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Ayad Gharbawi Dec 2009
THE STORY OF SARA

Ayad Gharbawi


CHAPTER 2: UNIVERSITY

  
  Well, I did study and, I did pass my exams, and I did succeed in ending up in a decent, upper class school!
  How did I pay for it? I hear you ask me?
  I didn't: I got a scholarship!
  And, what a new world I faced!
  What a totally different society I saw!
  I felt that I was in another country, for I never knew that there existed, from my own people, men and women such as those I encountered!
  My studies in psychiatry really excited me: I thought that I would be able to 'solve' anyone's mental problems.
  All I had to do, was to study and study as feverishly as I could.
Studying furiously, and with love and passion, was the key to success.
  Study, and then you pass your examinations, and then you become a doctor in psychiatry - and I would thereby become successful.
  I would then be someone important.
  I would be respected by everyone.
  My life would have a purpose and a meaning because I would be going in the correct path.
It was simple as that!
  And what was the alternative?
  Not to study?
  And what would I do then?
  Go do a menial, low paying job?
  That was anathema to me!
  It made me sick, to even think about that!
  Why?
  Because, I came from a poor background, and I lived in poverty, and I saw the culture and the people who lived in poverty, and by God, I don’t want to ever live in those circumstances ever again in my life.
  What was poverty to me?
  Your house is ugly; your neighbourhood is ugly; your neighbours are the most indecent people you can imagine.
  The area you live in, swarms with people who live their lives in ‘anti-social behaviour’!
  And what’s ‘anti-social behaviour’?
  That means your community is one, where most people are drunks in  public, where fights, with guns and knives, are an everyday occurrence; where the most filthy language is the norm in public; where ******* covers large parts of the town; where vandalism and damage to cars and property is another daily occurrence; where people play ear-deafening music in the streets and there’s nothing you can do – because, if you call the police, they’ll obey, but then they’ll come back and make hell out of your life – in other words, the gangs rule the community.
  Aren’t those enough reasons to get out of poverty?!
  And, then for me, there are other things that are really important to me.
  For example:
  I mean, who is going to respect you, if you have a menial job? Who is going to look up at you?
  Who is going to listen to your words, when you speak?
  And, most importantly, are you yourself going to be happy with your self and with your life, if you had a menial job?
  Of course not!
  To be a fully satisfied human, you need to live in respectable surroundings with a respectable job.
  Otherwise, there cannot be happiness for you.

  Once I joined my university, I encountered mostly upper class students.
  That’s why, I say it was like ‘another world’ for me, because I had never encountered people like that before!
  Their dress was different; their accent and they way they spoke was different; but what interested me the most, was the fact, that their intellectual interests were extremely varied, as opposed to the people that I had grown up with and knew – those people whose only interests, were getting drunk, practicing promiscuity, crime and drugs!
  Now outside classes, I got began to get involved with different groups of academic students – each group held differing ideas about the world, politics, economics, philosophy of life - and any other subject you can imagine.
  I was never interested in what I called the other 'superficial' groups; that is, those who discussed what I considered to be the stupidities of life, such as fashion, make up, cars, sports and so on. No way; not for me, were people like that!
  For I was far too serious for such mind-wasting people, and, frankly life-wasting people.
  No, I wanted to learn; my God how utterly hungry and thirsty and deadly serious about acquiring more and more knowledge on every 'serious' subject I was - so that, one day, I would be a useful and productive human to society!
  If I was not in my classes, and if I was not listening to those intellectuals, I would sit on any desk and search the internet and read endlessly, on any and every 'serious' subject.

With respect to my classes, as the months rolled over, I began to feel, and think, that my professors were not all that smart at all. I began to feel that they were, in fact, quite ordinary, dull people. But then, I grappled with next obvious question: if they were 'ordinary' and 'dull' people, then how come they were professors – and by 'professors', I mean that they must be far from 'ordinary'? Surely, any person, who is able to be a professor, must be intelligent?
  And yet, the more I listened and took down notes from these professors, and the more I analyzed their words and ideas, the more I became convinced at their emptiness and stupidity!
  My God, you must believe me, for they were talking utter *******!
  Well, who exactly, 'made' them professors?
  I began to dislike them.
  Then, the obvious consequences took place in my mind: the more I disliked them, the less I paid attention to their words and that, in turn, increased my boredom in class!
  No, this was a complete and utter waste of time for me. Yes, I would still need to read the text books given to us by the university, and I would need to understand these books in order to pass the examinations.
  But, I was also determined to do my own independent psychiatry studies, in order to find the ways and means of solving people's emotional problems.

I found it really thrilling to see so many students having so many ideas about the world, because, for me it was so utterly unusual to see young people actually caring about so many issues in our lives!
  You had the conservatives; socialists; Dadaists, existentialists, communists of every shade you can imagine; fascists, socialists, liberals, Nazis, monarchists, Hare Krishnas, Hindus, Budhists, yoga-followers, animal rights campaigners, environmentalists, religious fundamentalists, anarchists  - the list was quite endless to the point of absurdity for, within each group, there were sub-groups, that ranged from the so-called 'left' to the so-called 'right'.
  However, in all this confusion and chaos, there were, at least two things, that you knew for certain: and that was, firstly; that no group agreed with any other group, whilst secondly; every 'leader' of any group sincerely and passionately believed that, yes they, and only they, had all the answers to all the questions that faced our dear Humanity!

But with time, it dawned on me that that most of these intellectual students were not quite what I expected of them.
They would passionately discuss any subject and in excruciating detail!
  To me not every subject was worthy of being discussed!
  Everything was criticized in university.
  Everything was questionable.
  Nothing was certain.
  On the opposite these students believed that they had a duty to deeply philosophise and intricately analyse and scrutinize from every angle every subject and issue in our planet!
  Nothing was accepted and nothing was taken for granted.
  And it was exhausting to listen to them!
  I say ‘exhausting’ because after every meeting, I would actually feel emptier!
  I simply did not learn or gain anything from all these endless discussions!
  So they would analyse issues like: what is the soul?
  What is the difference between the soul and the spirit?
  Where is the soul located?
  Where is the mind located?
  What is the difference between bravery and foolishness?
  Are mathematical facts like 1+1=2 discovered or created by mathematicians?
  What does the word ‘the’ mean?
  What does the word ‘a’ mean?
  Who has a right to create rules and laws?
  How much taxes should each adult pay?
  Is the universe finite or infinite?

  And so it went on and on until your brain became numb with the deafening boredom and pointlessness of it all.
  What irritated me the most was that with these groups of students, was that nothing was sacred.
  Nothing was certain.
On the opposite, everything was completely uncertain.


  As for myself, I gradually gravitated to the leftists – that mixture of socialists, communists, anarchists and other such-like groups.
  Why?
  Because to me their philosophy was more or less simple.
  There wasn’t all that endless series of critiques and analysis that so nearly damaged my brains!
  Their idea was simple: we had to removed the oppressors.
And the oppressors was anyone who had power and influence.
  And what kind of society did we want?
  A purely egalitarian one where there would be neither master nor slave.
  Simple!
  Here I found that much needed sense of certainty!
  Here was an ideal, a philosophy that had strict rules that we were meant to follow in order to achieve our sacred aims!
  

  I was immediately attracted to one student leader, Tony, who passionately urged his listeners to use any means necessary – except violence –in order to achieve our goals of total equality within our society.
  He was a tall man of average weight, with short hair – actually, let me immediately stop myself here - because actually there was absolutely and totally nothing remarkable about the way he looked; but what really made him so attractive was in his personal charm, and the way he spoke, with such a theatrical ability, that made you unable to move as long as he talked.
  I can still see him, as he gracefully gesticulated in such an animated manner, giving further power and reason, to every word and idea he uttered:
  "Can't you see and feel what is going all around you? My friends, listen to my words, because we are living in a society that is dominated by greed and ultimately misery and death on an everyday scale. Why is the dustman paid any less than a doctor? Aren't we all human beings, born free and equal? And, so, if you, my friends, agree with me that all men, women and children, are equal, then it should make obvious sense to you that we should all live equally. Do you feel what I am saying to your hearts, or not?!" he would thunder at us, with his face contorting from the passion, and with his ability to be so majestic and, yet, so utterly humble at the same moment!
  Yes, I began to think more and more about what Tony had to say.    Why was there poverty in the first place?
  Where was Humanity?


  Indeed, aren't we all equal human beings; so why this discrimination? It seemed so sensible to me; and yet, what was I, Sara the Nobody, doing about this problem?
  Nothing, of course.
  Yes, I was just a student – but I was not actively working against the dark forces, as Tony was always talking about.
  Tony would mesmerize his listeners, which were usually held in the evenings, at around eight o'clock.
  He always managed to talk to you directly – or so it felt, despite the large number of listeners.
  "There are people who make millions in minutes – did you people know that?  While most people in our society struggle and sweat not only tears, but, I tell you, they sweat blood – yes blood" he would scream at this point, "day in and day out, and getting paid next to nothing, you also have a minority who make millions in minutes!   How can you, yes you, tell me that that is fair? Why do you, my listeners, why do you lamely accept, that we live in a society that allows conditions, whereby the majority, and I say the vast majority of human beings, men and women, have to bleed to death just, to pay their never ending bills, while a minority lead an easy life overflowing with money, glamour, power and luxuries that are indescribable? I ask you again and again to answer my questions: is that fair? And if it is not fair, then what should be done about this sick situation? Well, clearly, we must use violence to take our rights, because no democracy will allow our party to succeed in any election and obviously the rich will never voluntarily give up their oceans of wealth; therefore, if you ask me, what is to be done, I firmly tell you as my response, that we must fight for our eternal rights, and by using the verb 'fight', I mean we 'fight' with every weapon at our disposal – be they words or bullets!"
  I was simply exhilarated by his symphony of words!
  And yet, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something ‘missing’ in Tony’s personality.  
  He just didn’t have that supreme self assurance that others had.
  I guess that was what was ‘missing’.
  I couldn’t understand why he did have that degree of insecurity – because, it seemed to be a contradiction when you are living your life for an ideal, and at the same time, you have insecurities within your heart!

  It was also at university, that I first met Sanji.
  He was a tall, dark wavy haired man with a dark complexion.  His beautifully oval eyes had a deeply pensive look, and at the same time, they were always somehow mired within a sorrowful gaze.
  Even when he would talk to you, Sanji's eyes seemed to be far away, deep in thought, about God knows what subject!
  Gracing his eyes, were beautifully arched eyebrows and the longest, thickest eyelashes I have ever seen, that beautifully complimented those seemingly lonely eyebrows in perfect harmony.
  He was a quiet, soft spoken gentleman, who was the most polite and sincere man I had ever met – I would forever ask myself, how can this man, be so gentle and compassionate, and without seeming to get distressed, angry or anxious?!
  He had such a depth of serenity in his personality – and that trait was something that made so utterly envious of him; I was constantly wishing and trying to have a millionth of that serenity of his.
  He was utterly sure of himself – and not in any arrogant way. He was completely happy and secure with the ideas and principles which guided him throughout his life.
  He had a complete knowledge as to what the purpose of his life was. As a result he knew exactly where he was going with his life.
  There was no sense of being lost with Sanji; for he knew the endless, twisted, meandering number of Paths of Life ahead of him - and more importantly he knew which path he wanted to tread on in his life’s journey.
  He would never use foul language; and would always listen to you with interest as you talked – which is rare in our world.
  And he had that most beautiful ability and talent to be so extra careful in choosing his words when he spoke, for he always wanted to get his thoughts and ideas properly across to you, so that people would understand him well, and so that there would be no confusion as to what he stood for.
  That's why he was so pensive and why he spoke so deliberately; there was never any impulsiveness on his part; he intended exactly every word, and exactly every phrase, and every sentence he used; there never was any carelessness on his part when he would interact with you.


  I never met a man who was so wholly and totally considerate for the feeling
howard brace Feb 2012
Inconspicuous, his presence noted only by the obscurity and the ever growing number of spent cigarette stubs that littered the ground.  It had been a long day and the rain, relentless in its tenacity had little intention of stopping, baleful clouds still  hung heavy, dominating the lateness of the afternoon sky, a rain laden skyline broken only by smoke filled chimney pots and the tangled snarl of corroded television aerials.

     The once busy street was fast emptying now, the lure of shop windows no longer enticed the casual browser as local traders closed their premises to the oncoming night, solitary lampposts curved hazily into the distance, casting little more than insipid pools mirrored in the gutter below, only the occasional stranger scurrying home on a bleak, rain swept afternoon, the hurried slap of wet leather soles on the pavement, the sightless umbrellas, the infrequent rumble of a half filled bus, hell-bent on its way to oblivion.

     In the near distance as the working day ended, a sudden emergence of factory workers told Beamish it was 5-o'clock, most would be hurrying home to a hot meal, while others, for a quick drink perhaps before making the same old sorry excuse... for Jack, the greasy spoon would be closing about now, denying him the comfort of a badly needed cuppa' and stale cheese sandwich.  A subtle legacy of lunchtime fish and chips still lingered in the air, Jack's stomach rumbled, there was little chance of a fish supper for Beamish tonight, it protested again... louder.

     From beneath the eaves of the building opposite several pigeons broke cover, startled by the rattle as a shopkeeper struggled to close the canvas awning above his shop window.  Narrowly missing Beamish they flew anxiously over the rooftops, memories of the blitz sprang to mind as Jack stepped smartly to one side, he stamped his feet... it dashed a little of the weather from his raincoat, just as the rain dashed a little of the pigeons' anxiety from the pavement... the day couldn't get much worse if it tried.  Shielding his face, Jack struck the Ronson one more time and cupped the freshly lit cigarette between his hands, it was the only source of heat to be had that day... and still it rained.

     'By Appointment to Certain Personages...' the letter heading rang out loudly... 'Jack Beamish ~ Private Investigator...' a throat choking mouthful by any stretch of the imagination, thought Jack and shot every vestige of credulity plummeting straight through the office window and amidst a fanfare of trumpet voluntary, nominate itself for a prodigious award in the New Year Honours list.   Having formally served in a professional capacity for a well known purveyor of pickled condiments, who  incidentally, brandished the same patronage emblazoned upon their extensive range of relish as the one Jack had more recently purloined from them... a paid commission no less, which by Jack's certain understanding had made him, albeit fleeting in nature, a professional consultant of said company... and consequently, if they could flaunt the auspicious emblem, then according to Jack's infallible logic, so could Jack.  

     The recently appropriated letterhead possessed certain distinction... in much the same way, Jack reasoned, that a blank piece of paper did not... and whereas correspondence bearing the heading 'By Appointment' may not exactly strike terror into the hearts of man... unlike a really strong pickled onion, it nevertheless made people think twice before playing him for the fool, which sadly, Jack had to concede, they still invariably did... and he would often catch them wagging an accusing finger or two in his direction with such platitudes as... "watch where you put your foot", they'd whisper, "that Jack's a right Shamus...", and when you'd misplaced your footing as many times as Jack had, then he reasoned, that by default the celebrated Shamus must have landed himself in more piles of indiscretion than he would readily care to admit, but that wouldn't be quite accurate either, in Jack's line of work it was the malefactor that actually dropped him in them more often than not.

     A cold shiver suddenly ran down his spine, another quickly followed as a spurt of icy water from a broken rain spout spattered across the back of his neck, he grimaced... Jack's expression spoke volumes as he took one final pull from his half soaked cigarette and flicked it, amid an eruption of sparks against the adjacent brick wall.  Sinking further into the shadow he tipped his fedora against the oncoming rain, then, digging both hands deep within his pockets, he huddled behind the upturned collar of his gabardine... watching.

     It was times such as these when Jack's mind would slip back, in much the same way you might slip back on a discarded banana peel, when a matter of some consequence, or in particular this case the pavement, would suddenly leap up from behind and give the back of Jack's head a resoundingly good slapping and tell him to "stop loafing around in office hours... or else", then drag him, albeit kicking and screaming back into the 20th century.  This intellectual assault and battery re-focused Jack's mind wonderfully as he whiled away the long weary hours until his next cigarette; cup of tea, or the last bus home, his capacity to endure such mind boggling tedium called for nothing less than sheer ******-mindedness and very little else... Beamish had long suspected that he possessed all the necessary qualifications.  

     Jack had come a long way since the early days, it had been a long haul but he'd finally arrived there in the end... and managed to pick up quite a few ***** looks along the way.  Whilst he was with the Police Constabulary... and it was only fair to stress the word 'with', as opposed to the word 'in'... although the more Jack considered, he had been 'with' the arresting officer, held 'in' the local Bridewell... detained at Her Majesties pleasure while assisting the boys in blue with their enquiries over a minor infringement of some local by-law that currently had quite slipped his mind at that moment.  Throughout this enforced leisure period he'd managed to read the entire abridged editions of Kilroy and other expansive works of graffiti exhibited in what passed locally as the next best thing to the Tate Gallery, whereupon it hadn't taken Jack very long to realise that it was always a good place to start if you wanted free breakfast, in fact the weeks bill of fare was tastefully displayed in vivid, polychromatic colour on the wall opposite... you just had to be au-fait with braille.
                            
     No matter how industrious Beamish laboured to rake the dirt there always appeared to be a dire shortage of gullible clients for Jack to squeeze, what would roughly translate as an honest crust out of, and although his financial retainer was highly competitive he understood that potential clients found it bewildering when grappling with the unplumbed depths of his monthly expense account, which would tend to fluctuate with the same unpredictability as the British weather, the rest of Jack's agenda revolved around a little shady moonlighting... in fact he'd happily consider anything to offset the remotest possibility of financial delinquency... short of extortion... which by the strangest twist was the very word prospective clients would cry while Jack beavered around the office with dust-pan and brush sweeping any concerns they may have had frantically under the carpet regarding all culpability of his extra-curricular monthly stipend... and they should remain assured at all times... as they dug deep and fished for their cheque books, and simply look upon it as kneading dough, which eerily enough was exactly the thick wedge of buttered granary that Jack had every intention of carving.

     Were there ever the slightest possibility that a day could be so utterly wretched, then today was that day, Jack felt a certain empathy as he merged with his surroundings... at one with nature as it were.  The rain, a timpani on the metal dustbin lids, by the side of which Beamish had taken up vigil, also taking up vigil and in search of a morsel was the stray mongrel, this was the third time now that he'd returned, the same apprehensive wag, yet still the same hopeful look of expectation in his eyes, a brief but friendly companion who paid more attention to Jack's left trouser leg than anything that could be had from nosing around the dustbins that day... some days you're the dog, scowled Beamish as he shook his trouser leg... and some days the lamppost, Jack's foot swung out playfully, keeping his new friend's incontinence at a safe distance, feigning indignance  the scruffy mongrel shook himself defiantly from nose to tail, a distinct odour of wet dog filled the air as an abundance of spent rainwater flew in all directions.   Pricking one ear he looked accusingly at Jack before turning and snuffled off, his nose resolutely to the pavement and diligently, picking out the few diluted scents still remaining, the poor little stalwart renewed its search for scraps, or making his way perhaps to some dry seclusion known only to itself.
  
     Two hours later and... SPLOSH, a puddle poured itself through the front door of the nearest Public House... SPLOSH, the puddle squelched over to the payphone... SPLOSH, then, fumbling for small change dialled and pressed button 'A'..., then button 'B'... then started all over again amid a flurry of precipitation... SPLASH.  The puddle floundered to the bar and ordered itself a drink, then ebbed back to the payphone again... the local taxi company doggedly refused to answer... finally, wallowing over to the window the puddle drifted up against a warm radiator amidst a cloud of humidity and came to rest... flotsam, cast upon the shore of contentment, the puddle sighed contentedly... the Landlady watched this anomaly... suspiciously.

     The puddle's finely tuned perception soon got to grips with the unhurried banter and muffled gossip drifting along the bar, having little else to loose, other than what could still be wrung from his clothing... Beamish, working on the principle that a little eavesdropping was his stock-in-trade engaged instinct into overdrive and casually rippled in their general direction...  They were clearly regulars by the way one of them belched in a well rehearsed, taken-a-back sort of way as Jack took stock of the situation and was now at some pains to ingratiate himself into their exclusive midst and attempt several friendly, yet relevant questions pertinent to his enquiries... all of which were skillfully deflected with more than friendly, yet totally irrelevant answers pertinent to theirs'... and would Jack care for a game of dominoes', they enquired... if so, would he be good enough to pay the refundable deposit, as by common consent it just so happened to be his turn...  Jack graciously declined this generous offer, as the obliging Landlady, just as graciously, cancelled the one shilling returnable deposit from the cash register, such was the flow of light conversation that evening... they didn't call him Lucky Jack for nothing... discouraged, Beamish turned back to the bar and reached for his glass... to which one of his recent companions, and yet again just as graciously, had taken the trouble to drink for him... the Landlady gave Jack a knowing look, Beamish returned the heartfelt sentiment and ordered one more pint.

     From the licenced premises opposite, a myriad of jostling customers plied through the door, business was picking up... the sudden influx of punters rapidly persuaded Beamish to retire from the bar and find a vacant table.  Sitting, he removed several discarded crisp packets from the centre of the table only to discover a freshly vacated ashtray below... by sleight of hand Jack's Ronson appeared... as he lit the cigarette the fragile smoke curled blue as it rose... influenced by subtle caprice, it joined others and formed a horizontal curtain dividing the room, a delicate, undulating layer held between two conflicting forces.

     The possibility of a free drink soon attracted the attention of a local bar fly, who, hovering in the near vicinity promptly landed in Jack's beer, Beamish declined this generous offer as being far too nutritious and with the corner of yesterdays beer mat, flipped the offending organism from the top of his glass, carefully inspecting his drink for debris as he did so.

     A sudden draught and clip of stiletto heels as the side door opened caused Beamish to turn as a double shadow slipped discreetly into the friendly Snug... a little adulterous intimacy on an otherwise cheerless evening.  The faceless man, concealed beneath a fedora and the upturned collar of his overcoat, the surreptitious lady friend, decked out in damp cony, cheap perfume and a surfeit of bling proclaimed a not too infrequent assignation, he'd seen it all before... the over attentive manner and the band of white, Sun-starved skin recently hidden behind a now absent wedding token, ordinarily it was the sort of assignment Jack didn't much care for... the discreet tail, the candid snapshot through half drawn curtains... and the all too familiar steak tartare... for the all too familiar black eye.

     To the untrained eye, the prospect of Jack's long anticipated supper was rapidly dwindling, when it suddenly focused with renewed vigour upon the contents of a pickled egg jar he'd observed earlier that evening, lurking on the back counter, his enthusiasm swiftly diminished however as the belching customer procured the final two specimens from the jar and proceeded to demolish them.  Who, Jack reflected, after being stood out in the rain all day, had egg all over his face now... and who, he reflected deeper, still had an empty stomach.  Disillusioned, Jack tipped back his glass and considered a further sortie with the taxicab company.

     "FIVE-BOB"!!! Jack screamed... you could have shredded the air with a cheese grater... hurtling into the kerb like a fairground attraction came flying past the chequered flag at a record breaking 99 in Jack's top 100 most not wanted list of things to do that day... and that the cabby should think himself fortunate they weren't both stretched flat on a marble slab, "exploding tyres" Jack spluttered, dribbling down his chin, were enough to give anyone a coronary... further broadsides of neurotic ambiance filled the cab as the driver, miffed at the prospect of missing snooker night out with the lads, considered charging extra for the additional space Jack's profanity was taking...

     And what part of 'Drive-Carefully', fumed Beamish, did the cabby simply not understand, that pavements were there to be bypassed, 'Nay Circumvented', preferably on the left... and not veered into, wildly on the front axle... an eerie premonition of 'jemais-vu' perched and ready to strike like a disembodied Jiminy Cricket on Jack's left shoulder, looking to stick its own two-penny worth in at the 'Standing-Room-Only' arrangements in the overcrowded cab... and at what further point, Jack shrieked, eyes leaping from his head as he lurched forward, shaking his fist through the sliding glass partition, had the cabbie failed to grasp the importance of the word 'Steering-Wheel...' someone wanted horse whipping, and as far as Beamish was concerned the sole contender was the cab driver...

     In having a somewhat sedate and unruffled disposition it had fallen to Beamish... as befalls all great leaders in times of adversity, to single handedly take the bull by the horns, so to speak and at great personal cost, alert the unwary passing motorist...  Waving his arms about like a man possessed whilst performing acrobatic evolutions in the centre of the road as the cabby changed the wheel came whizzing around the corner at a back breaking 98 on Jack's ever growing list... and why, Jack puzzled, why had they all lowered their side windows and gestured back at him in semaphore..?  Rallying to its aid, Jack's head and shoulders now joined his shaking fist through the sliding glass partition and into the cabby's face, "Who" Beamish screeched with renewed vigour ,"Who Was The Man", Jack wanted to know... *"a
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Ayad Gharbawi Jan 2010
The Story Of Sara

Chapter 7

Ayad Gharbawi


Chapter 7: GETTING A JOB AS A PSYCHIATRIST



At around this time, I realized, that I was living with Sanji and I still wasn't working, and so, that dear soul was having to work overtime in order to take care of me.
  I swear Sanji never complained; not even a ****** hint – but, I to my embarrassment, I realized this fact!
  "Sanji I just want to tell you I'm so sorry for not working; I just want to,"
  "Don't worry, Sara; you've been under stress and so I can understand. You've needed time to emotionally recuperate from the traumas of the recent past."
  "Yes, but stress or no stress, it's high time to work again. Don't forget, Sanji, I've got a psychiatry degree?!"
  "And, work will do you good. It will be a good source of distraction. Get your minds off this whole subject of the party, guilt, Omar and God knows what else!"
  "You're absolutely right, Sanji. Tomorrow, I'll be looking for any vacancies.
  I felt happy; I felt that finally I was going to be useful again.
  After all those years working for the party and feeling that I was being 'useful' and then discovering to my horror that I had been of absolutely no 'use', now I can say that I shall be useful to society.
  I will be respectable again.
  I will have a sense of direction in my life.
  A clear sense of where I'm going with my life, rather than just drifting like a jellyfish in the ocean.


  Sure enough, the next day I set off for the job centre, and applied for any vacancies for a psychiatry post.
  Within days, I received an offer for an interview at my local hospital.
  I was to be interviewed by Dr. Tajim, who was the Head of the Psychiatric Department at my local hospital.
  I went to the department, and there I met Dr. Tajim who was to interview me.
  Obviously, I was tense.
  "Good morning; how are you Ms. Sara?" said the elderly doctor.
  He looked frightening.
  "Very well, thank you," I replied.
  He was about sixty five; a bit overweight, and as I looked at him more closely, I pleasantly discovered that he had a really pleasant face and gently inquisitive eyes.
  I relaxed.
  I totally misjudged the character of this kind man!
  He wasn't at all overbearing, or stiff or cold; in fact, he was a very welcoming old gentleman, and he made you feel utterly comfortable with him, so all your nervousness simply dissipated!
  I had heard that one of his own sons was suffering from depression and that he was in a hospital.
I also had heard, that that fact really affected him a lot, and, at times, it seemed to emotionally exhaust him; and, yet he would persevere and he was known to be really loving, compassionate and deadly serious in his efforts to help not only his son, but all his patients to get over their depression.
  "Now, you do know what the job offer is about?" asked the soft spoken doctor.
  "Yes Sir; I am to be a psychologist for patients who are in Category 'C'."
  "I see, and you do know who are patients in Category 'C'?"
  "Yes, Sir. They are patients with mild to severe depression."
  "Good, that's correct. Do you have experience in working with depressed patients?"
  I thought for a quick moment.
  I couldn't lie.
  "No, Dr. Tajim; I have no experience, but I wish you would give me the chance to prove myself."
  "But that is rather strange. You are twenty eight years old, and you graduated age twenty one – so, the obvious question, is what were you doing in those intervening years?"
What am I supposed to do here? I needed Sanji to be with me. How can I tell Dr. Tajim that I was 'working' with so-called 'political parties''? I couldn't. He would never employ me if I told him which 'party' I had been working for. If I had worked for a decent, respectable party, then presumably, he would have had no problems with me, but working Tony and Omar?!


  I had to lie.
  Lie to survive!
"Dr. Tajim, during those intervening years, I worked on a voluntary basis for charities broad, helping the sick."
  "I see, that's interesting; where did you work, and what exactly did you do for the sick?"
  Great!
  Now I had to dig the hole of lies even deeper!
  What else can I do?
  Tell him that I was joking and that I never really worked abroad? Of course not, that would make me a fool.
  I really didn't want to lie.
  But what choice did God give me?
  "Yes, Sir. I worked in Uganda, in a village called Sanji", my God, of all names that came to my mind, I couldn't think of anything else except Sanji's name! "Yes, and there in that humble village, I acted as a nurse for the sick, in a really small infirmary."
  "Sanji?" Dr. Tajim asked, narrowing his eyes with incredulity.
  "Yes, Sir; as far as I remember, the village was called Sanji, but you know the odd thing about rural Uganda, is just how one village can have so many different names, since each tribe would have their own names, that differed from other tribes. So, you must excuse me, it was a little bit confusing."
  Rural Uganda!
  What on earth was I talking about!


  And did Dr. Tajim actually believe me?
  I was insecure, because I had no idea if Dr. Taji actually believed the lies I was saying.
  "I see; I ask because Sanji is not quite an African name."
  "Yes, Dr. Tajim; indeed, I may be completely wrong, but, as I say, there were so many languages in Uganda, that it was really difficult to communicate with anyone."
  God knows what I was saying!
  I was just saying whatever came out of my mind!
  "I see. Yes, there are different languages in Uganda, and indeed in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. But, I never knew that names of towns and villages would change, and certainly, no African tribe would give an African village 'Sanji' as a name. But anyway, maybe, as you say, the name may not have been 'Sanji'. Anyway, where did you get your training as a nurse?"
  Relief!
  Oh yes, but now I had to create another lie, in order to explain where I got my 'training' from.
I was getting deeper into this lying game.
  But I couldn't now worry about the morality of that.
  I had to come up, with an immediate answer to his pertinent question.
  "You see, Dr. Tajim, I went as a volunteer to rural Uganda, to help build homes and help women in their daily lives, and the next thing I know, is when the local doctor asked me for help. When I informed him that I wasn't a nurse, he said he would teach me. I soon learned the basic first aid medicine that was required. I guess, that I could be useful in the hospital in that sense too."
  "I see, Ms. Sara."
  Finally, Dr. Tajim paused, giving me time to think of what else he may ask me about my 'time' in 'rural Uganda'.
  "I see," he repeated, looking confused.
  Strange I thought, but this doctor would start every sentence with 'I see'.
  "So, for all those intervening years, you remained in this one village?"
  "Um, why yes, Dr. Tajim. I did spend all my time in Saji. Is that so strange?"
  My God, I called the non-existing village 'Saji', rather than 'Sanji'.
  Would he notice?
  "I see, but, I mean, as a volunteer, didn't your superiors relocate you to another village, or to another country, in all those seven or so years?"  
  I couldn't understand why Dr. Tajim was surprised at the time, which goes to show what a poor liar I was.
  Of course, later I would learn, that volunteers to Third World countries would get stationed in not more than a year or two in any country – let alone one tiny village!
  But, for that moment, I could only go on with my lies.


  "Yes, Dr. Tajim. I was posted for that village all those years."
  I simply stuck to my lie.
  Defend your lies, or else you drown.
  "I see, how strange. And now you are permanently back here?"
  "Yes, Sir."
  "I see," said Dr. Taji, looking uncomfortable.
  Silence, as he turned his attention to the papers on his desk.
   I felt that he was simply going to call me a complete 'liar' and to get out of his office.
  "Well, I shall get in touch with you. Give me a few days to get to a decision."
  "Thank you Dr. Tajim. I hope you will just give me a chance to prove to you, Sir, that I shall be really good at my job."
  What a surprise!
  With that, I got up and headed for the door.
  "Ms. Sara!" Dr. Tajim asked.
  "Yes, Sir?"
  I hope I didn't look nervous or startled.
  "Yes, before I forget, do send me by email the relevant documents from your charity organisation that gives me the official notification of your time you worked for them. Like a Letter of Recommendation from them."
  Yes, now I was startled.
  I know the colour of my face must have turned red.
   Where on earth would I be able to get any document from any charity organisation?!
  I felt that I was now caught!
  Was I going to be caught for lying?
  "No problem, Dr. Tajim," that's what came out of my mouth. And I found myself leaving Dr. Tajim's office.


  As soon as I was a safe distance from the hospital, I began to think once more: how can I forge documents that are supposed to be from a charity organisation? And, even if I did forge them with some expert computer person, wouldn't Dr. Tajim simply call the telephone number of the charity organisation and enquire about me, and then he would obviously be told that I had never worked for them, let alone having me fly off to Uganda?!
  Back at home, I sat down, and realized there was no exit.
  I lied and so now I must take the risk that Dr. Tajim simply would not call the charity organisation.
  I would choose one of the biggest organizations who would have hundreds of thousands of volunteers, and even if he did check, I could say that their computers get it wrong! They didn't register my name because they have so many volunteers!
  But, no, that's stupid of me.
  If I supposedly worked for seven years for one organization, then they would obviously have my name in their computer files.
  I was being stupid.
  Too rash.
  No, that's it.  
  I lied and so I must take the consequences.
  I would risk it.

  Well, I did forge a charity organization letterhead, and I wrote that I did 'serve' for seven years in rural Uganda.
  Next, I scanned the document, and had it sent by email to Dr. Tajim.
  To my complete surprise, within a few days, I got an official letter from Dr. Tajim's secretary, saying that I was accepted by the psychiatric unit in the hospital!
  I was so thrilled, that to be honest, I couldn't in the least be bothered about my lies!
  I was now going to be a useful member of society!
  At last!
  I was going to be a worthy, decent, respectable person!

**************

  As I got to work in the Psychiatric Department in the hospital, they began almost secretarial tasks to do. I would get 'introduced' to the depressed patients and, gradually, I was allowed more and more time to talk to the patients.
  I was really happy and pleased with myself, because I felt that I was, at last a 'respectable' person.
  For the first time since I had left, or rather since I was expelled from the party, I felt proud of myself; and perhaps, most importantly to me, was the feeling that I knew where my life was going.
  I would walk anywhere and, when asked, what I did for a living, I proudly reply that I was a doctor in the Psychiatric Department in our local hospital.

  It was at this time that I was watching television in Sanji's apartment, when the latter walked in and said:
  "You are not going to believe who is with me!"
  "Judging from the excitement on your face, it must be someone very important." I replied casually.
  "Yes, yes; so guess who?" asked Sanji.
  "Oh God, Sanji how am I to know? The Prime Minister perhaps?" I answered sarcastically.
  The next thing I know was that none other than Tony walked in!
  My goodness me! I was absolutely shocked and awed by his presence!
  What was Tony doing here?!
  This was the first time I had seen him since I left his party and joined Omar's party.
  And, I guess, he must have just left prison, because, it had been about one year, since I heard that he was prosecuted by our courts.
  He had changed a little bit.
  He was much fatter – which, I thought was a bit odd, since he had been in prison, and I thought that everyone in prison gets to lose weight!
  He looked older than his years. He had dark rings below his eyes, and for the first time in my life, I was really surprised, to find out, that he looked utterly dull, weary and tired.
  He seemed to have lost all that will power, charisma and charm.
  They were no longer part of his personality.
  "What are you doing here?" I managed to ask Tony.
  "And why not? Why shouldn't I be here?" he answered smartly.
  I got confused all over again.


After all, what had happened to him since our entire movement collapsed?
  I never thought about what happened to Tony, or Omar for that matter.
  Selfishly, I just thought about myself.
  That was typical of me.
  "You look dazed, Sara," said Tony laughing. "Is my appearance that shocking to you?!"  He joked.
  "No, not at all." I regained my composure, or at least, I tried to regain my composure. "It's just that, I never did understand, or know, what really happened to our movement? And what happened to you Tony?"
"Sara is confused about the entire movement." Sanji said to Tony.
  "Well, what happened is actually quite simple," said Tony, "the new government decided to take legal action against us for the first time. Previously, every government never even took us seriously enough to warrant a concerted attack to eliminate us. To them, we were just clowns."
  I was shocked.
  "Clowns? What do you mean Tony? What do you mean previous governments did not take us seriously? Of course they took us seriously; Tony, we were in a state of war, remember? What's happened to your memory? We were fighting battle after,"
  "Let me interrupt you, Sara; but you are so utterly naïve and blind that I just do not know how to face you with the facts."
  What do you mean? What are you talking about?" I asked frantically.
  Suddenly all those memories from the party days returned to me; for the moment I completely forgot that I was a doctor at the Psychiatric Unit; Tony had re-opened all my memories, anxieties and unanswered questions concerning those years.
  "Relax Sara, don't let your emotions take over your rational mind," Sanji said. "That's always been your problem. You simply allow your wildest emotions to highjack the rational part of your mind. I mean, you're supposed to be a psychiatrist and yet, you are so utterly impulsive in your thinking and in the actions you take."
  I knew Sanji was completely right. He was so rational and calm.
  "What 'battles' are you talking about Sara?" asked a perplexed Tony.
  Sanji laughed. "That's a good question Tony, go on, and ask her that one!"


  Tony joined Sanji laughing.
&n
I had no idea how it felt to be utterly loved. I had no idea how it felt to utterly love. But then you came. You slowly opened the door to this abandoned house and let yourself in. You saw the broken windows, heard the floor boards creek from under your every step, smelt the stale air within every air particle, but you didnt run. You stayed. I dont know why you did to this day, but you did. you took this abandonment and made it a home. A home where you and I could live forever. A home where we did live forever. I have an idea how it feels to be utterly loved. I have an idea how to utterly love.
©SeanaseaWallen 2010
Kaylin Martin Jan 2013
We are completely and utterly ****** up.

Daddy stomps his feet around;

rawr, rawr, rawr

Little brother stands defiantly;

screaming, "I hate you; I will **** you all!"

tears streaming down his face;

once innocent but now always covered

in anger, in insecurities, in uncertainty.

And mama is in the recliner;

slurring sarcastic comments.

A glass of wine for each hour of the day.

Where's sister you ask?

Well she's probably not here; trying to escape.

Filled with such an anger, such a stubbornness.

Or maybe she's in her room dancing;

not very good at it, but an outlet none the less.

As all of this psychotic behavior is enveloping

the lives of these people, I sit on the couch

an just watch it all.

Shut off to the world, I sit.

And I laugh and laugh at the fact,

that we are completely and utterly ****** up.
Bella Jul 2018
Sometimes I get stuck in this state of Darkness
where my eyes can see
but it's like my head is just pitch black
and I almost wish I couldn't see anything,
like I wish I could just curl myself into a ball so tightly that I disappear from space for a while

sometimes I get stuck in this space
and I feel like my tears and my thoughts
are climbing up my esophagus and clogging my throat
blocking my airway
suffocating me from the inside

maybe I never told you I was depressed because who wants to relive that moment
that choking hazard moment of cotton ***** in my throat

maybe I never told you I was depressed because there are no words I can use to describe it that don't transform themselves into their meanings
that don't take over my mind
crawl through my head like little worms
eating away at my brain
my thoughts
my skin

have you ever thought of a traumatic experience and then felt those events happening again
felt the dark hole of life-threatening-trauma attack your mind
Shiver through your body
like it was a demon you let in through a memory-
through a word

maybe I didn't tell you I was depressed
because I wasn't strong enough
my depression fills me to the brim
fills my head and my chest
my arms and my fingers
I can feel it moving through my body
I can feel it expanding and engulfing everything inside of me
every last vein, nerve, *****, and tissue
how can you expect me to have the energy to fight
how can you expect me to have the energy to pick up the phone
to open my mouth
how can you expect me to have energy-to have the courage to utter the words of how I feel
I feel so worthless
in those moments I feel like there's this black whole inside me and it's consuming everything
it's taking everything but my skin
and it disgusts me

can you imagine the feeling,
having something so utterly repulsive on your skin you had to scrape it off immediately
It felt like you needed to be cleansed
like you needed a shower
take that feeling
now imagine it being under your skin
imagine, every muscle ***** vein nerve every cell in your body underneath your epidermis disgusts you
imagine all you wanted to do was to
GET
IT
OFF
and you can't
no matter how hard you try
you can't scrape it off
you can't claw It off

imagine you're scared of spiders
now imagine you're covered in spiders
and someone's holding down your arms
so you can't get them off
imagine them walking on your skin
in your mouth
crawling on your open eyes
in your ears
you're cringing at your own skin
You can feel them going down your throat
Their disgusting tickle in the pit of your stomach
in every crevice of your body
their tunneling under your skin
and you can't get them off
what are you supposed to do
but cry
My best friend's mom who doesn't believe in depression asked why I never told her I was depressed...
KS Julianne May 2014
Illuminated by the soft glow
Of glorified plastic, I sit still
On the duvet, my body feeling
Completely and utterly weightless.

And my back is slumped against
The cement wall, bruised spine aching
As it begs for me to lie. Ah,
Completely and utterly weightless.

Hearing sounds and beats I can't listen,
Inhaling chopped air waiting for dawn to arise,
exhaling words before they clog my mind.
Completely and utterly weightless.

And sleep beckons me and asks me why,
and I start nodding along to it as the moment end
and my bruised spine aches. Ah, but I was
Completely and utterly weightless.

But the buzz won't let me sleep, as always,
so I keep listening to riffs I can't hear
and plead to my mind to rest instead;
Completely and utterly weightless.

At least, I used to be.
But the bags under my eyes
decided that it was time to weigh
down on my skin again.

Completely and utterly weightless;
I slip into a restless slumber
as the lead in my bones makes
itself more evident that before.

So I let my words become weightless instead.
But they refuse to leave, so instead they
seep in my muscles, clanking around skin and bones
And waiting to be bled, **** it, I can't sleep.

Surprise, surprise.
There are these moments   when I drift between consciousness and slumber where I kind of lose feeling in my body, and my thoughts ring the loudest in that moment, which, in turn, wakes me up again. This happens multiple times every night and it's very frustrating,  but I've gotten used to it. All part of being an insomniac.
‘When the doors of perception are cleansed
Things will appear as they are:
Infinite.’

∞ William Blake



‘There are things known
and there are things unknown,
and in between are the doors.’

∞ Jim Morrison



Moment of inner freedom
when the mind is opened & the
infinite universe revealed
& the soul is left to wander
dazed & confus’d searching
here & there for teachers & friends.



People need Connectors
Writers, heroes, stars, leaders
To give life form.
A child’s sand boat facing
the sun.
Plastic soldiers in the miniature
dirt war. Forts.
Garage Rocket Ships

Ceremonies, theatre, dances
To reassert
Tribal needs and memories
a call to worship, uniting
above all, a reversion,
a longing for family and the
safety magic of childhood



A man rakes leaves into
a heap in his yard, a pile,
and leans on his rake and
burns them utterly.

The fragrance fills the forest
children pause and heed the
smell, which will become
nostalgia in several years.



An angel runs
Thru the sudden light
Thru the room
A ghost precedes us
A shadow follows us
And each time we stop
We fall



The Endless quest a vigil
of watchtowers and fortresses
against the sea and time.
Have they won? Perhaps.
They still stand and in
their silent rooms still wander
the souls of the dead,
who keep their watch on the living.
Soon enough we shall join them.
Soon enough we shall walk
the walls of time. We shall
miss nothing
except each other.



No one thought up being;
he who thinks he has
Step forward



The Crossroads
a place where ghosts
reside to whisper into
the ears of travelers &
interest them in their fate

Hitchhiker drinks:
“I call again on the dark
hidden gods of blood”

-Why do you call us?
You know our price. It
never changes. Death of
you will give you life
& free you from a vile
fate. But it is getting late.

-If I could see you again
& talk w/ you, & walk a
short while in your company,
& drink the heady brew
of your conversations,
I thought

-to rescue a soul already
ruined. To achieve respite.
To plunder green gold
on a pirate raid & bring
to camp the glory of old.

-As the capesman faces
poisoned horns & drinks
red victory; the soldier,
too, w/ his trophy, a
pierced helmet; & the
ledge-walker shuddering
his way into inward grace

-(laughter) Well, then. Would
you mock yourself?

-No.

-Soon our voices must become
one, or one must leave.



There was preserved

in her

The fresh miracle

of

surprise.



open

The Night is young
& full of rest
I can’t describe
the way she’s dress’d
She’ll pander to some strange
requests
Anything that you suggest
Anything to please her guest
Michael W Noland Sep 2012
[A] is for
An
Archer with
An
Arrow through his
Adams
Apple, very
Applicable, to the
Ample
Amounts of
Amiable
Attitude,
Adorning his heart, in
After
Action
Attributes, that impart, the
Admiration, of
*******, in this
Acting out of
Arrogance bit. he is,
Astute, in his
Allure, and
Aloof, in the
Air, of
Aspiration, in which, he was
Alienated in the
Agony, of
Asking
Assassins, the
Aforementioned. lights, camera,
Action. recipe of the
Ancient
Admirals of
Avian
Aliens, that
Attacked, with the
Arms and fists, of
Arachnids, now
Aching to be
Activated in sudden
Allegiance to the
Answers, of the truth.
Accumulating wealth for
Anarchy's of
Abating
Angels in
Atrophied,
Alchemical
Academies of the ever
After life .. . of silence.
****** strengthens in these
Accolades of violence, in
Alliance to
Appliances
Appearing in the
Arson of
Apathy, happily, to
Anguish in the
Amputation of my
Abdomen, if it meant i'm a real
American, even, when, only
Ash, remains.
Acclimating in its remains
Attained, the
Articles of my pain, in
Affluent shame, next time ..
Aim... oak
[A]?

[B] is for the
Bah of
Black sheep, and
Big
Bit¢hes, fat cats,
Bombarded in the
Blasted,
Bastion of
Blackened
Benevolent
Blokes,
Berating the
Blasphemous,
Be-seech, of
Brains, to feel
Bad, about the
Blotching of
Binary codes, erroding, the
Blanked out
Books, of
Belittled
Bureaucrats,
Bowling
Back the
Bank rolls of
Betterment, from the
Back of the
Blackened
Bus, as i'm
Busting guts, in the
Bubbling
Butts, of *****
Benched, but
Beautiful, in the
Battle, in the
Bane, of existence.
Baffled, in the strain of
Belligerence, in
Beating the
Beaming
Butchery into
Billy's
Broken
Brains, in
Bouts, of
Battering
Bobby's for
Bags of
*******
Before, affording to
Build
Bombs, is just
Beyond
Breaking
Beer
Bottles on the
*******
Benefactors of
Boulder
Bashing with the
Beaks, of
Birds, with no
Bees. just a
Being, trying to
[B]


[C] is for the
*****
Courting the
Choreography, in
Computerized
Curtains,
Circumventing the
Cultured,
Contrivance of
Chromatic
Cellars,
Calibrating, to the
Contours of
Calamities,
Celebrating the
Cyclical,
Cylinders of
Cyphered
Calenders,
Correcting the
Calculations, of
Crooks
Coughing, in
Courageous
Coffins of
Canadians,
Collecting
Cobble stones, from
Catacombs, in the lands of the
Conquered,
Capturing the
Claps of thieves, sneaky
Cats, of greed. its
Comedy. oh
Comely, to my
Cling of
Cleanliness, and for your self
[C]

[D] is for the
Dip *****, as they
Delve
Deeper in the
Deliverance, of
Deviant
Deities,
Dying to
Demand
Dinner
Delivered in the throws of
Death,
Deceiving
Defiance of
Darkened
Dreams,
Demeaning that which
Deems the
Dormant of the
Dominant, to be
Demons of
Deviled
Devilry,
Dooming us for
Destruction.
Deploy the,
Damsels in
Duress.
Defiled and
Distressed,
Detestable and
Dead. in the thump of
Drums,
Dumbing down the
Debts of,
Dire regrets.
Dissect the
Daisies of,
Disillusion, in the current
Days,
Diluting night into
Dawn,
Disconnecting the
Dots of the
Dichotomy, and arming me, in the
Diabolatry, of,
Demonology, as i watch me
Dwindle away, the
[D]

[E] is for
Everything in nothing,
Eating the
Euphoric
Enigmas of
Enlightened
Elitists,
Exceeding in the
Extravagant
Essence of
Esoteric
Euphemisms,
Escaping the
Elegance of the
Elements in the
Eccentricity of
Eclectic
Ecstasy,
Exhaling, the
Exostential blessings, of inner
Entities, and renouncing the
Enemies of my
Ease,
Easily to appease
Extraterestrial
Empires,
Extracting the lost
Embers of
Enlightenment, in
Excited delight, but to later
Entice, the fight, and
Escape, like a thief into the night of
Everywhere,
Entering the
Exits of
Elevators leading no where, to
Elevate, this useless place,
Encased in malware in the
Errant
Errors of
Every man,
Enslaved, of flesh and
Entrails,
Enveloping the core of
Everything, that matters,
Enduring, the chatter, of
Evermore,
Ever present in
Everybody
Ever made to take
[E]

Funk the
Ferocity of
Foolish
Fandangos, with
Fanged
Fanatics,
Fooled in the
Fiasco of
Fumbled
Fantasies,
Falling through the
Farms of
Freely
Found
Fans,
Flying in the
Fame of
Fortune.
Fornicating on the
Fallen
Fears of
Fat
Fish getting their
Fillet of
Fills.
Feel me in the
Frills

Granted with
Generosity.
Giblets of
Gratitude and
Greed,
Greeting the
Goop and
Gobbled
Gore,
Gleaned from the
Glamour of
Ghouls in
Gillie suits,
Getting what they
Got
Going, in the
Gratuitous
Gallows of a
Game
Gaffed by
Giants.

Hello to the
Horizon of
Hellish
Hilarity, in
Hope of
Happy, to
Heave from
Heifers, to
Help the
Hemp
Harshened
Hobos in
Heightened
Horror, to
Honor the
Habitats of
Hapless
Habituals,
Herbalising the work
Horse, named
Have Not, in the
Haughtily
Hardened
Houses of
Happenstance.

Ignore the
Ignorant
Idiots, too
Illiterate to
Indicate the
Indicative
Instances of
Idiom in the
Irrelevant
Inaccuracy of
I,
In the
Intellect of
Idle
Individuals,
Irritated with the
Irate
Illusion of
Idols
Illustrated upon the
Iris,
In the
Illumination of
I.

******* the
Jobless
Jokers, and
Jimmy the
Jerkins from their
Jammie's, in
Justified,
Jousting off the
Jumps, in
Jokes, and
Jukes of
Just
Jailers,
Jesting for
Jammed
Jury's to
****
Judgment from the
Jitter
Juiced
Jeans of
Jesus.

**** the
Keep of
Khaki-ed
Kool aid men,
Kept in the
Kilometers of
Kits,
Kin-less
Kinetics,
Knifing the
Knights of
Kneeling
Kinsmanship,
Keeling over the
Keys of
Kaine, with the
Karmic
Karate
Kick of a
Kangaroo.

Love the
Levity, in the
Luxurious
Laments of
Loveliness,
Lovingly
Levitating in
Level,
Lucidly.
Living in
Laps, of
Lapses,
Looping, but
Lacking the
Loom of the
Latches
Locked with
Leeches of the
Lonely
Lit
Leering of
Lightly
Limbs, that
Lash at the
Lessers in
Loot of
Lost letters,
Lest we
Learned in the
Lessons of
Liars.

Marooned in
Maniacal
Masterpieces,
Masqueraded as
Malignant
Memorization's of
Motionless
Mantras, but
Merrily
Masking
Mikha'el the
Mundane, who is
Musically
Mused of
Monsters,
Mangling the
Monitor, but
Maybe just a
Moniker of
Marauders.

Never to
Navigate the
Nautical
Nether of
Never
Nears.
Not to
Nit pic the
Naivety of
Nicety.
Notions
Neither take
Note
Nor
Name the
Noise of
Nats in the
Nights of
Neanderthals
Napping in the
Nets of
Ninjas

Ominous in the
Obvious
Omnipotence of
Oblivious
Obligatory
Opulence,
Of
Other
Oddly
Orchards
Of
Offices,
Ordaining
Orifices in
Offers of
Ordinary
Ordinances in
Option-less
Optics,
Optionally an
On-call Oracle, in
Optimal,
Overture.

Perusing the
Pestilent
Pedestals of
Personal,
Parameters,
Pursuing the
Petty
Plumes of
Piety with the
Patience of a
Pharaoh,
******* on the
People with the
Penal
Pianos of
Port-less
Portals, in the
Paperless
Points in the
Palpal
Pats of
Pettiness.
Poor, but
Prideful.

Quick to
Qualify the
Quitter for a
Quick
Quill in
Queer
Quivering of
Quickened
Questioning,
Queried in the
Quakiest of
Quandaries.
Quarantined to a
Quadrant, of
Quagmires.
Questing the
Quizzing of
Quotable
Quartets.

Relax in the
Relapse of
Realizations, and
React with
Racks of
Rolling
Rock to
Rate the
Rep of the
Rain-less.
Roar in
Rapturous
Rendering of the
Random
Readiness in the
Ravenous,
Rallying, of the
Retinal
Refracting of
Reality.
Realigning, the
Righteous
Rearing of the
Realm, and
Retrying.

Steer the
Serenity in
Sustainability, and
Slither through the
Seams of
Slumbered
Scenes.
Secrete the
Solo
Sobriety of
Sapped
Sassys,
Salivating upon a
Slew of
Stupidity,
Steadily
Supplied in
Stream,
Suitably
Slain in the
Steam of
Sanity.
Sadly, i
Still
Seem,
Salvagable.

Topple
The
Titans in
Tightened
Terror.
Torn
Territories
Turn
Turbulent in
The
Teething of
Totality.
The
Telemetry of
Time,
Tortured of
Torrent
Theories,
Told in
Turrets of
Transpiring
Terribleness, from
Tumultuous
Tikes unto
Teens,
Trading
Toys for
Tea.
Thrice
Thrusted upon by the
Tyranny of
Tanks.

Unanimous is the
Ugliness in the
Undertones of
Undreamed
Ulteriors
Undergoing the
Unclean in the
***** of
Utterly
Upset
Users,
Uplifting the
Unfitting
Ushers in
Underwear-less,
Ulcers,
Undergoing the
Ultra of
Uberness.

Venial in
Vindictive
Viciousness of
Vindicated
Venom,
Venomously
Vilifying the
Vials of
Villainy in the
Veins of
Vampires,
Validity of
Valuable
Violence, is
Valiant in the
Vaporous
Vacationing of
Vagrant
Vices.

Why
Whelp in the
Weather
When you can
Wave to the
Whirling
Wisps,
Whipping Where the
Whimsical Were
Way back in the
Wellness of
Whip its,
Wrangling my
World,
With
Waterless
Worms, as
War shouts are
Wasted in the
Wackiest
Walks of
Waking
Wonder.

Xenophobic
Xenogogue, of
Xenomorphic
Xeons, turn
Xyphoid, in the
Xenomenia of my
X, my
Xenolalia of
X, to
***. im lost in the
Xenobiotic zen of
Xerces, on a
Xebec to the
X on the map.
Xenogenesis, in the
Xesturgy of my
Xyston
Xd

Yelling
Yearned from
Yelping.
Yard
Yachts
Yielding, to the
Yodel of
Yeah
Yeahs, to the
Yapping of
******
Yuppie
Yoga
Yanks, over
Yonder.
Yucking it up with the
Yawn of a
Yocal.

Zapped from a
Zone i
Zoomed with
Zeal in the
Zig and
Zag of my
Zapping
Zimming
Zest, upon a
Zombie-less
Zeplin.
Zealot,
Zionist, or
Zoologists,
Zeros or ones, just
Zip your
Zip locked. and
Zzzzz
Zzzz
Zzz
Zz
Z
Zero
this is a work in progress
*** trafficking – the trafficking and debasement of souls; Drug trafficking – the trafficking of substances that debase the body.  Here compared you will find the prevalence, impact, and rehabilitation processes associated with *** and shrug trafficking.  Respective clientele, demographics, and locales that these types of trafficking touch will be revealed in order enlighten you to their world-wide prevalence. The physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological impact of lifestyles that result from these two types of trafficking will be detailed to etch vividly an image of just how far-reaching the impact of these two activities is. Light will be shed upon the rehab processes that lead to recovery from each.
                 According to UnoDC.org, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the use of illicit drugs has remained in a stable trend, with approximately the same number of people using illicit drugs each year. This trend has continued for a number of years. Upon examining the world drug report, written by UnoDC.org, production of several drugs exhibit particularly interesting trends. ***** production for example fell and spiked in a somewhat predictable patter from 1990 until 2010. When this data is graphed a reasonable medium appears for all the years, revealing that ***** production has stayed around an average production of roughly 200,000 hectares annually. Likewise, coca cultivation pictures an interesting trend. From 1990 to 2010 coca production appeared to be almost identical each year, and with little to no rise or fall in production, there is a similar trend in its being trafficked.  
Nefarious: Merchant of Souls is a documentary that was released in 2012 by Exodus Cry Its producers and researchers saw firsthand the atrocities of the *** trafficking industry. The film crew interviewed former pimps and prostitutes, spoke to traffickers, the families of the trafficked and to individuals still actively engaged in three sides of the *** trade referring to currently employed pimps and prostitutes as well as those who purchased ***. The researchers and producers interviewed eastern European gang members and took a trip to Amsterdam’s red-light district – home of legal prostitution. They journeyed to Los Angeles and saw the glamorized side of the dark issue of *** trade.
According to Nefarious, the number of humans trafficked for the purpose of providing ****** services is on a shockingly steep rise. In a matter of a few years, *** trafficking rose from the third largest criminal enterprise to the second. It is second only to drug trafficking and is vying for the position as top criminal enterprise in the world. It is encroaching upon that position far more speedily than any authority or decent human being would care to acknowledge.  A survey taken in 2010 by DART (the drug awareness resistance training program) revealed that 21.8 million people aged 12 and older had taken an illicit drug in the previous month. In 2010 it was estimated that between 153 and 300 million people had used an illicit drug at least once in the previous year. These statistics fail to take into account the impact that this usage has on the lives of the families of drug users. Neither do these statistics reveal the extent to which drug users lifestyles are impacted by drugs. However, nearly  every single human trafficked for ****** purposes is completely and utterly enveloped in the lifestyle of prostitution and the violent world of being prostituted. In Nefarious a shocking statistic is revealed. Approximately ten percent of the entire human population of earth has been trafficked. Both human and drug trafficking are prevalent across the globe. Human trafficking occurs in 161 of 192 countries. Illicit drugs are trafficked in every country that has laws that deem substances unlawful. There are little to no race, religion, ethnicity, or age restrictions on who can and is trafficked for use of ***, but drugs are far more limited by age and ethnicity in their use.
Drug trafficking, though similar to *** trafficking in many ways, is in no way as substantial a damaging force to the mind, soul, and spirit as the world of *** trafficking  is in terms of the critical and dangerous force it exhibits in the emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual  impact it has on young girls. Both drugs and *** trafficking have some influence in all of these respective areas. The primary area in which people are affected by drug use is the physical. Drug users’ health declines, they become physically or psychologically dependent, and they may develop diseases from sharing of needles or lack of inhibitions that lead to *** with an infected individual. Drugs may, in some rare cases, lead to psychoses and mental disorders. They may cause brain damage, which is both physically and mentally damaging. Drugs may even set one’s heart and soul in a place that they are more susceptible to lies or truth. They alter spiritual state for some individuals, but only mildly. However, *** trafficking victims are impacted majorly and in their entirety as a person. In all aspects of the physical, mental, and spiritual, *** trafficking victims are consumed by *** trafficking. In Nefarious it is revealed that In order to “break” *** trafficking victims they are profusely beaten, and are psychologically toyed with to create a twisted trust and dependence on their various handlers. They are repeatedly *****, and are examined like cattle by those who wish to buy women. They are imprisoned in dark rooms and not allowed to leave unless told to do so. They are bedridden and forced to ******* themselves. After being broken in ways described above and sold to a ****, girls are forced every day to meet certain quotas of customers and cash flow. If they do not meet these they are beaten even more. They lay in bed sometimes a week at a time to recover physically enough to usefully return to their “job”.  Through this hellish ordeal, their soul, self-worth and identity are being attacked by circumstances that devalue them. They become like animals.
*** trafficking victims become dependent on their environment for normalcy. This is so true for some individuals that even though they have been rescued from the lifestyle, they return.  This is not because the *** trafficking victims enjoys the lifestyle of prostitution, and it is not because they want to. Instead, it is because they think they can be nothing more than a *******. The *** trafficking victim, in this case, believes that they need to settle into the numb and thoughtless mind state that they develop when broken. Returning to prostitution does not evidence an addiction. In contrast, it is the cry of a soul that is desperately trying to cope. They do this in order to feel as if they can survive.  
The rehab processes for *** and drug trafficking differ greatly in commitment and length, but are similar in that they both require physical and psychological rehabilitation.  Drug rehabilitation programs typically consist of twelve-step programs or something similar. They last a number of months, or occasionally a few years. They allow individuals counsel and encouragement, and they attempt to, by abstinence, exorcise an addicted individual’s addiction. *** trafficking rehabilitation requires the re-creation of an individual. Self-worth must be reconstructed. The spirit must be healed in order to allow for psychological healing. Prostitutes are not addicted to prostitution, but prostitution produces dependence in that the prostituted crave normalcy. This dependence must be killed. Successfully rehabilitating women from this forced lifestyle requires lifelong commitment and endless resources. It requires passionate fanatics, people who will pour their life into changing the lives of others, because only the incurable fanatic can wreak havoc on the tragedy of human trafficking. Any short-term effort to rehabilitate a *** trafficking victim is doomed to failure. The degree to which the brokenness of *** trafficking victims becomes ingrained in them is so extreme that it takes a lifetime to reshape their lives.
While researching *** trafficking in order to accurately produce Nefarious, the researchers and producers of Nefarious became convicted by facts that they collected. The evidence they collected speaks to the fact that *** trafficking does not just attack the body; it attacks the entire being, and in far worse ways than drugs ever could. Varied races and ages are prostituted and / or consume drugs. The impact of both of *** and drug trafficking is severe, but much more so severe in the case of human trafficking. The rehab process for human trafficking is much more in depth and is testament to the horror and degree of psychological, mental, and emotional disfigurement, as well as acclimation to a horrible situation to the point that horror becomes normal – a new definition of addiction. Human trafficking is an atrocity that is far more horrendous and prevalent than imaginable. It is far more destructive than drug trafficking. Drug trafficking is one of the most destructive forces in this generation.  Surely consuming drugs is one of the most horrid things we can do to our bodies, but what about consuming souls? *** trafficking consumes souls, hearts, minds and bodies. It splits, fragments, debases, brutalizes, obliterates, murders, rapes, molests, destroys, and dehumanizes the prostituted.  Drug trafficking attacks the body the soul, and sometimes the mind, but in much milder ways.
Ayad Gharbawi Dec 2009
THE STORY OF SARA






Or A Reflection on Ourselves


Ayad Izzet Gharbawi










2008














Table of Contents



Chapter 1: An Awakening. Page: 3.
Chapter 2: University. Page 12.
Chapter 3: Being an Activist. Page 23.
Chapter 4:  The Hallowed Purification Programme. Page: 32.
Chapter 5: The Party Self Destructs. Page: 55.
Chapter 6: Confusion after the Collapse of my Icon. Page: 64.
Chapter 7 Getting a Job as a Psychiatrist. Page 69.
Chapter 8: Afim: Sick or ‘Normal’? Page: 84.
Chapter 9: Having Children. Page 105.
Chapter 10: Omar Again. Page: 109.
Chapter 11: The Meaningless Existence of My Husband. Page 121.
Chapter 12: My Daughter: Lara. Page 127.
Chapter 13: Getting to the Top in my Job. Page: 131.
Chapter 14: Success & Emptiness. Page 142.
Chapter 15: The Shock. Page: 148.
Chapter 16: The Trap. Page: 153.
Chapter 17: The Punishment. Page 162.
Chapter 18: The Barmaid and the Alcoholic Conversation. Page: 166.
Chapter 19: Old Age. Page: 180.
Chapter 20: Seeing My Son: Noor. Page: 184.
Chapter 21: The Unexpected Visitor. Page: 191.
Chapter 22: Conversation with my Social Worker. Page: 195.
Chapter 23: My Visitor Returns. Page: 206.
Chapter 24: Isolation. Page: 210.

















THE STORY OF SARA



– OR, A REFLECTION ON OURSELVES



CHAPTER ONE:  AN AWAKENING



  
            Sara is my name.
  I feel the need to write down the words, or rather, the connected and the unconnected stories, of my life.
  I wish to say straightaway, that I am not an important person; on the opposite.
  I am, in fact, a no one.
  I achieved nothing meaningful in my life, and I was never famous.

  So, why you may think, should anyone read about my life, considering that I am a nobody?
  Well, I think, that precisely because I am a nobody, people should read about my life!
  Why?
  Because, since most of us are nobodies, therefore, I must be a reflection for a significant number of people.
  I am a mirror that most of us do not see; after all, who wants to see what they really look like?

  You see, if I were famous, then I would be in the minority of the population, and, as a consequence, I would reflect the lives of just a small fraction of the people.
  In other words, if I were rich, and if I were to write about my life as a rich woman, then most readers would have absolutely nothing to relate to such a story.
  But then again, to tell you the truth, I am plagued by insecurities and self doubt.
Why am I plagued by insecurities and self doubts?
  Because life itself is full of doubts and insecurities!
  Everyday there are so many events that happen that you do not fully understand - and so they have no certainty.
There are so many thoughts that come across your mind that you cannot believe in with certainty - in other words, you have doubts!
  Life is made up of events, people and thoughts that are themselves uncertain, vague, indefinite, unclear, ambiguous and ultimately blurred.
  That is why, for me, I found no certainty in my life, no sense of definiteness – and the end result is that my image of my personal reality was a blurred vision.

  I could never see an accurate view of my own reality - because I had far too many flawed characteristics.
  I am extremely temperamental.
  I am extremely impulsive; I speak, behave and act without thinking in a sober, rational, deliberate manner.
  I am not a very good judge of character when it comes to people. I often evaluate people wrongly. I misread who they really are.
  I am often very cold with other human beings; I am unable to sympathise and be compassionate to other people.
  I am not a good listener.
  I am a slave to my irrational passions, my dark urges and my undesirable needs.
  Now I am not saying that I have these characteristics all the time – but I confess that I do have them far too often.

  And all these awful characteristics make me quite unable to focus on myself in a logical, coherent and rational manner.
  I am unable to see my real Self; I cannot see where my rational mind tells me where I need to go with my life, rather than where my dark passions tell myself where to go.
  So, maybe my story isn’t worth telling at all.
  Should I write the story of my life or not?
  Will anyone read it?


  I am a member of the weak and the unknown and the unheard class.
  I am a member of the invisible classes, of what they call 'Humanity'.
  Even though, I don’t know what ‘Humanity’ actually means any more.
  I am one non-entity amidst this ocean of Humanity.
  I am a nothing.
  So, what’s the point of my existence and, more importantly, the story of my existence!?


  Actually, sometimes, when I’m in a good mood, I think, yes, come, do not be timid or afraid, and take a serious gaze at my own face, and I hope you will see yourselves – yes, you, the majority of the people out there, this night; for when you see yourselves in my face, you may learn so much about yourselves, and it seems to me, after I have been living and experiencing so long, you may learn from my mistakes.
  It seems to me, that one of the problems so many of us people out there are facing, is that nobody seems to want to take a serious, unbiased way that they really look like – and this is because of fear.


  But what is this ‘fear’?  
  I know that this fear is one reason that causes a nagging and persisting unhappiness.
  This fear is because we are scared to look at ourselves and find a picture that is severely deformed and far too horrible to behold.
  Do you believe that looking at your own face is an easy task?
  I hear you tell me: Oh Sara, all you have to do is to look at the mirror and you see yourself.
  How easy!
  But, I’m afraid, you are wrong.
  Because when you say to me, that all you have to do is to see your face in the mirror, that is not accurate.


  And that is, because the face you are seeing in the mirror is an image.
  That is not your face!
  That’s an image of your face!
  And an image is only one degree of reality.
  An image is never and can never be the whole reality.
  So, you say, why is it that I am seeing an image of my face in the mirror and not the whole reality of my face?
  Because you yourself are scared to scrutinize and stare so deeply at your own face.
  Fear is restraining you from seeing your own reality.
  You may see your real face and it may be a face that is far too ugly to see!



  Now, when I am in a bad, bleak, hopeless mood, I really believe in the depths of my angry heart, that it is utterly pointless to write anything, precisely, because I feel that my entire life is completely worthless.
  Emptiness.
  I feel my life is filled with emptiness.
  Ha!
  How can you ‘fill’ anything with emptiness!
  You know, I feel like ripping to shreds everything I’ve written, and yes, reader, I’ve done that many times – and, then I start all over again.
  And how dare I presume that anyone out there in the world would be in any way interested to read the life of an empty woman who happens to be called Sara?
  You see, at times like these, I have self hate.
  I confess.
  I hate every single thing about myself.
  And that includes my pointless story.


  And so many times, especially at night, when I’m able to write my story, I think, what if no one is reading these words?
  How frightful!
  Could I possibly be that empty?
  Could I – Sara - possibly be so utterly meaningless as a human being, to the extent that no one could possibly be interested, to give me more than a few precious moments of their time, from their important lives?
  Well, for all you people out there whose lives are brimming with happiness; for all those of you people whose lives are so full and busy, so they never experience the utter tedium of boredom; for all those of you people who never face an inner emptiness, a loneliness within their hearts and minds; for all those of you people who have no fears, no anxieties, and no insecurities – then I can honestly tell you to hurl this book away!

  And, yet, I would like to believe that - in the depths of my shaky beliefs and my uncertain certainties - that I have at least one listener with me!
  You know why?
  Because it gives me so much comfort and peace of mind to think that I have one human who is interested to know me!
  The most horrible thing to me is to live in total isolation.
  And to ease that unique kind of emotional pain, is to know that someone, somewhere in this planet actually cares for you.

  I was born in the City, in a middle to low class neighbourhood, where families tended to help each other.
  It was a closely knit community. You knew everyone, and everyone knew you and so, when there was any problem, people would help each other out. You see, in this way, problems became less heavy than they would have been otherwise, because when more people come to help you, the problem weighs less, as opposed to if each family had to cope with their problems all on their own.
  It was a happy childhood; I adored my parents and I thought no one could be better than them.
  They were my icons.
  As a child, they were good to me, and I could see nothing wrong with them.
  But how long did that last?
  By the time my mind was waking up, so to speak, by eleven or twelve, I began to notice, that what I saw wasn't all that rosy at all. My parents used to argue a lot; Dad would scream and Mother would howl.
  And what were the causes of these clashes?

  Both were guilty of countless faults.
  Dad drank too much; Mom didn't pay enough attention to housekeeping and so our house was rather *****; neither parent paid any attention to us; Dad would always invite his 'friends', and they would be rather ****** in their behaviour and with their jokes (or what they thought were 'jokes'); Mom would go for hours on end to her 'friends' houses, and leave us children alone; so, when they were in the mood to fight, good God, both sides of the trenches had lots of reasons, or excuses, to use as ammunition!
  And what battles do we young children witness!
  Dad would scream: "What kind of Mother are you when you do nothing for the house; you don't cook, and so we never have homemade cooking; you don't clean, and so the house stinks and is always in a terrible mess; and then you disappear for hours to God knows where, leaving us all behind! How much time do you even spend with our children? I’ll tell you how long – you don’t spend any time with our children! Children need love, attention and time spent with them; how do you think that affects our children? Do you think that makes then happy?"

And Mom would scream, at the same time: "What kind of Father are you? You're always drunk, and you're always socialising with drunk, ****** idiots. How do you think our children are reacting when they see their Father interacting with the most lewd, disgusting people? You're lazy in your job – and that is when you keep a job more than a few weeks – and, not surprisingly, you don't bring in enough money, and so we live a miserable lifestyle. And, you dare to ask me why I leave this house for so many hours? Of course, I want to leave this house – it's because I cannot stand the repulsive sight of you! And then, you have the nerve to ask me, ‘how long do I spend with our children’? You **** hypocrite! How long do you spend with our children? Not one minute!"


  I would usually rush off to my room, and hide my body and soul in my pillow.
  And as I grew into a teenager, my parents were fighting against each other even more.
  Who was right and who was wrong?
  Sometimes I felt for sure, that Dad was wrong; and, at other times, I felt that Mom was to blame; while at other times, I felt both were to blame; and then again, at other times, I would be so confused that I just gave up thinking about the whole mess, and just wish they never brought me to this world.
  How could I judge them?
  I could never really tell, because I didn't have the facts, did I? Who knows if Dad really was lazy at his job, and if that was the case, why he didn't he realize that we needed him to work harder, in order for us to have a better quality of life? Or, maybe he wasn't making enough money, simple because his job was a low paying one, and so it wasn't his fault that he brought such meagre wages.


  Who knows why Mom didn't take care of the house?
  Maybe she was depressed?
  And who knows why she went off to her friends' house for hours on end?
  Put simply, when you don't have the facts, how can you possibly judge in a reasonable manner?
  But then, maybe, you, my dear reader, will say I am wrong, because one ought to judge the situation by using one's emotions and not just 'facts'.
  To be honest, when I think of those wretched days, maybe they were both 'right' and wrong'; but in what measures – don't ask me!
  What I do know for sure was this: the fact that both Mom and Dad never spent any time with me really hurt me and made feel insecure. I really needed their company when I was a child and right through to my adolescent years, but, unfortunately, they were never, ever interested to sit with me and talk to me – not even for a minute.

  In my teenage years, I clearly remember that I felt that I needed Mom and Dad, because I remember feeling frightened for the first time in my life.
  Why did I feel ‘afraid’?
  I honestly don’t know.
  Strangely enough, before the age of thirteen, all my parents' fighting did not leave me scared; no, my response was one of sadness only.
  
  So, I tried to talk with Mom and Dad, issues that were bothering me, but I found out, to my horror, that they could not answer any of my questions.
    I would ask my parents endless questions like:
"Should I continue studying in school and go on to university, or should I leave and get a menial job?"
"At what age should I get married?"
“Is marriage worth it or not?"
"Should I smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol – or, are these things wrong?"
  “What characteristics should I look for, when I make friends? In other words, what are the good attributes versus the bad attributes in the character of any person?”
  “What is morality?”
  I remember that my parents were themselves confused by my questions, and at the same time they were irritated.
And, at other times, they were increasingly bored with my unending questions.


  Strange combination, isn't it – to be both 'confused’, irritated' and 'bored' with someone nagging at you all the time!?
  I know why they were 'bored'; that's the easy part – it was because, they gradually found me to be a nuisance or an irritant with my questions.
  They were 'confused and irritated', because they felt stuck as to how they could best answer my questions.
You see, they were, themselves, doing all the wrong things, so how could they advice me to do what was supposed to be 'good'?!
  For example, 'Can I smoke and drink alcohol?'
Good question, Sara, but a question that you shouldn’t really ask your parents, when you recall, that both were heavy smokers and drinkers!
  And, when I asked them: 'Should I get married?' How can they answer that one
Laura Robin Nov 2012
from the mind of an anxious depressive

from the time i, as a little girl,
dressed up like a princess
[tiara and all,
pouffy, pink dress and all]
listened to my mother tell me
a fairy tale
of a woman who finds
her prince charming,
and is rescued by him,
and lives happily, happily ever after
in a magnificent palace by the sea…
and i, as a brooding teenager,
insecure and reclusive,
observed a
[now viewed as ridiculous]
romantic film
about a woman who finds her
one true Love,
and he rescues her,
and they live happily, happily ever after
in a beautiful three-bedroom home
where they raise two,
perfect children…
and i, as a young woman,
fully aware and adept,
recognizing the world for what it is
as *i
see it,
seeing love dismantle time,
and time again....

i am fully aware that nothing can possibly last for a happily ever after.

the doubt is consuming,
the wall is well-built and
unyielding.
my heart remains too crippled
to possibly endure the grief that
falling in Love elicits.

but,
Love finds you even if you have
given up the notion of it.
it gallops in on its white horse.
has bright blue eyes.
sparks a smile that can illuminate
my somber heart.
has no regard for my opposition to itself.
is selfish and greedy and exhausting.

it is utterly impossible to avoid
being seduced
into the black hole
from which i will never leave
precisely the same.
from which i will surrender
a piece of myself
essential to my functioning.

Love sweeps in like a tornado
[destroying everything in its path]
and so the five stages of falling in Love,
and falling apart,
begin.

denial.
i feign disinterest.
i pretend as if he doesn’t
engross my thoughts
as if my heart doesn’t encroach upon my stomach
when he enters the room.
if asked by a friend,
“why does your face turn bright red
when he dares to utter your name?”
i pretend like she is the insane one
[when i am the one denying my heart.]

anger.
i become enraged.
Love has taken control.
the knowledge that i let Love
dismantle the wall,
that i have spent years building,
and reinforcing,
[brick by brick, piece by piece]
infuriates me.
i let him gradually demolish it.
and now i am powerless and susceptible,
and now he has me by the heartstrings.
he holds me in his greedy palms.

bargaining.
i avoid the fact that i am falling,
yes, i am falling.
oh, so deeply for him.
i watch myself fall from such great heights
straight into the ground
crashing through to the
center of
the world.
i even pray to God,
the one i'm not even sure i believe in.
i tell Him that i would do anything,
anything just to take back control.
to have two firm hands on the wheel.
to be the driver
instead of the passenger.

depression.
i cannot bring myself
to shove off the covers.
to crawl out of bed.
i am miserable and helpless and
he is all i can think about.
he is my first thought
when i am awake.
my last when my mind
finally tires of him,
and i fall into a
fitful night of sleep.
yet, i do not tell him any of this.
he wonders why i am so distant,
so removed from him.
what he does not know is that
he carries part of myself with him
wherever he goes.

acceptance.
when my nerves have finally worn themselves down,
when my heart has reached an understanding with my mind,
when Love does not appear as something to be grieved,
that is when i fall in Love.

never once have i
accepted Love from a man,
Love that could alter
my melancholy mind,
nor have i trusted a man with my heart.
[although i have been forced by Love itself to relinquish it.]

i have been obstinate and headstrong
and refused to give all of myself
in fear of losing myself.
but maybe one day, i will be
rescued from myself.
Cné Aug 2017
when i fall,
i don't just fall in love.
clumsily, i stumble
down and then i land

awkwardly and graceless,
stuttering utterly at the foot
of a handsome man,

blundering an apology
out of breath, ineptly
embarrassed about
my shaky hands,

clambering
to dust myself off,
all the while, i try,
desperately, to stand

wishing i could disappear,
i rise as quickly as i can
waving off any helping hand

so he doesn't see
how incredibly stupid
i must be
Doh
I can make the earth stop in
its tracks. I made the
blue cars go away.

I can make myself invisible or small.
I can become gigantic & reach the
farthest things. I can change
the course of nature.
I can place myself anywhere in
space or time.
I can summon the dead.
I can perceive events on other worlds,
in my deepest inner mind,
& in the minds of others.

I can

I am
~~~

People need Connectors
Writers, heroes, stars,
leaders
To give life form.
A child’s sand boat facing
the sun.
Plastic soldiers in the miniature
dirt war.  Forts.
Garage Rocket Ships

Ceremonies, theatre, dances
To reassert Tribal needs & memories
a call to worship, uniting
above all, a reversion,
a longing for family & the
safety magic of childhood.
~~~

The grand highway
is crowded
w/
lovers
&
searchers
&
leavers
so
eager
to
please
&
forget

Wilderness
~~~

Now is blessed
The rest
remembered
~~~

A man rakes leaves into
a heap in his yard, a pile,
& leans on his rake &
burns them utterly.
The fragrance fills the forest
children pause & heed the
smell, which will become
nostalgia in several years
~~~

Sirens
Water
Rain & Thunder
Jet from the base
Hot searing insect cry
The frogs & crickets
Doors open & close
The smash of glass
The Soft Parade
An accident
Rustle of silk, nylon
Watering the dry grass
Fire
Bells
Rattlesnake, whistles, castanets
Lawn mower
Good Humor man
Skates & wagons
Bikes
~~~

Where’d you learn about
Satan- out of a book
Love?- out of a box
~~~

night of sin (The Fall)
-1st ***, a feeling of having
done this same act in time before
O No, not again
~~~

Between childhood, boyhood,
adolescence
& manhood (maturity) there
should be sharp lines drawn w/
Tests, deaths, feats, rites
stories, songs, & judgements
~~~

Men who go out on ships
To escape sin & the mire of cities
watch the placenta of evening stars
from the deck, on their backs
& cross the equator
& perform rituals to exhume the dead
dangerous initiations
To mark passage to new levels

To feel on the verge of an exorcism
a rite of passage
To wait, or seek manhood
enlightenment in a gun

To **** childhood, innocence
in an instant
Hear me, Lord of the Stars!
For thee I have worshipped ever
With stains and sorrows and scars,
With joyful, joyful endeavour.
Hear me, O lily-white goat!
O crisp as a thicket of thorns,
With a collar of gold for Thy throat,
A scarlet bow for Thy horns!

Here, in the dusty air,
I build Thee a shrine of yew.
All green is the garland I wear,
But I feed it with blood for dew!
After the orange bars
That ribbed the green west dying
Are dead, O Lord of the Stars,
I come to Thee, come to Thee crying.

The ambrosial moon that arose
With ******* slow heaving in splendour
Drops wine from her infinite snows.
Ineffably, utterly, tender.
O moon! ambrosial moon!
Arise on my desert of sorrow
That the Magical eyes of me swoon
With lust of rain to-morrow!

Ages and ages ago
I stood on the bank of a river
Holy and Holy and holy, I know,
For ever and ever and ever!
A priest in the mystical shrine
I muttered a redeless rune,
Till the waters were redder than wine
In the blush of the harlot moon.

I and my brother priests
Worshipped a wonderful woman
With a body lithe as a beast's
Subtly, horribly human.
Deep in the pit of her eyes
I saw the image of death,
And I drew the water of sighs
From the well of her lullaby breath.

She sitteth veiled for ever
Brooding over the waste.
She hath stirred or spoken never.
She is fiercely, manly chaste!
What madness made me awake
From the silence of utmost eld
The grey cold slime of the snake
That her poisonous body held?

By night I ravished a maid
From her father's camp to the cave.
I bared the beautiful blade;
I dipped her thrice i' the wave;
I slit her throat as a lamb's,
That the fount of blood leapt high
With my clamorous dithyrambs
Like a stain on the shield of the sky.

With blood and censer and song
I rent the mysterious veil:
My eyes gaze long and long
On the deep of that blissful bale.
My cold grey kisses awake
From the silence of utmost eld
The grey cold slime of the snake
That her beautiful body held.

But --- God! I was not content
With the blasphemous secret of years;
The veil is hardly rent
While the eyes rain stones for tears.
So I clung to the lips and laughed
As the storms of death abated,
The storms of the grevious graft
By the swing of her soul unsated.

Wherefore reborn as I am
By a stream profane and foul
In the reign of a Tortured Lamb,
In the realm of a sexless Owl,
I am set apart from the rest
By meed of the mystic rune
That reads in peril and pest
The ambrosial moon --- the moon!

For under the tawny star
That shines in the Bull above
I can rein the riotous car
Of galloping, galloping Love;
And straight to the steady ray
Of the Lion-heart Lord I career,
Pointing my flaming way
With the spasm of night for a spear!

O moon! O secret sweet!
Chalcedony clouds of caresses
About the flame of our feet,
The night of our terrible tresses!
Is it a wonder, then,
If the people are mad with blindness,
And nothing is stranger to men
Than silence, and wisdom, and kindness?

Nay! let him fashion an arrow
Whose heart is sober and stout!
Let him pierce his God to the marrow!
Let the soul of his God flow out!
Whether a snake or a sun
In his horoscope Heaven hath cast,
It is nothing; every one
Shall win to the moon at last.

The mage hath wrought by his art
A billion shapes in the sun.
Look through to the heart of his heart,
And the many are shapes of one!
An end to the art of the mage,
And the cold grey blank of the prison!
An end to the adamant age!
The ambrosial moon is arisen.

I have bought a lily-white goat
For the price of a crown of thorns,
A collar of gold for its throat,
A scarlet bow for its horns.
I have bought a lark in the lift
For the price of a **** of sherry:
With these, and God for a gift,
It needs no wine to be merry!

I have bought for a wafer of bread
A garden of poppies and clover;
For a water bitter and dead
A foam of fire flowing over.
From the Lamb and his prison fare
And the owl's blind stupor, arise
Be ye wise, and strong, and fair,
And the nectar afloat in your eyes!

Arise, O ambrosial moon
By the strong immemorial spell,
By the subtle veridical rune
That is mighty in heaven and hell!
Drip thy mystical dews
On the tongues of the tender fauns
In the shade of initiate yews
Remote from the desert dawns!

Satyrs and Fauns, I call.
Bring your beauty to man!
I am the mate for ye all'
I am the passionate Pan.
Come, O come to the dance
Leaping with wonderful whips,
Life on the stroke of a glance,
Death in the stroke of the lips!

I am hidden beyond,
Shed in a secret sinew
Smitten through by the fond
Folly of wisdom in you!
Come, while the moon (the moon!)
Sheds her ambrosial splendour,
Reels in the redeless rune
Ineffably, utterly, tender!
Hark! the appealing cry
Of deadly hurt in the hollow: ---
Hyacinth! Hyacinth! Ay!
Smitten to death by Apollo.
Swift, O maiden moon,
Send thy ray-dews after;
Turn the dolorous tune
To soft ambiguous laughter!

Mourn, O Maenads, mourn!
Surely your comfort is over:
All we laugh at you lorn.
Ours are the poppies and clover!
O that mouth and eyes,
Mischevious, male, alluring!
O that twitch of the thighs
Dorian past enduring!

Where is wisdom now?
Where the sage and his doubt?
Surely the sweat of the brow
Hath driven the demon out.
Surely the scented sleep
That crowns the equal war
Is wiser than only to weep ---
To weep for evermore!

Now, at the crown of the year,
The decadent days of October,
I come to thee, God, without fear;
Pious, chaste, and sober.
I solemnly sacrifice
This first-fruit flower of wine
For a vehicle of thy vice
As I am Thine to be mine.

For five in the year gone by
I pray Thee give to me one;
A love stronger than I,
A moon to swallow the sun!
May he be like a lily-white goat
Crisp as a thicket of thorns,
With a collar of gold for his throat,
A scarlet bow for his horns!
She steps into the dark swamp
where the long wait ends.

The secret slippery package
drops to the weeds.

She leans her long neck and tongues it
between breaths slack with exhaustion

and after a while it rises and becomes a creature
like her, but much smaller.

So now there are two. And they walk together
like a dream under the trees.

In early June, at the edge of a field
thick with pink and yellow flowers

I meet them.
I can only stare.

She is the most beautiful woman
I have ever seen.

Her child leaps among the flowers,
the blue of the sky falls over me

like silk, the flowers burn, and I want
to live my life all over again, to begin again,

to be utterly
wild.
I tend to get stares... Looks... The occasional "are you gay?" With a quizzical look of disgust.
Well, to answer your question, no, I am not gay.
In a society built around judgment and stilted above common sense,
Being gay would mean that I'd have to find women utterly disgusting, flick my wrists, speak with funny and awkward inflections, right?
Do you think I speak with funny and awkward inflections?
Good! Because I'm so not gay.
Being gay would mean that I love to shop, well I hate it!
My fashion sense does not exceed that of a box of colorful crayola crayons melting away in the blistering Las Vegas sun because you see, I don't live in San Francisco, or New York,
or anywhere "gay" people live.
I am not gay.
Being gay would mean that I am immoral but I can assure you, moralistically speaking, that morals are what keep me routinely from listening to Lady Gaga, who I've heard, despite her catholic upbringing, is a devout devil worshiper and I sure as hell don't worship Satan!
Oh no, I am not gay.
My father once told me, in his manliest tone that if I ever became sweet
or my tank profusely filled with sugar
that he'd disown me and rid me of his home.
However last time I checked,
I don't have a tank
and one lick of my tanned brown skin would reveal that I am in fact quite salty!
Salty, as defined by Urban Dictionary, means to be ******.
Bitter. Angry.
Well father, there aint nothing sweet about my wrath.
I'm infuriated.
I'm angry not because I'm not able to fulfill the holistic criterion society has built in order to be gay,
No, I am more upset that there is actually a set of rules dictating whether or not someone is gay.
Now listen to me when I tell you,
I am not gay
I am not gay because I have yet to inject myself of substances with an unsterile needle for all purposes of getting high.
No, I have yet to discover my last ****** partner was diagnosed with *** and that I may very well have the virus.
No, I have yet to interiorly decorate my bedroom with the warm crimson fluid that is my blood because some punk at school thought it was cute to label me a queer.
I have yet to be gay because being gay in today's society means I am reckless. I am promiscuous. I am a *******.
Well, guess what society,
I am not gay.
I am, in fact, a man, who is not your personal show dog for your fashion approval that you can tote around in some cute Gucci bag.
I am a man, who can still appreciate the beautiful magnificence that is a curve when he sees one no matter the person's gender.
I am a man who, despite what you may be expecting,
is a man who, no matter how hard you try to box me in a confined image,
is a man who, will fight to freely be in love with who he wants to be in love with,
who is a man who is not gay
but a man who loves men.
I am not gay.
..
Totally gay.
Mokomboso Feb 2016
I like memes
Words don't deliver half as much
My reaction can be boiled down
To 500x500 pixels
I'm utterly speechles
It takes no thought to post
It takes little wit
To giggle at an injoke
That the whole world is in on
It's nice to be part of something though
And share a snigger
We watch trends change
And language evolve
Without considering our role
What was rellevant some years ago
Is nostalgia in the archives
Of our collective history
Memes are the roman wall graffiti
Of the techno age
Only it's copied over and over
And spread like wildfire
Only to diseappear in the blink of an eye
McKenna Rich Jul 2014
Have you ever felt so utterly empty
That you can't even do what you do best
Words don't flow onto the page as they should

Have you ever felt so utterly hopeless
That you can't even get out of bed
Your lungs don't even seem to want to work

Have you ever felt so utterly worthless
That you can't even take a strangers compliment
Let alone even think of loving yourself

Have you ever felt so utterly alone
Even though you're in a room full of people
You just seem invisible to all that is there

Have you ever felt so utterly disgusting
That you cringe at the sight of your own picture
And can't seem to look at yourself in the mirror

This is how I've felt..... For the past 4 years
it's 3:30 am..... just kinda needed to happen
Integrity: adherene to moral principles, honesty..and the quality or condition of being whole..undivided.

Cheating:  to deprive someone of something valuable by use of deceit.

         Most, if not all of us, need, and very much desire physical intimacy (yes, sx).  Can I say sx  on here? ...I'm not sure. Sx is like the greatest thing ever invented. It's right up there with eating and sleeping.  Everybody likes it..everybody wants it. But when someone is in an exclusive relationship with another, married or not, you don't get to have sx with whoever you want anymore. True, everyone makes mistakes sometimes, no one is perfect, and at times we are weak, for one reason or another. But an honorable man or woman...a person with integrity and inner discipline...recovers..and learns from the mistake...and doesn't repeat it.  That is not what cheaters do.  Cheaters are habitual. That means repeat offenders.  Cheaters talk about things like honor and will power and integrity, but they don't practice it in the place it counts the most, with their beloved.  With cheaters, it isn't about a "mistake".... a one time thing they feel horrible about afterward and promise themselves never to repeat.  Cheaters simply don't care. It's not that they don't care about the girlfriend/boyfriend, or fiance or spouse that they have made a promise of committment to. They do care...they just care more about themselves. It is the promise of faithfulness itself that is meaningless to them...it is simply empty of any real sincerity.  But the problem is that the promise is accepted by the loved one as sincere.  That promise is relied upon and as important as though it were tangible.  So irrespective of how much the cheater spits upon the promise everytime he or she cheats...that promise is HOLY.  Yes, that's right..HOLY.  What does that mean...holy?  Like church holy..or holy water holy?  How is a promise holy?  Well, really one could argue that any promise is holy, but how much more so when a person believes and loves and trusts another...putting all of their faith and future hope on a promise of real love and commitment.  That trust and love make the promise holy.  It is not the hollow promise itself, but that loving reliance upon the promise that creates the holiness...the pure beauty of love... and the faith that it is returned exclusively to the beloved.

          The true sadness is that the beloved will eventually find out about the cheater and then the house of cards will come tumbling down.  Not only is the relationship destroyed, but the trust, faith, and love is destroyed as well, and it may be difficult to ever trust again, in any relationship.  Such immense pain can be caused.  It is amazing that cheaters don't seem to care or think about the consequences of these indiscretions.  Do any of them think ahead of time about the people and/or god forbid, children that will be left lying in the wake of their utterly selfish acts?  The people that will be left trying to pick of the pieces of their hearts, and try to rationalize whether anything that they had believed in was actually real.

          The question is, what and who does the cheater value?? What does the cheater respect?  Do they even value their own selves?  Does a person who thinks nothing of cheating on a regular basis, or every chance they get on their loved one value and respect anything?  Clearly there is no respect for the promise made. There is no respect for the one whom the cheater purports to love.  There is no respect for the man or woman the cheater is doing the cheating with...because clearly that person is just being used to fulfill a carnal desire..and arguably the cheater doesn't even respect him or herself, because a person with an inner moral compass respects him or herself enough not to do things that will cause pain to others, especially those who love him or her.

          So maybe the cheater does not have any real understanding of what is holy..the meaning of a promise...an understanding of integrity...of sacrifice...of the pure beauty of love.  If a man or a woman is in a relationship and can't keep their **** legs closed...then that person has no business being in a relationship.  Its just that simple.  You can't have your cake and eat it too, and then want to eat someone else's cake as well.  If you are so selfish and deceitful that you can't be honest and faithful to the one you profess to love...then do that person a favor and either agree with them to have an open relationship, or let them go.  Because the act of cheating is entirely selfish in every way.  Cheaters want the security and benefits of an ongoing relationship with their significant other, and they want to mess around on the side as well because then they have the best of both worlds.

          But you don't have to go to church or believe in any particular religion to know that cheating is wrong.  It is a hurtful despicable act made even more vicious because it is intentional and hurts the person who loves the perpetrator.  How many crimes are like that?  ....the most heinous.

          So, if you are a cheater..don't ever talk about honor and integrity and code of conduct.  You have no right to utter those words.  Because when you live by  principles of ethical behavior, you don't pick and choose when to apply those principles.  You don't decide that they apply in some areas of your life, on some days, but not on others.  Think before you act..think about who will suffer from your actions...think about the destruction you will cause...do not believe that you can get away with it forever, because eventually the law of the universe will catch up to you.  There is retribution for every act in which we inflict pain on another...for every time we make a promise and then break it..whether anyone ever knows about it or not...just some food for thought
Willow Jul 2018
These are the words I would never tell you,
Your smile, your eyes, your hair, that is just a plus to you, but your personality is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I thought after one year, the crush would be over but I was wrong.
7 years later and I'm still completely and utterly in love with you. You're the person I look for when I walk in a room, you're the person I can mess with their hair and wouldn't care. You're the person that I can throw a pencil at and make you pick it up and wouldn't get mad. You're the only man I trust, and you know how much I don't trust them. But I know I can tell every single secret but one and you wouldn't tell another soul. When you told me you believed in me, a piece of my broken heart went into it's place like a puzzle piece.
Wasn't sure if I wanted to publish this or not but **** it.


The secret I can't tell him is that I love him :)
Michelle E Alba Jun 2010
daddy.
im utterly helpless.
and yes i blame you!
i've become a disease,
infecting all i touch.
grim as it is,
as aware of it as i may be,
infectious i still remain.
i still blame you.
for we are interminable.
for we are completely alike.
pride established dominance,
a mind capable of enormous leverage.
a cruel mind.
he was your only ecstasy.
only room for your son
not me
everything afterwards savored of anti ******.
lonely and neglected,
i finally give in,
too proud for too long.
i blame you!
fearful to confess....
im utterly helpless
August Oct 2012
This is a story I created for my 5 year old niece.

During the old times, things were not as they are now.  Dangerous monsters lurked around every corner doing the ***** deeds of the gods. The innocents had no protection. Only their own wits could keep them living another day.
Such was so for Elephant, he was one of the most intelligent of all the animals in the forest. He was large and grey, wizened with age. He had dark eyes, full of knowing. He had a strong face, with a large round nose. He was the guard of the forest, a scholar, and he could even read, unlike so many of his predecessors. He protected the innocent animals from the evil ones who meant them harm. The gods envied his intellect. They were afraid that it surpassed their own.  They wanted the innocents to be consumed by their minions, the dangerous monsters that lurked around the outside of the protection circle.
They devised a plan to destroy Elephant once and for all. They got their scariest, meanest, largest, most determined beast to do their bidding. The Mushika, some called him “The Mouse”. The Mushika had never been seen before, he had only been a whiff of a rumor found in children’s stories. He was said to be as large as the biggest trees, as mean as all of the god’s combined, and as powerful as the forest itself.
The god’s were able to convince the Mushika to do their bidding, by promising to make him even larger, meaner, and more powerful than he already was. He agreed and began his journey towards the innocents’ home where Elephant stood ready to protect and defend.
Elephant could feel it in the wind that something was coming. He read the leaves on the water to be sure. He knew that danger was almost on them and prepared for battle. He stood quietly, his eyes slowly moving from trunk to trunk. The wind blew slightly, ruffling his long ears. Then, THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. It seemed as if the whole forest quaked. Far away, trees began to fall to the left and to the right. Slowly, it got closer and closer. Until the Elephant could see a looming white beast with red eyes, a pink nose, round ears, a long pink tail, and a massive body.
He roared, “Elephant, I have a bone to pick with you!!” Elephant’s face was calm as he stepped forward. The Mouse lunged stepping on the Elephant’s trunk. Elephant howled in pain, jerking and tossing away from the Mushika’s massive foot. The Mushika persisted, realizing that he had made Elephant utterly defenseless. He opened his giant mouth, full of sharp teeth, about to swallow Elephant whole.
Elephant’s eyes filled with fear, then sharp determination. He mustered all of his strength together and made one final, gigantic tug. His round nose stretched and stretched and stretched, then popped out from underneath the mouse’s foot. He realized he was free, and wasn’t focused on how his nose had become elongated. He shoved with all of his might against the Mushika who was very startled sending him back against the trees. The Mushika had been knocked out.
Elephant called out to the innocents, “Family! We must flee now before this mouse wakes up. We must go where not even the God’s can find us!” All of the innocents came out of their huts.
One of the children, Giraffe, asked, “What happened to your nose?”
Elephant replied, “It has been stretched out, but do not worry. I am fine. We must go now!”
So all of the animals packed their things and went to a hiding place. Elephant realized he could grip things with his new nose. He picked up a giant rock and began to crack the ground away from the rest of the forest. It broke off and floated away, millions of galaxies away. They decided to call this place Earth. So that was how Earth became.
Later on, when the Mushika woke up, the gods were waiting for him. “You have failed your mission, therefore you must be punished,” they said in unison. The mouse quivered as they began chanting strange words. Slowly his size diminished to the size of an apple. He squeaked, no longer able to roar. The god’s laughed, snapping their fingers. The Mushika was suddenly on Earth, where his dreadful enemy was. The Mushika had been stripped of his mighty name and put into unfamiliar territory with no allies. Forever to be called Mouse, never to be able to defend himself again.
Elephant knew that Mouse had been punished for loosing their battle, yet he was still terrified that he would change back into that horrible beast. He feared Mouse the rest of his life, and told all of his family to fear him as well. This story explains why the elephant’s trunk is so long, why mice are so small, and why such a large animal as the elephant is scared of such a small animal as the mouse.
eli Aug 2014
ever since i was young,
my gaze was drawn skyward.
i could tell you the story of orion,
and how to brush bernice's hair,
before i could tell you that two plus two equals four.
i know more about our vast universe,
than i know about many of my friends.

if you are not well acquainted with a pisces,
let me give you a bit of an introduction:
we are compassionate, imaginative,
we adapt to whatever is thrown at us,
and my personal favourite,
we are unfalteringly loyal.

however...
we are full of self-hate,
prone to laziness,
we are escapists
and horrendously easy to manipulate.

i believe my horoscope today is complete *******.
i do not feel utterly lovely,
i know i will not score a date
because no one feels for me romantically.
i've nothing to flaunt.
the horoscopes are saccharine lies,
but, those traits? those are me.

my soul is ancient,
i feel the pain of struggles i have not faced,
or rather, have not YET faced;
i will split my soul in two
i will break my bones
i will give every drop of my blood
i will breathe my last breath
for those that i love.

i spent two years of my life giving my heart and soul to a sagittarius.
philosophical, adventurous.
i admired him so.
but his negatives--
inconsistent. overconfident.
careless.
he was a burning house.

my mother, also a pisces, when all was said and done,
told me to stay away from those sagittarius boys.
they're dangerous for wary, fretful fish like us,
who ask 'from what bridge?' when we are told to jump.
i am the textbook example of a pisces.
Kisses stolen
Frozen iceberg
glued to the spot
mind glazed inwards
to void the tape
Slowly the blood
runs down down
to block it out
Trapped in a web
of evil lies
I lie here in anguish
Utterly helpless caught up
in human trafficking...  
Trapped in *******
Kidnapped by these
evil perpetrators....
exploited used
and dumped on
pile of vile drunken men
When will this stop
it is an abomination before
God ....
it takes away our human rights.
When will the world open
up their eyes and see...
And act now before
another young child
befalls this evil trait..
Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly ----

A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky

Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.

O my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.
Scott M Reamer Apr 2013
Man life know just set eyes way like young world soul day hunger space mouth earth thoughts ignorance blind things mind knew final moment human creation kind creatures souls high forgotten dream love spoke self existence face holy deep bound think home void say surrender ear forever called held ephemeral red state end shall heed hope edge living waking fall sea wake garden need February thought past wanderer got men page colored tepid terrible **** proudly untitled features point painted faceless box forgot render wild spring splendor  handfuls looking half brain lost torn ancestral  unseen vision inner summer honor mister owned banner save today fear groans wasn't smoke  street fable strange year contrast black years  able pain body spoken word known motion  palpitate reeling nature culture disclaimers  cancer beg attentive frames ****** base profound double remember wholly finger death token  cries continue folk oh fishing form broken true  divides spread ah twas away breathe wait 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persist scrap slipping individual talk wonders  leaving questions fold actor fancy parchment  fates engenders flown jaws stripped longer music  sacrifice fakers book boldly frown sigh atop patient hang trade occupation blows spectacular  whispers worthy backward waving certainty danced suppose needn't ‘drawkcab’ second-guessing  boys forget marched motto heads tightly lies two-tone earthbound harp twice turns goodnight  lying ***** internally indiscriminate nickname  drunk convictions myth steep  in-consumption  fitting artist **** universal sick expressions bad  du spell melody big siphon proud learn sprawls song spastic something temperaments utter check  fissures stomp totality blend definitely thrall sing rug voice shade pestilence ties commiserate round devil steady brains emotional certain gate  suckling gates dearth decay weight bounce pound  carrier pangs glass startle contest earthen web  tug pressed air patience flush amassed guest gone apprehension staring empathize captain believe fading in-perceivable deathbed guarder makes surrounds scatter drooling ebb blink cob tome  venom near door lair derision draws host stairs scent parts curiosities spider webbing surprise wares tips stepping ascetics starkness realize picture surroundings dictations grand pillars  deaf limited comparisons greet visual residents  personal settings dismiss alien law stability common earthly shiftless places prelude  understanding mosaic keen trifling embodiments  geared inception whisper visible jowls kiss murky  puddle rank dawn dichotomy single faithful fraying pays tailor veil climb mores pence whim  breath wellspring samara god stony pear  shadows fruiting forebodes moonlit looming  shown passed bog gold wracked faint tongues  noble preachers mirror shifting layered depth  threads jungle narcissus bemused seamstress self-worshiping architect's wore slumber anomalous  opened barren seam lip caustic scene coupled brick gardener's clenches -with forms idle breed  embodied lore 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interment paradox bitter heart  devoid jeopardy angry sensation confidential guilty arrogance mercy compliance reprieve  vincent deadening factual sign emotion awe  inhibition shackled butterflies absence actual sciences acknowledgement violent stagnant  spiritual American doors roots lack matted fore  gestures society cause streams intensity hair impossible discord lonely hearts resounding  jest  what's flavored pains closed toxic contented  happenstance scientific knowledge yeah  wizardry shaking stifled withdrawn bloom  jitter dreads settle asocial hulton make  predisposed figurative reflections demeanors  wondered affect hulton's projected sense  morning industry arrays ghosts feeling  certainly endomorphic where's partially wrath  passer mornings jovial unease advertized asking  trash onward wished tempers media mentality connect pasts sharp-toothed scramble great colours trial test salvation continually lent  degree secretly subjection social waned  disconnected colors grimly intellectual civilization cash trading baffling particular  digest myths monumental ending seasons winter  repetition introducing agent everlasting  shoulders delivered honestly-- possession funny  continence history unsightly function suffering propulsion profession divulge familiar tugs era  importance capability perpetuation spite inventory words entirety leveling fray insight  date record continues writer getting evermore fellow tongue possessions identical proof accuracy education similar sack admittance  favor unravel conveyance guilt gives beginnings  predicting audacity definition bobby heady eaters frameless learned release stone grandeur sang  speak molds sleeps split built seats people folded  sheer pour evoked playhouse liquid boring  tellers frayed stark walked reality pleas doth  preformed shows beak pride squawks opinions  greatest bold stunning sightings he'd loudly slain  sunk watch legend precipice theater deeper compound commentator civility justly silly 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You are what your reading lady. Now would you hold this gun?
Ayad Gharbawi Jan 2010
PASSION PLAY

Ayad Gharbawi




Location: Desert Shore, Bitterly Cold Night, next to strong waves from the ocean.
Characters: Man ((M) and his Lover, a Woman (W).

----------------------------------------


W: “Search as I forever do, in manifold ways unknown, I seek but to love thee, and the meagre goodness from Life, with steely ardour - my armour faithful.”
M: “Alone I may be, and still, yes I love thee; these days heavy are and beset I am by burdensome trivialities, but I remain trusting, though my corner so narrow remain.”
W: “My Love! Your speech I hear aloud and thine lips I live within and yet, my Love, all Solitude I am. Man! I am unaided! In this journey of sinful thorns, my love, in this unforgiving journey, this blurred odyssey, I stand alone”.
M: “This trial you speak of, but I do know of it well; so, listen then: within the strength of trusted togetherness we can plough on, though everlasting harm shall do its spiteful tricks, warm to our united truth shall we remain.”
W: (Surprised) “O! My love! This thought I cannot hear! My life, my destiny, is but mine. And all have their own solitary roads of jagged rocks to embrace, like it we or not. We heartbreaking earthly sad beasts, either fiercely clutch at integrity, or we do let it go to perish away.”
M: (Confused) “My Love! I do hear, I do hear. But when Times decide on burdening us, what then can we achieve? To face Reality within the frail arms of solitude is to ignore, to refuse the severe threats of repulsive grins.”
(Silence)
M: (Passionately) “O! My sweet! Only in us, can we envelope, through joined, clasped warmth can we be as one united! The screams that so truly are meant to slice us off, only we, our Unity, can destroy. For mine eyes can only find sleep in your ears, and it is so - for otherwise nothing and no one can be.”
W: (Angry) “My Passion too is bubbling for thine bewildered ears. Am I not your soul? Do we not suffer as one? Do we not reflect as one? Am I not your lover true? Is not our warmth not weighty to our fickle bones?”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) “But, Lover, this much ought I to formally declare unto thee: For our eyes, and all eyes, envision unequally at one another. Till eternity, in its casual, indifferent flicker, snatches at us all wretched mortals, the gazes from lords to paupers remain veritably mismatched. O my passion! My woeful heart! These words I thunder forth defines love unfeigned, and what mine eyes do pour out unto thine ears is authenticity true.
(Silence)
W: (Passionately) “What joined mem’ries you choose to caress may possess thee, but your exactness for what love is to you, doth not dwell in mine mind. What tears, what weepings you do, fall stormily upon thine own soul’s wildernesses. You choose to be chained by changing visions and indefinite sentiments of light weight – though so poignant at the moment they veritably are?”
M: (Inquiring) “My love! I cherish thee; where hast thou been in thine mind, for now ye talk of that truth you relate to in your heart. Your pronouncements, what depths I do feel! Can it perchance be that my passion has strayed our winds far from me?”
W: “No, my love! Why is anger, I feel, lush on thine tongue?”
M: (Surprised and Frightened) “Anger! I am too distant from that affliction! But yes, I feel my words make only for unstable murmurs in my breath.”
W: (Quietly) “Then, do tell me, lover, who do your murmurs betray - myself or yourself then?”
M: (Quietly) “Perhaps so, perhaps so. But my anxiety wilfully demands of me to eradicate your vision.”
W: (Firmly) “You answer naught from my undemanding question. Or, are mine meanings too violent for you? What aches thee?”
M: (Passionately) “My sweet! In so many moments, I created mysterious planets for thee! Bizarre worlds of contrasts and opposites and musical words of antiquity and sensual ravines. My love! I, my soul, my life, my inner deepest breath, tempted as I am by Fates’ inscrutable cruelties to ashamedly yield, I have yet always expressed to mine eyes’ heart, though they be in bleak darkness, to faithfully fight without pause all shades of vice and still yet - with loving integrity; I have stood with arms of righteousness and love for thee up and never down! Yes, sincere good and venal ill remain joined in life for all to feel, but you knew it was not for me to disentangle them. And so, I pronounce unto thee, still, and yet ever and ever more, my love for thee, though still beholding a thousand mountains before me, I remain sturdy for thee; I remain undisturbed by burly laws, and by exotic dictums, I stand fierce and unhurt, save in your absence.”
W: (With Sadness) “My beloved, your vivid voice stabs the falsehoods for thee, and I say unto thee, unto thee your excessive and unreasonable chains, and for myself my unreasonable and extreme chains remain.”
M: (Shocked) “But I burden thee with no steely chains, nor verbal fetters! For naught I produce for thee save grace, passion and freedom to love for us both to be in Unity Sacred! Dost thou embrace my visions as ‘shackles’, then ‘tis better we agree to class that which we are as but madness! Hear me, for my tears now must truly change their colours!”
W: (Determined) “Your feverish hands clutch only upon mine erratic wings!”
M: (Anger) “Never! Never! For I clutch only to destroy all malevolence; as for thee, Lady of the purest, untouched, guarded, secluded Ponds, I seek to unshackle for you the scattered, scared shadows that yearn for thine sovereignty. And what is this ‘sovereignty’ but our Sacred Union? What curse deemest you I impose? Do you equal my purest passions with atrocities? Murmur unto mine ears, your clearest love for me.”
W: “Ah! You enquire of me my ‘sincerity’ for thee? What demands!”
(Silence)
M: “I see naught but heaving forests of love betwixt us, and yet, you discover my words being ‘demanding’?”
W: (Drily) “Perchance, your visions are indistinct and ever more blurred, through these years cannot be ignored.”
M: (Begging) “My love! All mine life, though it be lengthy, I fought most venal tyranny, and for this moment, you question my righteousness?”
W: (Indignantly) “I have been plunged into seas hostile and I have plunged in a thousand miles of inert minds troubled beyond conceivable comprehension and I have yet to have my Right for my own greedy, ravenous flesh to be vigorously and forcefully embraced by sensuality and serenity. Yes, I do love thee, and yet in our union, as in all unions, I have been adorned with naught, save snickering, gossiping scenes of festive *****, games, chatter and farewells, themselves festooned within silly and sincerely stupid smiles and frowns, and shallow tears and never ending ludicrous chatter unworthy of monkeys conversing. I have met programmed rows of pats, respect and all other so-called decent intents and gestures, but, where, lover that you are of mine, where does my personal heart, throb and manically vibrate, save in your heavenly imaginations?”
(Silence)
W: (Quietly but Determinedly) “My love! I truly thee love and with passions, I tell you, of proportions of precise exactitudes; in your eyes I have witnessed symphonies of exquisiteness; and, I of thee ask: where dwelleth your own love for myself in thine body?”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) “Do you recognise the changing structures that form this, that I name ‘My Love’? In my solitude eternal, I do evermore and always do pause, and be pensive, and be thinking of questions, such as ‘where’, ‘why’, ‘when’ ‘how’, and ‘which’ should be my path; I am forever and ever more searching, seeking the heavens of every corner, and the irritable tempests, within my changing self as they themselves do try to seek me, and we forever, through inconceivable murkiness, do try to assemble the everlasting entirety of these disorganized puzzles into some measure of comprehensible cohesion that ‘I’ am. That is how the ‘I’ you love is forever changing and thereby formulating itself, and within all these meandering passions, and endless errors, where am I to feel thee? Where? And where do you seek me? In which land? In which forest? You trivialise my beingness as you focus upon my lands as being that which so effortless to find, and yet, you are much too distant from an understanding of my conflicting, emerging civilisations.”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) If the utterance ‘Never’ is pathetic for thee, then allow me to introduce you to my latest heart: for it screams out that single, protracted utterance! Never! My love, these winds of raging wraths, both within and outside by flesh, must and can only be annihilated by mine own sincerities – were I not to play against my own self. My uncontrolled desires and, yes, thirsty manic passions can only be tempered and thoroughly satiated to the utter brim, by mine own loving, sources of pleasure, my own uncontrollable ecstasies. As for the rest of ****** pleasures, my own erroneous words, speeches and utterances can only be severed and sliced by my tranquillity.”
M: (Resigned) “I hear thine words. Do not abandon me. Do not destroy our civilisation of justice.”
W: “What we share, the bonds, are enjoyment. Listen though to mine lips: enjoyment is what - when it is to be compared with convulsive ecstatic quivers of satisfaction?”
M: (Puzzled) “And what of all our journeys to attain that unity? For all that, is it to be of mere insignificance? And if that be your truth, for what then did we toil and labour for unity of minds and bodies?”
W: (Laughing) “Did you understand from Life itself, that here it was, grandly to proclaim its furtive faces unto thine own awaiting face?! “
M: (Baffled) “It was so far too plain and vastly clear unto me these sceneries we faced before our loving bodies.”
W: “Yes, and I too, did see them with thee. Our four eyes, did see unity for that flicker of time. How true you speak! But, time clocked on, I saw you as you stood there, moving nowhere, unawares that it was your duty to squash onwards whatever vile breaths faced us.”
M: (Desperate) “And did I not? Did I abandon thee in these crushing paths?”
W: (Accusing) “No, you did not. Never, once did you abandon me. I ask of thee; for what sense do we feel a need for a continuation of these gruelling marches? For unity? For love? Or, is love unity? Was that and is this our reason for us to carry on with these shackles?”
M: “For assuredly, yes, and more yes, I tell thee! Toil and gruelling dawns, and unbearable evenings and the whitest of nights are all for the sacred attainment of that heavenly summit of joy I name as blessed ‘Love’.”
W: (Assured) “And, Sire, what if my nerves, blood and ****** hunger tell thee in truth that we, all of us, need no longer, and need never in truth, to undertake these paths, for we find naught that nourishes us at the blessed summit of your definition of what ‘Love’ is?”
M: (Confused & Sad) “So, I falter here and now upon understanding your speech; do I reason from thee that our loving days in unity are frivolously bygone now?”
W: (Calmly & Gracefully) “Do the wandering birds, and do the blind bats, and do the reckless storms, and do the blindly, raging waves and do the supremely arrogant oceans eternally march on in but one direction only with the savage passage of time within their particular lives? You did pronounce that you built planets for our unity; well then, did you not view how planets endlessly revolve along the same path?”
(Pause)
W: (Calmly & with Dignity) “For, Sire, I am not as a Planet - could you not feel that throughout our journeys? You endlessly query and question ‘who’ it is that ‘I’ am? Well, I speak this much on myself; I am as the birds, and the bats, and the storms and the waves and the oceans.”  
M: (Angry) “Woman! I can only then tell of thee that you are naught but feuding clutter and violent disarray!”
W: (Unconcerned) “Those are your words. Not mine. Speak for what you wish, Sire.”
M: (Angry) “And I stand here, before thee, in anger – nay, more, more! In fury!”
W: (Laughing) “For what? For the deeds that created but sticky, and grimy grains of sand for the undoubted pleasure our eyes?”
M: “And so you label our truths, our love so much! Fair indeed, you speak, Woman of Justice.”
W: (Arrogantly) “Man! Express your delights for your own delights. And, alas, there the circle and reality ends – and it ends only for you. That is one morsel of truth for you to ponder. What we ‘created’ and what we ‘loved’ was never and never, ever be the same for you as it is for me. Are you a sincere believer that your personal vision is the same sight all other seeing creatures envision?”
M: (Angry) “Woman, you enrage me! Your arrogance is drenching thine rags.”
W: (Sarcastic) “Tis the Man with no reason who allows his breath and words to be a veritable cesspool of fuming stenches!”
M: “But I, that I am, no longer can define your contours?”
W: (Pointedly) “Precisely, Man, precisely. Perhaps, now you have come closer to the vulnerable shores of reality!”
M: (Confused) “Do you express that you are ever varying and so for that reason there is not a one unified you?”
W: (Calmly) “For we are all ‘varying’, to borrow your word – if you do so allow me, Sire. There was never ‘unity’ of soul, nor mind, nor self, nor of any one personality. This, I desire, that you may understand.”
M: (Aghast) “Then if that be your truth and then, are we naught but multitudes of ever changing confusions, Lady of the Desert?”
W: (Calmly) “Yes and no! For those who are muscular and full of fertile vigour in their flesh, and in their intellects, and those that are severely and strictly scholastic, then they do need and they can succeed in time, in their never ending struggle to bring together the mutually antagonistic factions of that which constitutes our beingness. And, as for the dense brained soulless beings, then, it is equally veritably true that, a descent into madness can be rapidly produced, since from their erratic constituents, they cannot attract together these antagonistic and mutually-hating emotions in some vision of cohesion, and thus mayhem can be fashioned.”
(Silence)
M: (Calmly) “So, pray do tell me, where does Love and Justice and Truth and Morality stand in your universe?”
W: (Serenely) “That has been mine desire to hear the words being produced from your lips, Man!”
(Pause)
W: “So, now perhaps, your sight may be getting clearer, for your question is certainly apt. Foremost, we pathetic mortals, we the be are forever slimy specks of sand that  crumbles, must necessarily seek to survive and flourish within whatever forest, desert, meadow we find ourselves cast upon.”
M: (Startled) “At what cost, Woman? At the expense of Morality?”
W: (Rapidly) “Yes and no.”
M: (Shocked) “Horrendous! How can you spout out such filth?”
W: (Quietly) “Restrain your stupidities, and give more room to your intelligence, Sire.”
(Silence)
W: (Gracefully) “In times of trouble, what can Man do when he be forced to embrace evil, even though he finds the act of the embrace loathsome, but he does what he does for the truth of his vital existence to continue. Only when he need never embrace vile, and then allows himself to commit the act, then he is for certainty to incur the everlasting wrath of God. Evil is thus never one truth to be utterly rejected, perchance you may now see. ”
M: (Calm but Tired) “I follow your words and their ideas therein.”
W: (Gracefully) “When you talk to me on Man and everlasting, conflicting changes within that self-same creature, I tell you with all the earnestness that I possess, of what God has scattered and endowed upon me; for this beast, we all call in unity Man, this creature has far too many a numberless number of mutually self-contradicting, distrusting, loving, hating, inspiring and a never ending number of feelings and emotions that are in constant flow and change – as in any rapid river descending unto its eventual destination, which in its case, is the sea, while in our case, it is Death itself for sure.”
M: (Despair) “And how can this beast ‘love’ anyone within this welter of confusion?”
W: (Rapidly) “He cannot!”
M: (Rapidly, Begging) “But Man and Woman do love with bristling passions! Do you deny that, Woman?!”
W: (Calmly, eyes downwards looking) “Yes, and no. Since the beast has needs, based on his vastly intricate constituents, to ‘love’ his fellow beast, he imagines and believes
Nigel Morgan Jun 2013
She sent it to me as a text message, that is an image of a quote in situ, a piece of interpretation in a gallery. Saturday morning and I was driving home from a week in a remote cottage on a mountain. I had stopped to take one last look at the sea, where I usually take one last look, and the phone bleeped. A text message, but no text.  Just a photo of some words. It made me smile, the impossibility of it. Epic poems and tapestry weaving. Of course there are connections, in that for centuries the epic subject has so often been the stuff of the tapestry weaver’s art. I say this glibly, but cannot name a particular tapestry where this might be so. Those vast Arthurian pieces by William Morris to pictures by Burne-Jones have an epic quality both in scale and in subject, but, to my shame, I can’t put a name to one.

These days the tapestry can be epic once more - in size and intention - thanks to the successful, moneyed contemporary artist and those communities of weavers at West Dean and at Edinburgh’s Dovecot. Think of Grayson Perry’s The Walthamstowe Tapestry, a vast 3 x 15 metres executed by Ghentian weavers, a veritable apocalyptic vision where ‘Everyman, spat out at birth in a pool of blood, is doomed and predestined to spend his life navigating a chaotic yet banal landscape of brands and consumerism’.  Gosh! Doesn’t that sound epic!

I was at the Dovecot a little while ago, but the public gallery was closed. The weavers were too busy finishing Victoria Crowe’s Large Tree Group to cope with visitors. You see, I do know a little about this world even though my tapestry weaving is the sum total of three weekends tuition, even though I have a very large loom once owned by Marta Rogoyska. It languishes next door in the room that was going to be where I was to weave, where I was going to become someone other than I am. This is what I feel - just sometimes - when I’m at my floor loom, if only for those brief spells when life languishes sufficiently for me be slow and calm enough to pick up the shuttles and find the right coloured yarns. But I digress. In fact putting together tapestry and epic poetry is a digression from the intention of the quote on the image from that text - (it was from a letter to Janey written in Iceland). Her husband, William Morris, reckoned one could (indeed should) be able to compose an epic poem and weave a tapestry.  

This notion, this idea that such a thing as being actively poetic and throwing a pick or two should go hand in hand, and, in Morris’ words, be a required skill (or ‘he’d better shut up’), seemed (and still does a day later) an absurdity. Would such a man (must be a man I suppose) ‘never do any good at all’ because he can’t weave and compose epic poetry simultaneously?  Clearly so.  But then Morris wove his tapestries very early in the morning - often on a loom in his bedroom. Janey, I imagine, as with ladies of her day - she wasn’t one, being a stableman’s daughter, but she became one reading fluently in French and Italian and playing Beethoven on the piano- she had her own bedroom.

Do you know there are nights when I wish for my own room, even when sleeping with the one I love, as so often I wake in the night, and I lie there afraid (because I love her dearly and care for her precious rest) to disturb her sleep with reading or making notes, both of which I do when I’m alone.
Yet how very seductive is the idea of joining my loved one in her own space, amongst her fallen clothes, her books and treasures, her archives and precious things, those many letters folded into her bedside bookcase, and the little black books full of tender poems and attempts at sketches her admirer has bequeathed her when distant and apart. Equally seductive is the possibility of the knock on the bedroom / workroom door, and there she’ll be there like the woman in Michael Donaghy’s poem, a poem I find every time I search for it in his Collected Works one of the most arousing and ravishing pieces of verse I know: it makes me smile and imagine.  . .  Her personal vanishing point, she said, came when she leant against his study door all warm and wet and whispered 'Paolo’. Only she’ll say something in a barely audible voice like ‘Can I disturb you?’ and with her sparkling smile come in, and bring with her two cats and the hint of a naked breast nestling in the gap of the fold of her yellow Chinese gown she holds close to herself - so when she kneels on my single bed this gown opens and her beauty falls before her, and I am wholly, utterly lost that such loveliness is and can be so . . .

When I see a beautiful house, as I did last Thursday, far in the distance by an estuary-side, sheltering beneath wooded hills, and moor and rock-coloured mountains, with its long veranda, painted white, I imagine. I imagine our imaginary home where, when our many children are not staying in the summer months and work is impossible, we will live our ‘together yet apart’ lives. And there will be the joy of work. I will be like Ben Nicholson in that Italian villa his father-in-law bought, and have my workroom / bedroom facing a stark hillside with nothing but a carpenter’s table to lay out my scores. Whilst she, like Winifred, will work at a tidy table in her bedroom, a vase of spring flowers against the window with the estuary and the mountains beyond. Yes, her bedroom, not his, though their bed, their wonderful wooden 19C Swiss bed of oak, occupies this room and yes, in his room there is just a single affair, but robust, that he would sleep on when lunch had been late and friends had called, or they had been out calling and he wanted to give her the premise of having to go back to work – to be alone - when in fact he was going to sleep and dream, but she? She would work into the warm afternoons with the barest breeze tickling her bare feet, her body moving with the remembrance of his caresses as she woke him that morning from his deep, dark slumber. ‘Your brown eyes’, he would whisper, ‘your dear brown eyes the colour of an autumn leaf damp with dew’. And she would surround him with kisses and touch of her firm, long body and (before she cut her plaits) let her course long hair flow back and forward across his chest. And she did this because she knew he would later need the loneliness of his own space, need to put her aside, whereas she loved the scent of him in the room in which she worked, with his discarded clothes, the neck-tie on the door hanger he only reluctantly wore.

Back to epic poetry and its possibility. Even on its own, as a single, focused activity it seems to me, unadventurous poet that I am, an impossibility. But then, had I lived in the 1860s, it would probably not have seemed so difficult. There was no Radio 4 blathering on, no bleeb of arriving texts on the mobile. There were servants to see to supper, a nanny to keep the children at bay. At Kelmscott there was glorious Gloucestershire silence - only the roll and squeak of the wagon in the road and the rooks roosting. So, in the early mornings Morris could kneel at his vertical loom and, with a Burne-Jones cartoon to follow set behind the warp. With his yarns ready to hand, it would be like a modern child’s painting by numbers, his mind would be free to explore the fairy domain, the Icelandic sagas, the Welsh Mabinogion, the Kalevara from Finland, and write (in his head) an epic poem. These were often elaborations and retellings in his epic verse style of Norse and Icelandic sagas with titles like Sigurd the Volsung. Paul Thompson once said of Morris  ‘his method was to think out a poem in his head while he was busy at some other work.  He would sit at an easel, charcoal or brush in hand, working away at a design while he muttered to himself, 'bumble-beeing' as his family called it; then, when he thought he had got the lines, he would get up from the easel, prowl round the room still muttering, returning occasionally to add a touch to the design; then suddenly he would dash to the table and write out twenty or so lines.  As his pen slowed down, he would be looking around, and in a moment would be at work on another design.  Later, Morris would look at what he had written, and if he did not like it he would put it aside and try again.  But this way of working meant that he never submitted a draft to the painful evaluation which poetry requires’.

Let’s try a little of Sigurd

There was a dwelling of Kings ere the world was waxen old;
Dukes were the door-wards there, and the roofs were thatched with gold;
Earls were the wrights that wrought it, and silver nailed its doors;
Earls' wives were the weaving-women, queens' daughters strewed its floors,

And the masters of its song-craft were the mightiest men that cast
The sails of the storm of battle down the bickering blast.
There dwelt men merry-hearted, and in hope exceeding great
Met the good days and the evil as they went the way of fate:
There the Gods were unforgotten, yea whiles they walked with men,

Though e'en in that world's beginning rose a murmur now and again
Of the midward time and the fading and the last of the latter days,
And the entering in of the terror, and the death of the People's Praise.

Oh dear. And to think he sustained such poetry for another 340 lines, and that’s just book 1 of 4. So what dear reader, dear sender of that text image encouraging me to weave and write, just what would epic poetry be now? Where must one go for inspiration? Somewhere in the realms of sci-fi, something after Star-Wars or Ninja Warriors. It could be post-apocalyptic, a tale of mutants and a world damaged by chemicals or economic melt-down. Maybe a rich adventure of travel on a distant planet (with Sigourney Weaver of course), featuring brave deeds and the selfless heroism of saving companions from deadly encounters with amazing animals, monsters even. Or is ‘epic’ something else, something altogether beyond the Pixar Studios or James Cameron’s imagination? Is the  ‘epic’ now the province of AI boldly generating the computer game in 4D?  

And the epic poem? People once bought and read such published romances as they now buy and engage with on-line games. This is where the epic now belongs. On the tablet, PlayStation3, the X-Box. But, but . . . Poetry is so alive and well as a performance phenomenon, and with that oh so vigorous and relentless beat. Hell, look who won the T.S.Eliot prize this year! Story-telling lives and there are tales to be told, even if they are set in housing estates and not the ice caves of the frozen planet Golp. Just think of children’s literature, so rich and often so wild. This is word invention that revisits unashamedly those myths and sagas Morris loved, but in a different guise, with different names, in worlds that still bring together the incredible geographies of mountains and deserts and wilderness places, with fortresses and walled cities, and the startling, still unknown, yet to be discovered ocean depths.

                                    And so let my tale begin . . . My epic poem.

                                                 THE SEAGASP OF ENNLI.
       A TALE IN VERSE OF EARTHQUAKE, ISLAND FASTNESS, MALEVOLENT SPIRITS,
                                                AND REDEMPTIVE LOVE.
Mateuš Conrad Apr 2016
the users of chinese require a respectable memory of logograms, but then the european languages users require a respectable memory of combinations of a limited number of "logograms", well, indeed limited, in comparison to the chinese range... and in so doing seem to have created a knack, a desire to create iconoclasm, a barrage of excess image crafting, whether in painting or photography, even logos are taken for equal representation among paintings and photographs in terms of being qualified as equals... if there's a quest at hand... it's to find the tetragrammaton in chinese: Y (convergence of three directions), H (the selfish twins of the ego), W (sine & cosine ripples, the ripples of a drop in a lake of a glass of water), and H (the selfless twins of the ego)... something like that - obviously upon interaction, used, the the two pairs of egos become the real dynamism interchanging their coupling... while the Y and W are seemingly constants.*

looking at the many maxims of la rochefoucauld,
so many seem true... but then again too
much truths and not using the Kantian
filter that the categorical imperative is...
and you stumble into custard of a maxim
kaleidoscope... obviously i'm not denying the truths,
but, as Kant pointed out... one truth will do,
the rest as there to be observed as if from-thin-air,
but it's still only one maxim, the ccategorical
imperative spurning you on, all the others do not
provide a vector consistency for you to repeat,
fall back on... i do appreciate the many observations
in la rochefoucauld, but too many maxims
and you do not which to grasp, wrestle with and
utilise to its maximum potential, not one becomes
a vantage point of safety, too many of them
and you're dancing naked under the tree of forbidden
knowledge... making it a bit of a foolery paying
homage to Bacchus... drunk on too much of it...
not really able to incorporate all of it, incorporating
too much of it is hardly strategic, one maxim will do,
a categorical imperative, a strategy of a measured
footpath, one will do...
but apart from that, considering each maxim with
a method i devised... dilution using synonyms...
that old chestnut, king solomon's
Ecclesiastes 1:2... meaningless! meaningless!
utterly meaningless! everything's meaningless!
in another citation the word vanity is used...
now vanity does not necessarily imply meaningless
as the closest synonym... in the latin tongue
vanity (vanus) implies empty... hence my revision
of the cartesian concept of res cogitans (thinking thing)
using res vanus (empty thing)...
if meaningless is given a disruption and a refrained
use, instead using the closer meaning to the latin (empty),
then i can see a better scenario...
everything is empty: emptiness! emptiness! utterly empty!
everything is empty! i find this to be a less pessimistic
conclusion on the matter... after all gravity was empty
prior to newton, who filled it; natural selection was empty
prior to darwin, who filled it; electromagnetic rotary
devices were "empty" / didn't exist until michael faraday
came along... the atmosphere was empty, until
leucippus and democritus came along, later proven
wrong by the supposed non-divisibility of the structures
by otto hahn and fritz strassmann and oppenheimer...
these evaluations suggest that people come across
these empty things, either by direct sensory perception
or through theoretical mingling, and fill them...
there's nothing meaningless as such as stressed by
Ecclesiastes 1:2... things are necessarily empty, in order
to be filled, and that gives meaning to man...
therefore... emptiness!! emptiness!
utterly empty! everything's empty! this, the dilution
using synonymousness as a divergence from
what strict interpretation would provide should
only a limited vocabulary be applied - rather than
an extended vocabulary of a juggling act.
Cheyenne Dec 2015
I am yours,
Solely completely utterly yours.
Master you truly control me.
My pleasure is yours.
I do as you say,
Your wish my command.
My master.
Steven Cole Aug 2018
If I could be a better man,
I'd have enough insight
To always come up with a plan.
In times of trouble, danger, or distress,
I'd keep my emotions under control,
And never run out of rational sense.
No circumstances would ever drown me,
Or rise above my head,
Because I'd know how to swim the currents,
And land on solid ground instead.


If I could be a better man,
I'd have enough courage to follow through with every noble goal I set.
And every appeal to selflessness
I am tempted to forget.
There'd never be a task
I couldn't undertake,
Even if it meant
My life was at stake.
Money, time and resources
Would never grow on me,
But I'd give of these objects endlessly.
And at the end of the day
I'd still know how
To be completely and utterly free.


If I could be a better man,
I'd never fear the entity of change.
I'd embrace this shrewd reality,
Unhindered by its pace.
I'd keep a face like solid flint
When revolution
Threatened to derange.
At will I'd change my emotions
To better fit each phase;
Each chapter of life
From page to page;
I'd wire my brain to electrically flow
Smoothly and flawlessly,
Everywhere I'd go.


If I could be a better man,
I'd never struggle with uncertainty;
I'd always know what choice to make,
No matter the options that lay before me.
I'd never have to second guess,
Overthink, obsess or stress:
The presented realities and decisions of life;
A special wisdom I'd possess.
A knowing in my gut and heart
Of all that is my destiny,
With the calm assurance of having what it takes
To get to where I want to be.
The truth itself would become my eyes,
And never from my heart escape or flee.


If I could be a better man,
I'd always be a man of my word;
Letting my actions always
Positively confirm the things you heard.
I'd mean every syllable I spoke to you,
With fiery convictions I knew to be true.
I'd always know how to communicate,
And wouldn't let grievous words
Separate
Relationships so vital and true;
The stuff we're made for,
And shouldn't undo.


If I could be a better man,
I'd be a fountain of virtues flowing,
Ever going;
Like a rumbling and roaring
and rushing waterfall,
Dazzlingly Tall:

Wisdom

    Prudence

   Diligence

  Patience

Courage

  And Emotional Intelligence

     Faithfulness

   Rectitude

  Purity

  Relentless tenacity

    Fortitude

      And overall confidence

                                            With surety


If I could be the perfect man,
There'd be one thing I'd always know how to do.
And that is, my friend, in all sincerity:
Faithfully and infallibly
Loving God and You.


But since I know
I am far from perfect,
I will do the best I can.
And though I fail now and then,
I will get back up
And stand.
I will seek forgiveness
Down on my knees;
Ask God for humility,
Grace and Mercy please.
My weaknesses I'll count as blessings,
And thank God I don't have to be:
The Savior of the world -
Superman -
Who for comfort, has no need.
#perfectionism vs. brokeness
#Grace
#I find myself in Christ
Steve D'Beard Jul 2014
The failed seduction
by drunken discussion
and skunk fueled
consumption, leads to
a compunction dysfunction
suspended in animation
the digital tides
of expulsion
catapult me into a
an eschewing propulsion
and the limitations
of re-imagination.

As far as I was aware
I was imprisoned
in nothing more
than the realms of
Skype and FourSquare
but for the Feng Shui
of trapped energies
and google-mapped memories
adorning the locations
of complacent hallucinations
amid the dark fibre
communications
with a female
of Nordic persuasion.

The compliments and comments
and poems I sent
were lost to the myriad
of random intent
I was attempting to be clever
and metaphysical
she on the other hand
was PHD level
and psychoanalytical
ergo my metrical composition
was utterly lost
in a conversation
on metaphorical reproduction
and the magic and mysteries
of osmosis
and the application
of modification
by transduction.

The moral of this tale
- if indeed there is one -
is if you are going to Skype
with a mentally superior type
do not before hand
have a blistering
smouldering
grass pipe
with a flagon of ale
lest you be a
gibbering earthling
destined to fail.
-- a word to the wise --
Ayad Gharbawi Jan 2010
PASSION PLAY

Ayad Gharbawi




Location: Desert Shore, Bitterly Cold Night, next to strong waves from the ocean.
Characters: Man ((M) and his Lover, a Woman (W).

----------------------------------------



W: “Search as I forever do, in manifold ways unknown, I seek but to love thee, and the meagre goodness from Life, with steely ardour - my armour faithful.”
M: “Alone I may be, and still, yes I love thee; these days heavy are and beset I am by burdensome trivialities, but I remain trusting, though my corner so narrow remain.”
W: “My Love! Your speech I hear aloud and thine lips I live within and yet, my Love, all Solitude I am. Man! I am unaided! In this journey of sinful thorns, my love, in this unforgiving journey, this blurred odyssey, I stand alone”.
M: “This trial you speak of, but I do know of it well; so, listen then: within the strength of trusted togetherness we can plough on, though everlasting harm shall do its spiteful tricks, warm to our united truth shall we remain.”
W: (Surprised) “O! My love! This thought I cannot hear! My life, my destiny, is but mine. And all have their own solitary roads of jagged rocks to embrace, like it we or not. We heartbreaking earthly sad beasts, either fiercely clutch at integrity, or we do let it go to perish away.”
M: (Confused) “My Love! I do hear, I do hear. But when Times decide on burdening us, what then can we achieve? To face Reality within the frail arms of solitude is to ignore, to refuse the severe threats of repulsive grins.”
(Silence)
M: (Passionately) “O! My sweet! Only in us, can we envelope, through joined, clasped warmth can we be as one united! The screams that so truly are meant to slice us off, only we, our Unity, can destroy. For mine eyes can only find sleep in your ears, and it is so - for otherwise nothing and no one can be.”
W: (Angry) “My Passion too is bubbling for thine bewildered ears. Am I not your soul? Do we not suffer as one? Do we not reflect as one? Am I not your lover true? Is not our warmth not weighty to our fickle bones?”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) “But, Lover, this much ought I to formally declare unto thee: For our eyes, and all eyes, envision unequally at one another. Till eternity, in its casual, indifferent flicker, snatches at us all wretched mortals, the gazes from lords to paupers remain veritably mismatched. O my passion! My woeful heart! These words I thunder forth defines love unfeigned, and what mine eyes do pour out unto thine ears is authenticity true.
(Silence)
W: (Passionately) “What joined mem’ries you choose to caress may possess thee, but your exactness for what love is to you, doth not dwell in mine mind. What tears, what weepings you do, fall stormily upon thine own soul’s wildernesses. You choose to be chained by changing visions and indefinite sentiments of light weight – though so poignant at the moment they veritably are?”
M: (Inquiring) “My love! I cherish thee; where hast thou been in thine mind, for now ye talk of that truth you relate to in your heart. Your pronouncements, what depths I do feel! Can it perchance be that my passion has strayed our winds far from me?”
W: “No, my love! Why is anger, I feel, lush on thine tongue?”
M: (Surprised and Frightened) “Anger! I am too distant from that affliction! But yes, I feel my words make only for unstable murmurs in my breath.”
W: (Quietly) “Then, do tell me, lover, who do your murmurs betray - myself or yourself then?”
M: (Quietly) “Perhaps so, perhaps so. But my anxiety wilfully demands of me to eradicate your vision.”
W: (Firmly) “You answer naught from my undemanding question. Or, are mine meanings too violent for you? What aches thee?”
M: (Passionately) “My sweet! In so many moments, I created mysterious planets for thee! Bizarre worlds of contrasts and opposites and musical words of antiquity and sensual ravines. My love! I, my soul, my life, my inner deepest breath, tempted as I am by Fates’ inscrutable cruelties to ashamedly yield, I have yet always expressed to mine eyes’ heart, though they be in bleak darkness, to faithfully fight without pause all shades of vice and still yet - with loving integrity; I have stood with arms of righteousness and love for thee up and never down! Yes, sincere good and venal ill remain joined in life for all to feel, but you knew it was not for me to disentangle them. And so, I pronounce unto thee, still, and yet ever and ever more, my love for thee, though still beholding a thousand mountains before me, I remain sturdy for thee; I remain undisturbed by burly laws, and by exotic dictums, I stand fierce and unhurt, save in your absence.”
W: (With Sadness) “My beloved, your vivid voice stabs the falsehoods for thee, and I say unto thee, unto thee your excessive and unreasonable chains, and for myself my unreasonable and extreme chains remain.”
M: (Shocked) “But I burden thee with no steely chains, nor verbal fetters! For naught I produce for thee save grace, passion and freedom to love for us both to be in Unity Sacred! Dost thou embrace my visions as ‘shackles’, then ‘tis better we agree to class that which we are as but madness! Hear me, for my tears now must truly change their colours!”
W: (Determined) “Your feverish hands clutch only upon mine erratic wings!”
M: (Anger) “Never! Never! For I clutch only to destroy all malevolence; as for thee, Lady of the purest, untouched, guarded, secluded Ponds, I seek to unshackle for you the scattered, scared shadows that yearn for thine sovereignty. And what is this ‘sovereignty’ but our Sacred Union? What curse deemest you I impose? Do you equal my purest passions with atrocities? Murmur unto mine ears, your clearest love for me.”
W: “Ah! You enquire of me my ‘sincerity’ for thee? What demands!”
(Silence)
M: “I see naught but heaving forests of love betwixt us, and yet, you discover my words being ‘demanding’?”
W: (Drily) “Perchance, your visions are indistinct and ever more blurred, through these years cannot be ignored.”
M: (Begging) “My love! All mine life, though it be lengthy, I fought most venal tyranny, and for this moment, you question my righteousness?”
W: (Indignantly) “I have been plunged into seas hostile and I have plunged in a thousand miles of inert minds troubled beyond conceivable comprehension and I have yet to have my Right for my own greedy, ravenous flesh to be vigorously and forcefully embraced by sensuality and serenity. Yes, I do love thee, and yet in our union, as in all unions, I have been adorned with naught, save snickering, gossiping scenes of festive *****, games, chatter and farewells, themselves festooned within silly and sincerely stupid smiles and frowns, and shallow tears and never ending ludicrous chatter unworthy of monkeys conversing. I have met programmed rows of pats, respect and all other so-called decent intents and gestures, but, where, lover that you are of mine, where does my personal heart, throb and manically vibrate, save in your heavenly imaginations?”
(Silence)
W: (Quietly but Determinedly) “My love! I truly thee love and with passions, I tell you, of proportions of precise exactitudes; in your eyes I have witnessed symphonies of exquisiteness; and, I of thee ask: where dwelleth your own love for myself in thine body?”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) “Do you recognise the changing structures that form this, that I name ‘My Love’? In my solitude eternal, I do evermore and always do pause, and be pensive, and be thinking of questions, such as ‘where’, ‘why’, ‘when’ ‘how’, and ‘which’ should be my path; I am forever and ever more searching, seeking the heavens of every corner, and the irritable tempests, within my changing self as they themselves do try to seek me, and we forever, through inconceivable murkiness, do try to assemble the everlasting entirety of these disorganized puzzles into some measure of comprehensible cohesion that ‘I’ am. That is how the ‘I’ you love is forever changing and thereby formulating itself, and within all these meandering passions, and endless errors, where am I to feel thee? Where? And where do you seek me? In which land? In which forest? You trivialise my beingness as you focus upon my lands as being that which so effortless to find, and yet, you are much too distant from an understanding of my conflicting, emerging civilisations.”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) If the utterance ‘Never’ is pathetic for thee, then allow me to introduce you to my latest heart: for it screams out that single, protracted utterance! Never! My love, these winds of raging wraths, both within and outside by flesh, must and can only be annihilated by mine own sincerities – were I not to play against my own self. My uncontrolled desires and, yes, thirsty manic passions can only be tempered and thoroughly satiated to the utter brim, by mine own loving, sources of pleasure, my own uncontrollable ecstasies. As for the rest of ****** pleasures, my own erroneous words, speeches and utterances can only be severed and sliced by my tranquillity.”
M: (Resigned) “I hear thine words. Do not abandon me. Do not destroy our civilisation of justice.”
W: “What we share, the bonds, are enjoyment. Listen though to mine lips: enjoyment is what - when it is to be compared with convulsive ecstatic quivers of satisfaction?”
M: (Puzzled) “And what of all our journeys to attain that unity? For all that, is it to be of mere insignificance? And if that be your truth, for what then did we toil and labour for unity of minds and bodies?”
W: (Laughing) “Did you understand from Life itself, that here it was, grandly to proclaim its furtive faces unto thine own awaiting face?! “
M: (Baffled) “It was so far too plain and vastly clear unto me these sceneries we faced before our loving bodies.”
W: “Yes, and I too, did see them with thee. Our four eyes, did see unity for that flicker of time. How true you speak! But, time clocked on, I saw you as you stood there, moving nowhere, unawares that it was your duty to squash onwards whatever vile breaths faced us.”
M: (Desperate) “And did I not? Did I abandon thee in these crushing paths?”
W: (Accusing) “No, you did not. Never, once did you abandon me. I ask of thee; for what sense do we feel a need for a continuation of these gruelling marches? For unity? For love? Or, is love unity? Was that and is this our reason for us to carry on with these shackles?”
M: “For assuredly, yes, and more yes, I tell thee! Toil and gruelling dawns, and unbearable evenings and the whitest of nights are all for the sacred attainment of that heavenly summit of joy I name as blessed ‘Love’.”
W: (Assured) “And, Sire, what if my nerves, blood and ****** hunger tell thee in truth that we, all of us, need no longer, and need never in truth, to undertake these paths, for we find naught that nourishes us at the blessed summit of your definition of what ‘Love’ is?”
M: (Confused & Sad) “So, I falter here and now upon understanding your speech; do I reason from thee that our loving days in unity are frivolously bygone now?”
W: (Calmly & Gracefully) “Do the wandering birds, and do the blind bats, and do the reckless storms, and do the blindly, raging waves and do the supremely arrogant oceans eternally march on in but one direction only with the savage passage of time within their particular lives? You did pronounce that you built planets for our unity; well then, did you not view how planets endlessly revolve along the same path?”
(Pause)
W: (Calmly & with Dignity) “For, Sire, I am not as a Planet - could you not feel that throughout our journeys? You endlessly query and question ‘who’ it is that ‘I’ am? Well, I speak this much on myself; I am as the birds, and the bats, and the storms and the waves and the oceans.”  
M: (Angry) “Woman! I can only then tell of thee that you are naught but feuding clutter and violent disarray!”
W: (Unconcerned) “Those are your words. Not mine. Speak for what you wish, Sire.”
M: (Angry) “And I stand here, before thee, in anger – nay, more, more! In fury!”
W: (Laughing) “For what? For the deeds that created but sticky, and grimy grains of sand for the undoubted pleasure our eyes?”
M: “And so you label our truths, our love so much! Fair indeed, you speak, Woman of Justice.”
W: (Arrogantly) “Man! Express your delights for your own delights. And, alas, there the circle and reality ends – and it ends only for you. That is one morsel of truth for you to ponder. What we ‘created’ and what we ‘loved’ was never and never, ever be the same for you as it is for me. Are you a sincere believer that your personal vision is the same sight all other seeing creatures envision?”
M: (Angry) “Woman, you enrage me! Your arrogance is drenching thine rags.”
W: (Sarcastic) “Tis the Man with no reason who allows his breath and words to be a veritable cesspool of fuming stenches!”
M: “But I, that I am, no longer can define your contours?”
W: (Pointedly) “Precisely, Man, precisely. Perhaps, now you have come closer to the vulnerable shores of reality!”
M: (Confused) “Do you express that you are ever varying and so for that reason there is not a one unified you?”
W: (Calmly) “For we are all ‘varying’, to borrow your word – if you do so allow me, Sire. There was never ‘unity’ of soul, nor mind, nor self, nor of any one personality. This, I desire, that you may understand.”
M: (Aghast) “Then if that be your truth and then, are we naught but multitudes of ever changing confusions, Lady of the Desert?”
W: (Calmly) “Yes and no! For those who are muscular and full of fertile vigour in their flesh, and in their intellects, and those that are severely and strictly scholastic, then they do need and they can succeed in time, in their never ending struggle to bring together the mutually antagonistic factions of that which constitutes our beingness. And, as for the dense brained soulless beings, then, it is equally veritably true that, a descent into madness can be rapidly produced, since from their erratic constituents, they cannot attract together these antagonistic and mutually-hating emotions in some vision of cohesion, and thus mayhem can be fashioned.”
(Silence)
M: (Calmly) “So, pray do tell me, where does Love and Justice and Truth and Morality stand in your universe?”
W: (Serenely) “That has been mine desire to hear the words being produced from your lips, Man!”
(Pause)
W: “So, now perhaps, your sight may be getting clearer, for your question is certainly apt. Foremost, we pathetic mortals, we the be are forever slimy specks of sand that  crumbles, must necessarily seek to survive and flourish within whatever forest, desert, meadow we find ourselves cast upon.”
M: (Startled) “At what cost, Woman? At the expense of Morality?”
W: (Rapidly) “Yes and no.”
M: (Shocked) “Horrendous! How can you spout out such filth?”
W: (Quietly) “Restrain your stupidities, and give more room to your intelligence, Sire.”
(Silence)
W: (Gracefully) “In times of trouble, what can Man do when he be forced to embrace evil, even though he finds the act of the embrace loathsome, but he does what he does for the truth of his vital existence to continue. Only when he need never embrace vile, and then allows himself to commit the act, then he is for certainty to incur the everlasting wrath of God. Evil is thus never one truth to be utterly rejected, perchance you may now see. ”
M: (Calm but Tired) “I follow your words and their ideas therein.”
W: (Gracefully) “When you talk to me on Man and everlasting, conflicting changes within that self-same creature, I tell you with all the earnestness that I possess, of what God has scattered and endowed upon me; for this beast, we all call in unity Man, this creature has far too many a numberless number of mutually self-contradicting, distrusting, loving, hating, inspiring and a never ending number of feelings and emotions that are in constant flow and change – as in any rapid river descending unto its eventual destination, which in its case, is the sea, while in our case, it is Death itself for sure.”
M: (Despair) “And how can this beast ‘love’ anyone within this welter of confusion?”
W: (Rapidly) “He cannot!”
M: (Rapidly, Begging) “But Man and Woman do love with bristling passions! Do you deny that, Woman?!”
W: (Calmly, eyes downwards looking) “Yes, and no. Since the beast has needs, based on his vastly intricate constituents, to ‘love’ his fellow beast, he imagines and believes
Ayad Gharbawi Dec 2009
THE STORY OF SARA


AYAD GHARBAWI


CHAPTER 3: BEING AN ACTIVIST

  
Gradually, we become ever more radical in our burning quest to uproot every conceivable element of the corrupting culture of the oppressors.
  We soon started to call these oppressors 'Pigs', because that is exactly what they were: overweight, bloated, filthy animals who live simply eat and consume all day, and who love to live in their own excrement.
  The Pigs had to be removed, because you cannot negotiate with a pig.
  It was so obvious to me!
  Some people did, indeed, argue that diplomacy and negotiations were the way to achieve our blessed equality-based society, but that was pure idiocy to me; because, for Heaven's sake, a pig will remain a pig and cannot become an 'enlightened' pig! These criminals, who are creating poverty, and who are killing people, because they do not allow them decent health services, must be completely eradicated, or else, ordinary people will continue to suffer.
  One day I heard Tony give a speech in front of a huge audience: "There's no point in cutting the tail of the snake. No, you must go straight for the head, and that's how you **** it!" And there ensued roars and cheers, from the mainly young crowd. "And, if someone is trying to **** you, what do you do? Negotiate? Talk to them? No, you **** them first, that's what you do! That's who the Pigs are, my friends. They are out there killing you, and so many of you tonight are simply not even remotely aware that you are dying slowly – so, you must, first of all wake up, and realize that someone, somewhere, is draining out the blood of your life, and next you must identify the cancer that is killing you. So, who's the cancer?" Tony screamed, and the by now delirious crowds immediately responded with a thunderous and hate-filled, "Pigs! Pigs! Pigs!"
  "The Pigs talk and teach us about 'morality' and 'respect' and 'decency', and other subjects like that. That's laughable now, isn't it?! I mean, the blood stained mass murderer is teaching us etiquette here?!"
  "No! No!" roared back the audience. "**** the pigs! **** the pigs!" they suddenly and somehow instantaneously started to chant. So, I must correct what many people think about Tony, and that is, he 'invented' and popularized that phrase, '**** the pigs". No, he didn't; it was the audience that night who spontaneously came up with that really exciting and vibrant phrase!
  From then on, violence became more common along with the never ending chants – if not screams – of '**** the pigs!' Every day, and all over the country, the movement had flourished, and there were the most refreshing and gloriously destructive riots in almost every major city.

  It was at this time that I first heard a speech from Omar.
We waited for the man to appear, but he seemed nowhere to be found.
  My God, I heard from so many people that he was the most radical in the deepest sense of the word!
  Apparently, he made Tony sound like a child!
  He also had a well disciplined party – unlike Tony.
  Here was a place that I can find the ‘cause of my life’!
  I could work for Omar and that would be the point of my life!
  The thought thrilled me – because I was already a convert to their ideas, but with Omar, there was a real party that was actively fighting the government, whereas Tony and other leaders like him were independent activists, but with no party behind them.
    Then, Omar suddenly appeared.
  He was of medium height, average looks - but it wasn’t long before you noticed his inexpressibly burning, fanatical eyes!
  I was about a few metres from him, and I could feel the sheer intensity of passion and rage within those eyeballs!
  This man must have absolutely the words of truth, for no Man could look like that and be a liar!
And then he gently spoke:
  "**** the pigs, I hear you say. Well, that's not good enough for me. People like that make me yawn. And, I'm bored of yawning every day. We need more. We need to move on faster. I need speed. It's not just '**** the pigs', it's '**** the cops!', because the cops defend the Pigs and attack us every day; '**** the teachers!' because every teacher does nothing except to teach us with pointless information'. And, '**** every human being' who sides or serves the establishment!”.
  Omar’s eyes were literally able to stab right through your heart and soul simply by staring at you!
  I can well imagine that my reader will not believe me and will say it was because I was a convert to Omar’s ideas that I found his eyes to be so abnormally powerful – but, what do you say to all those people who did not like him, and who met him, and yet, they, too, all said that his eyes were profoundly piercing?!
  So, you see, reader, do believe me – it’s not because I was emotionally enthralled by Omar, that I am describing him to you the way I do!
  He had beautifully framed fingers – I don’t know why I noticed that!
  He had a rather longish nose – maybe, that was one defect in his face, but you hardly noticed that, given the other attractions in this man.
  And then he possessed the deepest, most guttural, and yet so sweetly melodic voice, that I had ever heard, and when he spoke, he simply entranced me – not to mention the thousands of others.
  Omar continued, beginning to raise his ragged voice:
“And, so I order you, tonight, and tomorrow, and every day, to fanatically and ruthlessly exterminate every visible sign, agent, artist, writer, philosopher, painter, sculptor, journalist, teacher, professor, lawyer, doctor, surgeon, banker, engineer, everyone who works in the mass media like the television, every film maker, every scientist, and every single employer and employee of the Pigs."
  The audience now simply shrieked the verb, '****! ****! ****!’ while Omar went silent, amidst this wild orchestra of hate being played out.


  I noticed, that unlike Tony, Omar wouldn't gesticulate or move his hands at all.
  Actually, he just stood there, rock solid, like a statue while only eyes and mouth spoke!
  The man, I swear, looked like a 'human rock'!
  He was the absolute epitome of boundless hatred; of unrestrained defiance against the rulers ruling us!
  Yes, I do admit, and I hesitate to say so, but, yes, he almost did like completely maniacal – were it not for his self control and the beauty of his words!
  The audience relaxed.
  Omar waited until there was silence, and he continued:
  "Do you see the difference between what I am saying and what brothers like Tony say? People like Tony demand from us to uproot the pigs. But what Pigs does he, in fact, mean? Who does he mean, when he says 'Pigs'? He means the rich. That's it.”


  Now, Omar abruptly went silent.
  Tension.
  He was staring at us.
  I could feel that the audience felt nervous precisely because Omar was staring at them.
  Finally, he continued:
  “Can you imagine the limits of his intellect?! To Tony and his misguided followers, the solution facing the problem before us is simple enough: you simply wipe out the rich, and suddenly we have the beautiful society!"
  Omar was sneering, being utterly sarcastic in his voice and tone.
  "So is that it, Brother Tony? Is that all we need to do?”
  There, he stopped again, with a sarcastic, wicked smile on his face.
  The man’s body simply had no motion in it!
  I was waiting to see, if Omar would, at some point, move his body or his arms, but so far nothing!
  He continued:
“My goodness, I never knew that the gigantic problem facing us was to be solved in such a simple manner! But, no, you're being fools. Or, maybe you're fooling your selves. Either way, I don't know, and more importantly, I don't care, because, as I told you all out there listening to me,” suddenly, he began to scream with his rasping voice:
  “I'm a serious man, with a serious mission, and above all, I'm a man in a hurry!"
  Again, Omar went suddenly silent.
  I could sense, that he was deliberately teasing the audience, because they were obviously desperate for him to continue speaking, while he, would every so often stop speaking, thus adding to the tension in the atmosphere!
  The audience laughed, loving the biting sarcasm; obviously there were lots of rivalry and jealousies between the two camps, and so Omar's followers just loved to hear the buckets of insults being poured upon the followers of Tony.
  The mocking tone continued:
  "These fools are retarding our own path to victory! These followers of Brother Tony, are doing the dumbest acts that I have ever seen. I mean, what do you mean and what are you trying to achieve, when you have his followers going to restaurants and disrupting the place? I mean, is this what the definition of 'stupidity' is, or what?!"
  The crowd cheered: "Yes! Yes! Idiots!"
  "Listen here Brother Tony; I would like to say, 'it's all right, you're still young and you'll soon grow up'. But I can't say that. You know why?"
  The audience waited as Omar paused.
  He was staring at his audience.
  Suddenly, he erupted with his deafening scream:
  "I can't wait. Didn't I already tell you that? Didn't I tell you I'm a man IN A HURRY AND I'VE GOT TO DO MY WORK! DON'T YOU PEOPLE OUT THERE GET IT?"
  He roared, and the masses applauded furiously.
  "I don't have time, for children like Tony, and for his own little children, to stand in my way, and wait for them to grow up! I don't have the time, because I have an enemy out there, that needs to be completely, ruthless and fanatically exterminated, root and branch, do you now follow me?"
  "Yes! Yes! We follow!" screamed the masses.
  Silence.
  And then, Omar continued:
  "So, we know who Tony defines as the Pigs. What about myself? We must talk the talk of the brave. If you're scared, then get out of here. Why do I say this? Because this struggle requires the most ruthless behaviour on our part, and to be ruthless, you need to be brave, and to be rave means you have no fear."
  It sounded almost as if he were singing.
  Or maybe it was my imagination.


"So, who are the Pigs, you ask me? Simple. The Pig is a man, woman and child who has any Pig Attributes. What do I mean by 'Pig Attributes'? Very simple. Any human, who has in his brain, any idea, concept, believe and acceptance of any value from the rulers who rule us all. And, what are these 'values' that come from our dear rulers? They are ideas and values such as: there are the simple ones, like the belief in the right to profit, belief in the right of property, inheritance and so on. Then, there are the other beliefs, such as, belief in compassion for the rich, or cooperating with the rich or socialising with the rich. You follow?"
  The audience was silent.
  "That means, any human in our sick society, poor or not, who in any way, not only physically interacts with the rulers is a Pig himself, but also any human, poor or not, who has in his heart and mind, any empathy for the rich is a Pig himself, and so therefore, it follows – and I hope you people out there are listening to me – it means, therefore, that a poor human being who has any Pig Attributes, is a Pig himself, just like the rulers themselves. Do you understand?"
  Silence.
  And then he walked out.


  It was so sudden, because I expect a really screaming end from Omar, but to the surprise of everyone, he ended and simply walked out!
  But, I, understood what he meant.
  Basically, he was enlarging the definition of what it meant to be the 'enemy'.
  This struggle was now going to be infinitely more difficult. With Tony, the war was simple enough.
  We were 'right' while anyone belonging to the ruling class was 'evil' and that was it.
  Obviously, no member in the ruling class can deny that he's in the ruling class! They can even change their accents and their clothes, pretending to be poor, but there are computers and archives, such as birth certificates, school records, and it doesn't take long, to find out a person's origins.
  But now what Omar was proposing, that a Pig is any human being who interacts with the ruling class is evil.
  Also, anyone who has any thoughts that have any Pig Attributes (for example, being pro-ruling class), are also evil, and therefore, had to be eliminated.
  In other words, the poor can be Pigs as well.
  I loved that, because, I was never comfortable with most other left leaders, including Tony, who only focused their ire against the rich.
  To them all the poor were ‘blessed’ and ‘sinless’, and I knew, from my own background, that they simply romanticised the poor, probably because they themselves were all rich people who had never lived one day of their lives in poverty.
  With Omar, being impure, or sinful could be anyone in society – and, your background or class didn’t matter.
  That was far more logical to me!

But with joining Omar’s party, came other problems for me.
How were we supposed to ‘find’ a Pig, or an impure person?
  How can we be sure if a person has the Pig Attributes in his mind?
  It seemed ludicrous to me!
  I had doubts because as attractive an orator that Omar was, once you went home and thought about what he actually said, a lot did not make sense.
  I had so many ideas that contradicted what Omar had to say.
  For example, can’t we achieve our goals by peaceful means – rather than choosing the path of violence?
  And if we must use violence, then why don’t we attack military targets and not civilians?
  Wasn’t it wrong to target civilians and civilian places – like factories, farms, and shops?

  
  There he stood; eyes blazing as ever.
  What makes eyes 'blaze' I wondered.
  They don't actually emit any light, do they?
  So how can one man have such penetrating, piercing eyes that go right to your innermost heart?
  Omar seemed to be made of steel.
  Or, maybe it was all in my imagination, as Sanji would always be telling me.
  It was his personality and also his body language: that stern, stiff way of standing, that seemed to be the epitome of defiance against the evil in the world!
  His whole body seemed to be chiselled from the purest marble; there he stood, this heroic rock, against the tyranny of the storms and the oceans that were crashing on him; and still, there he stood, not only in supreme piety, but also, there he stood, waging a struggle against these very dark forces of evil.
  He will rid our society and our nation from evil, and one day, we shall live in a truly happy country.
  This nation and its sad people, this nation that has so many miserable, poor and unhappy people, will soon be able to live free, happy lives, without the burdens and the shackles imposed on them by the ruling elites.
  He spoke:
"They need to be utterly, and without a shred of human mercy, be exterminated, or else, it is us, who will be exterminated! It is either them or us! We need to cleanse our entire body from these cancerous cockroaches. Don't you people understand? Call it '******', call it 'exterminate', call it 'butchering them' – I do not care; what I do care and what I need in order to breathe uncontaminated, fresh air,  is to surgically and methodically and blindly eliminate the very existence of every Pigs on our land! That is why we have no choice but to fight. The criminals leave us with no choice. If they surrender their corrupting ways agai
Joshua Haines May 2017
I approach most desires
like a competition; can I
**** better than him;
can I be famous at twenty-
-three since he was famous at
twenty-four -- I must be able
to sink better than him.

God, it is exhausting. I
feel like I'm dancing with
a machine; a phantom that
I can never catch, for it runs
on my blood; my insecurities;
my passion -- and, boy, oh boy,
can I attest to having plenty of
  that stuff, ladies and germs.

I think, truly, that I am
encompassing the American Dream
I think is utterly flawed; that I think
is futile in nature; that I am sure of
is the closest thing to Hell, in this
Godless, spiritually motherless
dark shoebox of sudden collisions;
this space of useful and useless
results, splayed onto and into
our hearts, asking for reverence.

There is nothing  I want more
than to be sure that my importance
is not illusory. I am not sure if
I am real.
No other plus,
'cept to fulfill our animalistic lust,

*** is not bad,
And its to be had,
But seen as this it *****.

"Your human beings!"
I want to scream,
"Ment for so much more!"
But they cannot hear me,
And thus I go on,
Utterly ignored.

— The End —