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Bre Steele Feb 2013
i was sitting at the edge of the world
pondering the ocean and how i could fall off the end
time passes, and i thought of you

wide open spaces are how i remember you now
even if memories consist of tight spaces lying naked in your basement bedroom

blue eyes come home to mine
i was told i was the runner but i only ran away to you
blue eyes come home to mine
lets spend hours in wide open spaces
you know we could love forever if once again
your blue eyes saw mine


and in these wide open spaces i love you
in these wide open spaces i begin to wonder
what it could of been like if you wouldve stayed
i can see you and me in theses wide open spaces


and of i go to college when the leaves turn shades of brown
i wonder where you are in these big wide open spaces of mine
and sometimes i think id like to be in these big wide open spaces with you

blue eyes come home to mine
i was told i was the runner but i only ran away to you
blue eyes come home to mine
lets spend hours in wide open spaces
you know we could love forever if once again your blue eyes saw mine
i just want your blue eyes home with mine
blue eyes come home to mine


newfoundland, summer 2010
Ava Ayo Mar 2015
I like looking at the narrow spaces
Between houses as the train passes by.

I like looking at the narrow spaces
Because they remind me of my childhood.
The empty narrow inches of space
Between two enormous brick houses
I'd obliviously pass by while playing tag,
Smiling from ear to ear,
Leaving only a narrow space for my teeth.
Running from dusk until dawn,
Leaving only a narrow space for bruised knees and tears.

And now the narrow spaces I pass every day
Between worn out houses in the city
Remind me of my heart.
So big, yet so full of others' pain
That all I have is narrow spaces
Reserved for my own joy.
And now the narrow spaces I pass every day
Between graffitied houses in the city
Remind me of my brain.
So tagged with useless information,
Yet so little space to paint true knowledge on.

And so I stare at the narrow spaces
Between houses as the train passes by
While I'm on my way
To waste the tiny chunks of time I have left
Hoping to widen the narrow spaces
Of my soul.
In these quiet spaces,
I become temporarily deaf
to the meaningless noises
that seek to define me.

In these quiet spaces,
my soul is nourished;
surrounded by silence,
my spirit soars upward.

In these quiet spaces,
my focus turns inward,
knowing that His Presence
is co-mingled with mine.

In these quiet spaces,
the renewing of my mind
occurs as my life, is…
humbled before Him.

In these quiet spaces,
His divine, sacred wind
envelops my frail essence
with indescribable peace.

In these quiet spaces,
consumed by His Presence,
I sense undeniable power
of God’s authentic Love.
.
.
.
Author Notes

Inspired by:
Matt 6:1,6; Rom 12:1-2; Jam 4:8;
Heb 13:15-16; Psa 46:10; Phil 4:7

Learn more about me and my poetry at:
http://amzn.to/1ffo9YZ
  
By Joseph J. Breunig 3rd, © 2014, All rights reserved.
Emma Holt Nov 2015
If there's empty spaces in your heart,
They'll make you think it's wrong,
Like having empty spaces,
Means you never can be strong,
But I've learnt that all these spaces,
Means there's room enough to grow,
And the people that once filled them,
We're always meant to be let go,
And all these empty spaces,
Create a strange sort of pull,
That attract so many people,
You wouldn't meet if they were full,
So if you're made of empty spaces,
Don't ever think it's wrong,
Because maybe they're just empty,
Until the right person comes along.
This is not my original, but I loved it so much that I had to share it. All credits go to Erin Hanson: http://thepoeticunderground.com/post/52503853906/empty-spaces-june-9th#_=_
Amitav Radiance Apr 2015
Spaces within a space
Small abodes demarcated
With blank spaces
Unusual emptiness
Desertification of
Fertile spaces
Once vibrant with life
Now abandoned
Strife and turmoil
Creates vacant spaces
Where love should dwell
Mistaken emptiness
Where bonds are strengthened
We widen the gap
Creating new empty spaces
Leaving it open and vulnerable
Luna Fides May 2016
i once read that
there are names for the spaces
in between
body parts,
architectural structures,
musical notes.

names for spaces
as if they are

real
concrete
solid

and not just
gaps
voids
silences

like
buccal vestibule of the maxilla
is a space between the cheek and lateral face

or piscina
is a space in a wall near an altar

and
F A C E are the spaces
in between
the lines of a staff.

spaces with names
because they are part of something.
even if technically they are
"spaces" and not just

hollow
empty
blank

so i think their names suits them well.
because at least you know
what to call them.

but there is also a space
between you and me
it bears no name
and i think

this suits us
just as well.
Khay Jul 2016
Im feeling spaces, dense yet empty spaces.
Spaces where you used to sit
Spaces where I used to fit
All i see are computers and tutors,
mark sheets and classlists and more empty spaces
Spaces where you used to sit
Places where i used to fit
Emmy Nov 2014
I realized today that there are spaces in letters
Spaces in atoms
Spaces between my fingers and my toes
Between the hairs on my head
Spaces in between the floorboards in my room
Wide open space
The kind where you're standing on a mountain
Trying to catch the stolen breath, beauty thieved from your lungs
There is blank space
The spot where you write your name at the top of a paper or the kind where complete bliss wipes the ***** chalkboard of thoughts in your mind
Space where the moon floats
The universe exists
Then there is the aching space between bodies
Clinging so tightly to one another
The kind that two souls eclipse in attempt to defy theoretical physics
I concluded space is an amusing thing
It makes you **** your head
Humans try to fill it up with their bodies, their thoughts, and their emotions
Space is like time
Both are concepts
And I will irrevocably attempt to fill the spaces between my fingers with yours and think about you at 4AM
Nat Lipstadt Feb 2015
Sensual Spaces


the slightly parted lips,
beseech your entrance,
plead for a soft gracing,
a closing grazing,
a memory of
{entice consummate consume},
complete, fulfill,
long remembered far long, far more,
than the interminable sea voyage of the ordinary,
pressing drowning locking,
rinse repeat...

half an inch, less even,
much less,
separates two dancers,
a gulf, so much more arousing than
a can't-breathe grasping embrace,
an exercise to wondering
where the real pleasure kept...

be in no hurry
tarry, slowly,
seek out the
spaces between each finger,
all an invitation, all a question mark,
awaiting filling, answering...

yours in mine, mine in yours,
lock down this connection,
valley spaces tween peaks
needy for
the rain of touch,
the sun-skin heated insertions,
does not the curvatures of her
neckline,
cry out for
hands and lips attentiveness,
a space continuum
{~}
[^]
<|>
+-+
%

t'is the almost,
the last step,
to the first kiss,
the closing connection,
of that first hand-holding,
crossing over the last span of the bridge,
the lowering of the final descent
to the shock of
first insertion,
the wooing nearness of a n'ere forgot scent,
the last step
to the first step,
that first closure,
that is the
final entrance to
sensual spaces,
hallmark passage
gateway found and instantaneous
lost,
that is ever-treasured as that
door just opening
and as fast
closing
to
love ever after...
veritas Aug 2018
red stains, fading, cracked, scented

     if i kissed your prints, would they kiss me back?

sighs, thoughts, spaces between prints

     spaces between words, between parted lips and floating thoughts the world! is so crowded with space but yours is the one i want to fill .

     but where are the lines? lines of loss, lines of lawns, lines of ink and rips and more stains and letters, in the hands and on the pavement

where are the lines?

why won't you go there?

why do you hover in these foul, indomitable spaces? why do you seek that which you should not?

     if the shadow of lines slinks in your quiet expression, then why are you still here?

     if the echo of your soft face lingers in my hands, if the whisper of your breath and the heat of your skin still singes my own, then why do you disappear?

lovely wraith, lovely memory of a thing that once was, why do you sit so alone?

because i am coming to your space, and if you can see me, of shadow and fog, then i will meet you there,

     on a line of our own.

>because it's a death premeditated and i can see it unfolding,

     sharp wounding painful

and the discourse in the sky is telling me so, yet why do i keep walking west?
lots of questions (this isn't a poem of answers. don't look for one).
seasonalskins Jun 2014
we often mistake spaces for emptiness
when we are powerless
when we are boundless

we often don't realise
these spaces aren't empty
and we can be anything
we have a finite life
with infinite choices

so that's why these spaces are blank;
the vacancy awaits to be occupied
Amanda Jan 2018
I look for you
In my morning
For the smile across a coffee mug
As I sit listening, yawning
To your chatter about the day

Empty spaces
Is all there is to see
A place in the home
Where you used to be

I look for you
At the end of day
For the hug as I cross the door
So tight, it takes my breath away
Welcoming me home

Empty spaces
Is all there is to see
A place in the home
Where you used to be

I look for you
When I‘m feeling down
For the jokes you will tell
To make me laugh, you’re such a clown
You always know the way

Empty Spaces
Is all there is to see
A place in the home
Where you used to be


I look for you
As I do each day
Visiting the grave, is my only release
So I can tell you about my day
My one and only

Empty spaces
Is all there is to see
A place in the home
Where you used to be
Ashley Chapman Jul 2018
Pressesd tenderly,
your carnal flower opens,
its butterfly released,
hovers like a hummingbird
drinking from the bill.

Oh, I too would steal you away
and cage you happily,
to get under your black-fringed skirt; 
to see that pretty dress,
fly off once more,
and see you bare;
burned now forever in my banks,
a first sight,
of dark curls!

As I think of it,
my desire stirs,
but of us
I have already masturbated twice:
jammed,
hips pinned,
sliding over our wet perspiring bellies,
in our jungle heat:
'cause in the firmament of our embrace
- it's hot -
where glued we **** into each other,
stoking flames,
until sleep,
when we disappear from each other.
My mind crowds,
with niggling neurotic inanities;
yours with manic dreams where bed-wetting criminals in cages beg to be freed,
before better spaces overtake.

When I awake,
I am lying next to you,  
Gwen over the horizon of your fertile valley,
a mountain,
white and reposed.
You,
murmuring desire for me.
****!
I can't wait to answer.

It is late,
late morning,
and we are all half asleep.
You have your back to me,
as we lie,
rubbing feet,
stroking hands,
(the oiled bulb at the end of a finger),
your fine shoulders,
(that delicate but persistent bone in your wrist that stretches with pointed elegance);
as quietly inside,  
(warmly enveloped),
my couched *****,  
rocks us:
each diffusing into the other
like the early morning brew.

Lust and love,
closing-in,
which for a good while on edge had been:
the weeks,
days,
hours;
faint promises from afar;
sometimes a little closer,
our shadows in daylight cross,
as one over the other storms;
and once (or twice),
a sleeve brushes,
even better,
hair crackles,
as a speaking lip touches lobe,  
and for a moment,
taking in the other's scent,
a hint sublimely overpowers.

And these,
dearest of fancies,
are just some,
with which to penetrate your mind,
as you have mine:
the energy of my yielding tenderness,
inviting you to complete me,
as I spread for you with desire.

Much later,
those daring looks you have,
the way you walk our stage:
your beautiful elongated face,
those quick-fire arousing eyes,
your sultry self-assuredness,
your pre-possessing self.

I could talk about your couple,
of generosity,
reaching up,
beyond mere comprehension:
of the fact that I like Gwen
(his love gift for you, me);
but actually,
in truth,
I prefer to take this moment to make love to you;
to say how wrapped I am,
folded in your limbs,
in our mingling sweat;
how with your joy,
you touch my desires,
into yours,
so they flow,
run rather:
honeysuckle from your blessed nymphae.

You love my smell,
you say,
and I dream of gathering you in pheromones,
of drugging you,
of intoxicating you,
so once again you will find me,
take me,
have me.
Entice you once more like a creature from its shell:
Come!
where I can ravish you,
all of you,
lay naked to me,
flesh,
sinews,
everything,
your very bones;
those fine elbows,
those knees I would like to ******* over;
wash their smooth surfaces in my come:
from these cliff heights,
rain ***** on the rocks below.

To once more cast aside your socks and get at your toes,
to pour oil on 'em,
to rub and squeeze' em,
while in the moist cavern of your insides,
we ****,
half washed over by our own tide.
And as we do,
I quail,
speaking sweet nothings of appreciation;
from full lips,
your sounds return,
the hypnotic rhythm of your breath:
I engorge and in our labyrinth,
- the maiden and the bull -
we consume ourselves.

There,
Sweet Lentiform,
you did it,
you got me rolling in flesh,
lusting after your intimate parts,
wanting you in bed as I know you must have me:
pulling me on you,
kissing and biting;
my arousal in your palm,
pops,
as you run a curved finger over my nethers.

Lying,
lying,
side-by-side,
lying prone,
lying ******,
never unconsumed,
because,
please,
please  us,
with more;
so rarely,
unfucked even for a pause,
nothing doing more than sleeping and carousing;
our sustenance barely enough to keep us at it,
an occasional comic thrown in.
Oh,
God,
throw the ******* comic at me,
will you?
Beat my ******* flesh with it if you like.
Anything to see you standing in all your pearly naked glory!

And if you can,
keep texting me,
so I can hang on your every word like a ******* puppy!
Beautiful
long-haired,
skin tight,
upright,
wise,
gorgeously wild,
woman ...
Now pull me by my **** into your **** -
where I love it best.
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
the lone boatman Dec 2014
A spaceless canvas of a beautiful dream
Spaces to see and spaces to dream
Myriad and countless in thousands they seem;
Distanced thoughts of an uncertain kind..
The swift strokes of a finer self
A breast of pain and the womb of death..
The Rampant search of a timeless man,
The Mystique brilliance of a madder dream..
Clawing to lose a searchless path
The Maya of me and the Maya of death
Spaces and spaces myriad they seem

To stand alone and To view apart
An un-poisoned brightness of a fewer whole
froth-less waves of a mid-life's depth
kindled flames, a rocking boat
Spaces and spaces to me they seem
(needs some editing..)
Morgan Apr 2016
The homeowner called up
to me as I danced across the attic floor,
"careful on the creaky boards."
But I didn't listen,

now I don't know where I am,
and everything is dark,

and I miss the way
your bedroom smelled
in the spring time,
with one window open,
and a fan blowing hot air
in from the kitchen.

I told you
I didn't wanna go back there,
and you asked where "there" was
and I said "I can't put my finger on it,
but I don't wanna go back"
and it made sense

even though it didn't.

I keep falling into these empty spaces,
void of fruit bowls & hands to hold.

I keep falling into these empty spaces,
where I can't walk a straight line
because there are only circles.

I keep falling into these empty spaces,
where mirrors refuse to turn away
& familiar voices are distorted
by the unique echoing of silence
when it overlaps silence.

Here I am,
on a bed of thorns
that hide their roses,
wanting desperately
to rip my thoughts from my skull,
scatter them like petals on the ground
and rearrange them...

Here I am,
timid hands,
wabbley knees
wanting desperately
to pick my body
from flesh to bone
til it's raw and naked
and ready to grow in different

I think that's why
they call rock bottom
the wake up call
you get when you need it...

I need it,
I need it,
I need it,

and if there's no foundation,
all that's left to do is build.

I'm ready to climb
out of these empty spaces.

Don't reach your calloused hands
out, palm up to catch my
shaking fingers.

Not this time.

I've gotta learn
where the bricks fit
for myself,
or else I'm always
gonna be leaning
in the wrong direction
They leave Jerusalem, with the acrobats from Shiraz. They were ghosts of poetry, wine, roses and fireflies; they were conjuring the path of the twelve camels to the intersection with the Cenotaph, where King David with the Cherubs of Kafersesuh will stay. They were Epi ghosts, basking in camelid footsteps. They went in all the intermittences of the bent nails and plants of the areas of the marquee of the other four ghosts that accompanied him. They were the jumpers with water wheels, wheel scales with tutelary cords, some with stilts of gold disgrace from the coins of Judas Iscariot and the last propelled by a caper that ruled all the others on the wings of the Fireflies. Withdrawn from the road that leads to the Kidron valley, 2,500 years of clay tablets from Persepolis fall on all of them, they were phonetized with the plaintive nightmare of Tirazis's one-eyed poem; which is currently Shiraz, in this way these ghosts escorted the Hexagonal Birthright, they were exiled from their ghostly cities for not paying the tribute of obedience to destroy and rebuild. As they began to be with them in the cove, the ghosts of the acrobats boiled with the eagerness to prevent everyone from being saddened by the departure from the orchard, which was falling further and further behind their footsteps, dancing with their pirouettes along the way, they told little stories. in the ears of travelers.

Hidro Saltimabanqui: “I come from Roknabad (also known as Aub-e Rokní), an underground canal that carries spring water to the city from a mountain located ten kilometers northeast of Shiraz. Here I have to mend the propellers and water ropes to do my acrobatics on the water, with greater songs in the poems of the Poet Hafiz. When we bite our tongues, we repair it with Hafiz's verses from the Koran; there are three hundred creeds, three hundred hectares to irrigate with my wheel the sadness of those who cannot have the gift of the rivalry of Montenegro and Monteblanco, to overestimate the liveliness of the caravan trembling with uncertain doubts on its way to Jaffa. "

Saltimbanqui de Báscula: "We are Epi ghosts, reverie reverie with tutelary ropes, to jump through the trapeze of the photometric units of the heavy Almería of the highest Mirror of the Sea. Here we look; from here we will board the barge that will take them from back to Limassol. Curiously, the same ship from Lepanto that sleeps in the swings of the sea and in the arms of Anaximander, in a new awakening from the lethargy of the super-string theorization, here is the intrinsic speculation of science, since this is not just research purely empirical. "

Says Anaximander: “First…, we have no proof that string theory is not ultimately correct and in the future in any verifiable way. Second, we propose a project of the order of string theory, which is necessary for science and its importance, going even beyond the scientific to also project itself on the metaphysical and the religious, right here in this order of greater what to do together with the rope that leads me to Patmos.

Saltimabanqui de Báscula responds: “metaphysical and religious legitimacy, here we are tying knots in the rope that inaugurates a new masonry in the observable futuristic look. Here is the original fiction of continuing to raise the necks of the ants over our optics. We will jump on these ropes, but we will fall on intervals of placental physical dens, which were born from the new embryo in the twelve caves of Gethsemane, in a primitive late germinal process. The micro phonetic vibrations will lift us up from the hunger to follow and leave King David in his cenotaph, gored on his hips by the Cherubim, marking his holy antlers that become entangled in the blunting of the cuneiform scratches of his epigram.
In the middle of the magical theorists exotically as associativity of substance causally of the poetic and multiverse song, believing in the ghosts of Shiraz, as dreams injected to sublimate the Aeneids that they lamented on the bottom stones, even though they were independent of their material origin. Multi universes, multi paraphrase for who has to dress the word “Rosa with her noble long dress to the cliff of Ebdara when Vernarth acclaims his brother Etréstles, he comes with the Auriga from Messolonghi. Rested and determined to head to Tel Gomel, he comes with his horse Kanti to keep him company on this crusade. Kanti defied the Cliffs of Crete, he was servile to Markos Botsaris, 1821 (Royal Hero of the Liberation of Greece in the Turkish Invasion, Koumeterium Messolonghi - Palibrio USA), until in the afternoon he approached from a herd of beautiful places of steeds to he. This was heard by Etréstles and he seized His horse to have more than a Life from his company, more than a lost and lost aroma of his natural mother, to reach the one who would treasure it”.

The ghosts attribute quantitative passages from before leaving King David, and then continuing on the road to Jaffa and advancing on the ship back to Cyprus; Limassol. All were hyperkinetic bowls leveraged by the terrain that was on the **** of the acrobatic histrion foreshadowing the contours of the temporal filigree, which in each one made them smile at the carriage with oxidizing wheels, still being immaterial beings, but alive in its marvel gases, wading the serous bile that emerged from the glasses in his allegories. His footsteps and his undulating phonetic figures did not stop over the caravan, which had already passed Jerusalem. They were already undaunted by themselves and overshadowed by the foreboding modulation and encryption of the rehearsals they were doing, over the heavy atmosphere that seized and begged a small piece of the attention of those who did not celebrate their Shiraz pirouettes.
The areas, volumes and lengths were fully encompassed by the Ghosts of Shiraz, the acrobats ran along the banks of Ramallah, it was already winter, the city received them with winds and rains from the southwest alternating with cold and dry winds from the northeast. The acrobats went like master geometricians to condone the fuss of the caravan, devising a dodexagesimal system. (Twelve centuries of ultra-nocturnal geometry and shipwrecks at the Alexandria lighthouse)

Positioning as a base the number 12, to measure times and angles that they needed to avoid the voluminous rains that hit the caravan.  Incredibly, the volumetric position of the plantar legs of the camels seemed like wheels that rotated without stopping in any anti circumferential radius, making some clouds a shutter that enclosed them like a trapezoid of God's flock in the high semicircle of the waters that tried to fall. , like axiomatic staves of Euclid's beard tempering his elemental construct.

The linear position of each one of those who were mounted was a perfect ergonometric based on the Muladhara pressing the four red petals on pressing the Achilles heel of Vernarth, which was dimensioning the Ramallah triangulation, with the fungi that were housed in its Xifos sword in the jet tip that carried the dodexagesimal cartography. In the same position the Apostle Saint John seemed, he carried the rosary in his left hand in geometry that elongated his nose and feet in an adonis triangle, thirsty for one hundred and twenty degrees of the sextant that broadened its spectrum to align with this Birthright. Thus the stars and planets are positioned as celestial spheres with the gravitation of the Olivos Berna, revolutionizing curved and flat equations that intuited to go beyond the crossed pirouettes that the acrobats did all the way, even further than those of the withered path of oil, purposely of the axiomatic systems that the Ghosts of Shiraz intended to establish.

Shiraz  Ghosts
These Persian Epi ghosts, axiomatized abstract and ideal entities relating models of austerity and lyricism, which fluctuated in the lines and planes of movements of the clouds with the counterpoint of the legs of the Gigas, leaving marks in the sand like a point Morse, straight and flat, until the fifth step that tried to cross the lines of Ramallah, for the parallelism that the centuries that asked Vernarth to reorder the geometric geography of time and the positions that were added as a delay effect in the Garden, essentially of a hyperbolic vision, to appropriate the entities of the Ghosts that grasp with their little finger the strings of the times associated with Gaugamela in his palatial sovereignty with the footsteps of Vernarth and in the phylogeny of a world that is born behind the confines of religious micro- genetics , from whose space is born in another and would accommodate a circular bijective function, to attract the aerosisms of Ein Kerem in the new life signs of J oshua in the reborn One-dimensional Beams.

Vernarth diluted his bones to sit near the tarsus and accommodate it at the end of the vertebra of the Muladhara (Chakra of 4 petals), making a sub-technical geometric function to preserve the figures of darkness that were also diluted, to arrive at night close to of Jaffa, in the surroundings the isometric fire existing in each one and in two dimensions…, but born of a common one. Raeder and Petrobus wore their floating eyelashes full of dusty and dense manias on their faces, with splinters gum that they had released from one of the pirouettes of one of the mountebanks when colliding with the basic postulates of the Ghosts of Shiraz, deducing undulating spaces like snakes within the isometric fire that dazzled them with the burning humors of the last drops of the Shemesh codifying themselves in an absolute intuitive measure, beyond all dimensions, which is Consciousness destroying the planes and spaces that multiplied among themselves as members of another geometric conscious dimension.

Arriving at the Ben Shemen crossing, everyone undergoes a collective hypnosis; the ghosts manage to embody each of the components of the Birthright, but omitting a great factor. They relegated the Hexagonality of the genetics of this caravan, not raising the ghosts when calculating the area of once they were being intracorporeal within the members, thus having to abandon before the last ray of Shemesh threw them on their faces ashes of the Gehenna, for this supposed reason to leave them condemned to recycle the human species, for the purpose of reproducing sacred human beings, but being subservient to the cravings beyond the immortality of the miscalculation that led them to the citadel of Karim Khan, surprised with its stamp of thick stone walls and circular towers in the heart of Shiraz. This gave them a warrior aspect contrary to their fame and history: this was a city famous for two thousand years for its culture, with its gardens and its poets, now if in conspiracy by this beautiful odalisque ruse that attracted the guide of the ecstatic ghosts, in a bad moment of extradition to a bad context of epi ghosts not yet defined in their pockets of apprentices boasting on the laurels of weak and doubtful ideas, which still swarmed within his white heart, trying to reach Vernarth's as former commander Hetairoi, now a servile mystic. In such a way, they complicated as ghosts like "Sufi", being in reality the genetic soul of the double ax that carries the double edge of today ..., of the sacrament of Medea in Abdera.

Pro says a ghost from Shiraz (embarrassed):

"The Universe is a sea that longs for dry shores,
without sea and without other wet longings ...,
no possible maiden could
Try to dry it with your star hands ...
Who calms the crying of the Universe ...
even so ..., simile remains floating as a verse between his dreams "

"How can I make my dreams another dimension of the universe?
if he is quiet and does not make me float in his sea ...
How can I make it possible for the tips of its stars
fill the spaces that have revealed it ...
and that have made circular shores without a sea in the mists "

"I walk alone and nobody sees me ...
so I don't wake up the candles that smile and accompany me ...
between days that turn into mornings on the shore
of the solitude of the universe, that nobody embraces him ... "

“Now the days tremble from almost falling on themselves,
They come out alive from their own loneliness of exhaustion and fullness ...of whoever appreciates them in the mists ...
being able to surrender their attentions in Ben Shemen ”.
As the Ghost of Shiraz expires in Ben Shemen, he escapes all for nothing in the triad of hypnotizing conventions that still resided in the shameless air that engulfed him, all over the stationary enclosures of the entertainment spaces caused by the acrobats and epi ghosts. That seduced the indecisive beings that sailed over the limbs that made them doubt where to refrain from continuing, outside the radius of the caravan or beyond the skies that did not cease to be in good spirits, of the universe passing through the white hearts, six on the inside and six on the outside in their traveling artist folds..

The lands that are accommodated by the time of parapsychological hypnosis tremble again, as a separation from the physical magnitude of Gethsemane.  Creating a sequence that bends the heads of the ghosts, filling their translucent physiognomies between a cold past and a frozen future, from a classic mechanic, which from now on would depend on the dice thrown by the Third Phantasm of time. Here a relativism would be opened to those who want to see the past in the orchard in an unstable particulate present, leaving far from splitting both parts of the archetype of today, like a subdivided clash of several times that allowed integrating the remaining phantasmagorical spectra, taking over a story on a pluriaxial axis that prevailed in time of a supposed numerical line from a vector, aligning itself towards the compass of the distance that shines between both northern hemispheres in the minutes that go to the right and the solid-gas seconds that burst almost in the walls of their own liberated beings. The four ghosts of Shiraz, had time differentials before this event with the caravan, verifying the simultaneous prop between the two pairs of ghosts between four dissimilar, but poetic ones that made them here at this point obviate and cancel between two relative nomenclatures of physical structure. The durability and classification of these micro-times of the phantom epi, would make the database that St. John the Apostle and Vernarth will accumulate with their eyes closed, each one surpassing himself from the debatable areas, which concern to estimate in occupying the spaces physical in some of them at will, so that one of them could embark to Limassol. This simultaneous and relativistic multi-active line, encloses events and squares of spaces in the cinematographic time of the parapsychological regression, as a link of physical images slowed down in the evolutionary and cognitive memory, passing from the conduit of expectation memorization events towards the set of absolute figures. not pigeonholed, but approaching the universe in grasping scales of those who value them. This elucidates even the very conception of conceiving oneself as a ghost, rather in what is called "Epi Ghosts", of absolute belonging of the identical ..., outside of oneself "Being with them and not, as a tacit phase of a dragged story with the seconds that were not lived ... "


This scaling conception will allow them to reside a few millimeters from the consciences of the caravan that was advancing automated along the tracks that already made time and distance in front of them absolute, in a jiffy, having in their faces Rizhon Lezion, who was made of images more than a marked and concrete story in a mechanics that kept the body as part of a large volume in all, to the rhythm of the plantar areas of the Camels Gigas, dividing as a stream of water that would flow fragmented between past, present and future, but as a starting pattern to the future as the only "today" for the time of the times. This unified three-dimensionality would mark the mathematical space of the attempts towards the future of the contiguous camelids of the ghosts of Shiraz, for the ownership of time between all with a single identity that cries out for the univocal will to rearm, even if the winds are very strong. Of the partition,  which separates the world from God and the believing observer into the future with a believer from a historical past in obscurantism, leaving and entering a new world whose notion is to spend connected and bound in a systematization dependent on the great causes, although the static feels isolated from the dynamics, inquiring probative to unite between the ghosts and others, even though they are inferior forces under the line of the generous gaze and the parallelism of the attentive spectator, which suggests more openness to receive and delegate the circumstances of all physical, emotional, spectral and mental-spiritual dimensions, flexing the emotional states hierarchical night and day. Everyone falls asleep hugging on cushions of lamb saddlebags, making it possible to get closer to them too, close to the Ghosts and sleep next to them hugging with the decanted strength of the frames that hang from their faces showing the emotion of being favorite children of the Mashiach, absorbed in the Kidron Valley.

The frontier of the future will be the pre-act of not traveling too much of the physical love to the touch that only awaits the love of the sleeping of a Cherub, this may occur when the sheep climb the hill of our consciences, and manage to be perceived as simultaneous harness of satisfaction, who lack the vision that would speak to them of a past belonging immobile, to this ethereal topology that will have to biodegrade the molecules of the seconds that sleep in the sheep-man wool saddlebags, at a higher speed than it would last to go back near from the palisade, where it crosses the path to the immemorial arcades of the Mashiach, spinning around all creation at a speed that determines a verse in its soul around the orthogonal of Shemash, quadrupled and cloistered in its self-consciousness scattered like iceberg down the back in the submissive thoughts that long to be tied to more precious time.

Our lord has us more tied to an absolutist past and future, looking at his calendar divided in such a way that it always fits the day that hurts the shadows of a sharp past, so that it always smiles in us, as the best luminous sign, of whom and with whom to repair the damage of various wounds that travel through the times of time, always wounded, to and from the borders of an anachronistic past. The ghosts, always fast tetra, marginalize themselves to the sound of greater diligence, they fled in Rizhon Lezion, to wake up a little further away from the rays of the stationary Sun, which from now on always surfaced in the degraded dark circles of the mountebank, prowling around the festivities of who knows how to wait, to make a toast under the pretext of faith and hope that exempts the cardinal turned into a flower in white attire.

Shvil from the Angels

The fast epi phantom tetra were emaciated, they lost their north and since they could not walk, they were not energized by the radiosities of the earth, which dominates those who lend divine graces if their feet rested on the tapestry of those who threw their footsteps in winter already near Jaffa. The Shvil Angels, were angels that were on the route that cordoned off the pilgrimage of Vernarth and Saint John the Apostle, they were full of flowering Berne Olive Trees that made trunks of floral arches at the entrance of this ancient port. They were three, when they walked, they were always distributed so fast that they seemed to be six, but they ended up averaging the quantum of three for each of the components of the Birthright, which from today would be the great circumcision event of the Universe, to make it part of those who one day will have to caulk the rhombuses of the fragmented light beams on the path of heaven so high, in the name of the phrases that never tire of looking at the incautious years that are of our father by the exogalaxies in total company of the invisibility and relativity of cautious time.

This Semitic seashore beauty indicates and invites us to reach its salty Hebrew waters of Yofi, reinforcing the phonetics that runs madly through the border hills with its heart in hand, when foreigners appear in the name of plausive phylogeny. That brings him a piece of bearable land from the Universal Flood, this is why the ancient Canaanites have to receive them with the table set, to entertain them with winter flowers in Jaffa. The Hellenistic tradition relates the name to Iopeia, which is Cassiopeia herself, mother of Andromeda. After Pliny the Elder the name is connected with Jopa, who was the daughter of ******, god of the wind. Where Vernarth locked his Aspis Skolié shield, so that it would shine in the bilges of the Eurydice, under the pentagon’s of the bronze layer of his shield, every time he approached the Dodecanese, when the Auriga descended from Andromeda on the back of a punished rower by the storms taking him away from his mother galaxy.

Thousands of years BC Its merchants glorified themselves with their baskets full of belongings and merchandise, for its inhabitants, who today pretended to be pharaohs who paid tribute to the marine corners through the coast that today seemed to open up with more new waters that were reborn from the capering of the swells, founding thus the omens of embarking to attempt and submit to the omens of sovereignty between Judah and the Hellenic lands, to work with noble trees in their armories and utensils, of which they played an honorable part after the maintenance of the emblem of the last portion, of the shaft of libertarian triumph of Alexander the Great over the Phoenicians in Tire. In the New Testament it is related how Peter resurrected the believer Tabitha (Dorcas, in Greek, gazelle) in Joppa (Jaffa) and, later, how near this city he has a vision in which Yahweh told him that he should not distinguish between Jews and Gentiles, while ordering the removal of ritual (kosher) food restrictions followed by Jews.

The Shvil of the angels distanced themselves from the desire of this station without reaching them and not making them drink salty water from Jaffa, therefore they resorted to Petrobus who a few meters before reaching the port, summoned a large number of Dodecanese Pelicans who were waiting in great celestial flocks, which hovered happily above the sky welcoming them. The pelicans levitate from a risky juggling act, over the caravan and headed to the high seas, collecting salt water, then they went along the initiation path of Shvil and reconvert the salt water into sweet with hazelnuts, so that they would have holy water, to insolate it and pour it into the canteens of the temple guards of the Canaanites who were waiting for them, to distract them, making them believe they wereother Syriac lands such as those of Ashera, which in this act, perhaps it would be good for them to sponsor the Hexagonal Birthright.

But the paths of the angels were confederated before the noisy crowds and Ptolemaic lemurs, who were incorporated into the empty spaces that remained. Faced with this grave site, Vernarth shouted to the sky with the force of Falangist tradition to himself, and acclaimed heaven, for the sake of freeing them from their definitive income to Jaffa, summoning the Hypatists; elite warriors and spearmen, for them to gather at the portal of the ante entrance of Jaffa, for others who never came from nowhere and nowhere, only blocking it from its perfect plan of memorial and theological heritage conservation, upon return from the exit Judah, to embark with destiny through the sulphurous  point that  will boil them in temporary waters, towards the Cyclades and then the Dodecanese, triumphing in inhabiting them wherever whoever was and whoever arrived with foreign promise.

As dusk falls in its first nubile shadows, the  Shvil presents itself to you with these three angels dressed in ivory white, each with a book in each hand and in the other a candelabrum, giving signs of ultra-interpretive catechesis, allying with silica. In combination, after the vision of the charms of the knowledge spread. Earth and sky in the second angel, washing the Semitic dew of anguished Jaffa, with teachings of sleeping well and awakening, to walk in the lands that want to seize the senses, of those who are called not to be oppressed, behind the bars of the Morbid and illiterate pan-vision of the angles of hasty entertainment of the angels when they were called by the Angel Regent, simply relaying information easy to carry to their hearts, in faint powers and poetic lessons, before falling into a thorny forest, burning their tongues in furrows of afflicted human positions, to later redeem them fervently with the judicious power of God.

Vernarth, is distressed by matters of seeing them so tender and so fragile, allowing them to crawl toward him gently. Finally on these three rules of the Shvil, Hanael introduces herself; "Speaking of hindrances stuck in the literary cabal of grateful compliments for all".   Alluding  to Vernarth, a subject desensitized and also distant from any Sub Yóguica disciplinary doctrine. This led him to stand behind San Juan, protecting himself and scared of everything around him, he was seeing in front of him, on the upper left side itself, that Zebedeo was, San Juan's own father calling him!

Saint John the Apostle says: “Justice, at this time allows us to alleviate ignorance, if the riddles allow us only to look for the answer, God will not be here…, it will only be emotional catharsis, through a merely ideological  Shvil or passage, which moves our meaningless sentences, definitely leading us to the coffers that rearm one after one, after the mistake. We are faithfully interpreted by them, but we detest our regencies with the Escaton, when we all pretend to follow his light of thunderous density towards the sky, prophesying to follow him without losing ourselves in him ..., held on his shoulder glossary. On the claws that are released from the dazed angelic prey, correcting its wavering vision, unraveling the living presence of condemnations or salvation, in Eden with your bare feet or in hell with no departure time”


Inexplicably, some Praetorian soldiers of Domitian appear, who would be restricting the departure of the tretacontero to Limassol, curiously they were the same ghosts from Shiraz that continued to represent such a bad event, just as when he was expelled to Patmos by Domitian in 95 BC, in size was the scandal that the Shvil angels produced with their impractical ideologies, who opposed such spectral imagery, in such a way that they replaced their figure with that of another Hellenic man who wanted to embark for Patmos, the other members were fully incorporated to the ship, which frolicked on the pranks as it proudly carried them to a new ocean. Around the last drops that jumped in Jaffa on the coastal rocks, others appeared when the last divided and scattered drops were going to shine the navigation temples, thus it is possible to board in the same ship that brought the principle from Limassol to Judah that transited from Lepanto.

The chapel of ministers reappears offering a ceremony, which would return the messianic remora to the Angels of Shiraz, to return to their former positions within the paths of biblical characters, who tend to commit adultery in the game of loss of consciousness of the Escaton, probably requiring that everyone have to make pilgrimage routes for all humanity secluded and liberated by themselves. The Saltimbanqui finally manage to jump into the boat to sail to the Dodecanese, but the Shvil of the Angels stayed where other celebrities will require them to reroute the Shvil Escaton.
Chapter XXIX
Ghosts from Shiraz to Jaffa
Part VII - Mashiach of Judah Miracle VIII
Ian Miranda Nov 2012
Rubber erases
deep spaces
line traces
where her face is

Her smile cracked
lips smacked
eyes tacked
fade to black

Imperfection
turned dissection
forgot protection
late detection

She weeps
Because she hears it sleep
Fearing it may seep
the scars just as deep

Now she cries
sad lullabies
emotion unties...


Rubber erases
deep spaces
line traces
where her place is

Lost and torn
her heart out-worn
her body scorned
her mind forlorn

Rubber erases
deep spaces
line traces
where her base is

Rubber erases
deep spaces
line traces

Rubber erases
deep spaces

Rubber erases

Rubber
r Oct 2013
Persistent places
Sequent occupations of the landscape diachronically
Consisting of Action, Search, and Awareness Spaces

Action Spaces
The foci of people comprehensively
Interacting  with their place

Search Spaces
Where people go
To fulfill specific needs

Awareness Spaces
Those places people are aware of
But do not interact directly

These spaces that appear as palimsests
Accumulated layers of action, search and awareness
Comprehending persistent places is to understand the past

r  30Oct2013
Inspired by Dr. Lewis Binford's "Willow Smoke and Dogs' Tails: Hunter-Gatherer Settlement Systems and Archaeological Site Formation, 1980, American Antiquity, Vol 45, No. 1.
EdVance Dec 2011
I look at this blank page
I see nothing there
So I start to fill spaces
Between all the air

And then I did wonder
If it truly was me
That filled in the spaces
That lie in between

Or where all the spaces
Already there
And I only traced them
To make them appear

I know it sounds crazy
But what if its true
That all is prewritten
Everything that we do

And every step taken
Is merely a print
That’s only revealed
When we step upon it
Spaces
Between the letters of a word
Between the words on a page
Between each breathless sound I heard
Between those moments as I age.

Spaces
Between my eyelids and my tears
Between the sniffles of my cries
Between the drums of my two ears
Between the whites of my two eyes.

Spaces
The nothingness of emptiness
A place no physical exists
The center of all loneliness
The comfort of the pessimist.

Spaces
They’re places asking to be filled
They have meaning in their presence
To those both soulful and strong-willed
Space is where they find their essence.
Instagram @insightshurt
Blogging at insightshurt.blogspot.com
Buy "Insights Hurt: Bringing Healing Thoughts To Life" at store.bookbaby.com/book/insights-hurt
It hurts sometimes
It screams inside
Is this pain really mine?
It clenches together in my insides
Making me dream, wishing for a better time.
I'll do just fine
That's always my line.
If something's not there
You're supposed to bring yourself to it,
But what can I seek
when whatever I need
ceases to exist out of my mind?
They say my reckless head helps me,
I tell myself I can use it to encourage myself,
But still it hurts me all the same.
You see, I use it to give what I haven't got
It's of no use because it kills with a slightly stronger dose.

I can try to forget
It can't last long,
Nothing's supposed to be pain free.
However there's other things
I just can't be bothered to feel,
And if I almost do I just stop:
Because they're not the most important;
They don't come back day by day,
Just to join me in the night.
I never had a "daddy" to sing a lullaby.
For years I didn't want one,
Half convinced still I wasn't missing out,
Yet now it's starting to hurt
Then I realise I'll never find my soulmate.
The percentage isn't in my favour,
How could it ever be?
How do you find your one person
out of 7.5 billion?
If I can't have a father,
how could I get an eternal partner?
Lacking strengthens my need,
For that perfect guy in my head to love me.
He's not here though,
And he never will be,
Tough as it is, I'll never be away from him.
Lack creates need,
tries to make up for things:
This is how it feels when you can't fill either gap.

Spaces are filled by made up places.
Spaces are areas without meaning,
Places are of meaning or association, unempty.
The space is one half of a non-existing f a m i l y.
My place is where I can have a future boyfriend made of better things.
My reckless head
Is supposed to give hope and safety,
Shelter me from reality.
My reckless head
Don't they know it breaks me,
To dream of things
That can never be?

Spaces are there.
Places are put there.
Needed
Unwanted
Despair
Desired
Anyone else there?
Is there a difference that you see?
All my minor sorrows seem the same to me.
Samantha Marie Mar 2013
As a college freshman
I find myself time traveling.
I close my eyes and
I appear
in the classroom where a group
of over-confident, lazy, too smart
for their own **** good
students stood on the precipice
between leaving and staying
regretting and dreaming.
Leaving would give us freedom
Leaving would fill the creases of
our palms with sweat
We kept our palms outstretched and empty
not daring to grasp anymore of home
because the weight would only
anchor us to the vines
we spent 13 years unraveling from
our ankles.

Maybe we should not have been
so eager to leave, maybe this is a mistake.

The girl with the mermaid hair
The boy with books stacked in
a corner of his desk
They both, we all, sat dreaming
about the same thing while
Ophelia drowned herself in the river
Shores of the ocean and city skylines
Classrooms that did not feel like cages
and eyes that did not reflect a memory
every time you glanced into them
In a high school English class,
a group of over-confident, lazy, too smart
for their own **** good students,
stood terrified and mystified
stood united in there persistence to become
something more than test scores and
the ability to memorize facts.

Fact:
Some mornings I walk to class
and I can feel the girl with the mermaid hair in Los Angeles
walking beside me and when I sit down
I can see books stacked on a corner of a desk somewhere in Berkeley.
I wonder if they wake in their bed and hear airplane engines roaring
somewhere above a valley.
The engines roar with warning.
sometimes it sounds like hope.
Baby, something is coming, we promise

We all began at the start,
dreaming as one and fearing as one
Today, she is five spaces forward
He is ten spaces forward
The others are halfway down the **** board
and I find myself back at the start
every few weeks.
Four spaces forward then three spaces back--
I don't know where I am going.
But I know where I have been.

I open my eyes.
A college freshman.
I hear the engines roar above me.
*Something is coming.
CK Baker Jan 2017
Thank you ~
for a life not to trade
blessings, in spades
tight spaces
behind laundry doors
packed closets
and open drawers
gator tails, tarnished brass
cracks in kitchen sliding glass
wet towels, withering plants
foundation filled
with carpenter ants
buckets piled with
shoes and tags
village clothes
and saddlebags
peeling paint
and broken walls
****** seats
in bathroom stalls
clogged pantry
frigid rooms
table scribe
and carbon fumes
comfort capsules
empty tanks
broken limbs
from children’s pranks
**** finger
double tongue
long goodbyes
and sidewalk dung
cluster flies
chavie’ clique
accompanying
the hypocrite
cracked back
and hidden smiles
chalk on board
with mr miles
atomic wedgies
closing doors
wrotten eggs
and open sores
jaw jack
nasty folk
dinner calls
for pig in poke
penny pinchers
double dip
yellow mouth
and silver tip
brown nosers
thick red tape
paper cuts
and pimple nape
gallivants
so out of norm
the joy of life
in basic form
Terry Jordan Nov 2015
Appreciate a pure sunrise
See all its glory
Yet just before Amazing Dawn
Has its own story

Before you have a choice to make
Turning left or right
First pause to contemplate the spot
Right within your sight

Body language will belie the
Loud clang of false words
Look into a person’s eyes or
Miss the message heard

What makes a brilliant orchestra
Or pastoral scene
The thing defining beauty is
The spaces in between

In the pauses, in the spaces
Feel your resting hearts
Waiting for the curtain rising
Just before it parts

All the spaces in the painting
Give it life and depth
Sea shells overlooked make precious
All the ones you’ve kept

Hold that hole in that sweet donut
Just before it’s dunk
And keep an eye right on the ball
Right before it’s sunk

Anticipating Christmas morn
Or Baby’s first step
The moment he’s still holding on
Right before he leapt

Savor that bite, unopened gift
Mere ghost of a smile
Forget the end, appreciate
Running your last mile
JC Lucas Feb 2014
It’s not a question of
who
but a question of
where
I am.

I am the median between the street and the sidewalk
I am the threshold of every waiting room
I am the space between spaces
I am shadows looming
and fumes pooling above puddles
of spilt kerosene

neither seen
nor heard,
but felt
in the vignette of a dated photograph
the border between
fine
penciled lines

I am the mist after rain
I am scars
and streaks where tears have stained the shells
of crustacean people
I am crushing hangovers
and embers glowing

Who am I?

I am the
    spaces
       between
spaces

Stairwells and parking lots
unmarked graves
        condensation on a whispered word
     floating up into
     frigid twilight

          under an off-white
half-
                               moon.
S Smoothie Jan 2014
I take a breath on a heartbeat
in the spaces of moments
I respire in these moments
lost in the sense of you
These are the spaces I live for
these moments,
between our breathing spaces
Katherine Oct 2018
the spaces are growing
i'm stumbling
there's too much momentum
i can't catch myself

i'm falling into the spaces between my happiness
i look behind me and i can't see the last time i was okay
i look forward and it's blank

i'm falling into the spaces between lost innocence and last chances
between father and mother
between flesh and bone and hate

i'm falling into the spaces between us
because you're someone i don't know yet but i long for your presence
i need you to pull me out of this nothingness

"no one can save you but yourself," they say
try telling that to the spaces
Zeeb Jul 2015
Hotrod
Verse I

Wrenches clanging, knuckles banging
A drop of blood the young man spilt
A new part here, and old part… there
A hotrod had been built!
A patchwork, mechanical, quilt

Feelings of excitement not unlike those of Christmas mornings long past paid visit to the young man, his head under a raised hood, hands occupied, the job nearing completion.  Did building that Lionel train-set so long ago form some type of pattern in his brain, now being so pleasurably served?  The good feelings would dissipate though, as quickly as they came, as he cursed himself for stripping a bolt, or cursed someone else for selling him the wrong part, or the engineer whose design goals obviously did not consider “remove and replace”.  He cursed the “gorilla” that never heard of a torque-wrench, the glowing particle of **** that popped on to the top of his head as he welded, the metal chip he flushed from his eye, and even himself for the burn he received by impatiently touching something too soon after grinding.  He, and his type, cursed a lot, but mostly to their selves as they battled-on with things oily, hot, bolted, welded, and rusty – in cramped spaces. One day it was choice words for an “easy-out” that broke off next to a broken drill bit that had broken off in a broken bolt, that was being drilled for an easy out.    Despite the swearing, the good and special feelings, feelings known only to those with a true capacity for this type of passion, would always return, generally of a magnitude that exceeded the physical pain and mental frustration of the day, by a large margin.   Certifiably obsessive, the young man continued to toil dutifully, soulfully, occasionally gleefully, sometimes even expertly, in his most loved and familiar place, his sanctuary, laboratory… the family garage.

And tomorrow would be the day.
Fire extinguisher? “ Right there”
Battery? “Charged and connected”
Neutral?  “yes”
Brake?  “Set”
And with hard learned, hard earned expertise and confidence, in this special small place, a supremely happy and excited young man commanded his creation to life.

Threw  a toggle, pressed a switch
Woke up the neighbors with that *******

The heart of his machine was a stroked Chevy engine that everyone had just grown sick hearing about.  Even the local machine shop to which the boy nervously entrusted his most prized possession had had enough.  “Sir, I don’t want to seem disrespectful, but from what I’ve read in Hot Rod Magazine, you might be suggesting a clearance too tight for forged pistons…” then it would be something else the next day.   One must always speak politely to the machinist, and even though he always had, the usual allotment of contradictions and arguments afforded to each customer had long run out – and although the shop owner took a special liking to the boy because, as he liked to say, “he reminds me of me”, well, that man was done too.  But in the end, the mill was dead-on.  Of course from the start, the shop knew it would be; that’s almost always the case; it’s how they stay in business - simply doing good work.  Bad shops fall out quickly, but this place had the look of times gone by.  Good times.  Old porcelain signs, here and there were to be found, all original to the shop and revered by the older workers in honored nostalgia.  The younger workers get it too; they can tell from the men they respect and learn from, there is something special about this past.  One sign advertises Carter Carburetors and the artwork depicts “three deuces”, model 97’s, sitting proudly atop a flathead engine, all speeding along in a red, open roadster.  Its occupants a blond haired boy with slight freckles (driver), and a brunette girl passenger, white blouse slightly unbuttoned,  both in the wind-blown cool, their excited expressions proclaim… "we are free!" (and all you need is a Carter, or three).

The seasoned old engine block the boy entrusted to the shop cost him $120-even from the bone yard.  Not a bad deal for a good block that had never had its first 0.030” overbore.  In the shop, it was cleaned, checked for cracks, measured and re-measured, inspected and re-inspected.  It was shaped and cut in a special way that would allow the stroker crankshaft, that was to be the special part of this build, to have all the clearance it would need.  The engine block was fitted with temporary stress plates that mimic the presence of cylinder heads,  then the cylinders were bored to “first oversize”,  providing fresh metal for new piston rings to work against.  New bearings were installed everywhere bearings are required.  Parts were smoothed here and there.  Some surfaces were roughened just so, to allow new parts to “work-into each other” when things are finally brought together.  All of this was done with a level of precision and attention far, far greater than the old “4- bolt” had ever received at the factory on its way to a life of labor in the ¾ ton work truck from which it came.  They called this painstaking dedication to precision measurement and fit, to hitting all specifications “on the mark”, “blueprinting”, and it would continue throughout the entire build of this engine.  The boy stayed  worried the whole time, but the shop had done it a million times.

After machining, the block was filled with new and strong parts that cost the young man everything he had.   Parts selected with the greatest of effort, decision, and debate.  “ You can compromise on paint”,” live with some rust”, he would say,  “wait for good tires”, “but never scrimp on the engine”.  Right on.  You get one shot at getting that right, and this proclamation demonstrated wisdom but also provided ample excuse for the rough and unfinished look of the rest of his machine.  But it was just a look, his car was, in fact, “right”.   And its power plant?  Well the machine shop had talked their customer into letting them do the final engine assembly - even cut their price to do it.  They were looking out for the boy.  The mill in its final form was the proper balance of performance and durability, and with its camshaft so carefully selected, the engine's “personality” was perfectly matched to the work at hand.   It would produce adequate torque in the low RPM range to get whole rig moving quickly, yet deliver enough horsepower at red-line to pile on the MPH, fast.  No longer a polite-natured workhorse, this engine, this engine is impatient now.  High compression, a rapid, choppy idle - it seems to be biting at the bit – to be released.  On command, it gulps its mixture and screams angrily, and often those standing around have a reflexive jump - the louder, the better - the more angry, the better.  If it hurts your ears, that’s a good feeling.  If its bark startles, that’s a good startle.  A cacophony?  No, the “music” of controlled explosions, capable of thrusting everything and everyone attached, forward, impolitely, on a rapid run to “red-line”, and it keeps pulling hard and delivering power while spinning fast because it is breathing right and proper and producing the power that thrills, and the only reason to shift gears is to preserve connecting rods, eager as the engine may be to rev further!

This is the addictive sound and feel that has appealed to a certain type of person since engines replaced horses, and why?  A surrogate voice for those who are otherwise quiet?  A visceral celebration of accomplishment?    Who cares.  Shift once, then again - speed quickly makes its appearance.  It appears as a loud, rushing wind and a visually striking, unnatural view of the surrounding scenery.  At some point, in the sane, it triggers a natural response - better slow down.    


He uncorked the headers, bought gasoline, dropped her in gear, tore off to the scene
Camaros and Mustangs, an old ‘55
Obediently lined-up, to get skinned alive!


Verse II (1st person)

I drove past the banner that said “Welcome race fans” took a new route, behind the grandstands
And through my chipped window, I thought I could see
Some of the racers were laughing at me

I guess rust and primer are not to their taste
But I put my bucks mister in the right place

I chugged/popped past cars that dealers had sold
Swung into a spot, next to something old

Emerging with interest from under his hood
My neighbor said two words, he said, “sounds good”

The ’55 I parked next to was “classic rodding” in its outward appearance.  The much overused “primer paint job” channeled “Two Lane Blacktop”.  The hood and front fenders a fiberglass clamshell, pinned affair.  Dice hanging from the mirror paid homage to days its driver never knew, but wished he had.  He removed them before he drove, always.

If you know how to peel the onion, secrets are revealed.  Wilwood brake calipers can be a dead giveaway. Someone needs serious stopping power - maybe.  Generally, owners who have sprung the bucks for this type gear let the calipers show off in bright red, to make a statement, and sometimes, these days, it’s just a fashion statement.  Now, expensive calipers, as eye candy, are all the rage.  What is true, however, is very few guys spend big money on brakes only to render them inglorious and seemingly common with a shot of silver paint from a rattle can, and the owner of this ’55 had done just that. 

Two things seem to be at play here.  One, he needs those heavy brakes because he’s fast, and two, hiding them fits his style.   Really, the message to be found in the silver paint, so cleverly applied to make your eyes simply slide across on their way to more interesting things, was “sleeper”.   And sleeper really means, he’s one of those guys with a score to settle - with everyone perhaps.   The list of “real parts” grew, if you knew where to look.  Something I had defacto permission to do since my rod was undergoing a similar scrutiny.  
“Stroked?”, I asked.  That’s something you can’t see from the outside. “ No”, the racer replied.  
“Hundred shot?”  (If engines have their language, so do the people who love them).   Despite the owner’s great efforts to conceal braided fuel and nitrous lines, electrical solenoids and switches, I spied his system.  The chunks of aluminum posing as ordinary spacers under his two carburetors were anything but.   “No”, was his one-word reply to my 100- shot question.  I tried again; “Your nitrous system, how much are you spraying?”  “Two hundred fifty” in two stages, he said.  That’s more like it, I thought, and I then figured, he too had budgeted well for the machine shop – if not, he was gambling in a game that if lost, would fly parts in all directions.   Based on the overall vibe of the scene, and the clean work on display, I believed his build was up to the punishment he planned.   I knew exactly what this tight-lipped guy was about, seeing someone very familiar in him as it were, and that made the “sounds good” complement I received upon my arrival all the more valuable.

The voice on the loudspeaker tells us we’re up.

Pre-staged, staged, then given the green
The line becomes blurred between man and machine

Bones become linkage
Muscle, spring
Fear, excitement

Time distorts ….
Color disappears …
Vision narrows…
Noise ---  becomes music
Speed, satisfaction

End
Mary McCray Apr 2017
(NaPoWriMo Challenge: April 25, 2017)

There are many small spaces
where poems come from
like a vortex in the room
or the far deep of the brain.
Early in New Mexico
was all about fermenting
with disasters of toys and monsters
living in the wall. Music fed
the core from a stereo console.
St. Louis was the smart house,
flower papered walls for things
Jessica Lange said in Tootsie.
This is where the poems came
if I sat under the window,
warming on the heat vent
between the foot board
and the bookcase my father built.
The dorms of Kirksville were vacant
and Maryland Heights was about collecting things
not words. Massachusetts, off the Great Road,
near the colonial stone fences and the old world woods,
was transitional, with suitcases
stuffed under the bed.
Yonkers was the second vortex
in the basement corner.
I wrote my way into morning while Helga
growled at the ghosts in the closet.
The nightstand light turned on by itself
while I slept and beautiful Mars things
were imagined. The river place
was a reading place, always flooding.
We invented our Internet spaces there.
In Pennsylvania, I wrote above the garage,
reading to stave off the sink hole
of misplacing myself. The first zine.
Playa del Rey was during a rainy season,
but the early morning sun on the balcony
was a small, shining vortex in a glass of water.
My only writing in the melancholy outside.
California was a renaissance,
poems abandoned on the carpets.
Mar Vista had a converted garage
down a shallow step into a plush ****.
This is where we planned books and courting ads.
The second Zine. The genesis of cowboys and zen.
Helga died here. John came here.
Venice was all about making pots
and domesticating on threads of ideas.
Redondo was dubbed Mayberry
with its shade and birds.
I couldn’t write in its beautiful spaces
so I planted budding bushes.
Back in Santa Fe, we made a makeshift office
out of the makeshift dining room.
The ceiling had hundreds of trees.
The third Zine. The first book.
Down in Albuquerque, there are cowboys
on the couch. The same twister of books,
poems and pop songs. Every piece
of every piece feeding into its space.
Every poem belonging to its home.
Napowrimo 2017: Write a poem exploring a small defined space.
Tommy Randell Dec 2014
To loosen with my bare hands
the wide air between us
in explaining something of meaning
I almost feel
I am pulling flesh
from the living and moving moments
possible here.

It is somehow breaking
the natural order of things
to use words alone
of all viable means
in setting out the wind-waves and rivulets
of ideas internally flowing -
but I must try and get something out for once.

I circle in bad phrases
prickling with the itchiness of sharing,
I send out a few vague words
horrified and perplexed
at their translation now they are naked
knowing you too listen
and they are at last unalterable.

Deep in the brain, far back
this is my bad time
but I know where the roots go
down into me
and from the storm’s heart
perpetual agitation pumps hand in hand
with calm acceptance.
The self *****, alternately
to fan and to freeze
whatever doubts or unease are burning.
Talk travels the spaces between us
through the clear air
in the kind of silence
surviving bones may know swinging in a wind.

But I know stillness can become alive
when living mouths bring their hearts to bear -
ears can well hear
what the breath has to say,
as the eye sees
the body’s smallest noises -
face to face we are a field of listening.

The warm comes without sound.
This is only the edge of a becoming.
We are not trapped in the lips -
already we lean inward
to know of each other and to give
not words for the wind
but a dance at ease with all that flows.
Terry Jordan Dec 2016
Appreciate a pure sunrise
See all its glory
Yet just before Amazing Dawn
Has its own story

Before you have a choice to make
Turning left or right
First pause to contemplate the spot
Right within your sight

Body language will belie the
Loud clang of false words
Look into a person’s eyes or
Miss the message heard

What makes a brilliant orchestra
Or pastoral scene
What defines their beauty is the
Spaces in between

In the pauses, in the spaces
Feel your resting hearts
Waiting for the curtain rising
Just before it parts

All the spaces in the painting
Give it life and depth
Sea shells overlooked make precious
All the ones you’ve kept

Hold that hole in that sweet donut
Just before it’s dunk
And keep an eye right on the ball
Right before it’s sunk

Anticipating Christmas morn
Or Baby’s first step
The moment he’s still holding on
Right before he leapt

Savor that bite, unopened gift
Mere ghost of a smile
Forget the end, appreciate
Running your last mile
An edited repost
December Mar 2020
There used to be spaces
Between falling asleep and waking up
Spaces without emotional gravity
Where it gets hard to breathe, and I am turned inside out

There used to be spaces
Between pale fingers and heavy shoulders
Spaces cold with longing
For a breathing, comforting warmth

Where these spaces used to be
There's now you

Within every weary crevice, your presence flows
Every touch a lingering sediment, filling pieces that were once broken
Fossilizing fragile parts that were once left to die

Where these spaces used to be
There's now you

Patiently holding me through the varying magnitudes of my earthquakes
Silently bearing my uncalled eruptions
So accepting, of my faults and folds

There used to be spaces
Where what was precious to me were only the gemstones I collected

And where these spaces used to be,
There's now you.
Luna Jan 2015
tight spaces
make me dizzy
tight spaces
with many people
will make me die

trains are okay
trains with lots of people
give me panic attacks more times than not
the fact
that i'm trapped
in a moving vehecle
with no means of getting down
until the next stop
which probably isn't my stop anyway
just *****

tight spaces
make me dizzy
but when you hug me tight
it's quite the opposite
it's like i want to live
in the small space between your hands and your chest
in a train full of people
i don't mind feeling the heat your body emits
amongts a hundred other people's which i don't particularly care for

you make the me dizzy
but the kind of dizzy
that makes me feel good
and safe
i don't like tight spaces
but i don't mind being in your room
about two of your wingspans in length
as long as you're right next to me
you make the panic attacks go away
please don't go away
/
Thou Create Spaces
Within Thou
Barren Fields
Garden
It is born
Many trees
Flowers
Fruits
And do Thou
A mistake,
When thou plucks
The Flower
From the tree

The lesson of
Nature
Moves you to
Open Sky
Into the waves
Of Sea
Into the Black Shale
Of Paleozoic
Ripples
And reach the
Thoughts
In the home
Of Star

Now thou have
Learned
To count Stars
Move to
Get beyond,
Of which
May be found
The Edge
Of the Spaces
One Day
/*
@ Musfiq us shaleheen
edge of the spaces/
That  discover the destination
Amir May 2011
when i get lost
i find myself

in the most various of places
as the echo of my paces
reach outer spaces
i delve inward

like the whirlpool
at the center of a ripple
touching the banks of the pond
and defining itself by them
i am
utterly interdependent
externally anchored
and implicitly bound
to the web of meaning
spun around me
and when you found me
lost
in the most various of places
as the echo of my paces
reached outer spaces
i delved inward

and i found me,
my lost self,
all around me
in everyone
and everything else

(it astounds me
how the pronoun 'he'
implies that
which surrounds the
not-so-isolated subject.)

so when i found 'me'
lost
in the most various of places
as the echo of my paces
reached outer spaces
i delved inward.

i delved inward
and saw outward
myself
a shard of glass
reflecting and refracting
the light bouncing
between so many shards of glass
and i shattered

and i dissolved
and i splattered
so many dots of paint
in an impressionistic painting
that got smudged
and delved inward.

so when you found me
lost
in the most various of places
the echo of my paces
reached outer spaces.

and when i
delved inward
i found myself
outside myself.
like the whirlpool
at the center of a ripple.

— The End —