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Wuji May 2012
Test test,
Do your best,
Forced to school,
To pass the test.

Test test,
Our school is the best,
Give us money now,
We beat the rest.

Test test,
Students never rest,
Killed them with anxiety,
They cried in distress.

Test test,
You all left the nest,
So you could pass,
Everyone of those pointless tests.

Test test,
What a mess.
Kids that don't pass?
We'll give' em ISS.

Test test,
Got it East to West,
From the CAT to the MCAS,
There is no rest.

Test test,
What a pest.
They're never happy,
Until we all have failed the test.
**** tests.
Big Virge Mar 2015
These Days I MUST CONFESS …  
It's Hard To Deal With STRESS … !!!!!
Cos' MANY Try To … TEST …  
Because They LACK Good Sense … !!!
  
Like Knowing When They SHOULDN'T Speak … !!!
Because My Silence Means That I'm Counting To ... THREE ... !!!
  
Instead of … Reaching For A PIECE ... !!!
That Signifies THAT I Want To SEE …  
You Lying FLAT UNABLE To … "Breathe" … !!!!!
  
A Test That's … REAL … !!!!!
So How Would … YOU FEEL … ?!?
If You Were TOLD To … " Go Back Home " … !!!
  
When Your Home Is A Place Where Your Black Face ...
Is Taken For A THREAT … EVERY Single Day … !?!  
Or Taken For A Joke ... As Mine Was Today …  
  
Would You … " Play It Cool " … ?
Like The …... Uncle Toms' Do …... !?!
  
Or Would You Choose To Take Abuse … !?!?!
From Some White FOOL Whose Moves Are CRUDE … !!!
  
Like Selling Coc' To Mis-Guided Youth … !!!
The Type of White Bloke Who Thinks He's SMOOTH …
  
I Know A Few Brothers Who Showed THIS SUCKER … !!!
What It Is To Be STRESSED ...
And Face The TEST of Being DISTRESSED ... !!!!!  
  
He DIDN'T Fare Well Like MANY Nowadays … !!!
Cos' STRESS Now SWELLS In DIFFERENT Ways …  
  
From ... VIOLENT Crime To Financial Plights ...
That Leave Wise Guys Feeling NOT SO WISE … !!!
When Investments Made DON'T Make The Grade … !!!
  
That's A Test THEY FAILED Like The ... " HOLY GRAIL " ... !!!
Because … ONLY WISE Heads In The End PREVAIL … !!!!!
  
All That GLITTERS … May Mean JAIL … !!!
Gary NOW KNOWS That Going Gold …  
DOESN'T Save Your Soul Or Provide BAIL … !!!!
  
TOO MANY YOUNG BLACKS KNOW How That Goes … !!!!!
  
DNA Tests Are Causing STRESS … !!!
And Giving Some Heads ... Quite A COMPLEX … !!!!!!
  
... "It's for defence !" ...
  
Is What Is Said ...
Just Like The Wars On ... FOREIGN Shores … ?!?
  
Some Peeps Still Believe That Soldiers Fought …
For …. " Freedom of Speech " …. ?!?
  
Freedoms ORDAINED ...
For Peeps' Like … " ME " … !?!
  
To Feed Young Brains With Poetry ...  
That Speaks About … " REALITY " ...
  
Well REALITY TESTS Weak Hearted Men … !!!!!!
  
Like The One Mentioned ... In THIS Poem … !!!!!!!!!
Him And His Friends Are ALL … " Coc' Heads " ... !!!!!
  
Freedom For Them …  
Is Something SHOWERED In CHEMICAL Powder ... !!!!!  
  
Freedom For Me AIN'T So EASY ... !!!

Because My Speech Does NOT Agree With Coc' Head Sheep ...
Who Crawl And Creep Because They're WEAK ... !!!!!
  
They Try To CHEAT … REALITY  ... ?!?!?
  
But CHEATERS NEVER PASS …
They FAIL BEFORE They Start … !!!
  
Stress Has Marked The Card ...
of Those CLAIMING They're SMART …  
  
Cos' Smart Mouths Talk Before Their FALL ... !!!
... REAL HARD Fa Sure … !!!!!!!!!!
  
" So that's why they snort !?!?!? "
  
So That Their Nose Doesn't Feel The Blow …
When They Fall Short of … STANDING TALL ... !!!!!
  
Standing UP To The Test of Dealing With STRESS …  
These Days It's TOUGH Cos' Things Are ROUGH ...
  
So What Do You Use To Get You Through … ?!?
  
Well Some Resort As I Said Before …  
To Having A SNORT ...
Behind Toilet Doors To Ease Their Cause … ?!?
  
Others' CHOOSE To HURL ABUSE … !!!
Because Their Views Leave Them Confused … ?!?
  
Of Course There Are THOSE Who Resort To BLOWS …
Which ... Just Goes To Show ...
How STRESS Can Lead You Down DARK ROADS … !!!
  
These Days I Write To EASE My Mind …  
And EASE My Stress When I Get TENSE ... !!!!!
  
Because IGNORANT Heads Breed VIOLENCE ... !!!!!!!
Peace Is The Vibe With Which I Ride … !!!
  
But Let Me Just STRESS That Self Defence …  
Is Where My Calmness Meets It's END … !!!!!!!!
  
You See It Wouldn't Be Wise To Make Me FIGHT … !!!
Cos' I'm A Peaceful Guy But When You LOOK IN MY EYES …  
You Should REALISE … I'm NOT Scared To DIE … !!!!!
  
You See …  
STRESS Is A TEST That Is COMPLEX ... !!!  
And Can Be HARD ... For Us ALL To PASS … !!!!!
  
In Times Like These We NEED TO Feed ...
Our Minds With MORE ...
Than Talk of WAR And Crossing Swords ... !!!

... " Agree to Disagree " … !!!
  
Or Just … " DON'T SPEAK " … !!!!!
  
Use Violence LESS And KEEP A COOL HEAD … !!!
And You'll Have A …  " STRONG DEFENCE " … !!!
  
Against ….
  
...... " The Test of Stress " ......
Inspired by a conversation with, as the poem says, a coc' dealing, smart mouth, who thought he'd advise me of my right to leave the place of my birth, because I expressed my distaste for it's warmongering ways .....
B J Clement Jun 2014
So that was what all the mystery was about! and the reason why we were kept in the dark, Task Force Antler was set up to test Atomic weapons!
I don't think Gordon and me had missed anything exciting, the early days of the task force were just a matter of preparation for the real events that were to come later. The tests were scheduled to take place in October and November, It was rumoured that we would be home for Christmas!
I was impatient to get back home, I worried about my dad's poor health.
I was beginning to put a bit of weight on now, after the spell in hospital,
The food was excellent. There were some Aussies stationed on the camp perimiter, they lived in air conditioned  aluminium units,
we of course,(being British,) roasted and froze on a daily basis, and thought little about it! The days passed quite slowly at first, until we were ready to carry out the first test, It was on a site forty five miles away. We were all assembled on the day of the test. We all wore our sunglasses, and were assembled for the countdown, If memory serves me right it was supposed to be a seventy two hour countdown, but I think the catering staff may have been excused some of it. We all needed to eat, after all!  The first test was like a damp squib, we hardly noticed it. It consisted of a little thunder and a cloud of black smoke. Rumour had it that the touch-paper was damp!
After a week or two the second test loomed. This was much bigger but less than we had expected, both  of the atomic devices had been mounted on towers, the next and final test was to be the biggest.
They asked for volunteers to observe the test from a roadside position some six miles from ground zero, forty five men out of six hundred plus volunteered, I was one of them! Maybe you can work out the percentage ratio, idiots to normal cautious men, It might prove useful to the military. On the day of the test, we were transported up to the roadside position where we began the countdown linked by radio to the headquarters. Half an hour before ground zero, several wagons  full of troops left the forward area. The corporal in charge radioed headquarters, "Has the test been cancelled?"  "No hold your ground, the test is imminent, you know the drill- we are commencing the final countdown."
It was rumoured that there were a number of soldiers in the forward area, in slit trenches, An officer told me later that Dr. William Penney, the chief scientist in charge of the whole test, did a quick calculation on the back of his *** packet, and said "This may be bigger than we expect!
Better bring those troops out of the trenches." It was certainly a wise decision,(probably the only one,ha ha.) We were now the nearest to the bomb! The bomb- or device, was suspended in plain sight, hanging under three barage balloons, (I kid you not),  which were tethered about one hundred and fifty feet above the  desert. The count down continued, Ten, Nine, eight,!!!!
Glenn McCrary Jun 2014
“Two faces -- both as perfect as mine once was.” ~ Two-Face


[Do just stood there in a state of slight bewilderment.]


DR. NIGHTMARE: Come to my office now!

DO: For what?

DR. NIGHTMARE: I’m not going to ask you again, Do.

DO: Look with all due respect sir I did nothing wrong.

DR. NIGHTMARE: And if you were really as respectful as you claim you would do as I ask.

SPORE: Do just go. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.

[Do opens his mouth and attempts to speak but Spore cuts him off.]

SPORE: I’ll go with you…

DO: Spore you don’t have to do that for me.

SPORE: Well I want to...

DO: But why?

SPORE: Because it is my fault that you are in this situation. The least that I can do is offer my emotional support in your time of need.

[Tears began to well up within Do’s eyes.]

DO: Thank you Spore.

SPORE: No problem Do. You helped me in my time of need when no one else would. I’m just trying to return the favor.

[Do smiled at Spore. Spore returned the smile. Do turned his attention to Dr. Nightmare.]

GUM: We’ll be here when you get back, Do.

SWEAT: Do what you need to do bro.

DO: Thanks guys. Okay Dr. Nightmare. Let’s go.

[Do & Spore follow Do from the lunch yard back into the asylum. Five minutes pass before they reach Dr. Nightmare’s office. Dr. Nightmare escorts Do & Spore into his office. Anaïs was standing in the corner by Dr. Nightmare’s desk. She was wearing a jet black dress with a large red plus symbol on the front of it to symbolize her expertise of her chosen field. She waved at Do. Do waved back. She was also wearing bright red high heels. Dr. Skitz and Dr. Crocker were also present on the opposite of Dr. Nightmare’s desk. Dr. Nightmare lights a cigarette, takes a hit, inhales the smoke and begins speaking.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Please have a seat both of you.

[Do and Spore proceeded to have a seat in the chairs behind them.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Do you know why I invited you into my office?

DO: I have some idea. Could you please explain a bit further?

[Spore giggled. Do lightly elbows Spore in her arm.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: But of course Mr. Nino. I would never want my patients to have to constantly wonder about life’s trials.

[Dr. Nightmare takes another hit of his cigarette and blows the smoke in Do and Spore’s direction.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: You are here today because we have been made aware of a couple of incidents that you have been involved in. These particular incidents go against the rules and overall moral conduct code of Black Wick Asylum.

DO: Oh, well please excuse my originality.

[Spore, Anaïs, Dr. Crocker and Dr. Skitz begin to chuckle together.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Are you trying to be funny?

DO: Well if you refer to the idea or moreso the simple ability to act stupid then yes.

DR. NIGHTMARE: This is exactly why you are in here right now.

DO: Yeah, for an incident of which I am technically morally innocent. It is the concept that exists within your brains that causes the majority of society to view such an act from more of a bigoted perspective. Now put the ******* cigarette down and get to the point. You have five minutes.

SPORE: Do what the he—

[Do places his finger to Spore’s lips to silence her.]

DO: I know what I’m doing.

[Do removes his finger from Spore’s lips.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Very well then, Do.

[Dr. Nightmare takes one last hit of his cigarette before putting it out upon his ashtray. He picks up a small remote from his desk, moves his office chair around and points the remote towards a medium sized camera sitting on the wall directly across from where Dr. Crocker and Dr. Skitz were standing.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Please turn the lights off, Anaïs.

NURSE YUCKI: Yes, Dr. Nightmare.

[Anaïs turns the lights off. Dr. Nightmare pushes play. The video begins. Dr. Nightmare decides to fast forward the video then resumes playing at the part where WiFi was about to hit Spore. Do then blocked WiFi’s punch. They briefly argued then WiFi took another swing at Spore. Do once again blocked WiFi’s punch and began ramming his elbow directly into WiFi’s nose instantly breaking it. Do continued hitting WiFi before finally slamming his rib cage directly on his knee. Dr. Nightmare paused the video.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: When exactly were you planning to tell me this Do?

DO: I wasn’t sir. Why should it be my job to inform you of such a situation as chaotic as this? Doesn’t this place have cameras?

DR. NIGHTMARE: This is an asylum, Do. Of course we have cameras. Unfortunately the day that you and WiFi got into that fight my cameras were malfunctioning due to a glitch in the system. Some of my cameras were working just fine that day. The other cameras weren’t working at all. A lot of the malfunctioning cameras had nothing but static screens on them particularly the camera in the cafeteria.

DO: So then how did you get footage of us fighting?

DR. NIGHTMARE: I hired several assistants to monitor and record any and all activity that goes on in the rooms that contained the malfunctioning cameras. There was somebody in there monitoring you the entire time and you didn’t even know it.

DO: But who was it?

DR. NIGHTMARE: That’s not important, Do. As the head of this institution I must do what I have to do to keep up with all daily activities of this institution. Frankly, if any such activity does not concern or affect you then what business is it of yours?

DO: How much time do you have?

DR. NIGHTMARE: Not enough time in the world.

DO: So then let’s move on.

DR. NIGHTMARE: Right. The next thing I wish to discuss with you are the results of your four dimensional emotion detector tests.

DO: Well this should be interesting.

DR. NIGHTMARE: Yeah, don’t hold your breath kid. Since Dr. Crocker was in charge of your happiness, sadness and fear tests you will be talking to him first. Carry on Dr. Crocker.]

DR. CROCKER: Thank you, Dr. Nightmare. How are you doing today Do?

DO: I’m doing just fine sir. Thank you for asking. How are you?

DR. CROCKER: Splendid sir. Alright Do let’s discuss your test results.

DO: I’m listening.

DR. CROCKER: Okay one minor detail that we must note is that each test is rated by any number from one through five with five being the highest and one being the lowest. You scored a five on both your happiness and sadness tests.

DO: What memory did I envision for the sadness test again?

DR. CROCKER: From what I’m reading it says that you envisioned the memory of when your ex-girlfriend Oku broke up with you.

DO: Yeah, that was a pretty sad memory. I spent every night that September crying myself to sleep every night. It hurt so bad.

DR. CROCKER: I understand.  Now the memory you chose for your fear test consisted of a series of scenarios in which you were abandoned. The most effective memory of those scenarios was of a mysterious woman abandoning you. Would you care to explain that?

DO: I don’t wanna remember… Even though I clearly still and always will remember, I choose to avoid anything that causes me to reminisce about it.

DR. CROCKER: Understood. Well I thought you’d like to know that you scored a five on your fear test too. You have a knack for selecting the deepest memories of your psyche.

DO: That is what you wanted is it not?

DR. CROCKER: Nothing more and nothing less.

DO: Is there anything else I need to know regarding these test results?

DR. CROCKER: Your diagnosis, yes. Judging by how high you scored on these tests I am afraid that I have to diagnose you with bipolar and borderline personality disorder.

DO: That explains all those manic episodes of extreme euphoria and depression.

DR. CROCKER: Perhaps, yes. I’ll be turning you over to Dr. Skitz for the rest of your test results.

DR. SKITZ: Thank you, Dr. Crocker. Okay Do I’m gonna just cut corners and get to the ******* point with your results.

DO: Thank you, Dr. Skitz.

DR. SKITZ: No problem, Do. We all have precious and valuable time. The last thing we should want to do is waste it.

DO: That is a very good point doctor.

DR. SKITZ: So with that being said I am pleased to inform you that you scored a five on your anger test but, you scored a three on both your anxiety and depression tests.

DO: Alright go ahead. Lay it on me.

DR. SKITZ: Do, you have schizophrenia.

DO: So bipolar and schizophrenia huh? Sounds interesting.

DR. SKITZ: This isn’t a game Do. This is your health we are discussing.

DO: Yes, I know. I was being sarcastic.

DR. SKITZ: Anyways that concludes your diagnosis. I’ll turn you back over to Dr. Nightmare now.

DR. NIGHTMARE: Thank you gentlemen.

DR. CROCKER & DR. SKITZ: You’re welcome, sir.

DR. NIGHTMARE: So what did you think of your test results, Do?

DO: I think they were slightly shocking though not surprising.

DR. NIGHTMARE: I have to honestly say that I agree with you on that one. Anyways with all nonsense aside I’ve decided to make a deal with you.

DO: And what is this deal that you speak of, sir?

DR. NIGHTMARE: Well since you are our newest patient I’ll let you off with a warning. Should you happen to break these rules again you will be paying some serious consequences. You are dismissed.

DO & SPORE: Thank you sir.

[Do and Spore get up and proceed to exit Dr. Nightmare’s office.]

SPORE: So who do you think was recording us in the cafeteria today, Do?

DO: Your guess is as good as mine Spore. Had I known who it was I wouldn’t have been questioning Dr. Nightmare about it in the first place.

SPORE: Good point. By the way Do don’t worry about those tests. It is something that every patient has to go through before being officially considered for enrollment here. Also you’re fine the way you are in my opinion.

DO: Thank you, Spore.

SPORE: So do you have a room mate? More importantly do you have a room?

DO: No I do not.

SPORE: You can room with us. There are four beds in our room with two beds in each room. We have room for one more mate.

DO: Okay. Thank you, Spore.

SPORE: No problem, Do.

DO: So how do we get to our room?

SPORE: Well, this asylum is seven stories high. Our room is on the sixth floor. We stay in room 666. There is an elevator straight down the hall on your first left.

DO: Alright then let’s go.

[Do and Spore continue down the hall arriving at the elevators in less than a minute. Spore presses the button as she waits for the elevator to arrive. The elevator finally arrives. Its doors open wide inviting Do and Spore in. Do and Spore walk in as the doors close behind them.]


9 HOURS LATER….

[ A man dressed in a long, red hoodie walks up the stairs leading to Black Wick’s infirmary. He pushes the wooden oak double doors open. The entire infirmary was dark except for the moonlight that was shining throughout. He approaches one of the patients in the infirmary. The patient he had selected happened to be a young man. He had long, wavy, red hair and pearly, white skin. The man began aggressively shaking the patient.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Wake up, WiFi!!!!! WAKE UP NOW!!!!!!!!

[WiFi began mumbling in his sleep.]

WIFI: Can’t I just go on the roller coaster one more time…? Please…?

[WiFi slowly drifted back into a deep sleep. Dr. Nightmare grabbed a wooden bucket from the corner of WiFi’s night stand. He walked over to the sink and filled the bucket with cold water. Dr. Nightmare then walks over to WiFi’s bedside and pours the water all over him. WiFi was startled awake.]

WIFI: OKAY! OKAY! I’M AWAKE! DON’T HURT ME!!!

[WiFi looks up only to see a giant pair of red eyes and attempts to scream. Dr. Nightmare quickly takes his hand and covers Wifi’s mouth.]

DR. NIGHTMARE: Quiet fool! It’s me!

[WiFi stops screaming which was Dr. Nightmare’s cue to remove his hand from his mouth.]

WIFI: Dr. Nightmare?

DR. NIGHTMARE: Yes.

WIFI: What are you doing here?

DR. NIGHTMARE: I have come to ask a favor of you.

WIFI: What do you need?

DR. NIGHTMARE: I need you to stalk Do and his friends.

WIFI: What’s in it for me?

DR. NIGHTMARE: You get to stalk your ex-girlfriend.

[WiFi begins to bare a wickedly evil grin.]

WIFI: When do we start?
I'm supposed to take a test on Tuesday
about some Bill of Rights, Constitution, founding fathers *******
I've been hearing about this **** for what seems like a never ending river of forever but I'm still failing that test.
I'm supposed to take a test on tuesday about everything I'm supposed to have absorbed from the beginning of September to now, in my political systems class in my senior year of high school
political systems, systems of politics
Can you teach me about our government TODAY
in two-thousand-and-thirteen so I can have
at least some delusional illusion that I know
at least a fraction of what the **** is going on

I should be memorizing each amendment on the Bill of Rights
which was written long enough ago
instead of morning coffee
there'd be lines of blow, legally
my mom, would be billing the hospital for the right to my captivity
if I tried to convince everyone that dancing is good for your ******* soul
after smoking a bowl and doing a line I'd sign on the dotted line
"no man is above or below shaking their ***** until the lights stop to glow"

Am I the only outraged kid in here?
Am I the only person who believes this country's worsened-and if we're learning about our country
put me back in US history because I barely passed my sophomore year
I barely passed the year before that one too
and not because of my report card

I'm supposed to take a test on Tuesday, on the Bill of Rights, and how it applies with the passing of time but if there's one Bill I know that's right, it's my boy Billy
when he gets real silly and stomps his feet to the beat like the street's ******* ground meat and he's the butcher

I'm supposed to take a test on Tuesday, I'm also supposed to go to work at 3
I'm supposed to stay in good shape and not turn in any schoolwork late
and Cotillion's soon so I gotta find a date

I'm supposed to go to college next year to get more knowledge but my mind is still lost somwhere between
I've seen too many scary pink ***** too young
I've felt too many scary pink licks too young
now I always think people are out to get me
so I walk around looking strung out on amphetamines
waiting for the earth to crumble beneath me
So when I was supposed to be taking notes on the Boston Tea Party
Please excuse me if I was a little busy
trying to hold the delicious wishes of dying at bay

So I'm kind of proud to say
I'm ******* alive today
and on Tuesday I'm supposed to take some test
but this, this moment is my very own test
I'm studying to be my very own best
version of a classmate, a student, a friend, a daughter
and someone I can listen to every waking moment
and someone I can stand up to when the right to my free will is challenged
Frankie Morrison Jan 2012
The Corp, even life itself, is a test.
The Corp, life, a test of humanity,
a test of values, ethics and morals.
The Corp, life, a test to learn,
a test to live,
results to apply.
Pass the test, receive your reward,
your honor,
your pride and professionalism,
your character.
Take what you learn,
Experience, ...
... share.

















( Dedicated to Mr Thomas Forbes. A great friend, a co-worker and former Marine, ... Semper Fi ) 1/15/2008, ... FAM   © 2/20/2013
This is an examination

a test of multiple choices

a test that requires long answers



it's an incomplete essay

without a conclusion

an essay with a forgotten thesis statement

a couple of main ideas creating a body



this is a test of right and wrong

this is a test of true and false



this is a test requiring you to fill in the blanks

requiring you to complete the sentence



this is a test of vocabulary

with unknown definitions



this is a test that you can study for

this is a test you can attempt preparation for

but you don't know the questions

until they are asked of you



this is an examination

this is life.
andy fardell Sep 2012
At the age of 3
me hammer
nails and all
my play stuff from me dad
I was a happy lad

Those were the good times me lad
those were the best
these are our fine times
enjoy the test!!
just be a pest!!!!!!!!!

At 6 I had a trike ..
life was a happy life
did wheelies all the time
was hot
the summer fine

Those were the good times me lad
those were the best
these are our fine times
enjoy the test
just be a pest!!!!!!!!!


At 10 my life caved in
as grandad fell within
my time to grow ......
an adult life

Those were the sad times me lad
those wer'nt the best
these are our fine times
enjoy the test
just be a pest!!!!!!!!!

At 14 i did alright
got gruff a voice a fright
kicked footy till it hurt
stood lamping in the dark

Those were the good times me lad
those were the best
these are our fine times
enjoy the test
just be a pest!!!!!!!!!

And now its all done over
my work I'm almost sober
I'm old yet way before my time
tis time to pass the baton to son
come on lets have em

Enjoy the good times me lad
these are the best
those were our fine times
enjoy the test
just be a pest!!!!!!!!!
Tea Oct 2013
I remember crying during lunch my senior year of high school
My math teacher’s eyebrows colliding turning one plane into a fractal image
He had sat there every day for nearly four years
Helping me struggle through an unreal number of numbers
Literaly and figuratively
And again and again the numbers on my math test said
You are less than average
You
Are
Stupid.

But behind the eyes of a determined math teacher
Never read, what my insecurities where screaming
Refusing to believe the numbers, I sought one thing
Some unspoken meaning
I almost found it the day of my graduation
I almost found it between my teacher’s eyebrows
Wearing it like a point of pride
I was the first of my family to hold
Such a light thing as a diploma
Instead of a heavy head
Weighed down by ******
It nodding under all the pressure
The first to feel the lightness of feather
Instead of a sixpack
A lame back, from manual labor
I was flying
College was my next undefeated feat
Again I let an institution tell me what I was
Test scores tell me what I should meet
Intelligent measured by something
That couldn’t understand its diversity
Trying to tell me I was less than average
When I was just an individual
Above a point of comparison
Excelling in conceptual understanding
Debating and good energy

I could construct social interaction
Like gold, I learn to read people
The power in my phone
I learned that it wasn’t the diploma that I should be proud of
Not the thing I sought after
Not what I would show my little sisters and brothers
To show them how to live better, how to be stronger
Burn brighter. Burn longer.
So here I am
Red faced and scared
spoken word
was hiding, but always there
in between my math teachers scrunched brow
Was the answer
I could have cheated if I had known how
If I knew what question that needed answered
Had realized it was never in his book
I should have listened to what I saw
Not to the math test I took
I
Am
Not
Stupid
I haven’t failed by choosing something outside of school
That I am not defined by the score
By numbers or lines
By this institutional rules
Test scores or even rhymes
I am not less than average
I just don’t average out
That power isn’t really in a piece of paper
Power is found in your words
And chosen behavior
That silence and insecurity
Means nothing really
The answer wasn’t in his book
It was in his look
And his persistence to prove
I
Am
Not
Stupid
He just wasn’t good enough with words to prove it.
*****


Apr 7, 2012, 6:08:21 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




"Name: Amelia Weissmuler. Date of birth: June 6th, 1920. Test subject number 314-X. Specimen: Tiger." Amy heard all of this through a haze of sedatives that had begun to lose their already poor effect. She turned in the direction of the voice and saw a fearsome **** SS General standing behind a white clad scientist with a heavy accent. The general said nothing but listened and watched as Amy was strapped down to a cold metal table, completely **** with various wires, tubes and needles protruding from her flesh. She groaned painfully, the needles were extensive, and the **** scientists had no care of decency or respect. she was hit with another sedative and before she lost consciousness she heard the scientist, who she guessed was Dr. Heismeiller, say, "Name, Mordecai Dansker, former Major of the Third *****. Date of birth: September 19th, 1919. Test subject 14-W. Specimen: Wolf. As you
can see, Heir General, these are both healthy specimens, as are the test subjects." Amy heard a
rattling of cages. Her vison slowly went dark but not before seeing the doctor's face, uncovered and psychotic.
* *
When Amy woke up again, she was being suspended from the floor, the tubes and wires accompanied by menacing electrodes. there was an unnatural blue and white crackling of electricity around her, illuminating the other suspended tables nearby, the bodies in various grotesque positions and levels of decay. she tried to scream but found a machine unceremoniously shoved in her mouth, stretching deep inside her. she looked and saw nothing but obscene machines and various glass tubes of colored bubbling liquids. she tried sluggishly to break free but to no avail. what little strength she had was useless against the torturous devices emplanted in and around her. "Doctor, begin the experiment."
"Yaboe!" She heard a solid click resound through the room and heard a male scream in another room. the screams echoed for a long while, then nothing. she heard a gasp of releif from
the doctor and, "General! Subject 14-W... he has... Survived!"
"Good. now start on the frauline." there was a large thud from outside the room. "Quickly! this facility is under seige!"
"Yes sir, heir general. Test subject 314-X prepped and ready. Begin phase 1." she cried out silently as the needles burned hot inside her and the tubes boiled her insides. the electrodes soon incapacitated her and she fell unconscious.
*
*
"Phase 1 complete, heir general, subject is ready, proceeding to Phase 2."
Amy felt an intense burning around the needles, and an electric fire through her veins. the machine had been taken from her mouth, but she doubted she could scream any more, as her throat was raw from the silent screams of Phase 1. She felt her body shake uncontrollably as more electric shocks were administered. she was left panting and slumped over. "Sequence complete, the bonding process was a success." there was another thud and sediment from the roof fell to the floor. "Get her down now! They will be through soon!" She was lowered to the ground and unstrapped from the table, picked up, and placed on a stretcher. she raised her hands on front her face and nearly fainted, her hands, or paws, resembled that of a tiger, and as she looked, her whole body was covered in a slick orange, black and white fur. She was put into the backseat of an armored car with a simple blanket draped around
her. Amy felt nauseated
as the car sped off. It hit a bump in the road and she moaned painfully, clutching her furry belly and retching. the **** next to her turned away in disgust. the car ride was long and sickening, and she lost consciousness twice, and finally she tried to lay down in the cramped space. when the armored car finally stopped, she was pulled from the back seat and carried over a soldier's shoulder and into a small bunker. Once inside, amy heard a metal door open and was laid down onto a stiff bed with a single pillow and a single cover. There was a small window in the cell, a drab, grey stream of light shining in her eyes. She propped herself up on her elbow and shielded her eyes from the blinding contrast. Once her eyes adjusted, amy noticed that things had a particular sharpness to them and she had an acute awareness of things based on scent. she stood shakily, and noticed she was almost
six inches taller now, and her new tail swished back and forth along the concrete floor. she stepped
forward and grasped the iron bars and peeked out, seeing a black leather messenger bag and a black uniform lined with white. she couldn't quite reach the uniform, but was able to get a claw around the strap of the messenger bag. she pulled it closer to her and saw that her initials were monogrammed into the leather. she pulled it through the bars and opened the bag, pulling out a small, blank, leather bound journal and a pen. still ****, she sat on the bed and practiced writing, tearing out two pages of scratch paper. She began her journal with, "I am no longer the person i once was. i am something new, something... different."
• * *
The **** captain stepped into the bunker and saw amy, half lying, half dangling on the bed, the leather journal clutched close to her chest. he stormed into the cell and backhanded her awake, snatching up the journal as she cowered in the corner, her tail wrapped around her. the captain flipped through the pages of the journal and then closed iit with a snap. he glanced at it and dropped it on the bed. "it is yours now, Frauline. you are very special to the third *****. the fuhrer himself has asked for you to be placed in the Waffen SS and trained." amy glanced at the uniform on the table outside the cell and he nodded, "specially tailored for you, frauline. he stepped outside the cell and grabbed the uniform, setting it down on the bed. "you may Change into your new uniform and join the rest of us outside." he stepped outside and she was alone. she donned the simple uNdergarments then
slipped into the soft black trousers, after which she put on her military boots. next she put on the black and white jacket signature of the SS. the jacket was sleek and menacing, though it did little to flatten her chest, but that, she supposed, was one of her feminine charms. last was her hat and armband, both adorned with the *******. she gathered the leather messenger bag and stepped outside the cell, where a mirror stood, giving her a chance to see what had been done, the black uniform was a dramatic contrast to her brightly colored fur, and her new black stripes added a fierce look to her. she grinned and flashed menacing white teeth. she turned her body, looking at herself from different points of view. she slipped the **** armband onto her right arm and turned to leave. she stopped when she encountered a high pitch noise right next to the door. for the moment she just walked past, opening the door and adjusting her vision to the outside light. the layout was grey and barren,
as it always was in wartime. the captain was waiting for her along with a small squad of SS troops. a
Few laughed and remarked at her appearance, making cat noises and wolf whistling at her. she glared at them with a bright white snarl carved into her soft face. *they will fear me...

she saluted the captain and said, "heil ******." he returned the gesture, "heil. you are now part of the Waffen SS, frauline Amelia."
"please sir, its amy."
he noted her directness and ferocity, "very well, amy. before we assign you a task, though, you must prove yourself." he addressed the squad, "they are all corporal's and sergeants. you are merely a private. you will gain a rank for each one that you ****. however, they have been told that if they do not force you to submit, they will be killed or sent to the russian front. so you best fight your hardest, private amy."
as he finished, the squad set down their Mauser 98K's and MP-40's and stepped closer to her. her eyes widened in shock, then narrowed in ferocious determination. there were twelve of them.
"Fight!"
• *
Amy took a fighting stance and faced her attackers. she attempted a punch at the nearest one but was kneed in the gut, she was thrown back a few feet. she fell to her knees and clutched her stomach with one hand, holding herself upright with the other. tears sprung to life in her eyes and threatened to roll down her cheeks. she fought the tears back and stood, feeling her claws extend. she swiped at a soldier's throat, catching him right in the throat. blood splattered the ground as he choked on his own fluids. the remaining eleven were taken aback slightly, allowing her to pounce another soldier, punching and tearing at his gut with lethal force. her fur was bloodstained and she waited a moment too late, watching the cavity she created fill with blood. she was barreled over, the wind knocked out of her by a sergeant. she lay on her back, gasping for air as the soldiers closed in,
landing a few punches and sending her reeling back. she staggered back, struggling for breath. she
Bumped up against something and realized it was a bunker wall, she was trapped. she thought quickly and decided for a new course of action, she waited for one of them to gather his bravado and throw a solid punch at her, which was useless, she grabbed his wrist and smashed his head against the wall, filling his helmet with blood and brains. in the same move, she had grabbed his Luger and had downed three more of the remaining ten. in their moment of confusion she kicked the closest one in the fork of his legs and followed up with a pistolwhip. the man went down quickly and died by the heel of her merciless boot. the remaining six charged at her, one falling by her last bullet and another caught a swift kick in the ribcage, shattering the bones to peices. the rest of the men were sergeants, and they began to retreat, running into the open field. she was about to chase after them when she
heard another Luger fire. she turned to see the captain shooting the deserters. each fell, one by
One by the captain's gun to her surprise he let a single man go. "you have done very well, frauline amy. you have killed eight out of twelve men, not bad at all."
she was panting, her uniform dirtied, "why.. did you let.. him go?"
the captain smiled, "someone has to spread you're reputation, heir captain."
she gaped at him. "i am... captain?"
"yaboe, heir frauline. you have proved yourself worthy to serve under the fuhrer."
she saluted him, "thank you, heir captain."
*
amy wrote in her journal as they were driven to one of the Stalags: "my promotion to captain has earned me my choice of weapons, ive chosen a few, two long barrel Luger's, a cavalry saber, and a sixteen foot bullwhip. i also carry an automatic Mauser in my messenger bag. other than a few knives carefully hidden on my body, that should be it. ive become the fuhrer's favorite enforcer, though i feel as if i'm forgetting something..."
amy closed the journal and placed it in her bag with a soft snap.
Amy waited for a **** private to open the car door and let her out, tapping her foot impatiently. when he finally came, she had a luger pointed at his chest. "you're late. she got out of the car and shot him, holstering the pistol as he crumpled to the ground. the colonel in charge rushed towards her, "what is the meaning of this?!"
"your man on watch was late, and now he'll never be late again. and also, colonel, as i am a captain in the SS, i am your superior officer and you WILL adjust yourself accordingly or i will replace you with someone who will."
his expression was that of shock, "y-yes, heir captain, please follow me." he escorted her quickly to the main building. amy glanced around at the peering POWs, glaring at them with distaste as they whistled at her. "who's the kitty?" "what the hell is that?"
her hands fell to her lugers and she was ready to fire when she was beckoned inside by the colonel and she followed behind him reluctantly. "you should control your prisoners.
i find an overall lack of order in this camp. you're lucky i'm in a good mood, or i'd have you strung up for incompetence. lets hope my further evaluation of this... facility... does not make me any more inclined to do so."
the colonel stuttered again and dipped his head, "y-yes heir captain."
she stepped outside unopposed by any. she snapped her fingers and a sergeant rushed to her side and saluted. she handed him a journal logbook and he opened it to the page marked with the Stalag number. she entered the closed off areas of the stalag to inspect the barracks.
*
amy's fists were clenched with rag, a prisoner mocked her from within his confines. his fellow prisoners pleaded with him to stop. "she's lethal!" "she killed eight SS sergeants and corporals singelhandedly her first day!"
the prisoner ignored them and began gesturing at her. she snapped her head up and their eyes met for an instant, she growled through a gritted snarl and was over the fence in mere moments. once over,
the prisoner that mocked her was now on the ground, his throat between her fangs. he cried out once and then gurgled blood as she tore out his throat. she spat the flesh onto the dirt and stood, brushing the dusty particles from her uniform. the men around her backed away when she approached them, and watched her cautiously as she stepped back out of the fenceline. amy picked up her cap from the ground and brushed it off. one of the prisoners called for a doctor, and when one of the guards began to look for one, she merely said, "no, he wont survive. leave him be."
the soldier saluted and went back to his post. she walked up to the colonel and said, "your prisoner annoyed me, as do you, colonel. you have three days to turn this place around or you'll end up worse off then your prisoner over there."
the colonel had turned a pale white and whispered, "understood, captain."
she returned to her quarters and listened for a moment as the colonel shouted orders. "that was fun." she remarked.

Amy was asleep in one of the larger rooms in the main  building, her uniform folded neatly on the table near the bed. she kep one luger on her bedside table and the mauser under her pilllow. her other luger, her sword and her whip were next to her clothes. she was clad only in her fur, as she'd found that the most comfortable way to sleep.
she was woken up by a knock at the door. she blinked her eyes a few times. clutching the mauser handle with one hand and holding the blanket to her chest with the other, she said, "what is it?"
"the colonel wishes to speak to you, heir frauline."
she growled, "grrr... fine. tell him to make it quick." she clutched the blanket closer as he opened the door. she held the mauser aimed at him and said, "turn." he did so without hesitation. she slipped cautiously out of the bed and began to dress. "what is it you wished to speak with me about, colonel?" amy put on her undergarments and then pulled her trousers up to her waist, fastening the belt comfortably.
"there is an important telegram for you, heir captain." she pulled on the jacket over her simple shirt, tugging out any wrinkles. "oh? from who?" next came the holster belts, each hanging slightly lower than her first belt. her sword was another belt, and there was a custom clip there for her whip as well.
"Himler, he has special orders for you." her messenger bag was next to last, slung over her shoulder before she slipped into her boots. ""You can turn now. hand them here." she stepped closer to him and took the envelope with her name scrawled on the front. the colonel excused himself so she could read the orders, "captain amelia weissmuler, once you have completed your assignment at Stalag 14, please make haste to stalingrad as there has been a number of our own turning against the *****. see to it that they cause no more problems. -heinrich himler"
she read it through three more times before folding it and placing it in her bag. she hurried outside, grabbing her hat
From the dresser.
* *
amy went about her inspection, seeing nothing wrong today. "the condition of stalag 16 has improved, heir colonel. well done. now send my car around." the colonel grinned and motioned for the car.
the black car adorned with swastikas roared to life, coming up beside her. the d
kevin morris Jan 2014
Susie gazed out at the atlantic. Great waves crashed against the cliffs . A gust of wind caught the girl almost knocking her off her feet. She seemed not to notice, her eyes remained fixed on the wild sea. Unbidden the words came to her
“Till the slow sea rise and the sheer cliff crumble,
    Till terrace and meadow the deep gulfs drink,
Till the strength of the waves of the high tides humble
     The fields that lessen, the rocks that shrink,
Here now in his triumph where all things falter,
     Stretched out on the spoils that his own hand spread,
As a god self-slain on his own strange altar,
                      Death lies dead.”
Susie’s salty tears mingled with the sea water which the ever increasing wind blew into her eyes.
“I’m not crying, it’s the sea water making my eyes sting” So what if I am crying? All this will pass and go. Long after I am dead this will remain, the uncaring ocean buffeting the cliffs as it has for millennia. Eventually the cliffs and the surrounding habitations will be claimed by the sea. Out of the sea life came and to the ocean humanity will return.
But I’m 20, I don’t want to die”.
All flesh is dust a mocking voice intoned. Susie whirled around. There was no one save for the gulls which wheeled and screeched overhead.
“Yes I will die but please god not yet. I have my whole life to look forward to” Susie said burying her face in her hands.  
“Stupid girl” the voice, like some  insidious demon crept into her brain.
“Shut up, shut up” the girl wept sticking her fingers into her ears attempting to silence the tormentor.
“Stupid slapper. Silly *****” the voice said undaunted by Susie’s attempts to silence it.
Doing her best to ignore whatever devil was taunting her Susie reached into her coat pocket. She felt the plain brown official envelope.
“I can’t, I won’t open it. I’ll throw it away. Better not to know”.
“Ignorance is bliss, little miss a coward is” the voice sneered.
“*******, *******” Susie screamed. Her words where lost in the howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves. Susie became aware of the crumpled envelope in her hands. In her agitation she had ******* it into a ball. How easy it would be to rid herself of the thing. One flick of her wrist and the letter would be lost forever in the depths of the Atlantic.
“Coward, coward” the voice taunted.
With a supreme effort Susie unscrewed the envelope and with trembling hands opened it. Reluctantly the girl extracted a crumpled letter.
“I can’t read it, I can’t” Susie wept. “Why did I do it? God let it be good news. Please, oh Christ I can’t bare it”.

Susie’s mind went back 4 months. She was drunk. She had never been so drunk in her entire life. The thump, thump of the music transported the girl into a world where only she and the beat, beat of the bass existed. She danced wildly letting herself be taken by the music to another realm.
Susie didn’t remember him arriving. One moment she was dancing alone, the next Susie was spinning around in the arms of a total stranger. Later that evening Susie recalled having *** in a cubicle in the gents toilets. Susie thought that she had consented but she had been so drunk she wasn’t sure.
“Christ, no ******. How could I have been so ****** stupid. I went to a good school, got all the right exams and I’m now at uni. I should have known better”.
Susie had gon to the hospital on the following day and had been tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
“You have ****** but that can easily be dealt with by antibiotics” the nurse had said.
Susie breathed a sigh of relief.
“You will, however need to come back in 3 months time for a *** test”.
“Can’t I have that today?”
“The *** virus can take upto 3 months to manifest itself so any test conducted today would be extremely unlikely to show whether you are, or are not carrying the virus”.
Susie had thrown herself into her studies for the next 3 months. When not studying she partied hard. Alcohol helped her to forget for some of the time but, in the early hours of the morning she would wake up sweating.
“What if I am infected? Christ only knows how many other girls that bloke slept with before we had ***”.
Eventually the 3 months passed and Susie returned to the hospital for her *** test.
“You can call in for your results in a few days time or, if you prefer just telephone the number on your card quoting your clinic number” the nurse said handing Susie a small slip of paper.
Susie had meant to call. She really had. However there always seemed to be something preventing her from making that call. There had been her friend’s wedding, her mum’s birthday and so, so many other things.
“Don’t make excuses. Of course you could have found a few minutes to make such an important telephone call” the insidious voice whispered in her ear.
“Yes, OK, I could. now ******* back to whatever rock you crawled out from under” Susie shouted.
Slowly Susie raised the paper to her face.
“Dear Miss Armstrong,
I refer to your visit of 4 July and the test conducted on that date. We have, unsuccessfully attempted to contact you on several occasions. Having been unable to do so I am writing to inform you of the result of your test for ***. I am pleased to advise that the test is negative (I.E. you are not *** positive).
Should you have any queries regarding this letter please call the number above and quote your clinic number to the health adviser.

Yours Sincerely “.
Susie wondered idly why doctors signatures almost always resembled squashed spiders. For the first time in many hours she smiled.
“Thank you god. Thank you”.
The gulls screeched overhead, the icey wind buffeted the girl and the great waves continued to crash against the crumbling cliffs. Susie no longer cared. She embraced the storm for it represented nature of which she was an integral part. It felt good to be alive. Susie took deep breaths.  The touch of the wind on her face  was wonderful. She smiled as her long black hair blew wildly in the sea breeze.  
“If you exist god, thank you, thank you” Susie said.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Test Ting Won To Tree
By
Charles Fleischer







Rifleman decal water is to Tiny basket liners as Strained yo-yo string is to?
Dark wool glowing is to Oldest lost oddity as First genetic engine is to?
Black quail taint is to Nut curdled paint as Hemp biscuit dominoes are to?
Steam traced paper is to Lemon ash vapor as Digital ****** wig is to?
Eccentric brine mimes are to Electric silk slacks as Spark formed lava is to?
Sunchoked black hornets are to as Rescued orphan doves as Retold cat jokes are to?
Hand traced videos are to Braided rubber spines as Opal rain dancers are to?
Halogen anchor gong is to Annoying bread portraits as Soft bracelet lockers are to?
Old troll bios are to Select cherub echoes as Broken matchstick parasols are to?
Dome nine chariots are to Frayed lunar remnants as Fuming honey flasks are to?
Bluing assault operas is to Beading fluted flowers as Magnetic lawn tweezers are to?
Converted flea sponges are to Floating dog murals as Frozen Archie comics are to?
Molded road pads are to Crusty gumdrop thread as Straw ribbed pelicans are to?
Inflatable diamond vowel is to Single gender raffle as Groovy desert coffee is to?
Temporary solution radiation is to Idiotic witness mumble as Motorized marshmallow kit is to?
Panoramic utopian paranoia is to Aggravated **** silhouettes as Unhinged gun sellers are to?
Homesick ghost pajamas is to Virtuous fly fungus as Royal sandpaper gloves are to?
Gangster hayride tickets are to Deer milk Oreos as Turnip fairy maps are to?
Glue gun **** is to Nocturnal cabin mice as Cab fare corn is to?
Speckled fish nickels are to Under water bric-a-brac as Epic snakeskin paisley is to?
******* bungalow pranks are to Drowsy vapid oafs as Quantized cavern fish are to?
Raunchy snail kimono is to Coiled time dice as Smeared equator malt is to?
Metallic centaur franchise is to Transparent cheese chess as Spotted glacial remnants is to?
Sky fused pong is to Rustic mothers brattle as Granulated canister ointment is to?
Overgrown maze mule is to Mated smugglers hugging as Floating thesaurus exam is to?
Sliding coed sprinkler is to Soapy whitefish rebate as Precious lamb diaper is to?
Mushy acorn luster is to Lilac protein rings as Slapstick wrestler dialect is to?
Freaky plankton bells is to Rolling horse divorce as Morphing morphine lips are to?
Sticky razor sparkle is to Emerald muscle spasm as Glaring cat cipher is to?
Peppy unisex mustache is to Pelican fighter syndrome as Clumping night grumble is to?
Scanning paired pearls are to Ruby rubbed roaches as Satanic sailor flotsam  are to?
Glowing asteroid solder is to Ideal shark data as Failed frail doilies are to?
Numb nuts boredom is to Fantastic icy phantoms as Sporadic silk creations is to?
Crooks crow chow is to Loading spackled bonder as Gargled snowdrop blasters are to?
Outdid myself today is to Outside myself again as Outlived myself controls is to?
Venting shuttlecock upset is to Texting badminton kitten as Settler tested motels are to?
Prepare paired vents is to Prefer paid events as Pretender predicts fiction is to
Crunchy mental fender is to Catching mentor menace as Poorly seasoned lettuce is to?
Outside sidewalk inside is to Seaside outcast input as Sideways landslide victory is to?  
Compile fake password is to Compost world poo as Compose village anthem is to?
Crooked crotch blunder is to Loud crowd thunder as Divine vine finder is to?
Chucks’ wooden truck is to Bucks good luck as Sticky ducks tucked is to?  
Overhaul underway overseas is to Overturned downsized pickup as Underground onramp overloaded is to?
I’ll bite there is to Aisle byte their as Isle bight there is to?
Gnat gnawed wrist is to ***** show beans as See through putty is to?
Flapping floppy guppies are to Buzzing zipped dozers as Muddy ****** strippers are to?
Dark diagonal dialogue is to Diabolical dihedral die as Interesting circadian exposition is to?
Experimental flossing expectations are to Waxed dental traps as Permanent impermanence resolution is to?  
Outran ringside intrigue is to Sidetracked onboard boatload as Loaded firearm topside is to?
Phony ****** phone is to Chewy ego honey as Yogi Mama’s dada is to?
Nimble teardrop squiggle is to Humble cage curtains as Loyal truckstop morals are to?
Torching curled elastic is to Sonic neighbor clamor as Golden droplet integers are to?
Duplex pupil scanners are to Nacreous cloud clocks as Shrouded flute shops are to?
Lawn rocket tendrils are to Finding surreal borders as Sheep monarchs children is to?
Gloating ungloved squires are to Busting double doubters as Pushing woeful doctors are to?
Tricking snowbelt firedogs is to Panmixing blackened haywires as Unclothed shameful leaders are to?
Malicious ranch ritual is to Internal puppet bubble as Ornate underworld masquerade is to?
Rustic debonair Eskimos are to Mindless sassy elves as Gorgeous somber acrobats are to?
Learned earthy pimps are to Fearless sneaky Queens as Somber gentle vagrants are to?
Shocking horse wear is to Glossy sled fluid as Damaged chipmunk tongue is to?
Traditional agony chart is to Damp voodoo motel as Backwoods museum quote is to?
Magical cat cabin is to Dapper porpoise humor as Malicious graveyard foam is to?
Therapeutic gazelle cushion is to Stored alibi equipment as Stunning tempo light is to?
Fantastic rascal art is to Wasted prune dust as Jupiter’s ****** law is to?
Little nut razor is to Gigantic hyena shield as Hourglass pillow fever is to?
Coiled rain clouds are to Dizzy tycoon clowns as Lime eating cowards are to?
Possessive epicurean demonstrators are to Faded eavesdropping giants as Determined swanky drunks are to?
Aquatic preview pocket is to Soggy judicial topiary as Finicky hamster fabric is to?
Enlarged fruit cuff is to Obedient mumbling orchestra as Dark tenant tariff is to?
Recycled flash thermometer is to Botched temptation probe as Pet glider grid is to?
Seriously shy idols are to Costly driving perfumes as Ferryboat chapel wine is to?
Winged jalopy details are to Faithful spectral fathers as Sprinkled mint rainbows are to?
Spelling unneeded words is to Sprouting donut ***** as Blaming mellow mallrats are to?
Eroding loom keepsake is to Magnificent accordion canoe as ***** bongo fumes are to?
Souring violet ink is to Juvenile insult park as Periodic ferret envy is to?
Obedient boyfriend aroma is to Sanitized fat lozenges as Dramatic jailer garb is to?
Mysterious patrol group is to Dynamic maiden discharge as Captured hurricane ratio is to?
Lackadaisical bigot bingo is to Oblong care merchant as Expensive swamp shampoo is to?
Petite orifice worship is to Atomic barge pet as Plucked hair exhibit is to?
Elite officer wallop is to Automatic yard rake as Healing ****** glitter is to?
Needless swan costume is to Giant jungle goat as Organic picnic napkin is to?
Leaky jet steam is to Innovative fascist whistle as Enchanting idol evidence is to?
Plastic mascara seduction is to Greasy thermal ointment as Attractive muskrat crease is to?
Lucky camel pills are to White coral Torah as Eternal stage clutter is to?
Roasted oat **** is to Sloppy *** glue as Nylon table debt is to?
Steep nook catastrophe is to Empty dome damage as Pulsing breeze powder is to?
Empty sack power is to Hitched buck stroke as Red claw warning is to?
Ultra brief slogan is to Yummy lab mutant as Pathetic ball armor is to?
Nauseating fish splatter is to Obstinate ****** twitch as Strained ***** coffee is to?
Mezzanine intermission fossil is to Proven **** apathy as Golden duck shroud is to?
Civil tutors torment is to Thor’s posted theory as Yellow melon rain is to?
Immense olive raft is to Exploding kangaroo buffet as Ethereal witness index is to?  
Marching dark speeders are to Searing scribble fighters as **** tripping sinners are to?
Seeping viral angst is to Aged hermit tea as Murky bowl nibble is to?
Condensed blister guzzle is to Pink dorsal pie as Lavish speckled runt is to?
Needy insult poet is to Sedated acorn trader as Dry honey zoo is to?
Veiled trust flicker is to Deranged poser fashion as Flat sizzle tangent is to?
Purified diet spray is to Nebulous wishing target as Thrilling screen dope is to?
Majestic ribbon astronomy is to Bizarre formation sector as Rebel bell gimmick is to?
Sealed dart whisper is to Green silk draft as Cold vacuum varnish is to?
Clumsy raven power is to Insect island circus as Minted mink drapes are to?
Curved map ruler is to Tiny lethal radio as Blue fused metal is to?
Inverted laser invasion is to Damp sheep dump as Puffy gown smoke is to?
Saucy Channel blazer is to Leather goat filament as Starched locomotive hat is to?
Broken jumper leads are to Disgraced mini exorcists as Designer shamrock caulk is to?
Tweaked poachers smokes are to Assorted sulfur pathways as Collected bedlamp trickle is to?
******* bungalow pranks are to Drowsy vapid oafs as Quantized cavern fish are to?
Crawling battle worms are to Vibrating metal pedals as Mentholated matrix wax is to?
Missing meshed rafts are to Liquid rock pipes as Crinkled bean bikinis are to?
Tithing **** joggers are to Perforated buck fronds as Leather zither picks are to?
Fearing truthful cowards is to Rambling preachers mumble as Gazebo ambulance gasoline is to?
Shelving elder’s whiskers is to Poaching goalies pesto as Radical tricycle angst is to?
Mucky gunboat polymer is to Primeval maypole flameout as Cathedral greenhouse intercom is to?
Diaphanous safety prize is to Unleashed saucer lion as Dorky blonde ropewalker is to?
Tapered spring meter is to Silver silo mythology as Misguided judges medallions are to?
Alligator x-ray money is to Cherry unicorn water as Coyote cactus toy is to?
Cowardly dorm scrooge is to Atomized pewter script as Flattened spore smoothies are to?
Trash can yodel is to Flashing wired spam as Exploding chocolate pudding is to?
Sonar blasted bushings are to Threading ruined wheels as Forty shifting boxes are to?
Tiny balloon rebellion is to Softened square cleanser as Iconic soul sucker is to?
Harmony night light is to Spanish nitrogen desire as Squirrel cavern iodine is to?

Lazy winter secret is to Slow airport widget as Silly mustard binder is to?
Elephants raising raisins are to Microscopic lamb planet as Purple hay puppets are to?
Caribou venom vaccine is to Electronic lemonade choir as Demonic princess massage is to?
Beet coated bridge is to Fattened needle point as Mylar monkey spine is to?
Ashy ink dust is to Youngest rabbi planet as Orange cartoon geometry is to?
Cold green chalk is to Cobalt ladder farce as ***** river filters are to?
Sublime sheep master is to Sleeping past rapture as Subliminal bliss jelly is to?
Ocean crust slippers are to Twigged germ radar as Popping sharpie scope is to?
Zen wrapped beep is to Oak foamed code as Wicked flashing sizzle is to?
Dew eyed sleigh is to Say I do as Act as me is to?
Humpback on hammock is to Ham hocking hummer as Hunchback with knapsack is to?
Corned flag jelly is to Draped wing chewers as Tripping swan acid is to?
Futuristic Rembrandt chant is to Almond likened meadows as Asian timber blue is to?
Nap in sack is to Flap on Jack as Ducks dig crack is to?
Flowing flavored lava is to Gleaming optic layers as Enhanced goose gibberish is to?      
Flag tied pajamas are to Saline checker choir as Speed reading quotas is to?
Whipped spam spasms are to Misted shaman scripture as Testing pitched bells is to?
Cave aged eggs are to Crowded tiger cages as ****** wagon pegs are to?
Pigeon towed car is to a Man toad art as Wolf whisker wish is to?
Second hand clothes are to Minute hand gestures as Final hour prayer is to?
Slick wicked shavers are to Tricky watch boxes as Sprouting pine tattoos are to?
Waxed stick ravens are to Match stick foxes as Narrowed thermal towers are to?
Ice cave rice is to Laced face lice as Gourmet pet **** is to?
Diamond lane anniversary is to Space age appropriate as Time travel agency is to?
Lime bark violin is to Lemon twig guitar as Lunar sky waffles are to?
Fake rat **** is to Smart cake batter as Rugged fur tax is to?
Tarred raft fluff is to Flaked rafter dust as Lined liquor flask is to?
Flakes will fall is to Take Bills call as Broken maze compass is to?
First faked voter is to Entombed cartoon honey as Smallest aching smurf is to?
Fancy bared ******* are to Flaky fairy treats as Kings amp filter is to?
Bone window folio is to Whittled fake pillow as Little fitted jackets are to?
Nine nuts brittle is to Ate pear pie as Six packed poppers are to?
Incandescent playground pencil is to Elastic hand worm as Perfumed piano ink is to?
Opal shifting anode is to a Windup lion decoy as Pale paisley trolley is to?
Stacked black boxes are to Old packed tracks as a Throwing micron hammers is to?
Apricot bark furnace is to Merry Orchid Choir as an Ivory rinsing funnel is to?  
Narcotic honey nuts are to Slick flag toffees as Silk fig sugar is to?
Orange coin raisins are to Low note candies as Smelling balled roses is to?
Pocket packed monotints are to Tragic ladder hayracks as Ravishing speed traders are to?
Crayon spider resin is to Coral squirrel forceps as Wolf tumbled loaf is to?  
Silver wheat flies are to Width shifting wheels as Golden blister blankets are to?
Really tiny hippopotamus is to Masked fat podiatrist as a Sad sack psychiatrist is to?
Miniature Mesopotamian monuments are to Apple minted elephants as Raising wise ravens is to?
Lathered nymph nacre is to Sonic ion constellations as Concealed iron craft is to?  
Epic gene toy is to Ladies bubble sled as Jagged data bowl is to?
Bugged dagger bag is to Pop sliced meld as Atom bending moonlight to?  
Rural madam’s deed is to Dyed dew dipper as Eight sprayed dukes are to?
Jiffy grand puffer is to Floating altar myth as Vintage dark mirth is to?
Undercover overnight underwear is to Overpaid undertaker overdosing as Overheard understudy freebasing is to?

Black grape crackle is to Red cactus ruffle as Installing padded pets are to?
Snide snobs sniffing are to Sneaky snails snoring as Snared snipes sneezing are to?
Exploring explosive exits is to Explaining expansive exports as Expecting expert exchange is to?
Shrewd logic ledger is to Puppets dropping cupcakes as Placated topaz octopi are to?
Door roof tools are to Cool wool boots as Wood cooked root is to?
Bright fight light is to Night flight fright as Mites bite site is to?
Floor flood fluid is to Wooden door Druid as Nasty **** broom is to?
Accurate police photography is to Intelligent microbe geography as Condensed aerosol biography is to?
Cowardly cowboy grime is to Corpulent corporate crime as Bosnian dwarf necromancer is to?
Jell-O clearing shaker is to Brillo cleaning shiner as Cheerios bowling shields are to?
Mumbled mindless hokey is to Fumbled found money as Humming kinder bunny is to?
Daisy’s clock setter is to Lilly’s boxer toxin as Poodles rose paddle is to?
Watch Bozo Copernicus is to Hire Clarabelle Newton as Find ***-wee Einstein is to?
Amethyst thistle whistles is to Lapis pistol whip as Diamond bomb scar is to?
Dandelion seahorse rescue is to Crabapple dogwood farm as Faux foxglove lover is to?    
Optical poppy stopper is to Polar halo lens as Day-Glo rainbow sticker is to?
Savanna leopard spotted is to Eskimo lassos kisses as Alligator lemonade standard is to?
Bill of Rights is to Will of left as Thrill of night is to?
Baptize floozies quickly is to Useless outsized nozzles as Puzzled wizard wanders is to?        
Chaps wearing chaps are to Chaps contesting contests as Consoling concealed consoles is to?
Quiet squirming squirrels are to Aeon beauty queens as Queasy greasy luaus is to?
Knew new gnu is to Sense scents cents as We’ll wheal wheel is to?
Blazing zingers ringing are to Wheezing singers flinging as Freezing finger number are to?
Lamb tomb jogger is to Dumb numb **** as Thumbed crumb bug is to?

Blue accordion casket is to Jaded scholar ***** as German mushroom circus is to?
President George Flintstone is to Funny Fred Washington as Abraham Jetson’s dog is to?
Google Desmond Tutu is to Kalamazoo Zoo Park as Zodiac actors Guru is to?
Swamp cradled whisperer is to Cherished drawbridge cello as Bludgeoned prankster outlaws are to?
Dukes pink mittens are to Smeared nest carava
preservationman Jun 2016
Just what is the Human Response test?
It’s a test to determine true friendship being a confess
But mine you it’s not a competition to determine whose friendship is best
It’s a matter to find out are they true friends or foes
This test will eliminate all the woes
Make up a story about yourself being a like a confession
Just see how the responses come about
But just don’t try to figure out
Your job is just observe
Then cut off false friends and give them what they deserve
If the friends are true friends, you will certainly find out
Now true friends will inspire you, and even examine yourself being the true friends given in the test
However, if you get negativity along with insults
Then you know it’s time to clean house
You don’t need any negative Human Mouse
Friendship is about caring and sharing
False friendship is about eliminating and ignoring
But it’s just so sad we can’t live in harmony
Let’s look at hatred
How many times have you heard, I don’t like you, and you think you are all that?
Perhaps I am all that and a full bag of chips
But notice, the haters have given you all the failing human tips
However, don’t you fall into their trip being a careless trap slip
Try the Human Response test, and let the true results confess
Responsibility is true living in being life’s best
Observation is the best natural test
Examine and experiment for yourself and don’t be surprised in what you find out.
Lost for words Nov 2009
Call a                          doctor/ plumber/ priest
My heart is               broken/ leaking/ deceased

My life is                   worthless/ so much better/ over
I'm going to              **** myself/ tell your wife/ Dover

How could you         leave me/ not know/ lie?
I hope you                return my stuff/ come back/ die

I'll never                   forget you/ forgive you/ go away
I need                        closure/ a DNA test/ to tell you I'm gay

Your                           face/ crotch/ top of your back
Is                                so beautiful/ lumpy/ unusually slack

Your                           ex/ mother/ best friend from school
Always made me      great coffee/ feel inadequate/ drool

I will                           miss you/ **** you/ stalk you forever
That way we can      be friends/ get away with it/ be together

I'm sorry                   you did this/ I did this /we failed
I promise to               pay you/ dye it back/ get you bailed
Please don't               leave me/ show the Polaroids/ write or call


(*delete as appropriate, just delete it all.....)
Jackie Mead Oct 2017
Prince Simon, Prince Jason and Princess Sophie lived a regal life.

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

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

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

Down to the basement, he slowly sneaked, quietly to take a peek.  New adventures he did seek.

A rickety old wardrobe he did find and suddenly an adventure sprang to mind.

Prince Simon shouted excitedly, "come quickly Prince Jason, Princess Sophie the Wardrobe holds an adventure new, one for me and why don't you join me too?"

The three children didn't hesitate into the Wardrobe they climbed, "where are we going today? do you know the way? Prince Jason chimed.

"The way is West" Prince Simon declared "to the Wild Wild West in the days that were best, in the morning I have a history test."

Quickly buckle up, hold tight, the wardrobe will soon be taking flight.

No sooner had they entered the wardrobe and buckled up, then the wardrobe began to rock and shake, the wardrobe began to lift and quake.

The rocket started rising higher and higher, faster and faster , picking up speed and going faster and faster.

Higher and higher, faster and faster they rose into the sky.

Higher and higher, faster and faster until they were 30,000 feet high and heading in the direction of the Wild Wild West.  
All three children were delighted, the rocket ship made them so excited.

Prince Jason and Princess Sophie said, " what do we need to wear on this adventure?"

Prince Simon said "cowboy hat, jeans, boots, and vest, that's all that's required for the wild wild west"

"mmm said Princess Sophie what about cowgirls or squaws that is what an Indian Girl is called"

"Well," said Prince Jason "their very similar, a cowhide dress, boots and Stetson hat for cowgirl, a cowhide dress, boots and feather headdress for the Squaw, let's look around and explore what the wardrobe has hidden for us all"

The children started looking and everything they required they did find Prince Simon and Prince Jason looked very fine as Cowboys with their hats, jeans, boots and vest they would fit right in, in the Wild Wild West.

Princess Sophie decided to dress as a Squaw and donned Cowhide dress, boots and feather headdress turned to her brothers to see if she passed the test.

"Perfect" Prince Simon and Prince Jason declared "come join us  now," they both said," it won't be long" Prince Simon stated "until we land back in time of the 1870's in Deadwood Gulch, USA, the Sheriff has a campaign to rid the county of its bad name "

Prince Jason and Princess Sophie were so excited they began to laugh and squeak, Princess Sophie did declare that "her knees were feeling weak"

10 minutes later the rocket had slowed down and was starting its' descent, Princess Sophie got so excited as she spied a teepee tent.

"Look" Princess Sophie shouted "a reservation down below, where Indians are settled and warm fires are all aglow"  

"Can we please stop and speak, I would like to ride a horse and a canoe, I have read stories and I know that's what they do, in the land of the Sioux!"

Slowly the rocket did descend, landing near the reservation, all three children opened the door, their eyes grew wider at what they saw.

5,000 Indians greeted the visitors with big smiles, and their leader, name of Crazy Horse asked them to join them for a while.
“Stay a while,” Crazy Horse said we’ll make some food, teach you to ride a horse ******* and a canoe, teach you the ways of the Sioux.

Princess Sophie replied, “we can’t wait” looking at the leader’s headdress Princess Sophie sighed “how come your headdress is as tall as it is wide?”

Crazy Horse smiled and sweetly said “I am a leader of these people and I do not hide; my headdress makes me stand out from others at my side”

Crazy Horse led the children to the teepee tent and signalled them to sit on the floor in front, cross-legged.

“We hunt daily for fish and meat, the food you are going to be given is precious and prepared with care, please do not wait, dig in, enjoy, there is enough to share”

Prince Simon, Prince Jason and Princess Sophie dived in enthusiastically, tasting everything, they could, from rice and beans, fish and meat, everything was so tasty and cooked in a *** hung over the wood.

“when you have finished “Crazy Horse declared we have horses ready for you to ride, don’t worry someone will walk with you at your side”

The children excitedly climbed upon their horses, Lakota for Prince Simon, Kamanchee for Prince Jason and Quil for Princess Sophie, they each clicked their heels and off the horses trot.

Just as Crazy Horse promised, each of the children had an Indian by their side, walking and talking about the best way to ride.

After an hour the children did decide that as much as they enjoyed it they had to end the ride.

Prince Simon said to Crazy Horse “thank you for your hospitality but we really must leave right now, we are meeting the Sheriff man of Deadwood Gulch” he said with a bow.

Crazy Horse bid them adieu and said, “say Hi to Wild Bill for me, last time I saw him he was wagon master”

The three children said their goodbyes and walked along the White River to their destination town, Deadwood Gulch.

Suddenly wooden huts appeared and horses pulling carriages, people and cargo shared the inside and Wells Fargo in writing on the outside.

Prince Simon, Prince Jason, and Princess Sophie looked around the town, found a sign that said Sheriff’s Office, rang the bell and entered.

Wild Bill Hickock with his long hair and Stetson hat, looked just as the children remembered from their history class.

“Hi,” said Wild Bill as he rose from his seat, stretched his hand out to greet the three children.

You must be Prince Simon, Prince Jason and Princess Sophie come to learn the ways of the Wild West before your history test.

“Yes” said Prince Simon, wildly shaking Wild Bills hand “we are delighted to meet you and lend a helping hand”

Wild Bill said, “follow me, I am about to take a walk, meet the local folk and welcome visitors to the town, would you like to tag along with me as I walk around?”

The three children agreed excitedly and followed behind, “First stop” said Wild Bill is the Post Office look for the Yellow sign”
“I see it,” said Princess Sophie as she ran across the street “let’s all go inside and meet the postmistress, make sure she’s got what she needs, if she requires any stationary we may have to place an order to arrive with speed”

“Next stop,” said Wild Bill “is the Blacksmiths down the road, if you are lucky he will show you how a horse is shoed”
The children watched quietly as the Blacksmith plied his trade, treating all of the horses to pairs of shoes fit for a parade.

“Last,” said Wild Bill “off to a rodeo we go, you will see cowboys riding their horses and using their lassoes and if your very lucky they will let you try it too”

Prince Simon, Prince Jason, and Princess Sophie were so excited they hardly said a word, watching the rodeo in silence, watching every move.
Finally, Wild Bill shouted from the side, “hands up who is keen to have a ride around the ranch? Try their hand with a lasso and maybe get some lunch.

The children’s hands shot up in the air and all three children gave a very loud cheer, Wild Bill laughed and replied, “Follow me and I will hook you up with three horses for a ride”

For the second time that day the children rode horses, this time in a circle around the corral, keeping time Wild Bill always by their side, they loved the ride.

Last but least Wild Bill put on a feast of a show with rope in his hand he threw the lasso over some cans set up on a fence, pulled the rope tight and without a second glance, felled the tins to the floor, the children let out an appreciative roar.

“That is the end of your day” Wild Bill did say “I am sorry to see you go but you must run along home, you’ve been gone a long time and your mummy will be worried”

The children shook Wild Bill's hand and thanked him for his time, sadly the day had ended and they climbed back in the wardrobe, set the destination to their home a million miles below.

As they approached their home, the roof started to open wide and the rocket began to slow, the ride was nearly over and they did not have far to go.

Very soon the wardrobe landed safely on the floor, the children were exhausted and ran to open the door, out they fell full of excitement and looking for their mummy, headed straight to the kitchen.

Mummy looked at all three children and declared “there you are, I was searching for Prince Simon as he has a history test in the morning on the Wild Wild West and I was going to help him revise for it.

The children laughed and cried, Princess Sophie, sighed, “no need mummy” they all declared “we know all about it, we’ve all been there”

Prince Simon said “Can we just have some tea and go straight to bed, I promise I have all the knowledge of the Wild Wild West clearly in my head, at least enough to pass the test.”

Of course said Mummy wash your hands, tea is ready.
If you have children, you may wish to know this is now available as a book. As is the Two Princes and a Princess fly to the Moon
J Arturo Dec 2017
I am walking on this small and winding path, through a field. We've decided that it's not an important field, it grows nothing. Animals may have eaten here, once, but they aren't right now. And the path seems well travelled. I'm taken back to something, in science class-- maybe. About letting the earth lie fallow, for a season? I'm trying to say that thoughts of tresspassing were furthest from our minds.

Sarah is carying her heavy bag on her back. I've offered to carry it, but Sarah is one of those people who will recognize their own mistakes and deal with them. I am feeling prudent for having brought only my small brown messenger bag. The sun is just setting, we've been walking for most of the day. We are not nature people. There was a lot of time spent in the city, some spent navigating the train network-- the crazy system of connections and missed schedules. Local and express trains, too. I am not one to ever complain. Sarah is content to swim with the current, and I admire her for this.

She asks me, "Do you think we're still going north?"

We are supposed to be somewhere. I would not rather be anywhere than here.

"I am not sure." I say. "I am having a hard time being worried about it."

"Okay.", she says.

The tall plants with purple bells on top are falling apart as we brush past them. It is maybe eight o'clock, but it is summer, and the world smells warm and eager to have us in it. If earth is a mother, she is reading us a bedtime story. I am very sore, conscious of my decision to wear sandals this morning. Sarah is impossible to read, but paint her content. Had a sheep or farmer come up and asked me, I would have said I were falling in love.

Because of this, I want to say something, one of those things that will mean a lot more because it is between the two of us. I am thinking, "There are a lot of stars.", but instead, I say, "Have you wondered why they call it the Test Path?"

"I hadn't really thought much on it. I suppose it could be for a lot of reasons. Or maybe just coincidence? I don't know.", she says.

"I am thinking that it has something to do with cartography.", I say. "Maybe when they were first deciding how the first maps would be put together, they call came out here and mapped this path. Oh! And the Test Creek!"

"What does that have to do with anything?", she asks.

"Well when they had completed it, and all of the backs had been patted, etc, etc, and they'd completed the map of the surrounding area too, perhaps they thought: what will we call that first path and creek? And maybe one of them said, 'It was our first test. Let us just leave it as Test Path and Test Creek'. And so they all exclaimed what a Jolly-Good-Time it was, and went off to do whatever they did in those days, and it's been that way ever since."

"I don't really know what to tell you. I guess it's possible. I wasn't there.", she said.



I am trying to explain myself to the stars, but it's hard to pick just one and stay focused on it. Sarah has light skin. She fits in well amongst the thatched houses and rain. I am darker, and I suspect that people notice it. Hostility has been bred away for generations, here, but I can still feel eyes on me; the outsider. I want to fight these people, each of them, with my fists. I would love the chance to prove myself to them, and be taken into the tribe. Dear watchful ones: I can learn your language, your customs. I am young! Vibrant! Adaptable! But they will hear none of it. Sarah would, I think, fight them too, but she has nothing to prove to them. My attempts to read her leave me thinking she is longing to do something different with herself. She doesn't know what that is. If she did, she might not be here with me. I am both hopeful for her, and wishing she'll fail.



There is supposed to be a monestary around here. We are walking to the left of a deep forest, the creek lies between us. The occasional overturned tree would make a good bridge, but it is dark at this point, and we've decided that the monks would prefer to be left alone. Everything is colorless, but still full of life. At night, in the winter, in the city were we both used to live, everything died. We would sometimes walk along the short paths that lined the escarpment, and I would keep my knife in my hand. I think Sarah understood that it is a dangerous thing to be alive among the dead and dying; one must be careful. She never said anything about it, but Sarah is a poet on occasion, and so I assume she understands most everything. But here, there was noise, life. We come across a patch of ground riddled with holes the size of Coke cans. Deep holes.

"Do you ever wonder what they might be up to down there?", I say.

"I've thought about it, some,", she says, "but I imagine if they did anything really spectacular, we'd have heard about it."

"Did you see that special they aired on one of the science channels? They took some ant colony... in Africa. A certain type of ants. And they flooded the whole underground complex with this watery type of cement--"

"What about the ants? *******."

"Well they all died, I guess. But it's for the sake of science. Anyway. They flooded the whole complex with cement, and it took like... six months to dry. But when it did, they excavated around the whole thing."

"And what was it like?", she says.

"Amazing. I don't remember the statistic. Something like, 'The ants had moved four tons of earth, the eqivalent on a human scale of--' or other. But the point was that these little tiny bugs made this system, hundreds of feet wide and dozens of feet deep. All hidden under a pile of dirt! It was unbelievable!"

"That is pretty cool.", she says.

"Then imagine if these creatures were doing the same thing-- on the same scale. Kilometers of tunnels! Cisterns and cemetaries and maybe even churches, tiny factories, thermonuclear generation stations! All under this field!"

"I think that you give them too much credit. But I don't know. You could be right. Though I think if I were one of those things, I'd be happy just being one of those things, and not get caught up in industrialization and all of that."

And I ask, "Are you happy being one of whatever-you-are?"


We talk like this, for an hour or so. Nothing is really said, but I am secretly hoping that the world is listening to us. There must be sheep here, somewhere, and they will go home and tell their little sheep children about us. I also think about the nature of sound waves. That everything we say is receeding away from us, infinitely, and somewhere out there our words are being rendered into an alien language for a baby's bedtime story. I'm wondering why the greatest thing I hope for in life is to be the words that put someone to sleep.

We stop. It is very late now. The house I'd hoped to get to has not appeared. Though if we ended up going south instead of north, we've only added another day onto our trip. I'm not really concerned though, which is unusual for me. It is warm out, the bugs are singing lullibies. It is dark enough to be private, yet not so dark as to be frightening. We walk off the path, and sit down in the cavity left by the massive root structure of an old-man of a fallen tree. Sarah pulls out her sleeping bag, and I lie down in the grass nearby, and stare up. It is itchy, but I'm oddly not bothered. Not bothered anymore by much. I don't plan to sleep, not for a while. I want to hear Sarah sleeping. I've decided that I want my thoughts to become a bedtime story to her, and I begin to tell them to her, in no real order.

I wanted my words to be a christmas present, boxed and beautiful. Or a chocolate bar. Or something. They come out jambled, as I fall in and out of meter, gesturing at the sky and making grand generalizations. I tell her about my childhood on the farm. About the way my uncle, reaching for a rope in the hay loft, fell and broke his neck three summers back. It was the first time I'd seen a dead body. I tell her about moving to the city. The brick and stone, and my initial fascination at the way things could always be in motion. After a time, she comes to lie next to me, wordlessly, and places her head on my chest.



I am no more now than I have ever been, but I am tied off at the end. I am not in danger of fraying. I won't sleep tonight. I will run through the house, switching off the lights and straightening all of the picture frames, while Sarah is sleeping. This is something I will defend to the death. I will fight off the wolves and gypsies and try my best not to wake her with the slashing motions of my right arm. I am feeling like no one has ever deserved more to rest, and that I will give my life so that she will have it. I kiss, softly, the top of her head. The sheep watch quiety, and hold their children close. This is what it's like to be at rest.
Jan 28, 2009
Morissa Schwartz Jul 2014
1

I sit in the back of Dad’s car, bopping my head to The Beatles’ Revolution and hum quietly while reading over my notes for today’s math test.

2

Lunch with Val, Eugene, Michelle, Kayla, Chris, and Nick, talking about our favorite movie, Forrest Gump, until Val interrupts with how nervous she is about applying to high school.  We finish lunch in silence.

3

Let f(x) = -2X2 + 4X + 6…That is the question that has plagued me all day.  On my math test, I made the answer positive instead of negative, the minor mistake that will cost me my A.

4

On this beautiful, unseasonably warm afternoon, I am glad to be outside reading my favorite Matheson stories on the wooden cutout in the giant oak by the dining room window, but worries that I may not be accepted to The Academy interrupt my leisure.

5

For Christmas, my friends and I exchange gifts.  Val gives me a stuffed flamingo. I put right it right next to the unicorn on the lace covered brown bench that oversees my room.

6

We have received your application for admission testing to The Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences. Your test will be on January 28, 2008.

7

In gym class, Val holds her hand as if she is in pain, but she refuses to show it to anyone, not even me, her best friend.

8

Val has a circular scar on her hand that looks like a burn mark.  She insists that she is just clumsy and she fell.

9

This kid next to me at The Academy admission testing is breathing so loudly I can’t concentrate.

10



I glide my paintbrush through the orange paint and onto the canvas.  I don’t know what I’m painting, but I know I need to paint.

11

Math class is miserable.  Not only did I get an 86 on the test that I thought I aced, but Val started crying hysterically, until Ms. Endolf sent her to the school counselor.

12

Michelle and Kayla are mad at Val for acting so strangely.  They refuse to speak to our friend.  I refuse to join their charade.  I know she’s acting strangely for a reason.

13

I come home to find my mother crying…happy tears.  She tells me that I passed my admission test with a proud ear-to-ear grin on her face. The next step in the admission process is an interview with The Academy on March 1.

14

I bead a few bracelets before going to sleep.  I feel guilty, like I should be studying or preparing for my interview, but I just don’t want to.

15

Val pulls me into the coat cubby during homeroom, the dark circles under her eyes barely visible from the faint light in the  dimly lit room.  She tells me how her father has abused her and her sisters this past year and swears me to secrecy

16

How can I help my best friend and her sisters? Can I help my best friend and her sisters?  Can I help my best friend?

17

I go to the veteran’s home where I’d been volunteering for a while and see my favorite veteran, Ray.  He tells me not to get old.

18

“Why do you want to go to The Academy?”  Ms. Ferris, my Academy interviewer, asks.  I stare at her blankly for a moment before responding.

19

When Val comes to school with more bruises, I break my promise and tell my parents.

20

I slowly open my report card to reveal a B in math…my first B ever.  I take a puff of my inhaler.

21

The old home phone rings; I assume it will be the Academy with an admission decision. “Help me, Morissa!”  Val screams into the phone.  I gesture to my mother who grabs the car keys, as we race to the door.

22

Spring break.  My family and I go to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania to celebrate my being one of forty students admitted to The Academy.

23

DYFS goes to Val’s house after her older sister tries to commit suicide by overdosing on pain pills.

24

Lunch is so quiet with Eugene, Michelle, Kayla, Chris, and Nick.

25

I got an 84 on my math test today.  I smile.

26

Val returns to school but sits at a different lunch table.  She has no more bruises, but her eyes are still red.

27

My gown flows as I march down the church aisle to receive my certificate of completion from St. John Vianney.

28

I stare at the screen of the my new HP computer as I scratch the back of the $15 iTunes card my grandparents gifted to me. As I begin to type in OKGO’s Here It Goes Again, as the first song I purchase, I change my mind and type in The Beatles’ Revolution.

29

I relax outside alternating between reading Stephen King and beading on my twirling chair as I now do every relaxing summer day.

30

Went to the shore.  Won a giant yellow bee stuffed animal.  I am the skeeball champion!

31

This is so embarrassing.  I don’t know how to open my locker.  In all my years of private school, home school, and Catholic school, I’ve never had a locker until entering The Academy.  Mrs. Bow laughs as she teaches me how to operate a locker.

32

Holding a brain is a lot different than I thought it would be.  It is mushier and lighter than I imagined.

33

“Ever see Forrest Gump?” my new friend, Ruchir, asks at lunch, as I mush the jelly on my sandwich.

34

I walk down the street pulling my ****-tzu and Maltese in my wagon.  Lester almost jumps out when he sees a terrier twice his size, but I catch him just in time.  It is the scariest moment I have had in a long time.

35

At the veteran’s home, I see Ray and tell him how much I love The Academy.  He smiles and asks if I’d like to sing with him.

36

The phone rings.  It’s my new friend Shannon.  She needs help with our Biomedical Sciences homework.

37

I spend Columbus Day at The Carpet Maven, my parent’s carpet store.  St. John Vianney never gave days off for “made up holidays.”

38

Solve for x in the equation Ln(x)=8…I haven’t been able to get that problem out of my head all day.  That is the problem that earned me the Best in Class Award on my first marking period report card.

39

It’s Sunday.  I walk down Main Street to pick up bagels for my family.  The smiley, bright-eyed girl behind the counter at the bagel shop is Val.  She is a student at Mother Superior High School. She asks if my unicorn is being nice to my flamingo.

40

I look at the flamingo and unicorn on my bench.  They’re fine. I’m okay.  Everybody ‘s alright.   Everything’s good.
This poem reflects the struggles of transitioning from middle school to high school.
Ken Pepiton Dec 2018
Taken, gotten, or made, the point of anything
can pierce through everything…

slow
Slow think,
make real

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

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

or the light brigade,
CHARGE?

thunder words from lost generations of
reasonless riddles for children,

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

Know why? They forgot it. In the war.

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

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

War, as a game, has a reason.

Battle, hitting, slapping

stop touch, stop now slap
slap back

or cry
oh no no ma

waddayahsay?  A theist or atheist
who started this war?

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

Kaboom, but with a whump you feel in your teeth

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

ABC to
Michael Jackson to
Howard Bloom because he

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

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

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

like a poem

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

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

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

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

Press your point,

whetted edge,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the holy place
Here we are…

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

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

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

don't scratch, listen

listen

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

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

can you feel that?

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

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

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

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

Ah,
novelty.

Whose is fear? Who was afraid of Virginia Wolf?

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

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

haps happen, I'm not sure how,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We made it.
I know where this is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get back on,

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

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

Pay attention, watch, you shall see

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

in a dime coffee at the drug store on the corner

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

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

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

Did that happen the real real?

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

allaye allaye outs in free

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

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

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

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

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

Shall we imagine

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

or agree? Make peace.
Practice, like Eazy-Bake,
the cook must swallow the first bite. May the best cook win.
A continuing examination of opposing forces when good is the goal, who could be against that? The old word war is festering, inflaming evil to start a try, therefore,  I whet the edge and swing wide
Kami-Kaze dinner test
This is a test of the emergency Kami-Kaze dinner alert
If this were a real emergency,
You would have been instructed where to go
And what to do next;
But as this is just a test,
Please pick up your napkins
And arrange them comfortably on your laps.

Begin the salad or soup course,
Picking up the correct utensils when the main course appears,
Don't forget to sniff for the delicate aromas-
Wait, hold it-hold it-hold it.
Hold on for just a dad-gummed minute there:
No shish-kebobs allowed on the menu!
Kami-Kazes just love shish-kebobs..
(Heads are gonna roll for this one)
This is no longer a test;
Get ready now, everyone

Dive beneath the table now
Fast as you can,
This is no joke, no;
This is real, as real as it gets
Come on-
Push aside the table cloth,
Bend down, bend down quickly
Forehead to knees, and hold your breath,
Just like you were taught years ago in school-
And prepare to kiss the pork ****, goodbye.
Sorry- er, blizzards make me weird. :D
Ken Pepiton Oct 2018
cliche. click
I'm lost without you

you glanced my way and said,
"how do you know?"

I don't.
I won't.
I can't.

You glance away and say,
"maybe so."

Life's the test.
----
stand alone or be rejected
objected
the subject of the action word
conjecturing the meaning

Hector's pride brought the mass.
Was that made sacred? Yechhh.

Higgs's made real,  massive change
end of the world
as we knew it, 2012, mass means more than x-mas

The message in the messenger from Greece's God,
"Hold fast, hold on, Hector, be
hold-- what a drag"

Achilles, shoulda had anger management.

Suppose, Achilles's momma had trusted
whatever the protection was to be,
divine, that kind o' dad,
it warn't gonna let 'im drown.

She coulda just tossed 'im in,
sink or swim, knowing, in her inner parts,
the protector's promise,
memorized, since the red tent.

Pandora's last hope trumps fire,
and flood,

Wee Achilles woulda squirmed, and swam,
invincible, every inch soaked,

it could been, but, you know,
Achilles's momma could not let go.

And the rest is mythtery.

---
the sign said follow the money,

but money is invisible, so I played like
I could see what other folk
saw.

Lot o'them took time to tell me,
"Only believe", or "trust, and obey".
Streets of gold,
we'll slide back
down on silk stockings
hung on spider thread

above the flames

that boil the kettle in the center of
the whole round world,

nobody in our family ever once
believed the world is flat,

nor that Jesus once was blue and had four arms,

stop me.
I was wrong, I, myself, can imagine
Jesus dressed as Rama,
who was blue and had four busy arms, in truth.

hallowed ev'ening of the light,
settling sun, lead in the night, when all
see monsters, every where,

no one will notice me. Watch and see.

OH OH, ****** me by my pigtail, lift me to the third
floor, two stories past tellestial,
kingdom come,
which the mormon at my door testified
the angelic ***** had told Brigham 'n'em,

in the spirit, he agreed, not face to face.

tellestial is as close to hell as a Mormon man can go,
and,
he said, "If you could see it, you'd die to go.
It's so much better than this."

Joe Smith, said that, according to his agent.

I pondered,
chewed a cud, as I could recall, holy cows do.

I leaned back, put one boot to rest,
on the bricks behind my knee,

A modified Crane pose, I suppose.
I folded my arms and stared that boy
right in the eye.

I said, "Wanna try?"
"We gotta bridge up the road a piece,
sure as haell,
we'll see if it's a lie, at least."

Then I repented.
That hell imagined by Joe and all them zionic-messengers,
they was guesses, at the best. But the feelers at my door,
they was bein' tempted
to put their own faith to the test.

I grow bolder. The experiment worked.
I know.
Same ol' story...

-She said it tasted,
okeh,
first time that word was ever heard or tasted.

Cool,
****, cold, evil, winter, summer, sweat, mosquitos, evil cold,
I'm sorry!

How do you know?
What's blame?
Oh, that, and shame, I know that,

epi genetically be guile-ish. gullibility
gone in one bite.

Taste and see, he saw her say, or thought
he did

Like a switch, with more capacitance,
than the cells of knowing can resist,
in the first few months of being matter in time.

Knock a fella in the head
with knowing all the hows of evil,
along with all the why of not,

the most beautiful woman in the world,
no contest,
naked, and he knows.

Thinkin' straight ain't in the plan.
Precedent set forever,
no plan survives first sight of a naked woman after learning what naked means,

according to the tutor in blame,
who sat glumly on Adam's shoulder
explaining as the jist
of the story unrolls, "naked is evil,
you are naked", no word, just
thinkin'

good luck if yer helpin' him stand,
Wham

spoken words heard and
obey essence initial instantiation
revere
lionize,

oops, Idols. The idea of idols. Don't imagine anything like that.

Gabriel came with that very message all over his face.

Knowin' evil and doin' it, not the same.
Learn to drive and do the math,

Then we talk about artifice beyond the ken of mortal minds,
not worry,
it is written, We have the mind of Christ,

but as an augmentation really,
we can fact check,
but, honest,
a heretic has to use any augmentations right,
or the being powers will

objectify his reason for being, and reject him, for

the sin of defining the happiness he ensues.

You with me?
----
This was to be my comment,
but it called out for search engine priority of purpose

Nothin', I was thinkin' --
we never get trick or treaters,
tho' an occasional Mormon team will try to climb my hill,
then I un cussed my thoughts
with my inner self and we agreed.
He who would catch fish,
must venture his bait.
Net criticism's needed, if anything is to get better than this.
Wise ones say, it ain't easy,
but true rest,
I can testify, it's found along the way.

Hallowed be your even-ing, level up,

trick or treat?
not on that old man's hill,
somethin' weird, too peaceful there.
Nothin', I was thinkin' -- we never get trick or treaters, tho' an occasional Mormon team will try to climb my hill,then I un cussed my thoughts with my inner self and we agreed. He who would catch fish, must venture his bait. Net criticism needed, if anything is to get better than this.
Kida Price Apr 2015
She's crash test dummy
If her life doesn't exist
It makes the collision that much more funny
In the name of science
And good intentions
She makes men smarter
And inspire their pensions
Crash her once
My love didn't work
Crash her twice
Just by being a ****
Crash her thrice
Cause I wasn't there
Don't crash 4 times
The dummy is out of spares
But it's alright
It's just a test
If I really loved her
Then her life would be a success
No broken pieces
No cracked face
No mixed emotions
Pouring out all over the place
If she were real
The impact would be set gently
If she drew breath
Her lungs wouldn't be empty
She's a crash test dummy
And they move from time to time
Sometimes mine cries
When she's out of the reach of my eyes
Her heart could be damaged
But that's what she agreed
She'll suffer any demolishing pain
If it means the love of me
Though the pain outweighs the pleasure
The sobs outlast the laughter
She can be teary and smiling
And with a combo like that
Makes a human seem so inhumane
So a dummy she has become
My dummy in the least
I test to she if she'll become real
And she never tests me
Ken Pepiton Oct 2018
Axt would I, I sed yah soyam

Signing a song played in the white noise that surrounds me

nights like these past 7043,

Who chounted en chant em, enchantemgood

So no we are at what is a befinning place.
beginning (90's too ****, U2 too Northern Euro,
Green Day, Coolio,
Noise to a message dying to be heard
welcome to another
imaginary garden in an ever expanding mind

field of unthinkable things,
back then

we have whiteout but it doesn't work here

My culture had near simultaneous eruptions of supermarkets

and Fords.

This guy, his culture had near simultaneus disruptions of progress and
interruptions of information
some os were lost in the middle synchrony
instance if I cationic plus or minus
simaltan

Oh, I get it. You, dear reader, have been
out of it.
We went public with the entire plan for public
key distribution,
through six palanced stacks of energy stores

Chakra, chi, science make ya think eh. Polarize, see

everything groovy --no
[contemprayery idle intense ify AI keep us current]

lie, good, no lie is always safe. Don't wanna stumble any souls.

I was mentioned, my being a speaker in a story, I was said
to have said something, upon a time,
on the cover of the Rolling Stone,

I witnessed a lie being told and said my ears weren't garbage cans,
like a brainwashed cult

no, **** I was a cultivated follower of a confessed
follower cultivator.

I bloom when I imagine being treated as a mushroom,
I never paid much attention,
I never felt
insane
but
I can imagine
wee whatifs crept in… aha

The Olde Deluder, Satan, Act

that, a tiny gleam, a single ATP gone ADP

but there was light. A story I lived is now being told
without me,
oy vey Jah knowaddamean.

There was a wiseman, who,
by his wis-dom saved a city, and no one knew
that same wiseman's name,

proverbs are intentional games, the rules,
hiding a thing, done by God, glory ifies him
seeking out a matter, done by a being translated king,
transmutes that seeking into honor

Honor is hard to compare to the war flavored twists,
knots and tangles where woof and warp held

long long long before war was imagined, honor was.

A medal of honor for valor, what does it mean?

Leonard Wood got one. For his part in solving
the Apache problem.
He also,

Flash I had my wires crossed, in a way, it may
enlighten.
You see, I had thought that I had read Leonard Wood,
be cause I had imagined he was in New Jersey, but that
was Lord Amherst, Jeff

He tweerted ( wrote in a letter on paper we've a fact simile):
"to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race."

From <https://www.umass.edu/legal/derrico/amherst/lord_jeff.html>

Could be the source of the whole shores of triple ease retirement lure/trap/moneymoneymoney makeit fakit

I asked once, who's to blame and whose to blame,
samesame came an answer, I sware, quick as

next, twixt being and being possible,

realize

we do change things, in time, which,

if we can agree, is limited for us,
to now, no thens behind

mere, mere, mere ifs and whens ahead

be

--so there's been music all along
life's the song

skip a decade, like skippin' a grade

grad Harvard at a prepubescent 12

If I had a Hammer time, one message

one valiant try to be will smith,

Live and Learn, old man, say the dude on the radio
in he's hammaheadphones, cain't touch

Bomb. Jesus lent me Jael's hammer,
radioman nailed it.

If I had a hammer was the prayer,

MC, he was the Godsmacked nail in the coffin

Dark inside gothish messages hurgle and gurgle
guts twisted in freak pride love hate list lust

dichotomies of choice in ever learning
good citizenship worth honor and glory

of the sort men dare to die for, facing darkness,
the NULL set ***** and ***** and *****

This ain't gravity tuggin me,
this is that monster who lives forever in top forty radio

When/then Radioman emerges, Like the Mighty Quinn from

deep beneath Gibson's darkest ever imagined ICE wall…

What's on? (ellipses, do those mean POV shift or selah?)

I forget, s still all alchemistry t'me, if allyagots ahammass,

realize, if it matters, t'me, bubble bustin' need no nail.

I gotti'd a hamma, gonna hamma in the moan

O.G., mighty man of valor, where'dyew arise from?

We, the integrated us, non autonomous, inarrogant
We were dancin' to that I'm a Loser, Baby

so why don't cha killme, knowwad i'msayin

This old man been wandern in the desert far far far
side the madding crowd
making minced
meet
broken spirit. we goin together to a re-pair place

at the center of you'n'all you know, yo bubble but

--- everlearning everclear outlawed, good lawed
--- moon shine spiritment lauded out loud
--- the world all ways works when a garden is

beyond the pale,
Irish
rye whiskey, wheat bread liqui
if I were an
old gay ninties guy drinking ***** laudnum
singin'

on the corner with the hourus girl's c

Making the Con Next Ion, watchathank,
is it The Nineties A to Z , ending wit, it’s a hard
knawks life, or

a Bohr-TED talk or
a video of Schrödinger's  
verdamte dead cat?

Or am I surrounded by so great acloud of witnesses that some times I spend

simply hummin' along, life's beat me to the ground,

which gladly,
I'm so glad, I'm glad, I'm glad which

loses its meaning if you never experienced such a fall
ending in absorption of it all.
Ginger Baker, slam that cymbal, CRASH1

Life, in every key, there's a clue. Some where,
there's a lock on a true thing we need

to, eventually, know all things.

Keywords lost givitawaygivitawaygit it back tenfo'

Black spirit-filled tongue talkin' grandpa friend of
Johnny Walker, Red not Black,

He challenged me ye see. I recall what was on TV.
Nixon sayin' he,
honest he,
anti-****** he,
bombin invadin he was Notacrook, the super hero
he imagined

Bio is building energy, all the time does is
test the effort.

Is life lived this way worth the effort?
if/then/else

Who chose, integrated me, all the masks and voices I have accepted as ideas that can have apiece of me.

BTW, kids, even if an angel of light asks you to take a little piece of my heart, don't

yer killin me and I know where the next story started,

you are lost without me, fretnot, I'm the way

I heard that, that's no claim I mist'tok as my response.

Deeper, are we absobbing any thing, deeper tincture
of time, t'me see

POV
SameYesTodayForever (SYTF) protocols have been in place, as far as we know,

since words made sense naturally, eons ago, at least.

If you want my future then forget my past
musing medium messages sayin

what the hell? A game, you sayin' life's a game?

Ja, was oder vice nicks versus universal soldier godlet

Jump when I jump, remember… don't cry

I woulda danced with wolves to have changed
one mind that followed me

beyond that point,
no return, is such a mortal POV, you see
as far as you cansee

Deep. the gem. all the meaning ever was was
in that gem.

Dare me for no reason? Is that reasonable,
ration my tears to test my mettle

I went mad in 1995, have I made that plain?
Things crumbled around me for ten years,

I was helped by hoping I knew a truth about those
manifested imaginary gems
given kings and potentates
said to possess great powers and the meaning og every mystery unknown to man

eh, say again
gems
given kings and potentates
said to possess great powers and the meaning OhGEE every mystery unknown to man

lies lies lies they all were lies lies lies lies

I told you so, and it is still sweet to say
you know

You heard it all before, greatest test story ever told.
That was no test.
this is.

Jump when I jump, remember… don't cry

Epic stories deserve more than mere words,
but, you know, click,

words are what we make things from.

Tell me your stories,
she woulda seemed to whisper, woulda drained me drownd me
in just if I'd love linked

to the money machine of your dreams

had I not rode the grey dog outa Nashville,
back in '82,

I'da missed seein' flyover country that feels like mine,
when I take this POV.
I wandered into a sattelite radio 90's A-Z, kinda like those histories of philosophies old people listen to when they're ******. Oh, the moonshine experiment worked, FYI

— The End —