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Matt Feb 2015
Form is emptiness
Emptiness is form

1. Sunyata (Emptiness) is the profound meaning of the Mahayana Teaching.

Two thousand five hundred years ago, the Buddha was able to realise "emptiness" (s. sunyata). By doing so he freed himself from unsatisfactoriness (s. dukkha). From the standpoint of enlightenment, sunyata is the reality of all worldly existences (s. dharma). It is the realisation of Bodhi — Prajna. From the standpoint of liberation, sunyata is the skilful means that disentangle oneself from defilement and unsatisfactoriness. The realisation of sunyata leads one to no attachment and clinging. It is the skilful means towards enlightenment and also the fruit of enlightenment.

There are two ways for us to understand this concept of sunyata in the Mahayana context. One way is to try to understand the explanation about its true nature. The other way is the realisation through practice. What we are going to discuss now is about its true nature.

Mahayana teachings have always considered that the understanding of sunyata is an attainment which is extremely difficult and extraordinarily profound.

For example, in the Prajna Sutra it says "That which is profound, has sunyata and non-attachment as its significance. No form nor deeds, no rising nor falling, are its implications."

Again in the Dvadasanikaya Sastra (composed by Nagarjuna, translated to Chinese by Kumarajiva A.D. 408) it says: "The greatest wisdom is the so-called sunyata."

This sunyata, no creation, calmness and extinction (s. nirvana) is of a profound significance in the Mahayana teachings. Why do we see it as the most profound teaching? This is because there is no worldly knowledge, be it general studies, science or philosophy, that can lead to the attainment of the state of sunyata. The only path to its realisation is via the supreme wisdom of an impassionate and discriminating mind. It is beyond the common worldly understanding.

2. The Significance of Sunyata and Cessation

The Buddha always used the terms void, no rising and falling, calmness and extinction to explain the profound meaning of sunyata and cessation. The teachings of the Buddha that were described in words are generally common to worldly understandings. If one interprets the teachings superficially from the words and languages used, one will only gain worldly knowledge and not the deeper implication of the teachings. The teachings of the Buddha have their supra-mundane contexts that are beyond the worldly knowledge.

For example, sunyata and the state of nirvana where there is no rising nor falling, are interpreted by most people as a state of non-existence and gloom. They fail to realise that quite the opposite, sunyata is of substantial and positive significance.

The sutras often use the word "great void" to explain the significance of sunyata. In general, we understand the "great void" as something that contains absolutely nothing. However, from a Buddhist perspective, the nature of the "great void" implies something which does not obstruct other things, in which all matters perform their own functions. Materials are form, which by their nature, imply obstruction. The special characteristic of the "great void" is non-obstruction. The "great void" therefore, does not serve as an obstacle to them. Since the "great void" exhibits no obstructive tendencies, it serves as the foundation for matter to function. In other words, if there was no "great void" nor characteristic of non-obstruction, it would be impossible for the material world to exist and function.

The "great void" is not separated from the material world. The latter depends on the former. We can state that the profound significance of sunyata and the nature of sunyata in Buddhism highlights the "great void’s" non-obstructive nature.

Sunyata does not imply the "great void". Instead, it is the foundation of all phenomena (form and mind). It is the true nature of all phenomena, and it is the basic principle of all existence. In other words, if the universe’s existence was not empty nor impermanent, then all resulting phenomena could not have arisen due to the co-existence of various causes and there would be no rising nor falling. The nature of sunyata is of positive significance!

Calmness and extinction are the opposite of rising and falling. They are another way to express that there is no rising and falling. Rising and falling are the common characteristics of worldly existence. All phenomena are always in the cycle of rising and falling. However, most people concentrate on living (rising). They think that the universe and life are the reality of a continuous existence.

Buddhism on the other hand, promotes the value of a continuous cessation (falling). This cessation does not imply that it ceases to exist altogether. Instead, it is just a state in the continuous process of phenomena. In this material world, or what we may call this "state of existence", everything eventually ceases to exist. Cessation is definitely the home of all existences. Since cessation is the calm state of existence and the eventual refuge of all phenomena, it is also the foundation for all activities and functions.

The Amitabha Buddha who was, and is, revered and praised by Buddhists around the world, radiates indefinite light and life from this "state of cessation". This state is a continuous process of calmness. It will be the eventual refuge for us all. If we think carefully about the definitions of calmness and extinction, then we can deduce that they are the true natural end-points of rising and falling. The true nature of the cycle of rising and falling is calmness and extinction. Because of this nature, all chaos and conflicts in the state of rising and falling will eventually cease. This is attainable by the realisation of prajna.

3. Contemplating the Implications of Sunyata and Stillness (Nirvana) by Observing Worldly Phenomena

All existences exhibit void-nature and nirvana-nature. These natures are the reality of all existence. To realise the truth, we have to contemplate and observe our worldly existence. We cannot realise the former without observing the latter. Consider this Heart Sutra extract, "Only when Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva practised the deep course of wisdom of Prajna Paramita did he come to realise that the five skandhas (aggregates, and material and mental objects) were void."

Profound wisdom leads us to the realisation that all existences are of void-nature. The sutras demonstrate that the profound principle can be understood by contemplating and observing the five skandhas. We cannot realise the truth by seeking something beyond the material and mental world. The Buddha, using his perfect wisdom, observed worldly existence from various implications and aspects, and came to understand all existences.

In summary, there are three paths to this observation:

a) We should observe the preceding state and the current state of conditions. i.e., Observation according to the concept of time.

b) We should observe existences according to their interrelationships. i.e., Observation via the concept of space (either two or three-dimensions).

c) We should observe the true nature of all myriad beings. This is like observing the worldly existences of a point, a line and an area. Those with supreme wisdom understand the true nature of all worldly existences by observing vertically the relationships between the preceding and current conditions, and horizontally the interrelationships. Then we can understand the true meaning of void-nature and nirvana-nature.

3.1 By observing the preceding-stage and the current-stage conditions, we can verify the Law of Impermanence of all worldly existences. All existences, be they material or mental, be they the material world, or the physical or mental states of sentient beings, are subject to continuous change.

The world may have certain states of beings where they stay static or are in equilibrium on a temporary basis (for example hibernation). But when we observe them with supreme wisdom, we will find that not only do they keep changing on a yearly basis, but also that this change applies to even every briefest moment. After the current state of conditions have ceased to exist, the newly-formed state materialises. This is the state of rising and falling. The rising and falling of each small moment reveals that all existences are ever-moving and ever-changing.

Conventional scholars have a very good explanation of these ever-changing worldly conditions. However they, including the practitioners of dharma, try to make sense of the reality from the ever-changing worldly existences. That is, they are fooled by the material existences and are not able to understand the deeper truth of all existences.

Only those with the supreme wisdom of the Buddha and Mahabodhisattvas realise and understand that all existences are illusions. They understand that existences are not real from the observation of the flow of changing existences. The numerous illusionary existences may well be diverse and confusing, arising and decaying. But when we look into their true nature, we will find them void and of nirvana-nature.

On the other hand, since all existences are of nirvana-nature, they appear from the perspective of time, to be ever-changing. They never stay the same even for the briefest moment. Impermanence implies existences do not have a permanent entity. This is another implication of the nature of sunyata and stillness.

3.2 From observations of existence via inter-relationships, we can conclude that nothing is independent of the Law of Causation, and that everything is without ego. For example, the Buddha explains that the individual sentient being is composed of physical, physiological and psychological phenomena. The so called ego is a deluded illusion which does not exist in reality. Its existence depends on the combination of both physical and mental factors. It is a union of organic phenomena. Thus we call it the empirical ego. It is a mistake to cling to it as an infatuated ego.

The Indian concept of the supreme spirit implies someone who rules. The spirit is the ruler who is independent of is self-dependent and all causes. In other words, the spirit is the one who is free from all primary and secondary causes (for physical and mental aspects). The spirit is the one who has the soul of his own body and mind. This is the ego or supreme spirit that the theologists cling to. From their view point, the only way to avoid physical and mental decay is to be self-determined and self-sovereign. In this way, the supreme being can stay permanent in the cycle of reincarnation, and return to the absolute reality by liberating himself from life and death.

But from the profound contemplation and wisdom of the Buddha and Mahabodhisattvas, we know there is no such reality. Instead, egolessness (non-self) is the only path to understand the reality of the deluded life. All existences are subject to the Law of Causes and Conditions. These include the smallest particles, the relationship between the particles, the planets, and the relationship between them, up to and including the whole universe! From the smallest particles to the biggest matter, there exists no absolute independent identity.

Egolessness (non-self) implies the void characteristics of all existence. Egolessness (non-self) signifies the non-existence of permanent identity for self and existence (Dharma). Sunyata stresses the voidness characteristic of self and existence (Dharma). Sunyata and egolessness possess similar attributes. As we have discussed before, we can observe the profound significance of sunyata from the perspective of inter-dependent relationships. Considering dharma-nature and the condition of nirvana, all existences are immaterial and of a void-nature. Then we see each existence as independent of each other. But then we cannot find any material that does exist independent of everything else. So egolessness also implies void-nature!

3.3 From the observation of all existences, we can infer the theory of nirvana and the complete cessation of all phenomena. From the viewpoint of phenomena, all existences are so different from each other, that they may contradict each other. They are so chaotic. In reality, their existence is illusionary and arises from conditional causation. They seem to exist on one hand, and yet do not exist on the other. They seem to be united, but yet they are so different to one another. They seem to exist and yet they do cease! Ultimately everything will return to harmony and complete calmness. This is the nature of all existence. It is the final resting place for all. If we can understand this reality and remove our illusions, we can find this state of harmony and complete calmness.

All our contradictions, impediments and confusion will be converted to equanimity. Free from illusion, complete calmness will be the result of attaining nirvana. The Buddha emphasised the significance of this attainment and encouraged the direct and profound contemplation on void-nature. He said, "Since there is no absolute self-nature thus every existence exhibits void-nature. Because it is void, there is no rising nor falling. Since there is no rising nor falling, thus everything was originally in complete calmness. Its self-nature is nirvana."

From the viewpoint of time and space, we can surmise that all existences are impermanent, all existences have no permanent self, and nirvana is the result of the cessation of all existences - the Three Universal Characteristics. But there are not three different truths. Instead, they are the characteristics of the only absolute truth and the ultimate reality. This is the explanation of Dharma-nature and the condition of nirvana. The three characteristics are the one characteristic, and vice versa!

We may cultivate our meditation, contemplating the impersonality of all existences. This will lead us to enlightenment via the path of voidness. Contemplating nirvana and complete calmness leads to enlightenment by the path of immaterial form. Contemplating the impermanence of all existences, leads us to enlightenment by the path of inactivity (no desire).

The Three Universal Characteristics are the other implications of Dharma-nature and nirvana. The paths to enlightenment are also the same cause of absolute reality. All of them return to the Dharma-nature and the condition of nirvana. In short, the teachings of the Buddha start from the observation and contemplation of all worldly phenomena. They are like thousands of streams of water competing with each other, and flowing from the top of the mountains to the bottom. Eventually, all of them return to the ocean of voidness and nirvana.

4. Sunyata and Cessation is the Truth (Nature) of All Existences.

All existences that are recognised by worldly understanding, whether materially, spiritually or intellectually, have always been misunderstood by us. We cling to them as real, physically existing and permanent. Actually, they are only unreal names.

The more precise meaning of the term "unreal name" is "assumption" or "hypothesis". It is an empirical name. It is formed by the combination of various causes and effects. (These include the effects of mental consciousness.) It does not exist by itself. Everything exists relatively. Thus, what is the ultimate truth? If we investigate existence further, we realise that all existences are empty. This is the fundamental characteristic and reality of all existence. It is ultimate and absolute. But we should not think that empty means nothing. It implies the disentanglement from the worldly misunderstanding of the existence of self, identity, and the realisation of the absolute.

In the Sutras and Abhidharma, the worldly understandings are sometimes referred to as all phenomena (Dharma). Sunyata is referred to as "Dharma-nature", and hence there is a distinction between "phenomena" and "Dhamma-nature". However, this is only an expedient explanation that helps us to realise the truth of sunyata through the phenomena of all existences.

We should not think that "existence" and "nature"; or the "phenomena of Dharma" and "Dharma-nature" are something contradictory. They are just concepts needed to understand the implication of sunyata.

We may analyse the exp
Molly Jul 2017
I fill the void with hunger,
I fill the void with getting lost with people by my side who’s faces i recognize
but who’s souls i do not know.

i fill the void with you.
i fill the void with you because even though i know that we do not fit together like the perfect puzzle pieces that i wish we could be
at least
i’m not
alone.

i fill the void with consumption
i fill the void with cigarettes
i fill the void with inhale after inhale
until my belly is full with the heaviest of thoughts
and my nightmares circle around and around my skull until they come to rest exactly where you always said that i had that golden crown,
the one that i could never see.

i fill the void with madness
i fill the void with pointless anger,
seeping from my throat and drowning my tongue
tasting bitter like a rotten lemon
but the bitterness is better than tasting nothing at all
and it sticks to my chapped lips like an old friend.


i fill the void with endless calculations
meticulously measuring my emptiness clinging onto my insides
with a measuring stick
and even though i measure with repetitive precision,
it never measures up to my own highest standards

and I fill the void by hurling insults at your face
and even after you’ve closed the door, like a poignant period finally occurring at the end of a infinite infinite run on sentence.
i continue to spit, spit fiery slurs that in reality fall more like water droplets that ultimately accumulate mid air
and last a little while,
but never outlast the darkness that is fiercely stuck to the soles of my shoes.

And I breathe it back in
and I breathe it back in
just to feel a little bit more full.

I fill the void with a look of contentment that i plaster on my face because
i
i
can feel when you are looking
i fill the void with confidence
i fill the void with courage
i fill the void by carrying fear across my chest and over my shoulder like i’m going into battle and never
coming
back.

i fill the void with the hope that i can hope hard enough to fill myself up again
but no matter how much i fill

i can feel my insides draining
faster than a bottomless kitchen sink.

and regardless of how hard i clasp my hands against the gaping hole where i used to gently hold a relentless summer,

i can feel that the coldest winter has begun to replace it.
and i can almost still feel its warmth
just like I used to when i used to..
when you used to say you could feel it too.

my frigid fingers lock around my neck as i finally release that empty feeling that buries my deepest desires

and i feel my wild beating beating heart finally submitting to resolve.

and i realize
that i can never be full.
I realize
that I will never be full.

And so i float away
like an abandoned ballon

just like my mother said the others did
and when i join them there
they remind me that at least i’m not alone.
and they tell me that perhaps in the end
the point
was not to be full anyway.
Casey Jan 2019
One day,
I swallowed up the void.

Not too much at first, I didn't want to be greedy.
But enough that it grew into my hair,
turning it black.

I swallowed up the void again.
It settled heavy in my gut.

It was sweet at first, then gave way to an unsettling metallic aftertaste.
Still, it was addicting, intoxicating.
I needed more.

I swallowed up the void again,
hungry for empty.

The void is not black,
like so many others say.
No, the void is, in fact, a kaleidoscope of brilliant color

I swallowed up the void again.
There seemed to be an endless amount.

My eyes showed me what I had previously been blind to.
I could see the void others swallowed up.
His denim jacket wasn't for fashion some days.

I swallowed up the void again.
This time, it caught in my throat.

I gagged and my body convulsed,
an unsuccessful attempt to rid of the poison.
The void coated my lungs, stealing my breath, my life.

I thought I swallowed up the void,
but the void had swallowed up me.
1/24/19 - 8:52 p.m.
I got hit by inspiration and came up with this.
kairos Oct 2015
dark void diffuse out of my soul,
screaming,
internally-

dark void swallows me whole,
leaving, me
blind-

dark void consumes my mind,
heaving, up
dark thoughts

the darkness of the blue in our soceity
the grayness of our generation
the blackness of this world of what it is
the emptiness filling our minds

i void the thoughts
into the waste
i avoid the tears,
but they're bound to come
the void has been waiting
the insidious void
the void inside the insidious
thoughts of the void.

the lyrics thrum in my mind
and i connect the dots
from one reality to the other.
it makes a shape and i draw it out,

tearing at the dark thoughts.
and i
SCREEEAAAAAMMMMMMMMM

AT THE TWISTEDNESS OF IT ALL
THE CROOKEDNESS OF OURSELVES,
THE DARKNESS OF THE INEVITABLE VOID.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR US ALL.

**THE GHOSTS, THEY COMFORT ME, WELCOME TO THE DARK VOID OF MY MIND.
Kimberly Rae Jan 2010
I said today I feel like a shadow of myself… dark and empty.
Just an outline of the person I used to be.
Hiding from the sun’s embrace
Following behind…
Pressed against a wall…
My soul’s walking over me

A black void in place of my smile
A black void in place of my frown
A black void in place of my spirit
A black void… I have become

There are days that I cry
Without reason or provoke
I am so numb… I don't feel the pain
But every now and then
It sweeps over me, like a gust of wind
I have thoughts but the words don’t come.
They linger on the tip of my tongue…taunting me to speak.
But I’m much too tired to let them escape.

A black void in place of my thoughts
A black void in place of my feelings
A black void in place of my mind
A black void… I have become

Praying for someone to save me from my darkness…
Wanting for the sunlight to touch my cheek
Warming my soul… breaking this hold
Making me feel whole again
Staring at my reflection… knowing that my savior stands before me.
Only she can pull me out of this shadow back into the sun.
But is she too far gone?

A black void in place of my hopes
A black void in place of my dreams
A black void in place of my heart
A black void… I have become
Kamoo Jun 2014
There is a void in me that silently shouts hello at people who claim to be in my life
It screeches at those who have hurt me but they don’t really care
It surrenders to all that was promised to me but never delivered
It contemplates freedom or silence as it is indecisive about whether it should speak out or not
It is enslaved by anger and fed by pain
This void forces itself to sleep but anxiety wakes it up with vigour each and every single time
This void reaches out to my heart but that felon turned a blind eye
My brain trades places with my soul and orders my vessels to stop trying to be the good guys
They try to fight but my brain wreaks with anger and orders silence upon them
Blades of hurt beg for redemption but this void hears nothing
Drops of internal tears touch the void’s senses but it has grown too strong for anything to change it
It has taken control over everything and my brain being the sergeant leads this void
They march together to destroy all that is worth life within me
All that is beautiful turns into grey dry petals dried up by savage terrorists
These terrorists call themselves agony and torment
They terrorise my emotions and cast discomfort upon them
They try to escape through my skin pores but chains and shackles were whipped and girdled around them
They cried for help but this void silenced them with a lash of frustration
This void cut me deep and built its own palace in my soul and spirit
Everything else was executed and my body failed to adjust to the new system hence breathe became less and less
I found myself lying on a floor full of pictures
Pictures of my childhood and family
I gazed upon them and sorrowful tears ran down my cheeks
I am donned with a void that took my life from me
Bygone I am
Xan Abyss Oct 2014
A light in the dark shadows burn with a spark that ignites to a bright shining flame. The dead lie in groves of lost winter souls that wander with visionless aim. A rising relief ensues in the reef of the green and colorless gold. A raven takes flight in the deep death of night to escape from the black hell of old.
These wandering, murmuring, children of god storm wrath from the heavens and **** what is good. Devour the light as they drain all the life from the world we once called our brood.
Take us away. Drain us, defame us.
A whisper in the void.
Take us away, lock us away, **** us.
A whisper in the void.
Psychonatural Antichrist, bleeding the truth from false prophets. Summoning hellfire, demonic intrigue, desecration and violence. Infernal release, a smiling god weeps and a glare of rage seeps from beneath.
In an eternal sea of stones will they forever reap.
Death will be paid to the ones he learns to hate.
Black velvet draped across the coffin of grace.
Take us away, far and away.
A whisper in the void.
Take us away to destroy and remake.
A whisper in the void.
A whisper in the void.
Enter the darkness. Into the abyss. Far away. Thermonuclear enslavior.
Stay awake. Remaining.
Give your soul to the unknown, bleed into the black night air. The savior will come soon, to take you to His room, and liberate you from despair.
Suffocate quickly, quietly. Swiftly, so no one may hear you, or catch you dying. Slip away faster and faster the tighter you squeeze the noose around your neck.
Give yourself away. Death is your escape. Death does not betray like life will.
Give yourself to they, the keepers of the fade with intent to save and desecrate. And as they say, they will be they, and they will **** and humiliate. Break you down, drag you around, deny, defy and utilize. Every last bit will wallow in **** from the hate you created and ate from.
Suffer in pain, annihilation.
A whisper in the void.
Burn alone, in isolation.
A whisper in the void.
A whisper in the void.
A whisper...
Stream of consciousness piece from two year ago. Have fun trying to figure it out, I know I do.
Have you ever
Truly, contemplated
The Void?
Have you?
Really?
Ever?

It's blackness
surrounds us
In all directions
Wrapped in its
Utter empty
Dark embrace

And we spiral down
within it
Like a lost soul
In a deep
Gravity well.

Around a yellow
Many-blessed star
Which itself
Circles the
Frigid centre
Of a Galaxy
A wide, Milky way
Saggittarian armed

Which itself
Is moving
Circling away
from a point
with its
Peers contained in
The Virgo cluster

Away, and away.
One day to unite
Violently
With Andromenda
2 million years
Of light away

Herself
In a collision
So vast,
the heavens will
Tremble
And worlds
Will spin
Off their axis'

And yet, this
Is as nothing
When compared
To the void.
The nothingness
The totality
Alpha - Omega
It watches us
Mutely
Waiting
Our turn
To return

It watches all its
Galactic children
As they
Run away
Gravity wise
Forever, eternally
From the point
At which they
Formed/born

Heat, energy
Perfect symmetry
Broken and
Shattered
Resulting
In the Void

That point
Is where the Void began
It's career of
Darkness and
Silence
Its airless cold presence
Embraces all

And ever since
Its......................
Nothingness has been
Increasing
Relentless
Light year upon
Light year

Yes, it is truth
Nothingness
Is the true nature
Of this Universe
God's creation
That we think
So mundane

The one we feel
Is packed with life,
Woods, hills, tree
Small towns
Pieces of paper

But we live in a special place
Places that are something
Are the exception
Not the rule
Which is no thing
We are so rare,
like a single teardrop
In a pacific ocean of
Nothing

Beyond here
Up there
Down there
Across there
It seems filled to
Brim with stars
Twinkle with promise
But be warned

All the stars and
Galaxies (red and blue)
Would not fill
A millionth of a
Percentile
Of the universal void.
It swallows them
All, entirely

Gently staring at us
Forever
From its dark
Black eye

Think on that
And then
Think again
And again
You cannot
Contain it
No thing
Can

The stars
And all the planets
Nebuli and holes
black and dark
Are as nothing
Human beings
Thought
Ephemeral
Taken whole

Compared to the real
Stuff of Universe
Which is void.

Think upon it
As much as you can
On a cloudness night
Stare into the sky
And realize
You are truly
looking into
Eternity

A void so utterly empty
That all things
that are, or will be
Mean no thing
To it, its deep
black heart
And complete
Perfect
emptiness

If you do not
Swoon with fear
And tremble
With excitement
At the reality of
This fact
Of your
true existence

And of
Your private
privililge
To glimpse
At this no thing

From a tiny
blue/white
rock-made ball
Of a home
Trapped in nothing
Then you have not
Truly
Contemplated
The reality of
The Void.........
Written on a dark night staring toward Orion, in a draft form
Apocrypha Apr 2019
April 17th

In the eternal cold, dark and void,
Where drifting clouds make up everything we know,
Where terrible storms are givers of life,
Where the strongest prevail over anything else,
There is a bright star.

A pulsar in the void
Shining bright, untamed, wild
In this chaos there is order
The order of that pulsar
Even though there’s hundreds of stars
Only few shine as bright

Not everyone can see this
Some people think all stars shine equally bright
Some misinterpret brightness
Some don’t want to see
But I do
I see the pulsar
Shining bright, untamed, wild
And I admit I’m lucky to see the stars
In the void and chaos
Sometimes I believe this happens because I’m a star too
I know that I can shine bright
Brighter than most of the clutter out there,
Or at least, I thought

From the tiny corner of the void I could see
I knew I was always the brightest
No one could challenge me
A king on a tiny hill
But that changed

My tiny corner of the void got a little bigger
And I saw something new
A pulsar in the void
Shines bright, strong
Few things look this bright
And it terrifies me

It terrifies me because now I’m but a dormant star
I always knew how bright I could shine
But never tried to shine that bright
Today I see a pulsar in the void
And realize that I’m not the brightest one anymore

I need to shine brighter now
But I don’t know if it’s too late
I’m but a dormant star
Shadow of a former glory
A small brown dwarf
Staring at a pulsar in the void
And the idea of not being able to shine as bright
Terrifies me.
Raymond Turco Feb 2018
The Führer smashes his fist down, sending millions into the void.
An S.S. man in the Lager directs his gaze into the void.

British boys lie entrenched, gambling: mortar rains on German lines.
They charge at dawn with bets and hopes, but each pays into the void.

Sailors smell petrol and hurl themselves to the murky waters.
Fire explodes battleships, and grey Zeros rise into the void.

The Angel of Marzabotto buries the dead, wiping his brow.
An officer lodges a bullet there; the Angel prays to the void.

Green GIs go romping through the jungle after Victor Charlie.
They come upon rice fields, and set My Lai ablaze, into the void.

George III holds tight to colonies that raise muskets and new flags.
The Ministry of All Talents leads him, crazed, into the void.

Nippon men flood Nanjing and throw a maiden to the ground.
They ****** their bayonets to send her, dazed, into the void.

Fascist youth march the Bedouins across the Libyan sands.
Captors fence nomads in; the Duce looks, unfazed, into the void.

A young captain and his Bedouins shoot Turks without pretense.
Lawrence, disillusioned, fades out unpraised, into the void.
An English-language ghazal (غزَل in Urdu). The form has ancient pre-Islamic origins in Arabia.
Lyrical Feb 2019
Before you, I had friends but was often alone.
I was entirely unaware of the void.
I didn’t know your name or your face.
It was me, myself, and I.
I did all my school work and tried to be stable.
Before you, I was just fine.

~~~

When I met you I didn't feel so alone.
Our friendship put a light in my void.
With every corner I turned I looked for your face.
No better friends than you and I.
With wobbling feelings, it was hard to stay stable.
I figured having a crush was fine.

~~~

With your arms around me, I never felt alone.
I'm full and fuller of you, the extinguished void.
Every night dreaming of your shining face.
The world revolved around you and I.
With you by my side, I felt nothing but stable.
Forever with you would be just fine.

~~~

You started pulling away, I couldn’t help but feel alone.
As you removed yourself I began to remember the void.
Every once in a while I got to see your face.
You were here but you weren't and for that, I cry left without a dry eye.
Our relationship teetered for you were not stable.
I told myself "forget it, it's fine."

~~~


You broke all your promises and left me alone.
Grappling for pieces to fill my void.
Tears streaming not on mine but your face.
You didn’t want to go…but you did and I then poured out my eyes.
Wanting you back and wanting you gone, my thoughts were never stable.
I cried myself to sleep each night, but all others heard was "I'm fine."

~~~

Forgotten, discouraged, all I feel is alone.
No matter how hard I try to make them fit no one else can fill this void.
I can't think of my own best friend without seeing your face.
I'll never forget your beautiful smile, it's so perfect in my eyes.
You're no longer mine, the thought leaves me unstable.
For breaking a promise is there such a fine?

~~~

I'm trying to not feel so alone, to fill the void with self-love.
To direct my love to my own face, to the shine of my own eye.
I won't lie I'm still unstable; I'm not ok right now but eventually, I will be fine.
idk I figured I'd try out Sestina format
Catline Jade Jun 2018
hold me
hold me like you would hold a rose
hold me like you would hold the most precious of jewels why do i feel so absent?
so not here so not there
so not alive
so not dead
i'm out of tune yes
yes i'm void
void void void void void
i'm vacuum
i just ask you to hold me
you or anyone
i just ask you to be here
or there or anywhere
i just ask to be less alone
is that so much?
what am i other
than just lifeless paper?
yes honey i'm void
Theo Om Mar 2014
~(
I saw the images of my mind
between my thoughts and feels
between my words and fears
and I know it's all illusion
it's all illusion

these words
these feels
these thoughts
these saint weird images
in my crucified mind
in my crucified mind

it's sacrifice of emptiness
of absolute void
between my hands
in this dark chaos
of my broken soul
in her mouth

I touched the things, the tables, wet vaginas, penises,
and felt their warmth and moisture
alive and dead
alive and dead
at the same time
at the same time

and they told me:
all it's not what it seems
they told me:
don't believe, you're the man! don't believe!
it's all illusion
it's all illusion
just doubt and know it!

life and death
death and life
just only can be
always
only can be
but never will be
never will be

in this dark void
the absolute emptiness
of my broken mind
of my liquid heart

only
can
be

They told me: you live in a potential world.
Don't care about it.

They told me: your life is just a potential of itself.
Don't care about it.

They told me: you are **** Sapiens!
You don't have right to believe!
You must doubt!

Doubt!
Doubt!
Doubt!
Doubt everything!

And I doubt.
I doubt my existence.
And I look at my hands
in this dark chaos of my lost voice
And I know it's not my hand, but just a potentiality of itself...

it's not my hand
it's not my hand
it's not my hand
just a potentiality of itself

~the hand
not my hand
~the hand
not my hand
~the hand
not my hand

it's strange!
it's miracle!
it's indescribably!

it's not my hand
it's not a hand

only can be
in this dark void

only can be
in this dark night

I look at my hand
in this dark void
I look in my hand
in this dark void

in this
in this

in this dark void

I look

at

my

hand

Ok, it's all very and very strange.
)
P.S. If you don’t understand my weird poem read about Theomism: http://theomism.org/.
Alistair Jan 2018
there's a void that lives in my ear
dark and twisted and cruel
and i thought that
that perhaps i could learn
just to live with the silence
the echoing, harsh nothingness
of the void

but you see
my void houses
yet another creature

oddly, the two are as
light and day
the void is cold and cruel,
dark and silent and oh so endless
but this other thing
oh, the void's friend
is loud and restless,
eternal and painful and insistent

so even in the potential
i may have seen a window
a porthole of hope
for respite

my resigned silence
has become this maddening,
neverending hell

and it all lives in my ear

you see the branches,
they shrivelled up and died

look at my ear as you would a tree
a firm, long standing oak

roots and branches for nerves
a resilient base for an ear drum

imagine the tree has fallen
all but the base

you can hack at it
you can hope it may function
just as it did before
as trees are just meant to

but the roots are dead
the branches are cracked and gone

so imagine an ear as an ear again
it's purpose to hear and receive

now imagine a silence
as promised by description
of ailment

only there is one exception
that constant, infuriating noise
the one that keeps you awake
that fuels your insomnia and
campaigns your insanity

a working ear drum will still receive
the noise
the vibration, the impact, the pressure
but as a tree functions
so does an ear

with no roots and no branches
the base is just a base
it may receive

but no message shall be truly received
not with my ears

nothing but constant static
or a piercing ringing
seldom a painful tone
but enough to suffer with

too loud and you hear the blaring
you feel the pressure

you try in vain to double down
to cover where it affects you
but it only gets worse

too quiet,
silent
and slowly,
very slowly
you may just lose your mind

in my ear lives a void
the roots are dead
the base lives on
and the void's host
may just destroy me
i'm deaf and i don't know how to deal with it
I feel lost.
Not the "lost" when you are somewhere foreign,
And you feel a rush of adventure
At the idea of finding familiarity.

The kind of lost
Where all there is,
Is void.

Void of emotion.
Void of sound.
Void of color.
Void
Of
Life.
Slavica Apr 2015
There's a void.
I recognize the echo
in the lack of sound.

The 3 a.m. world
stares at me through the window.
The snow strives to conceal the void,
though ends dissolved in the warmth of
my blood.

So I stand sensing the void,
embracing the void,
being the void.
I stand serene.

(And the snow falls,
and the blood flows,
yet I stand - numb.)
2014
Dustin Goodman Mar 2015
Wait for me dead when light hits me
Void black sun
The reach doesn’t reach me
Beating drums in the mouth of abyss
Void black
Dust swarm
Lost in the burning sun
Fire raining on our souls
Burning roots
Flood is coming down
Wash away the doubt
Bone of my bones
Wait for me dead
Void black sun
Lost doesn’t find me
Flesh of my flesh
Bearing blank curse
Void black
Dust swarm
Running through fire raining on our souls
Burning roots
Flood is coming down
Wash away the doubt and take away the pain
I came to realize
Void black sun
Bearing blank curse
Void black sun
Fire raining on our souls
Burning roots
Flood is coming down
Wash away the doubt
I’ll reap what I sowed
Void black sun
Void
Max Southwood Mar 2017
What is the void?
Nothingness manifested?
There can’t really be such a thing…
How can there be nothing?

It’s impossible.

You can’t fault me for having trouble wrapping my head around an idea as intricate and deeply infinite as nothing. From a young age, we’re taught that everything, even empty space, is created from protons, neutrons,  subatomic particles…

Empty space is always made from something else.

Some describe the void not as a place, but instead as spiritual enlightenment and/or liberation. As detachment from everything. Some describe entering the void as the moment one realizes that if you try too hard to understand then you will miss the point; as the moment where the student realizes that he will never be able to anticipate his masters surprise attack, so, instead of being anxious he accepts his inability to know; as the understanding that holding on is suffering and letting go is freedom.

There is no way to truly talk about the void, about emptiness, because there is nothing tangible to be expressed in words. And yet, our curious human minds are so fixated on using dialogue to try and articulate this commodity.

Words will always fail.

Even if we could wrap our heads around this idea of emptiness, this complete and total lack of anything (comfort, love, hate, despair, joy, happiness, agony(all pieces of this complicated fabric known as human existence)) we would descend into the deepest and darkest of melancholies. The sudden moment of realization that non-being and being are one and the same and that the only thing separating the two is the awareness of being aware and the unawareness of being unaware would be too much to endure. The weight of realizing that nothing is everything, that we are 0 (placeholders for nothing (the extinction of our species before a return to nature untainted imminent)) would prove to be the strongest link of all in these shackles of existence.

What is the void?

Maybe it’s best not to ponder this any further.
courtney jean Aug 2016
i live my life alone, everything around me is so beautiful
yet i hate all of it. nobody gets what they deserve.

laguna beach a place so lovely yet unenjoyable for me,
endless thoughts of a neglected childhood. haunt me.
there is no closure with a lacking family but acceptance with a wiser child.

im turned on and off, seeking a person to fill the void that gradually gets bigger with every disgusting thought

nobody can fill a void quite as big as mine
not my father, a figure who was never there. and doesnt have to be.
who loves his children with doubt theyre his children.
he walks to the bar then goes to his house.
halfway house.
he loves alcohol because it fills his void to the brim.

not my mother, who failed to raise me. who gave me up.
actions speak louder than words, she gave me neither.
back and fourth rahab pulled her in like a rip tide
she stuggles till she gives in.
7 years of my life spent together only to give up again.
she dances around reading the bible
then punches me in the face
i can see her brain tangled in confusion
she loves drugs because it fits her void like the perfect puzzle piece.

not my grandpa who raised me, filling my void a quarter full.
a man of few words
cancer drains the quarter filled
rest in peace, the greatest man i ever knew.

not my grandma who raised me, so compassionate and humble.
she flys as far as she can go
struggling and alone she spends every penny she receives
she cant help it.
she fills my void less and less with every minute she grows older
unable to hold a conversation, she cant remember.
i love her so much.

not my little brother, whos unable to talk to me.
shielded by a thick layer of our moms alcohol induced breath,
he doesnt understand and doesnt have a chance
manipulated
hes dragged out by the rip tide by my moms side.
3 years pass by, not a word spoken, not a picture seen.
i feel his void brewing only to awake
when he is a wiser child

not my bestfriend, who grew up on the sidelines
who does whatever she can to help and comfort me
who shares her house and bed with me.

nothing is ever enough and i hate myself.

my one night stands overfill my void
but i wake up with it stretched out and empty
only to feel sadness roll over my entire body like a soft expected wave of freezing ocean water
i get tense and sick from my recent meal.

i collapse onto my bed, im a wiser child but an empty one
laguna beach am i living "the life"?
i can see the sun set behind the ocean from my bed
a beautiful view but i hate it.

76 degrees and sunny
the weather feels like ****
Metaleska Mar 2020
screaming into void
trying to gain something
nothing happens;
the void stays
still searching for something
still feeling the emptiness

facing each day
recharging on my own
spreading positivity around
receiving emptiness
the void stays

painful to watch pain
painful to feel
painful to let go
I still move into the void
in hope of finding something

trying to be cold
trying to control emotions
trying to stay strong
I still wander in this void
searching for something

something feels like a distant home
walking endlessly towards it.

I have started to breathe freely
now, the something is me
I am still searching for myself
starting to decipher the void within me
NOW feels freeing 💜
Bunhead17 May 2016
Into the void I go
Nothing but darkness from head to toe
I'm cold...
I hear a whisper in the distance
It tells me to just let it go
So I do...
I see a light
So I smile thinking it's my way out
But I was wrong...
It was just another void colder than the one before
So into the void I go
With no hope and no soul*

I tried to find myself
in places that didn't exist...
My soul and heart are filled with void
I tried to find the missing piece
But I only ended up losing more
I just wanna find happiness
Within myself...
Always wondering
If there's a way out of this
....Getting high
Trying to fill this void
Realizing there's no way out
...living in hell on earth
@falenacon,blogspot.com
j Aug 2015
numbers letters and shapes flicker through my brain at a thousand miles a second
i cant keep up with the thoughts that won't up and leave
i string together everything i can to create something more easy for me to fathom
your name appears instantly in my head
the only thing that ever really makes any sense
i kick through the void ive closed myself into
and i flee to you
my only escape and my only comfort
and now you're drifting away again
like before
and im reaching out to hold your hand
but i just fall to the floor
wanting more
needing it all
but everything merges together again too fast for me to keep up
i shut my door and i sit on my hands
no point trying to grasp for anything like you again

never again will i try to escape the void
the void is the only thing that keeps me sane
everything else just ***** me over
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eradicable irrational irredeemable irrefragable irrefutable irregular anomalous irrelevant irreproachable irrepressible irresistible irrevocable irreverent irresponsible irritative irrigate irritability isolable isosceles isostasy  issuance isthmus italicize iterative itinerary interjection ******* jackhammer jackknife jackpot jackrabbit jaguar jai alai jalopy jalousie jamboree Japanese jacquerie Jacobin jargonize jaunt javelin jealous jehoshaphat jeopardy jocular jouncy journal jubilant jubilee judgment judicature judicious juggernaut jugular juke julep juncture junta jurisprudence juvenilia juxtaposition kahuna kalpa kamikaze kerf kangaroo karat ken katzenjammer katydid kempt kerosene kewpie khaki kibitz kibosh kilter kimono kinesiology kleptomaniac knell knowledge knuckle kook kowtow kulak kyrie labyrinth laccolith laceration lackadaisical laconic lacunar lacquer lagging laissez-faire lamprey languish lanyard lapidary laputan larceny lariat laryngeal larynx lascivious latent latter 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mayonnaise meager meandrous medial medieval megalith mediocre Mediterranean megalomania melancholy melee membrane memorabilia menagerie mercenary mendacity meritorious mesmeric mesquite metallurgy metaphor meticulous metronome metropolitan mezzanine micrometer midriff mien demeanor millennium minarets minion minuscule minutia misanthropic miscellaneous mistletoe moccasin modus operandi monaural mongrel monotony morgue morose morsel moribund mortgage mosaic mosque mosquito motley mottle mucous membrane mucus mullion multifarious munificent museum musketeer mutable mustache mutineer myopic myrmidon mystique naïve narcissism narcosis narrate nausea navigable Neanderthal necklace needle nefarious negligible nemesis neophyte nertsy  nerve-racking nestle nether newfangled nocturnal nonchalant non sequitur normative Norwegian nostalgic nuisance nullify obedient obeisance obelisk obese objectify oblate oblique obliterate oblivious obsess obsolete obsolescence obstacle obstinate occupy 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shackle shanghai shanty shellac shenanigan Sherlock shirk shish kebob shoulder shrapnel shriek shrubbery shtick shush shyster Siamese sibyl significant simile simplicity simultaneous sinewy siphon skeptic skiff skillet skirmish skullduggery slaughter ****** sleeve sleuth slither slough sluice smart aleck  smidgen  smithereens  smolder  smorgasbord snazzy sneer snide snivel snorkel sobriety socioeconomic sojourn solder soldier solemn solicit soluble solvent sombrero somersault soothe soprano sophisticate sophomore sortie soufflé sousaphone ***** spiel souvenir sovereign spaghetti spandrel sparrow spatter sphinx spatula species specific spectacle spectral spelt sphincter spinach spinneret spiritual splatter splitting splurge spry  splutter sporadic sprawl sprinkler spree sprightly squawk spurious sputter  squabble squalor squander squeak squeal squeamish squeeze squiggle squinch squirrel stable squoosh stabilizer stagnant stagnate stalactite stalagmite stammer stampede stationary stationery statue statuesque statute staunch stealthy stein stellar stench stencil stoic steppe sterile stickler stifle stimulant stingy stirrup stolid strafe straggle strangulate stratagem strategy strenuous stretch strident stringent strudel streusel strychnine studious stultify stupe stupefy stupendous special stylus stymie styptic sublimate subliminal submergible substitute submersible subpoena subsequent subsidiary substantiate suburb subversion success succession succinct succor succulent succumb sufferance suffocate suggest suicidal sully sultry sumptuous sundae sundry superfluous superior supersede superstitious surreal supplicate surrender surrogate survey surveillance suspension suspicion sustenance swarthy ******* swath swear sweaty swelter swerve swindle swivel swizzle sycamore syllable symphony symposium symptom syndicate syndrome synonym synonymous synopsis synthetic syphilis syringe syrup suffrage tableau tabloid tacit tambourine tandem tangible tarantula tarot taunt technique telekinesis temperamental temperance thence temporal temporary tenuous tequila terrace terrain terrific terrify tetanus tether thatch thistle thither through though throat throttle thwack thwart ticklish tiffany timbre tirade titillate toboggan tolerant tongue top-notch topography  tortoise trauma tortuous torturous tourist tracery tournament tourniquet trachea traffic tragedy tragic traipse traitor tranquility transcend travesty transcribe treachery treatise trellis trepidation trestle trinket triplicate triumphant trivial troglodyte troubadour  trousers truncate tumultuous tundra turbid turpitude turquoise tutelage twixt twiddle twitter tycoon tyke typhoon tyrannical tyrannize tyranny umbrella unfulfilled unanimous usury undulate unequivocally unguent urethra unprecedented unscrupulous untenable unwieldy utterance vaccinate vagary valance valiant vandal variety vehement veldt veneer vendetta venetian vengeance vernacular versatile version vertebra vicinity victual vigilante villain vincible vinyl violate vitality vivacious volition voluminous voluptuous ****** vulnerable wahine waiver wallaby warble warrant wayfarer weasel wheedle wheezy weird whilst whistle whither whittle whoopee whoopla wistful whither wizen wont worse worst xanadu yowl yucca zephyr zeppelin zucchini extraversion embezzlement euthanasia extortion obscure carousing marauder aptitude ribaldry rigmarole chicanery shenanigans capers antics escapade crafty cunning cleaver connive furtive sneaky stealthy plunderous pillaging usurper pilferous wheedling finagler longevous loquacity derisory deplorable critical decimations tithe cynic frivolity frolic derriere easel emasculate emaciate linguistic depravity berate scold scorn scoff rail rebukeness  brawl vapid hamster spleen sequiter sequacious sequesterous flatulence impressible herbaceous impropriety veneration ignoble fatuous phatic journey acrid pungent fetid fiendness gamut ire irascible graffiti irk tedium diminutive minutia iota iterative reiteration self inductive interpolations objectified interstitial extrapolation trepidation tumultuous tortuous adjunct turpitude salient viable seethe conflagration lexical etymology idolatrous affectionate ****** caress craw swell surge flow flux amorous enamor endear ardent ardor cajole piquant poignant prescient puissant presage apex crux citadel pinnacle vertex vortex matrix ****** peak languishing lurid larcenous licentious lascivious squanderous squaloring wallow in the furrow confluence wretched infelicitous trajectory sordid warp strong raw war resume quirkness ***** tinker **** fink stink ******* eccentric pinky suit idiomatic cognate somatalogy virtuoso concurrent intemperance obsessive habitual addicts psychosomatic pathological psychopaths diabolically maniacal dementia panoramic tableau tediously meticulous laboriously beleaguering excruciating exacerbation autonomous avarice oscillating ostracism adrenergic analeptic adumbrate obdurate aberrance genocidal xenophobic prospectus personification of sartorial perfection visage picturesque vision of spectral grace picture of positive prosthesis protractive analysis cyborg ebullition ne plus ultra monad cybernetics prognosis prognostication clambering clamorous clangor hectic mayhem pulverize annihilate pompous bombastic query squash squawk squish squirm sprocket squeal squelch staunch statuesque steadfast steep stench stint strategic logistical tactician stratum stolid stoic stodgy viscid tumult stray streaky stretch strenuous striated strident stringent strive structural strut subjugate subjective substratum substantiate subterfuge subvert sultry sulk sundry superlative superfluous superficial syllogism soliloquy superovulation superfluity superfetation superfecundation suspicion swig superstratum sycophant ingratiating surrogate suspension swindle swallow swanky swath swill sympathetic symbolic synapse synchronous syncopate synoptic synectics syndrome synonym syntax systematic larceny lecher oligarchy ribaldry rigmarole intoxicate tangential tectonics tantamount telepathy tantalize throng tactile taint talisman talesman squabble brash torment temerarious terminus thrall torpid torpor torque tousle  traduce transform transubstantiate transpire transmute transmogrify transport trapezium traverse treason tremulous trendy trivia trifles trounce turgor truculent tuft turf turbid turgid tussle twain twang twinge twerp twit twitch tweak **** procedure vernacular posthumous spasmolytic propagate prolific proliferative profusion profundity proliferate profligate cogent fecund secund secular thick trick quick mystical silhouette sojourn excursion genre engender jaunt pilgrimage prophet trek waver wrought waxy waylay weave weary web wedge ***** wend whang whet whimsical whir whinny whereupon whish whisk whoosh whizbang whoop whorl wield wile wilco wild whence wingspread wiry wiseacre wherewithal rapacity wolf whistle wrath wraith wrack worship wrest wretch wring wriggle wry shyster shylock phone roan tone zone bone hone loan drone known own moan cone done groan koan gnome dream gleam cream seam beam          team serene ravine green gene careen tellurian terrene quaff query quiescent radishes reciprocate raunchy raspy rascal rampant rampage ravage ****** ravish rebuke rebuff rend reave recourse reconnaissance reconnoiter rectify recompense rectitude reconcile regime reintegrate relegate rejuvenate remission remonstrance reparation replication reprieve reprisal nocturnal emission repose remunerate resonant retort revelation revision grandiloquence cleft fissure crevasse rift rill robust rouge niche
crack tromp stomp chasm crevice trudge rostrum rout roust row ruckus sagacious salacious sapient satiric sarcastic sartorial sartorius scalawag screed scrutable contemptible scurvy scuttlebutt seditious seduction sect segregant sequacious psychic reverie subterfuge serenade sequiter serendipity shuck shylock sibilant shush signet simulation siren skeptic sleek slick slinky snare ****** sneeze sneer snide smug intrados loquacity spandrel iambic sonorous spatial spatiotemporal telemetry spectral spry spectrum speculate solicitor sprout spoof specular splendiferous sporadic spurt binge spree ***** squalid forte fortitude Gumby emit war  time raw umbrage ultraism ultimatum unary unbridled uncanny unanimous ambiguous biased unabated uncharted articulate deviating undertow congenial feint feign unity predicate unprecedented paradigm unscrupulous brash dire unfathomable unlimited urchin usurp utmost utilize fluctuate vague vacuous vanity vanquish vantage veer vast advent veracity verbatim vertex vortex vertigo vestige vex vigor vitalize virile vicissitude viscous visceral virtuous virulence vital virago vivacious vivid livid splurgeness stag vituperatively vociferous volition void voracity waft vulturine wacky waifs wainscot waive wallah itinerant wand wane lavish wanton wonderlust warrantee warn warp warlock warren wastrel wastage warranty dicker insidiously sinister flagrant verity maniac pack mendacity abscissa ordinate yacht yearn yaw yare yen yelp yin yonder yoni yore yours yolk zany zest zeal  zenith zingy zooid treatise hyperbolic lingam blasphemous farcical fugueness and estranged ensemble orchestration rendition various assorted forms of related stranger weirdness traveling down this obtusely overt contusion in my vehicular contrivance convection convolution abalone absolute acceptance accurately acquiesce acquire actually adamant additional adequately adherence affiliation affinity against aggressive allegiance although allusions amendable analogous analysis anchor ancient animation annihilation appeared approach appropriately archaic assembler assimilation assuage attain attempts attendant attribute audience aura auspicious authoritarian authoritative barbeque before belligerent binary blazing Buddha bulwark carousel ceaselessly ceremony chaos character charisma Christmas chronological cite classification classify clutter cocoon cognation cognizant comment communal complete conceive conceptual conclusion conducive conquered consciousness constituent construction continuum contrarily convenient corporeal collage creates credibility crystalline culture curious curriculum decadent decide deferred deified deity deliberately delineate deluded delusion demagoguery democratically descriptions desire destroy destructively develop dialectic dictates difficult diffuse disappeared ecstasy ecstatic efficiency elaborate elliptical empathy endeavor engaging equipment escape especially essence eventually evolutionally excellence excitement expectorant expedience experience extraneous extremity façade facet fashions fever flatten forgotten frailty framework gapping glimpse grandiose graphically groan growing hedonistically hierarchy hobby holocaust homogenous hovering ideology imagination immaturity immediate imperative impertinence important inadvertency inapplicable indispensable individually infancy initiate innate interpreters intervene intricacy intrinsic irrelevance jagged kaleidoscope lit literally lose ludicrous macabre minstrel meld mischievous model monstrous mores myriad mystic necessity negativity Newtonian normalcy nuance nullify obnoxious obscure obvious occasional officiate ominous omnipotent oppose optimizes oscillating ostracism paradoxically partially participants pebbles perceive pervasive phenomena portrayal posses preceding pretty prevalent pregnant primitive prism processional progress prominent proprietor psychic psychological purpose pyramid quandary rational receptacle recumbent redemption refused reiterate relatively relativity relevant reminiscent renaissance revere schemes schizophrenia separately sequence serious severe socially spontaneous stalwart stimulus stomach struggle stunned succession superimpose supplement suppose surround swimming switch symmetry sync taubla tapestry tenacious tendency tyrant terrestrial torrential totally tomorrow transient turbulence tyrannical ulterior ultimate universally unwarranted vicious weather yankee whether soliloquy amenity ambivalence ameliorate aggrandize aghast agrapha barnacle gerrymander jasper jasmine obfuscate obdurate castigate metaphysique cyborg appliance intrepid intrigue mystique impetus volition gumption motivation inspiration metaphor parable leprechaun leniency secund hefty endogenous exogenous lozenge irrefragable recalcitrance fecund jaded seal ordinand obdurate aberrance ignominious interface consent imbroglio embroilment lethargy impressionism agitator treacherous lurid allure obstreperously abstruse subconscious squanderous squalid anomalous punitive incendiary infrangible extemporaneous incognito (succubus , incubus) incongruous incredulous indemnify indigenous infernal infidel iniquitous secular funky spunky Rosicrucian epicurean phlegm levity levee lubricious loath loathe frigid **** ******* lick fenestration dire ****** brash crass rash aggrandize tactile acuity bridge rude crude bandy randy monad positive indenture obnoxious obtrusive obtusely overt indemnities annuities cavalier dawdling gallivant bought naught fought caught ought dribble rip zip gig blond entropy catalyst cohort cavort chronological sublime purvey pander meandrous extravagant exorbitance ***** vicarious endear eccentric cognate frolic frivolity fawn agnate aggregate junction function conjunction conjecture conjugation adjunct contiguous constituency cohesive coercion covert maestro maitre d mastoid newel minx murk monad muss muggy mull mirador bartizan musky meager demonstrative anarchy iconoclasm misnomer mimicry minaret mimetic monocracy pungent mordant mnemonics mangle maim mutilate mesomerism morpheme nepotism nurture vexation anxiety vindictiveness vendetta moot void null meringue laconic obliterate papaya proboscis podiatry polemist porcupine palindrome pandemonium presumptive procureness ploy **** paltry pander paphian pummel puny presage felicity parley parturient potpourri partisan peccavi verity goad penumbral platitude platonic proxy photic pharos perdurable preemptory posh perfunctory perilymph phoneme phenetic phantom permeate proximity phantasm phalanstry delusory apparition pietism oviparous expiate vindicate extricate  exonerate absolve posthumous prehensile prerogative presumptive prestissimo preterite retroactive primacy prevaricate equivocate primordium primeval puissance  pristine prescience prompt prodigious protagonist prurient pyre lurid pshaw guffaw purlin purloin quirk pith quark ***** tip put temerarious userp asymptote pirate tiny hat  thief tine slow slide slim hide me effigy infinitesimal slink slick paw
flaw craw claw heuristic swum cuckold climb locuna live **** sly **** sequacious expeditious sequesterous glove glaive glade
don’t dale  otter glue equestrian gog rift cog gone lean had good gold ride ode *** house pine low law earth *** guilty slime negligent torrentially torrid tortuously tempestuous einzeln function truckness presumptive procureness ploy **** off the line cyborg cylon live antonym exogamous dimorphism pry rap gape homogeny gap dudely cruel incredulity ergo apropos ipso-facto pith tip push where keeky geek peek peep glib jive gawk talk dudely cruel off the line but off it !  pit ego colossal incredible fantastic great outrageous amazing fabulous terrific stupendous splendiferous glorious God grandiose orgiastic magnificent ne plus ultra astounding astonishing bodacious marvelous exuberantly ecstatic subliminal nostalgic allusions subordinate ancillary conjectures similar analogous configurations exotically ****** quixotic render proof orchestration rendition unicorn railway mainsail ebullition monad girdle thigh spasmolytic heuristic sartorious sartorial discrepancy amendment rip reave rive tear rend esoteric erudite beleaguer hype synch torque your ringer occipital sync ubiquitous eucharistic oblation obeisance oblate obelisk ubiquitous edifice ******* efficacious salacious lubricious sagacious expeditious grief  orgiastic paroxysmal orthogenesis overture repertoire quagmire quandary poshly plush lushly lustful longevous loquacity hunky-dory harbinger guzzle gyro gyre exult heuristic awkward humph haberdashery hauberk huarache bourgeoisie dichotomy greave zealot goatee cavalier humerus gumption hors d’oeuvres coalescent hysterically delirious coercion nullify correspondence corral coral architrave archaeology ardent ardor arduous awry askew asinine altruistic allure allude alluvium aloof egress effulgence ephemeral apathetic anxiety antonym existential exigency exodus expiate esoteric exacerbate evoke exact exult excerpt exorbitance cajole argent apriori arbitrate appliqué aqueduct presumptuous prestige precocious precursor preempt predilection premises premonition preoccupy preponderance prescient pretentious perineum peristyle perpetuity pervade pertinent portent elicit pursuance putrid quasi queasy quaver quarrel rampart ransack voracious rapport ratchet raucous ravenous reciprocal rectitude emanate imminent perdition erudite erogenous scarp lambent reticent vehement auspicious austere consternation construe contingent convection convolution convenient cocoon coerce collaboration collude vacuum vacillate vestibule vicarious recalcitrant repudiate resend resilient resonance purvey wreak writhe wreath fortuitous fulminate fuscous cudgel futurity gable gallivant gallant embellish gauntlet scavenge scandalous scarify scatter schlieren scholarly scoundrel scowl unmelodious scramble scrabble scraggly craggy cephalic fallacious fallible absurd cutaneous synthesis commission extreme  conscientious adherent proponent subtlety diligent receive interesting abhorred exorbitant arrangement intelligence surprisingly important encompass contributes asymmetrical excellent elliptical collaboration straddled collapsible spanned feasible oriented pervasive artistry instructor precursor innovate adrenergic adumbrate queasy acclimatize accommodate acceptive accordant accrue accusation acrimony actuarial acuity adduce adjective adjunct admonish adroit aerobic aesthetic prosaic affiliate affluence aggravate aggregate agnate agonize airy albeit alchemy allege allegiance allegorical alleviate allocution ambience ambivalence amenity amenable anaclitic analgesia anacrusis analeptic anathema subordinate ancillary anecdotist animism animosity annulet announce anomaly anonymity antagonize antecedent subsequent antefix antenna anterior pathos antipathy antithesis aperture appall adorn pertain appreciate aquifer arbiter arbitrage arboreal frantic pedantic febrile fanatic quixotic hegira to xanadu frenetic zealot zeal eucharistic oblation occipital ubiquitous omnipresence opulent effluent affluence larcenous overture orgiastic paroxysmal ornithology orthogenisis gleam sheen English bird treacherous lecherous asinine dumb foolish stupid inane ignoramus absurd idiotically imbecilic silly unintelligent dense dingy crazy insane quasi slow epos epitomize epochal era gemma schema lemma jargon idiom colloquialism vernaculars peer quay pier pair appearance insipid vapid insidiously insolent pompously bombastic blatant flagrant chaparral epopee pseudopodia actuator militantly mercenary covert adumbrate intimate obfuscate abet abeyance proxy fugue edict advocate détente anticipate angary amentia terse inabsentia expurgation imputation impugn exculpate eugenic euphenics incumbent incipient accidence acoustics acquittance amore malign asperse amok amuck allegorist pervert aspect aorist wrist expiate asylum epigynous anovulant antenatal antidote antiquity antitrust antithetical argufy apartheid apocalyptic apologist apothecary apomixis appreciate aposteriori apostrophe protractive analysis parabola avidity liberty concise tine albeit life still arrogance coherent abandon abate abash abase abdicate abduction abject abominable abominate abomination abound abrogation absolution absorption accentual accession accede accessible accommodate accomplice accomplish accrual accursed acerbity acrimony accredit accustomed actuality actuate addle adamant adjutant adventive adultery adulterate adventure adversity advertent adulteration venturesome advocacy eyrie aerie aerial affix affront aggressive agile acuity tactile nimble agnostic agog agonist aghast avid avarice agrarian curtilage Arian airhead peterbrain alacrity alchemize alibi allegation allegory gorge ally allocate aloof altercation ambition amatory prelude amaze amateur  ambidextrous ambient amble amiable amicable amorist amulet analeptic analgesia analytics anathema android amalgamated anemometry animism annals chronicles annex annul annoy anonymity antecedent arcade armature arson articulate ascension assiduity asperity asynchrony augmentation audible auger aural areola auspice austerity authenticate autonomic astronomical enumeration auxiliary avenge avert economist autonomist autonomy aviatrix axiom avow avouch bifurcate bigamy bend bind bent bisexual berate bereft hype due behave behaviorism ******* behest bereave beholden biologism bureaucratize circumvent conscribe bacchae backslide backswept badland baddy bagnio baize balky ball hawk balmy bambino bamboozle banal bandwagon baneful banishment bankruptcy banter bandy barbarism barbarous barratry base pay bang bash bastardy bawdry lewd obscene ***** bawl beamish beatitude ****** beat beautiful bedlam beggary begrudge befuddle perplex behalf beleaguer beneficiary benevolence benighted bequeath bequest berth betroth bevy birth bitchery bivouac blabber blandish coax blah blither blare blazon bleak blear blighter bliss bloomy blot blunder blotch blooper bludgeon gag blurt blush bluster bonkers bosh boulevard bout brat browse brunt brute buck passer buffet bungle bungalow bunk bunt buoyancy burglarize burnish burp belch burlesque bureaucratize sorrowful lamentation baleful caterwaul
true clench closet queen constitution provocative soap menagerie melee cirrus camorra caboodle cabotage cabriole cacophony
cadge cahoots cagey cairn calamitous calculate calibrate  caliginous caliper calyx callet cameo campestral canard candid candidacy candelabra candor canker can’t canter canteen canoe capitation captivate capture carapace caribous carnal carnival carny cartomancy casque castellated caste castle catacomb catatonic phonics caustic cavernous celibate censor centric centrifugal centripetal certify cervixes cestus chalet chalice chameleon changling chaperone charlatan chary chaste chastise chastity cheeky cherish chesty chide ***** chintzy chivalrous chinch chomp choose chortle chromatic chronic intrinsic chroma chump chutzpa chute cinch conciliatory ciliary ciliate citadel citation civility clank clammy clang clairaudience taciturn reticent classify inveterate claudication cloven cleft cliché click clinch clement clip clique ******* cloak & dagger clobber clog clone clonk cloth clothe clothier cloture redolent clout cluck clump clumsy clunk coadunate coalition coadjutor coaster brake coax cochlea chronology inundate **** coexist anachronism coercive coitus coincide collinear collateral collegiate collision collusion coma combinatorics comfy  commandeer  commensurate comensal commend commerce commence commodious commotion compatible compensatory competitive compile complexional complicity comply connotation compost composure compunction compulsory concatenate concoct catenary concubinage condolence condemn condescending conducive cavalcade confidant confession confirmatory confiscate conformity confrontation congruence congeal congenial conjure connection connivance connote conquest conscript consequence conservatism consistent console consolidate consort conspire contagium contention continuity controvert conveyor copulative cordial cordon cornucopia coup couth coy crag cranky craven cringe crud culminate cumulate cursive credulity credulous infidel gullible diatonic perturbed derogate edict delict rage tirade irate vehemence denouement denounce tire dervish dictatorial diction proof desolate deontology Kant indenture defray detinue douceur amuse disseminate eustachian daft dainty damnify dapper dastardly dauntless daymare dead heat dead horse debauch debacle decadent debauchee decamp declamatory declension decorticate deductive default defeasance defenestration defunct defrock deformacy degeneracy deft deforce hipster mesmeric deification deist deleterious delimit deltoid delve deluge delusion delirious demimonde demesne demiurge demoniac demonetize demonstrable denizen denegation denigration demur demure despot desperation destine despise detect determinative determinism detersive deterrent detest determinacy detectaphone devout devoid detract desultory detrimental detour deviate deviant devastate devotion devious devisee devolution devolve developer dialectic dharma diagnosis prognosis matriculate diacritical differentia diffraction digenesis dignitize dignitary dilly diligence ***** dilemma dilapidate diminution **** ding diphtheria diphthong dent dirge dirk disaffirm discontinuity disclaim discern discord disconsolate discourteous discredit discontinuance discretion discriminate distain disenfranchise disenchant disencumber disenthrall disembody disgorge disgrace dishonest disguise disengage disinfestant disjunct disillusion disinfectant dislodge dismal disloyal disoblige disobey disparity disparage dismantle dismay dispatch dispel dispersive disproof dispute disrupt dissertation disrepair dissipate distillate distort distract ditto ditty diverge divaricate divert divest divulge dominion doohickey dormer doss dowdy doughty dowry drastic douse drat dray dread drawl dreary drippy drifty drivel droll drown drowsy drudge plan dubious dude dudgeon dulcify duct ductile drakeness ducky duel dull dusky tawny dynamic dwelling dwindle derisive bombastic primordial integumence parenthetically pragmatically prosaically practically protractively portion premise portent pervasive perpitude phenomena hierarchy predicate metaphysique endoskeleton ectomorphic dour droll dismal dank dreary bleak stark Electra complex lore epigone epigraph epsilon epistaxis epilation earnest earthshaker earthward earwitness eclectic ebonize electroacoustics ciphony ebullience eccentricity echelon echoic eddy edgy edify edit educe edition eerie edacious effectuate effeminate effete efficient efflux effrontery effluent effusion ego defense eidetic ejecta elaborate elapse electioneer curtail elocution elucidate elegant eloquence Elysium emancipation manumission detinue osteopathy elucubrate emasculate emaciate embark embargo emanate emblazon emote embellish elusive enhance embracive embouchure emergent emendator embryology emit emissary emitine jacquerie empathy empennage emphasis emphatic emigrant empirical emulate emunctory encephalic enclitic yuck junk funky junkies enchant enchain enclosure encroach encrustation encumber endergonic endorse endowment enduro enfetter enforce energetic enemy enema enervate engender engage propensity preternatural proclivity prestidigitation gesticulation equilibrate equilibrium equilibrist preterite rendition retroactive engross engulf enhance enjoin enlightenment enlist impressed enormous ennoble enrich  ensheathe enshroud ensnare ensnarl entanglement enthrall enthusiasm entice entity enthuse entrap entreat entrance enunciate envoy envy envisage epigynous epigraphy cipher epilogue episodic epitaph epistolary epithet equate equestrian equity equivocal equivocate eradicate erosion eroticism errancy erratic erroneous ersatz erumpent erudition erythron epistemology espalier essentialism progressivism esprit espy estimator estrus estuary etcetera ethnic ethos ethic eternal ethereal eugenic euphenics eustachian tube salpinx euthenics euthanasia evacuate evaluate evasive eventuate evaporate evict evident evil evert evolve exact exaction exult exaggerate exasperate excel excerpt exception exclaim exclude exculpate excursion excuse execration execution exempt exhume exile exhaustive exhibitionism exhilarate exegesis exert exonerate expense expletive explicit exploitation exponent export exposition exserted exposure expound expurgate ubiquitous extemporize extenuate exterminate extensive externalize extinct extort extradition extrasensory extraordinary extol extract exuberate extrude foible fasciculation twitch flinch fenestra Fabian falchion falangist Phillip felly ferro falsie **** fess fink out festinate ***** bustle fourragrere fimbria feduciary fabricant fable fabulist façade facile facilitate facsimile facture faena fain fairing fallopian fallow fascinator fash fatalism fastidious fastuous fatidic fatigue Faustian fatuity faux pas feasible faze ******* facilitate feline feeler ferocity fertile fervid fervor fetor fetus fetology fetish feverish fester fetation fetch fiat fief fiasco feticide obnoxious fiacre figment fickle fictitious fiddling fidelity fidgety fierce fiesta  filch filly filthy finale finesse fingertip finicky fang finite firmament flabbergast fixation flak flashy flagitious ******
flashpoint paroxysmal retrograde flaunt flasher flask flat flap flaw fledge flee fleece fleet fleshy flighty flick flexible flimsy  
flimflam fling flinty florid flora ****** flourish flotsam  flub fluke flurry flush focalize foist footing foray forfeiture forgery foreign
forensic formalize format formica formulate fornication forsooth forswear perjurious fortify forte fortissimo fortuity forum abjure
abnegation fossil fosterling four flush frame up freaky frazzle frenulum fret frigidity frigate frill fringe fritter frontal fructify fruition frump frugal fuel fulcrum fulgurous fulham sable furor furring brazen furtive fustigate future perfect fuchsia find roan gauntlet gamut gatecrasher havoc glass jaw glare glass eye gabber gadzooks gaff gaga gage gaggle gag rule gainful gainsay gait gala gale gall gallery gallivant gallop galvanic gambrel roof gander gammon garb garish garble garnishment garrulous garter gasp **** gaudy gauge gaunt gavel gear fad gee haw gemma gender genealogist geotropism germinate gestation ghost writer ghoul gig gigantic gill gimmick gimp girlish gist gizzard glaive glamorize glance glaze glean glint glitch gloat globe gloomy glitter glom glob glop glorify gloss glower glutton glum slum glue hue gluteal gnash aphorism adage gnosticism gnome goggle gnomic gold digger psychic golem gore gorge gown gossipy gouge grasp greedy frigid gremlin greave grieve grin grime grim grind gripe ***** groom gross grit groin grove grout growl grumpy grunt guck gruntle guide guile guild guilty guise gull gulch gully gunk gushy gust gussy up gulp gusset gush gustatory gung ** gusto gutsy gyne gyre gynecocracy gyve guy  aceimnorsuvwx  bdfhklt  fgjpqyz atheist goblin Godiva grog hang up disinter gamet zygote hunks hunkers haunches black white life death lithe heart rending miserly greedy stingy frugal habitation propinquity habituate hackamore hagride hairbreadth halftrack hallucinosis hamstring handicapper handless hangin hand woven hanker hanky panky haphazardry hari kiri **** harangue harass harbinger harem oviparous residual harmonic harpy harsh hast hassle haggle hasty pudding haugh haunt haversack haversian canal hawk hazard heady heal headway heap hearing hearty heave heathen heavenly heavy duty heft heir heinous heifer heist helix enliven glue hellion helm hemlock hence heredity primitive anachronistic hangover heretical heritage hermit recluse heresy primordial integumence skull hernia hue hex heuristic hirsute hireling ally hint **** hoard hoax hitch hoist hokey hoot horizon hornswoggle horologist hostile hostage housebreak huckster hovel huff humeral hurtle hustle hutz pah homage homogeny exogamy hone honesty honkies hooky hutch hypercritical hypotaxis hysterics incoercible idiosyncrasy impugn idolatry ileum imagism idempotent ides ichor icky icon ics ictus ideational identity crisis matrix idea iffy ignescent illustrious immaterialize imitation inextremis immanentism immolation mollify impeach impedance impecunious impassion immutable retrograde recumbence inabsentia impious impenitence impinge implore impotent paroxysm impressment impute impromptu impoverish improvident imprudent improvise imputation inanely inanimate inauguration incorrigible inappreciative inconsequential irreverence inconsolably disconsolate irreparably irreconcilable incorporeity ideally ideogram inferential illicit incarnate incestuous inch incident converse incipient incite incognita incommodious incompliant incommunicado indagate incursion incus incumbent indecorous indecent exposure indecipherable indefeasible indenture indictable  indicative indignant indiscrete indite indolence indubitable induce indulgent industrious ineffectual inane inert inertia infamy infanticide infest infinitesimal inflect inflict infringe encroach infrastructure inflation influential informant inimical iniquitous innumerable innuendo inquisitor injunction injudicious inkling innocuous insolent insidious insipid inept phatic volatile instigate insinuate instinct intangible interdict intentional interject intimate intimidate intricacy intrigue intrinsic intrepid introspection introvert intrusive intuitive inviolate invade inundate invalid inventive inveigh inure defeasance foist isomorphic isthmus fistula jabber jackal jackleg jag jaunt jeer jerkin jest jetty jettison jiffy jig jilt jive job jack jolt josh jostle joust jovial judicious juggernaut jugglery jumble jumpy junctural jungle junk ****** jurisdiction justice justification jute jutty juvenile delinquency juxtaposition kale kalimba kangaroo court kaput karate karst kayo keel keep kempt kept keynesianism kick in **** kindle kinetic kink kist **** kleenex kismet kirtle kith kithe kitsch klaxon knack knavery **** knout kobold koan kneed king cogent adroit lollygag lummox languorous lanyard limbus lotic loquacious lesbian lam labial lambaste lampoon landmark bilk lang syne languish languid languor larder larky larvicide larynx lascivious lateral latent recumbent lapel laud lavish layette lecher leeward leer leech legacy legate lefty lest lewd avant-garde levant avaricious liaison libido libertarian lien ligature lilt list lisp liturgy livid loiter loom loophole lubricity lubric lucent lugubrious yuck lunkhead dolt lurk luscious luster luxury lynch lysis legerity lemma lickspittle limnetic ankh maverick mare liberum marabou machete machinate machiavelianism magniloquent macroevolution macrogamete Magdalene mantis mantra maniacal manubrium mare’s nest maenad majuscule maladjustive malfeasance maleficent malefactor malevolence mash malm malocclusion manipular manifesto mastectomy maw manacle manifest Manitou mana marrow pith manumission constitution marsupial mare nostrum masseur pervade perpitude quark master plan master race mastoid glitch exiguous skimpy scanty sparse masticate matriarchy matriculate escutcheon nombril mere mathematics matrix matinee impetus maxim axiom meatus minimax mediation mediocre medley metabolic meddle ménage a trios menagerie mendacity meroblastic menial meiosis meliorate memorandum memoir memento mori menace mesne menarche menorrhagia meninx mesh mesomerism mesne lord metal methodical meticulous mettle miasma microcosm militia mingy minion koan mirage mire misnomer modality mockery ****** mongrel monstrance morbid morose mortify mortise martingale motivity musky mushy murky muse mutuality muzzle myopia mystique mesomorphic nabob nadir narcosis nark native natty navaid necking pilaster neigh neuter neutrino nexus ****** nihilism nimbus nimiety nitty gritty noisome nominalism nonconformity non sequiter nooky noose nostalgia nostrum notch notion notorious noumenon nous nuance nubile nymph nympholepsy numinous ***** obliquity oblivion ubiquity eucharistic oblation obligee oasis oath obbligato obligatory obliterate obnoxious obscene obstreperously abstruse exude obviate ochlocracy odium odalisque ominous awesome omnivorous onerous onus opprobrium opprobrious optimal opulence orifice ornate orotund ostensible osteopathy oust outlier overawe overt **** ozone procurator pagan palingenetic pallid pallor paragon pagoda palpitate pander pandemic panhandling paraphrase paternoster pathetic paunch pavilion pawky peachy peculiar pedagog pedal pedantic peart peccant peeve perception intuition peremptory perdition perdurable detinue perfective
perfidy perforce periphery perjure perk permeate permute perorate perpetual perpetrate perpetuity perplexity persecute
perspicacious perspiration pertinent perturb ******* pesky perky pester pestilence petrify petrous phalanges juggernaut              
phenomenal phylogeny phobic phony photosensitize phrenic physicality ***** physicalism pick pictorial pious piety piffle pilgrimage pinion pithy placate placid plaint planetoid plasma platitude platonic plenipotentiary plucky plunderous poach plenary plummet polemic polyphonic postulate pouch polyandry polygamy populist pounce popsicle potentate pout practicable chatter prattle precarious precedence precess precious predetermined predicament preen prelusive premonition prefix preposterous prevail prevalent presumptuous **** prim priority depravation probity prodigious profane promulgate proffered prohibitive projective promiscuity propagandize propagate prophetic prosthetic propinquity prophylaxis protocol proprietous propitious haggard proxemics prosecutor prospectus protensive proximity pummel pundit prejudice piranha punitive purgatorial purificatory putschist kitsch quag quantum jump quarrelsome quarterstaff Quetzalcoatl quickie quirt quoit rescind reverb revile mnemonics retuse rabble rachis raconteur ratification radial radix raffish raft ragamuffin railroad raiment rake ramify ramet ramus rank rancid **** rapper rapt rapture rarefy rarified rave ravel raw raze razzle-dazzle razzmatazz realm ream reap rebuttal rebuff rebuke receptaculum recital recess reconcile recondite recourse recriminate rectilinear rectify rectitude recumbent recuperate recursive redeem redolent refer reek reeve reflective reflex refraction refulgence refuge refuse relativistic reliquiae remedy remorseless remnant repertory replicate reproach reptilian repugnant repulse repulsion rescissory residue resignation resolute restitution retraction restriction restraint resuscitate reticent retentive retinue retreat retribution revel reverberation reversal revert revulsion rhapsodic rhombus rhomboid rictus ridgy rifle riff rigorous ritzy rival roan roam roar rive robust rodent rodeo roguery rollick frolic romp rote rouge rout ******* rubble rubric rumpus rumor rural ruse rustle Ruth sitzkrieg superciliary supercilious surfeit suture bravo bravado seminal vesicle sacerdotalism sacroiliac sagacious saga safari saguaro salpinx salubrious salvo salve sanction sanctify sanguine sashay satchel satiate saucy savory scads scalpel scandalize scapula **** schmaltz schlep schnook scorn scour scoff scowl scow scram scrounge screak scud **** scuz seclude ****** seer selfish seminiferous senility sedition smear sycophant sensitize sensorium sentiment sequester sequential servile sham shindig shoddy singular screech situate skedaddle skew sketchy skittish skivvies slang slight slogan slovenly slouch sneaky snub soffit solvency sophistic spangle spar spawn spew squall squamous steeple logistical tactician strategy stupor subjunctive suborn subvert the clarity of criticism can create credibility comprehension can cause conducive consciousness supremacy surly burly squirrelly schema temporize tai pan tup trochlea ulna taboo taciturn tacit tacky tact talus tamper tang tamp tangible tangential tank tankard tassel tawny ****** telepathic temerity telos tenable tenet ternary terra-cotta testy topos tiercel theocracy tempting thew tizzy trite thirl throng thundering tantrum tonic torso topsy-turvy torus tour de force touristic **** tout tragus tractive trance tranquil traject transcend trample transducer transfix transgress transition transposition transude transpire treasure treason trek trenchant tremendous tributary trigeminal  trollop triumph tropic tropism troth trough tractable tract strumpet trove trump trustless tribunal twang tweeze twinge twirl twaddle tunic typecast tyrannical tyrannosaur traction padness tyrant tympanum twist ukase ultraism ultima ratio ultrastructure uglify umbilicus umbra umbrage unabridged unconditional unambiguous unanimity uncanny unceremonious uninucleat union unique unison unity farce sham unmannered unremitting unspeakable upsurge upstage urchin urbanist usherette usufruct travesty usury utensil ****** utmost ut uvea utter uvula utility uxorious usurp surreptitious vagabond vagarious vagile vagrant vagrancy vale valor validate vampire vanguard vas deferens vast vaunt vector venery venial veranda venture verbalist verboten verdant verdict verge vertebration verve vexatious fierce vigil vigorous vile vilify villainous vindicate violent virtue vitalist ***** vituperative vogue vomitus volunteer vouch vulcanization vulturous vulgarism weld **** volume decimate wahoo waive wangle wee weepy welch whammy war wharfage whereof whereupon wherein wherefore whereon wherewithal whine whopper wild goose chase wishy washy wisp woeful wrathy wrought wrong xenophile ******* fornication phantasmagoria fluent voluble yammer yelp yes man yummy zany zealotry zilch zing zombie zooidal zoom zounds zygomatic contiguous constituency confluence contiguity continuum concurrence conjunction conjugation métier quintessential
There was a motion on the floor for the nomination of a proxy to be my epigone.  I feared I didn't have enough votes to challenge so I filibustered.
Ted Scheck Nov 2014
You would think that
Light is always bright,
Shining, Luminescent,
Searing, burning, illuminating,
Perpetual dawn rolling across
Earth's lopsided expanses.
You would think.

Light and Darkness
Were once perfectly melded-
Minded-
Molded together, in the
Time before time,
In the cusp of God's hands
Pressing together and
Held apart in infinite
Pressure and density and love.
They were one yet separate,
Filling the mindless firmament between
The Left and Right Hand of God,
Before He created Earth.

You know the Beginning:
When the Heavens came into
Being
(So that the minds
Of men and women could
Acknowledge their existence)
And then the Earth was
Created

God moved His hands
(And Spoke through Them)
The earth, formless, void:
The Light in God's Hands
Marveled at the Living Light,
The Source of all things
Whom the light had dreamed about,
In its cupola that it thought to be
Infinite, but was somehow, beyond;
God, it seemed, had more,
A Higher Purpose for The Light

And The Darkness, seeing his
Brother distracted and occupied,
And uncomprehending the why
And how of God’s Light and
The Light (his brother?) standing
Close, so close, in perfect
Conversation, and why?
Why was not The Darkness a
Part of His Conversation?

Darkness, in the infinitesimal moments
After Creation had begun,
Turned his back on God and
Saw what was beneath him.
He
Streaked blackly down to the new
Thing God had made simply
By Speaking.

“What is The Darkness doing,
God?”
The Light asked, confused
For the first time.
“I don’t understand.”
God spoke, a gentle,
Soothing whisper.
LOOK FOR YOURSELF,
LIGHT.
And The Light looked,
Shining the barest part of
Himself down, so that
The Darkness could see.

The Darkness saw itself
Hovering over the waters.
The round globe that
God created was covered,
Filled with something
Mysterious and liquid
And like itself, Dark,
Deep, and brooding.

Dark and Void
Were now one.
Away from the Presence
Of God.
The Darkness had never
Flown, or streaked, or
Zipped like lightning before.
And Darkness saw that it was
GOOD.

Now Darkness was doing it.
Darkness was all OVER this
Planet-thing. Darkness had
The WHOLE
THING COVERED.
And Darkness saw that it
Wasn't moving. It had never
Been so big, so
EXPANSIVE before.
It circled the entire planet,
A giant ring of Itself,
For thousands and thousands
Of miles. Looking at the deep
Dark wet stuff,
Darkness saw its face
For the first time.
Not GOOD, Darkness thought
To Himself.
GREAT.
But before The Darkness
Could get a longer
(And much more detailed)
Look, becoming more and more
Connected with the Void…

Four of God's Words
Split the whole of existence
In TWO

'LET THERE BE LIGHT'

The Light of Creation
Exploded outward and
Simultaneously
Imploded inward
Scalding Darkness' eyeballs black
And God took The Darkness
In His Hand and Threw
Him to the other side
Of Earth,
12 hours
And 12,500 miles away.

God favored the "Light"
And called it "Good"
Darkness wanted to hear that
Spoken about himself.
But God further divided
And delineated them
By changing their natures.

The Light, now powered by a nearby
***** Yellow Star
Almost a hundred million
Miles away
(So as to not cook or
Freeze them to death)
God explained cryptically
Who is THEM
(The Light wondered)
There are OTHERS
Besides God?
And us?

But when God was doing His
Business, and it involved you,
YOU PAID ATTENTION

SOL IS EARTH’S STAR
YOU ARE NOW A SOURCE
OF LIFE. YOU WILL RULE
THE FACE OF THE PLANET
HALF OF AN EARTH DAY.
And God's Pure Light
Was now intimately linked with,
Among other things, the creatures
That God was even now filling the
Seas and the Land.
The Light’s new name was
"Day"

The Darkness changed simply
By God Willing It.
The Darkness liked his new name,
Closer to Light's old one
(Night)
And Night thought he might be
Happier, after all, since
God placed so much
MORE of him, far, far out
In the Heavens, in the
Unfathomably
(Though fathomable to him)
Empty spaces between the
Stars that gave birth to
Day every single itself.

But God punished The Darkness
For being Prideful, and marveling
At the beauty of his face
So God banished The Darkness
To reside alongside, and
Even, with, the Void
Who had been cast down
An Eternity before, waiting,
Waiting for just such a planet
To come along, so that Void
Could rule the air
(Like a Prince,
Deposed to his
New kingdom).

The Dark had never before
Felt something so different,
So ‘Off-Natured’ from God
Almighty.
Night was afraid, so Night
Kept his head down and
Out of sight and
Did his job.
The Light shone through
A tiny yellow orb, and
This light bathed the planet
In a veil of brightness.
Night was only one
Aspect of The Darkness, like
A Cousin created to do a
Very specific job, which
Left The Darkness to explore
Earth and the Surrounding
Heavens.

The Light had other aspects,
A nickname, if you will:
“Daylight” and
Daylight, in spite of
All he could see
(But Daylight praised God for this,
And knew God was the Source of All Things)
And all the creatures and
The Man and The Woman
Saw,
Daylight missed his brother,
The Dark.
But the Stars would only shine
Him in the Way God Intended,
And not a little brighter more.
So Daylight did his job, too.

One itself, as Day again
Chased Night away
(Always on Night's heels,
But never EVER catching him!)
Day was shining on a patch
Of water that seemed familiar.
But the water was, well,
Watery, and diffuse, and it
Slowed down Light's usually
Terminal Velocity, and bent and
Diffracted and distracted his
Straight-line nature. Light asked
God to tell Night he was sorry.

YOU’VE A VOICE
YOURSELF, DAY.
TELL NIGHT YOURSELF.

Thank You, Light of Heaven,
Day said, feeling the Star
Sol going into a brief and
Exciting supernova,
A thin yet ultimately powerful
Ray of Sol’s tremendous
Energy shining down
On that little familiar patch
Of water.

Day shouldered its
Way through thick clumps of
Seaweed (now dead) and down,
Ever down,
Deeper than any light had
Ever penetrated the Dark
Ocean.
Down, the light went, down,
To its breaking point,
Where Daylight was barely
Discernible as itself.
It got to the place
Where He ended,
And his brother began.
With its last photon of energy,
Daylight gave itself to
His long-lost Twin.
"I'm sorry, Dark"
A patch of exceptionally black
Darkness wobbled a nod.
(Me too, Light)
It seemed to say.
"I miss you, brother,” sobbed
The Light.
And God have Light his request,
Allowing him to shine just
A little more brightly,
And the Light gave of himself
To his Brother Darkness.
“God, may I please
Keep this little light
Of mine
To remind me of
My Brother Daylight?

Dark was no longer so very
Lonely
As God put a bit of
Himself
In the strange, strange
Creatures who lived with
And in total
Darkness.
And the Dark
Loved those creatures
So much so that when
You
(Or I)
Capture a Dark
Creature,
It cannot,
Will not
Survive the Light
On the Surface
Of the Ocean
The Void Apr 2014
In the Void,
Time writhes beneath the shadows,
The twisting shadows
Time bends against the breeze,
But there is no breeze
Time slows against pain
Time is slow
Bending low
Breaking in
Through the wind
Time goes on
Time goes long
On and off
Not to stop
End is near
Live in fear
Time is slow.
Time is slow.

In the Void,
Cold shivers in the blackness
The impossible blackness
This is the void
But not the void
For in it lies
Twinkling eyes
Nightmares lurk
In thick shadows
Hiding view,
To not look through
Something glows
And it goes
In no light
Put up no fight
Give it in
Air is thin
Breathe in slow
Let it go
Give it in.
Give it in.
Pauline Morris May 2016
Walk with me into the void of nothingness
There is no need to even get dressed

For there is no,when or how
There is no holy cow
There is no God or Satan
It's a fact I am stating

In the void nothing exist
It's more than just a wish
There are no demons or monsters
Nothing you can foster

There is no flesh and bone
No skill that you must hon
No beating heart to shatter
There certainly is no clatter

Only darkness surrounds you
For light is absent too
It is not cold or hot
Darkness is all it's got

The void is peace and quite
There is no need to riot
It welcomes everyone
Discrimination there is none

The void is where I am heading
This earthly body I am shedding
I've lived in the gray my whole life
I'm ready for an end to the strife

So off to the void I go
I will bring nothing in tow
It's not an end, but a winning
I'm finally at the begaining
jim fry Nov 2010
the shadow works, 2005-2006

might as well keep them all together ...
a journey through the shadowz ...
through the possessions ...
through the hell ...
through me ...
through!
whew!

during this time, i sought support from an indian medicine man, a shaman, past life regression therapist, and a variety of other spiritual healers ... some of those, narrated in depth, elsewhere ...

the enclosed is probably not of interest to many,
understood, yet offered up,
as a journey,
narrated through times,
via rhymes


Heavy

May 6, 2005

I feel knee deep in a bog
Tackling responsibility for emotions
Are these weights a lesson
Projections reflected

I want things smooth
Light and carefree
I don’t seek control
But expect absence of impact

I can’t buy, reason or work
My way out of this challenge
Each time faced head on
I give up ground and accommodate
To point of compromise
No side is right here
What is, just is

I have my perceptions
And filters
And the weight intensifies
I want to dissolve it
Haven’t figured out how
Depression, heavy
Rooted inside

How do I break free
I feel alone
Even within myself
I don’t know
The reflection
In the mirror

There is a longing to be free
Unchained
Unbound
To live
To sleep
To find balance
Chasm

I want to be
What I feel I’m not
I don’t celebrate
What I perceive
Myself to be

I seek void
Death
Rebirth
Ha
Do this again
Easier
To take flight
Black
Grey
White

Tears
Rip across my chest
Seeking
To release my heart
Bound and chained
I want them to flow
Pent emotions
Seek exorcism

I haven’t surrendered
I don’t accept
Open I bleed
Closed I store pain

I want to feel flow

Nothing aligned
Empty I know
Torn
Shredded
Fragments and shards
Differentially
Scattered

Ungrounded
Not whole
I want to go home
Here come the tears
Smiles


Dark Envelop

July 9, 2005

Feeling my way through the illusion
Finding no solace in delusion
Have my angels found another to watch over
Are my whispers no longer heard and contemplated

As I believe I do my best
I don’t convince even myself
So much struggle and challenge
Why do I even travel
Away from my bed

Prodded along
Voices and dialogs
In my head

I could start again tomorrow
Wait, I have done that before
Somewhere within, my shadow sneers
Chaotic and off balance, I’m fodder
Material for my shadow’s jeers
******, ***** and stripped bare
Seeking a single reason to care
Am I victim to want it all fair

Now

I recognize this place
Hell etched in my face
I could so easily quit
Leave the game’s race
Always another will replace
Scripts each written on ****** mace

Not yet ready

Lessons to learn
Though I yearn
Tis not my time to rest
Not until this unconscious
With which I wrest
Is balanced and addressed
Then, only, will it be my turn
I’ll find some sun
Seek beauty and joy
Transcend this marathon run

I’m not the universe’s toy


Reflections from the Void

August 21, 2005

So, this is death!
all distractions departed
leaving emptiness, not loneliness
gnawing absence of purpose, manifests in tears

Purgatory,
between somethings that felt to have mattered
without logical linkage
between then, now and the next then

Transitions require momentum
energy is here, but failing direction
what pursuit of new experience calls
none … these moments

Sleep comes easy, frequently
no dreams revealed in the aftermode
void … passionless … lethargic … empty … void
emotionless?

Looking for some elixir
to heal, to know, to feel …
the game continues / with tears of the void
the potential unknown
I guess I do feel alone …

why … what the **** is the point … anyways …
does this rub … offend … ????

this, my creation, my expression of infinite potential, capacity, too bad that
I have no TV to distract …
guess I need to process through …

ps …
if you receive this – love you …
for what it is worth ...

I guess I am ‘OK’, just feeling my way through ………..


Heart of Sadness

November 6, 2005

Incredible, my heart screams of sadness
as I accept and surrender
Surrender to what I have wrought,
what I did from my state of pain

Our pain breeds more pain, often,
and feeds back upon itself
Amplifying toward a crescendo
of intensity felt viscerally

As our hearts ache
In deepening depression,
I feel spoiled that I want more
than I have
I feel I should harden up
and move forward,
towards, what …

If I harden up, I harden my heart
and it feels now is the moment
to dive into this pain,
to learn from this pain,
to grow from this pain,
to understand from this pain,
to rebuild my heart in an open way

Experience the pain in full color
experience the loneliness,
experience the emptiness,
experience my void,
experience my sorrow,
experience my defeat,
experience yet another death,
experience my drama,
experience my immaturity,
experience my dysfunctional self,
experience the consequences,
experience the responsibility,
experience the resentment of myself,
experience the anger at myself,
experience the pain,
experience the bleeding,
experience the desolation,
experience the emotions raw,
experience the tears,
experience the shredding in my heart

grow in compassion,
grow in empathy,
grow in unconditional love,
grow in reverence,
grow in acceptance,
grow in maturity,
grow in awareness

I don’t need to sacrifice,
I need to celebrate

I don’t need to enable,
I need to empower

I don’t need to think,
I need to feel

I don’t need to protect,
I need to love

I don’t need to speak,
I need to listen

I don’t need to hurt or project,
I need to heal


Returning Home, Changed

November 8, 2005

a lover scampered off
then returned past time
after everything shifted
in another’s heart
and mind

old windows shuttered
no quarter taken or given
thus tears held reign
from processed pain

now at an advanced arc
on the circle of love
lessons in alchemy
seem sent from above

this journey now vectored
with independent trajectories
finding different connection
within renewed reflection

the cat broke the home
the archer wandered on
now on new paths
each does roam

the cat is changing
experiencing nature anew
with life rearranging
deeply ranging

in love with you


Shadow Teachings

November 14, 2005

We have known all along
yet didn’t trust those feelings
As our subconscious takes charge
when we fall asleep at the wheel

Just as we continue to breathe
within each moment of slumber
Some segment within us
will always surface
to chart our courses

With each emotion left
unexpressed in the moment
another is drawn forth and purged

Cycling
Withhold, Withdraw, Project
The truth will set us free
If we have courage to reveal
And the truth clears out
emotions, two by two
one new, one buried
Creating space
allowing

Love,

Courage,

Creativity,

Understanding,

Joy­,

Celebration,

Illumination,

Growth,

LIFE

Express or Suppress

a Choice

of Voice

Opportunity found
in stormy weather
repairing the roof
in the rain

We may heal together
With whomever
NOW, then or never

It commences
via
loving thy self

Reinforced in experience
beyond words from
books on the shelf

WE WRITE OUR SCRIPTS

WE CREATE OUR EXPERIENCE

WE ARE RESPONSIBLE

WE ARE CREATORS CREATING

HOLD REVERENCE IN OUR POWER

FOR TRANSMUTING ENERGY

WITH LOVE


Be Impeccable of Word
(seasons of silence and truth to be expressed),

Don’t Take It Personal
(while observing the internal CHARGE!),

Don’t Make Assumptions
(they are mostly our projections!),

Do Your Best
(while ready for universal fireworks!)


Reflections Forward

November 30, 2005

Where am I going
with what I feel today
finding pure simplicity
laughter, being, love and play

Wisdom’s foundation built
on wisps of reflections past
absorbed experience
never allowed to wilt

My soul
has been heard
that incessant screaming
now
finally ceased
still raw
yet healing
moment
by moment
with each regression
new levels encountered
it was always
my lessons
cycling
for conclusion
the tool is divine
yet a challenge
to master
wanting
to be there
faster
just where
right here
presence
in now

Tao

honor in flow
faith in it all
no withdraw
from my call


Crumbles

Whelp, that was intense
Wrong words
Wrong tone
Wrong subject

How fast creation
changes
dissolves
and begins
Anew

Suddenly
all the discussion
all the plans
all the harmony
evaporated
reminding me
to look back within

I didn’t know
we were that fragile
without enough
foundation
relation

What does this circumstance
reflect about me
never independent
at least I remained calm
and found compassion
without projection

I honored the four agreements
as I watched you cry
as I absorbed the barbs flung
and chose not to deflect
mostly
silent
as I elected
to simply reflect
on your pain
your sorrow
that I couldn’t
prevent
heal
or soften

The dream has faded
the future now foggy
I know depression
I know sadness
I know empathy
and love

I choose life
I choose growth
I choose to heal
I choose to love

Paths feel divergent
with new adventure
just around the corner

I gave my love
my attention
affection
and soul

Angels!!!!!
support me now
as I shed these tears
listen as I call

I won’t stagger
much
I won’t fall
but face
unknown years
unknown fears

Nobody Knew Me

2006.01.31

No other soul
Experienced me
Fully authentic
As I lay hiding
From myself
Doubting
I could survive
Naked

When my Mother
Declared
My friend
And Lover
Was EVIL
My delusion
Fractured

Within moments
Over days
Illusions crumbled
Imploded
In fragments
Then shards
Of recognition
Crept
Then flooded in

I found myself
In darkness
Exposed and bare
I had strove
With my unique intensity

To be
Validated
Nurtured
Wanted
Touched
And Loved

To obtain these desires
I Compromised
I Manipulated
I Projected
I Overwhelmed

I would then Withdraw
I closed my eyes
Then my ears
Then my touch
Then my mind
And finally my heart

I wove stories
And swam, immersed
In my lies

My truth and core
Thus illuminated
In both peace
And tears of sorrow
I have been alone
I belong alone
I shall be alone
While I meet
Myself, now
Innocent
Again

I release Mom’s rejection
Transmuting her reflection
And transfiguring
Her projection

Thank you, Mother
You missed just one aspect

The EVIL was MINE
I created my experience
To break my own chains
Script complete
Curtain falls
No applause
No audience
Now
Silence

Nobody knew me
Not
Even
Me

Tears
Joy to follow


Unwelcome Back
2006.03.17

The dark visitors have arrived
and tears stream down my checks
are these demons
another component of ‘me’?

I call, sincerely
on angels and help
yet remain feeling
disconnected

Tonight was supposed to be
about sharing, growth
and healing
yet why, again
am I left reeling

Am I paying
for karmic bonds
both instant and past
is it time,
yet again,
to merely fast
to turn off these emotions
suppress yet another round

I have again
found the deep pain
why is it so hard
to love
and transcend my pain

There are keys
I haven’t yet found
there are messages
silent in sound

I don’t know myself
though I look with intensity
I apologize
here and now
for exposing myself
projecting myself
dragging anyone down
to my despair
felt beyond repair

Harr!

this IS the trap
feeling alone
feeling the sorrow
missing the balance
reveling in another tomorrow

This game is ****** up
get over it now
bring forth the light
shine in true essence
become
in presence
it is easy to quit
resign and give up

Hail beyond!!!!!!!!!
Creators transcend
right up
from the muck
Lapis Solarflare Jul 2013
Life is hard
I'm not even sure how I got this far
Do you know? How you made it so far?

Every year, we get another birthday. The people who feel the most obligated will throw a party 'celebrating your birth'.
No one really believes that though, right?
In the end it's just about crazing attention and closeness, and also about receiving gifts and things to try to make you happy...
Make them happy.

'Cause ya'see... we're all born with this VOID inside of us.
That void pulls in everything nearby, pulling us to try out new things.
And like a greedy child the void whispers in our ear... asking us to get closer to some people or further from others...
to like one thing, but dislike the other.
For your happiness, and their's.

But... what IS a void exactly?
A space with nothing in it.
It doesn't hold the capability to hold anything really, like a  black hole.
Whatever goes in... we're not sure where it goes, but it's very greedy in it's own way.

By the time we die, some will feel lucky enough and happy enough with the life they've lived, and die without regrets.
...
I don't think I'll ever be able to say that... just... to feel that way.
It doesn't sit right.
Like giving myself this... holy title, saying "I did it, I've reached a perfection in my life and I'm happy. There's nothing wrong."
"I've fulfilled my purpose."

I find that so vain.
Is that strange?
I just... feel like I'm never going to truly be happy.
Not forever, and not even until death.

But what does sadness even achieve? Or anger? Jealousy?
Why, if that'd only make you less happy?
More attempts in vain to fill the growing void.

In the end, that void is filled with darkness.
The darkness of death
Whether it be from a natural death from old age, or an accident,
or even from successful suicide.

A dark void gets plugged up with more darkness, and there's no light.
We have no way of knowing what's there...
after we die, and all.

And isn't that scary?
Such a dark uncertainty.
So while we age and push ourselves through life.
No matter what, at some point, we'll all think or say...
Life is hard.
This is actually... more of a drabble than a poem. But.... whatever. =w=;;
Dr Strange May 2016
Into the void I go
Nothing but darkness from head to toe
I'm cold...
I hear a whisper in the distance
It tells me to just let it go
So I do...
I see a light
So I smile thinking it's my way out
But I was wrong...
It was just another void colder than the one before
So into the void I go
With no hope
With no soul**
I tried to find myself
in places that didn't exist...
My soul and heart are filled with void
I tried to find the missing piece
But I only ended up losing more
I just wanna find happiness
Within myself...
Always wandering
If there's a way out of this
....Getting high
Trying to fill this void
Realizing there's no way out
...living in hell on earth
Bold is me
Not bold is Falen
Cloudy Heart May 2017
My void is talking to me again
my stupid, miserable old friend
"he doesn't love you"
"he finds you unattractive"
"he will lose interest"
Why?
Why would you tell me such mean things?
It hurts and I am cold now
I cannot sleep
If I do, I have nightmares
I crave reassurance I cannot have
I crave comfort I will never get
It hurts and I am cold now
My smile is so fake
It is so hard not to cry
I'm tired of being hurt
I'm tired of trying to get by
I think my problem is
That I am empty inside
I cannot move
I cannot get by
I haven't written in so long
because Void told me not to
I haven't felt happiness all week
because Void told me I'm not happy
How do you silence such hate?
How do you make Void shut up?
I'm spiraling downward
I want to feel warmth, happiness, love
I want to feel important
I want to matter
but Void says no.
-M.W.
Jayanta Mar 2015
Nothingness always void,
There is something in vacuum!*

What we called as emptiness
Also having something
Full with energy and matter!

Nothingness always void,
There is something in vacuum!


If it gets the model set it will accelerate
Bloom and illuminate!
Nothingness always void,
There is something in vacuum!

In fact by mining the vacuum’s richness
A theory of everything may emerge!

Nothingness always void,
There is something in vacuum!


Space around everything is virtual
When everyone convulse for existence
Invisible firework display
It is dark energy
Take over the dynamics of creation
and we are dreaming!

Nothingness always void,
There is something in vacuity!


Explore your verve in emptiness
Gain oomph to illuminate everything!
Vishal Pant Jul 17
VOID
My blue bicycle breezing over the grass
silence surrounded, colors faded
I saw the void gaining mass
knees went weak, I pled
VOID
What lay beyond the darkness
of the mysterious black sphere
I didn't fathom what I saw, not even a guess
The green grass went sere
VOID
Should I surrender to the sans-khrôma
maybe it was free of war and worries
utopia itself opened to us
or was it an otherworldly bleakness
VOID
I took a step into the vacuity
There wasn't a deity
nor the promised eutopia
VOID
Tried a sci-fi inspired mystery poem.
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Composed on 00:53, 21/09/2016 using Hello Poetry's 'Words' algorithm. We don't assume this means something.
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.

— The End —