional at *******.  He, who was to be my first professional lover.  He slid both straps off my shoulders, then taking my hands towards my abdomen, he slid the straps forward on my arms.  Lifting my hands, he demanded I keep them out and straight.  Me, the student to the professional, complied without question.  He bound my wrists with the lace bra, the bra I had bought just to please him, then lifted my arms above my head.  “You will keep your hands up until I tell you to move.”

I had become his toy.  I knew in this moment, I no longer existed for me, I was his, completely and entirely, and I abandoned myself to the rain, to the cold, to his gaze, realizing that surrendering to his urges strengthened me.  He turned and walked away.  He took a seat in an Adirondack chair and even it looked small in his presence.  “On your elbows and knees,” he spoke matter-of-factly.  Just five minutes ago, the struggle inside me to have the appearance of strength, would have denied me this happiness, this happiness to be free in his command.  “Now crawl to me, please.  Slowly.”

I did not care to be in the mud.  I wanted it.  I wanted to please him.  First to my knees, leaving an indention in the clay, then awkwardly at first, onto my elbows with my hands still tied at the wrist.  Crawling on my elbows, my back was arched with my waist higher than my head, giving him a view of the thong I had chosen only for this moment, my succeeding moment.  My position felt ungainly.  I looked to his face for approval.  “No.  You cannot look at me”, he commanded.  For a moment I felt I had lost his approval and self-doubt harried my brain.  My will to please was resolute.  I faced the ground, once again aware of the randomness of nature, the power of nature, how things in nature will do as they are told.  The reed is told to bend.  It does.  It does not question why but responds in its way.  Rivers do not question why they are shaped.  They just continue with powerful current.  I was the reed.  I was the river.  I did not question.

Face towards the ground, I could see the mud forming on my body, molding to my shape then rinsing with the rain.  It repeated.  Mud.  Rain.  Mud.  Rain.  This was the cadence to my crawl.  I arrived at his knees and waited there, a dog eager for a command from its master.  I was content to watch the rain beat ripples around his feet, splashing and shining his shoes with glossy drops.  “I cannot love you”, I thought to myself, “this is forbidden”.  “Being here in this moment, is forbidden.” We would have this moment.  Yes.  We could create this memory and think back on it in fondness and with both heaviness and happiness.  I would remember my young lover, my professional lover.  He would remember the obedient executive on her knees.  I would not regret our moment.  I would some day write it all down in my journal and press the pen deep into the paper.  It had to be etched, those words, my words, this memory.

His hand below my chin, lifted my gaze to his and he smiled, that smile, his smile, the smile that was like nature to my body, and I did not ask why.  I was a river being formed.  “You are so beautiful.  All of you.  Your skin so soft and pale.  Your eyes moving from fear to acceptance.  I see now you want to please me and I want you to know that I want to make you happy.  I want to be your lover.  I want to taste your lips kissed with rain and feel your shivering body pulled against me.  You are safe.  I will not hurt you.  Poppet.  I love you.  I have for awhile now, and I think you know it.  You, my wise, wise Moira.”  He lifted me up and for a moment pulled my body towards him burying his face in my abdomen.  He lingered there.  I felt how soft his red tufts of hair were and how soft his words were against my ears.  I loved him too.  Genuinely.  Profoundly.  I was afraid.

He inhaled deeply, there against my stomach, as if he were breathing in my essence.  I felt his breath turn from warm to cold against me as it mixed with rain.  He stretched his arms and moved my body backwards as he extended until I was a foot away from him.  “I would very much like to undress you, poppet.  I’ve been imagining it, aching for it.  I want to see all of you, naked and on display.”  He touched my abdomen with the tips of his fingers, as if afraid the pale china of my skin would disintegrate into a misty dream.  I relished it, the touch of him against parts of me he had not known.  I was always able to keep him at a distance, physically.  His hands traced the edge of my *******.  He moved slowly, and I knew he was wanting to etch this memory into his journal.  Nothing less than ink pressed hard to paper would release this memory to time.  His placed his hands on my hips and spun me around, my thong lining up with his gaze.  “Bend over.”  His voice from sweet to demanding again.

My hands were still bound, and I stumbled at first.  He seemed not to notice or to care, so I arched my back and pushed myself outward and into his view.  I felt his hands move from my thighs to my hips as gentle as summer winds that in their seductiveness turn our faces towards the impact.  I was in my forties and unsure how I would compare to the twenty-year-old’s he was known to date.  The gossip left nothing to imagination and everything to speculation.  My mind had conjured images of him, this professional lover, inside the firm thighs of a youthful companion.  Thoughts transformed to pleasure as the nature that was his hands took dominance over the thin lace that hid the only piece of me left unseen.  I became art in his hands, marble statue, exquisite with textures and curves wanting to be touched.  

The lace scraped my skin as he slid the *******, wet and splashed with earth, over the expanse of my hips and down to the ground at my ankles.  “Step out of them.”  He helped free my ankles, and I saw the delicate lace become one with the earth as the rain beat it into the mud.  This was freedom.  This was me with nature, me with my lover.  I was the reed and he was the wind.  

I was keenly aware of his eyes fixated on the valley of my mound, how my cheeks spread just enough to give hints of the pinkest of my flesh, now swollen and ripe.  “Turn around.”  I heard his voice and could tell the bombardment of rain was making it difficult to speak.  

I turned and began to ***** my body when I felt his hand on my back.  “No, poppet.  You must stay this way until I say stand.”  My body ached to be touched by him, by more than fingers and hands, but this, the anticipation, the wanting of it all, this was the skill of a professional lover.  I saw the earth drowned with a thick layer of rain now, and my shoes made splatters and ripples as I turned towards him.  I was cold now, too cold, unaware cold, numb in my cold.  I was happy to feel it.  I had for too long hid from rain, this glorious rain.  Now, I was one with the rain.  I was the river coursing its path as commanded by nature.  

He took my hands and untied them.  I watched the entire progression of it and I felt his presence now even more.  My hands were free, and I stared at my shoes and his shoes.  I was so small in his presence.  “Stand for me, poppet.”  His voice diffused through the rain and seemed softer now.  I stood there in my nakedness and he delighted in it.  My lover was not afraid and moved his head along with his eyes.  It was easy to know where upon my body his gaze had landed.  He seemed to linger the most on my face, and I thought how odd it was as most men concentrated on my ******* or mound.  My lover was different.  My lover was professional.

“Poppet, I want you to remove my shirt, but you will not toss it to the ground.  You will place it on the chair.  Nod if you understand me.”  He knew I understood but was confirming I was still in the moment and willing.  I obliged him with a nod and without looking at his face, began to unbutton each dot from its hole until he was shirtless before me.  His chest was firm and hairless and dotted with unobtrusive freckles as random as the rain.  I was delighted.  He was beautiful.  My lover was beautiful.

He placed one hand on my head, the other on my shoulder.  “On your knees for me, poppet.”  My knees once again bent for him, and I knelt in the rain, the thick rain and saw my knees again molded in the mud and earth.  I was unsure now.  Years had passed since I had taken a man inside my mouth.  I felt panic, like the river, run a course through me and I started to turn away.  But I was resolute.  “I will make him happy in all things this day” rang in my ears like a mantra.  I watched as he undid his belt and felt it as he wrapped it around my neck two times and pulled the loose end until it was taut but not constricted against my skin.  I was his.  I was the pet and he was the master.  It was official to me now in this symbol.  I was leashed and about to be tamed.  My lover was going to teach me his skill.  I was delighted.

I watched him free the one button on his pants and move to the patterned teeth of the zipper.  He rested his pants on his hips and pulled free the thing, that thing, the thing I was craving.  The thing I would take inside me, deep inside wherever my master wanted it.  I was the river.  

He was not large, not small, but thick, surprisingly thick, he was swollen and vascular.  I studied the curve of it.  The tip, the head.  I watched his hand grip it and move it towards my lips.  I opened my mouth and took him inside me.  He moved his hands to the sides of my head and began to direct me in the movement he needed from me.  I studied the thrusts and followed.  I moved my tongue, my eager tongue, in unison with the rain and percussion of the drops.  I slid him deep inside me devouring and savoring the taste of him.  The taste of my lover was satisfying, and I wanted to bring him to completion there in that moment.

We stayed in the rhythm, with the rain, both lost to the moment.  He stopped his ****** and lifted my chin.  “Moira.  My poppet.”  He led me to my feet and gave his crooked smile to me.  He gave me his smile in that moment, in that second, his smile was mine.  

“I love you”, I whispered, unsure he heard me.  He lifted me like a child and carried my nakedness to the bed.  He placed me there, like a doll.  He contemplated my skin in the light of the fire.  My lover the wind.  My lover the water.  

He was soon naked and drops of rain lit up on his body like little mirrors and I could see images of the room and myself reflected in them.  He removed the belt from my neck.  “We won’t need this.  In this moment, you know you are mine.  You know I am yours.”  We both wrapped our arms around the other, and I felt his skin on mine.  His body was hard and moved in perfect form with each muscle flinching the way it should, each squeeze and release in harmony with the other.  My pale, soft skin was beautiful contrast to his and was yin and yang.  He felt hard and long inside me, so engorged each vein touched the inside of me in a different fashion.  We each sealed our mouth on the other unable to drink as deeply as we wanted.  We were in our moment, this moment.  Alive in the seconds that passed to hours.  We were ready to etch ink on the pages telling of how I was the reed and he was the wind and on this day, I did not ask why, I only did as was I was told.
Hannah P Jun 2018
Skin,
Our protection.
A guardian we take for granted.
I was taught in
Science class how
 The skin is our
Barrier and protects us
From countless enemies.
A shield that is responsible
For keeping us healthy and safe.
But yet we abuse it,
We show it no gratitude.

When I was a kid
I allowed myself
To go roller skating without my
Knee pads,
Despite the infinite reprimands
My mother provided.
A scraped knee
Wasn’t anything a Band-Aid
And some time
Couldn’t fix.
I thought the band-aids in
The bathroom cupboard
Held some type of magic in the box
That I could not fathom
That patched up my skin
As if nothing ever happened.

But then I was taught in science class that
It was my skin performing
These magic tricks.
I remember those scolding hot
Summer days
Spent on the beach with my friends
Where the waves absorbed
Any sunscreen I had massaged on my body
And my face turned
Crimson from soaking in the rays.
But the burn always tempered
Down into a glowing tan
After the aloe soothed
The stinging.
In science class
I constantly overlooked
How our own flesh
Performed these illusions
To shield us from harms.

In science class
I studied how our skin
Interacted with the outside world.
How sensations were
Directed to the tips of my fingers
And goose bumps rose on
My arms.

But I was never taught
How to experience them.
I never questioned it though;
Unitl I met him.
Everything I was taught

Got lost,
As I had in his presence.
The way he gazed at me,
The way he talked to me,
The way he stroked my skin.
It gave me all those sensations
They had talked about in science class.

Everything happened so fast,
Everything happened too fast.
Intoxicated hands held me too close
And my intoxicated heart let them.

I forgot what science class burned
Into my brain and
I gave him my skin.
I let him become my armor.
I let him corrupt my flesh
Just as I had so many times before.
His finger nails
And teeth
Sunk deep into me
Leaving patters of desire in each layer
That soon soaked into my veins.
Our rib cages pressed together,
Both our hearts rattling
Within our chests,
Stimulating our brains to send signals
Allowing serotonin and oxytocin
To spill out,
Premising his lips to outline my body.

No science class ever
Taught me how to react
To my blood pressure rising,
To my sweat glands heating up.
No science class ever taught me
Why I wanted more,
Why the marks he left on my skin
Didn’t ache like a
Sunburn or scraped knee.

I trusted him,
With his hands full
Of my skin,
And the way that he
Made me feel;
I felt safe.

No science class taught me
That I could feel so
Alive,
And I loved it.

But when he was done with me,
My skin felt wrinkled
And used.
When he gave it back,
It was no longer mine,
He took it with him.
My skin cells lingered
Next to his nail beds
As he dressed himself.

No science class taught me
Why I felt so desolate
As he walked out the door,
With simple goodbyes,
That did not need to be spoken,
And no amenity in his eyes.
No science class taught me
The feeling of numbness found
As my heart rate decomposed
In my hallow chest,
Knowing I let him take my
Shield and watched him destroy it
Right in front of me.
No science class taught me
The bite marks and scratches he left
Would always be sore
Even after they have healed.

No Band-Aid or magic trick
Could fix the damage
He left for me to patch up
By myself.
No science class taught me
I would feel
The sensations of
Love and loss
Aching through my bones.
No amount of horomones
Could change his mind,
Or tug on his heart strings.
So why I thought I was
Invincible when I was with him,
I can’t understand.

But it is my fault
For not memorizing my
Notes from science class and
Sticking to the known facts
Of my own anatomy.
But I do know
After years and years of
Being lectured in school,
No science class could teach me
What my own damaged skin could.

Love and science will never coincide
And love cannot be found
In the physicality of
A one night stand.
Syd Oct 2014
it's raining now
and the rain reminds me of you
and how whenever it stormed we stayed inside tattooing our skin to each other
it had seemed that body heat was a glue strong enough to hold us together long enough for me to remember how it felt to fill my hands with your fingers or my mouth with your tongue
it was the kind of summer love that you whispered about in your sleep and wrote poems about on your feet, I wrote about how your eyes were like coffee cups and your skin was an ivory gold that made even december's cold feel warm. winter was long and you were here but you were gone and I tried for too long to memorize your favorite songs and search for myself in the words you would never say, my lips or my hips or my bones or my finger tips. eventually spring came and so did the rain and in a way this makes everything remind me of you, of you eyes and your grin and your lies and your skin. my coffee tastes like the anniversary we never had, and I wish I could say that meant it was bad but it wasn't. it tasted like you and like me, together again, like your eyes and my hips and your skin and your skin.
Kaila Wenker Apr 2013
The feeling of flesh
Skin against skin
Your breath
sends a tickle
up my spine
creating bumps
that are rough

The feeling of flesh
Skin against skin
That touch
that makes my palms sweat
and heart race
Slick and smooth
and hot all over.

The feeling of flesh
Skin against skin.
Soft and raw
at the same time
The barrier between
It’s funny how my skin
feels the same as yours
Caro Jul 2018
SOUL: Wrapping around me,
Holding me close,
Tapping itself and clothing my nose.
Keeping me in and tight.
My safety and my sensation.

Feeling sunshine and shame,
Goosebumps and bruises,
Keeping me intact.
It changes color and indicates.
Touching me,
completely.

The skin on my back my protectorate.
The skin on my hands my guide.
The skin on my face my years here.

It is with me to the end.
It grows and stretches and covers my vessel.
It flinches and heals and craves to be nestled.
It sweats and bleeds and cracks.
It wrinkles and sags.
And Baby, it’s you and it’s me.
But beautifully, painfully, tragically it is not.

Because once the skin has done all it can do.
Once it is thinner and can work for this Sinner no more.
Once it has lived and known me through and true.
Though I have lived and known it too.
It dies.

And I go on. To claim another skin.

A skin to clothe my nose.
A skin to protect my soul.
A vehicle to let me travel on this earth I think I know.

Poor skin. Naive and Perfect.

SKIN: Poor soul.
Going on forever ever,
and never ending,
never resting,
always needing me.

— The End —