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R. Barclay Jan 2010
As a child, everything was free, real,
like early spring air.
Birds were infinite
and could fly to heaven.  
Now air is stiff wood,
and birds only **** on cars.

I took out the dagger to take a stab.
I yawned.
They fawned over the shops on Bond Street.
I yawned
We drank Cristal Brut.
I yawned.
The lights of Times Square dazzled.
I yawned.
The toast crumbs were ******.
I yawned.
The people prayed.
I yawned.

I asked God,
“How do I settle this?”
“Give me your sock,” God said.
So I did.
“Sever all your limbs.”
So I did, one by one.
God stuffed the legs, arms,
and drippings into my sock,
blood-soaking it.
And with that cocktail sock
God smacked me  
and sat silent.
“Now what?”

God yawned.
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.
I'm on a train.

One of those red ones with black trimmed windows you can imagine rolling through the suburbs on the way to NYC. Not a subway car but a classier vintage with proper rows of cushioned seats and a lever to pull if there is an emergency. There are sparse shrubberies on one side of the tracks and the ocean on the other. Young trees and bushes stroll by.  A little wind is pushing off the ocean, massaging the car ever so gently back and forth as we move along. A gentle click-clack is on the tips of our ears.

We got on together. I hadn't known you for very long but the connection was stronger than anything I had ever felt or have since. You practically sat on top of me for the first few miles. Couldn't keep your hands off me,  staring in my eyes like you were searching for something lost but you couldn't remember what. The edges of your lips turned upwards permanently as if you were always at the verge of a laugh. You interlaced my fingers with yours and held on like you would be ripped away if your grip loosened for even a second. Slender fingers holding so tightly that they were becoming red.

You were excited to to be riding with me, about where we were going and all the things we would do when we got there. I would see you peer out of the corner of your eye, then lean over to brush your soft cheek against my budding stubble. Kissing and gently biting my lips insatiably. The suns rays coming in at an angle and lighting up your perfect smile and dimple.

I had to remind you we were in public.

I was lost in your blonde curls and the incense of your neck. I had fallen incredibly hard and so fast that my face hurt from smiling and my heart beat with vibrations I had never known. Not even a whiff of anxiety or neurosis. Some of the best memories of my life, as fleeting as they turned out to be.

I yawned and you put your finger in my mouth. I bent over to tie my shoe and you would poke my **** and laugh with your own reflection in the window, like this was the first and best joke of all time. Maybe it was and maybe it is.

The waiter came and informed us that a thing called "the bar car" existed. We both jumped at the idea. I didn't exactly notice at the time, during our excitement, but that's when the train started going faster and everything out the windows began to blur.

The bar car was a wild ride and we took advantage of our lo'cal. All kinds of fine wine, liquors and illicit substances were available. We tried them all. You were beautiful, your laugh infecting everyone around you, I was charming and held a captive audience.   It was a dark, loud and glorious blur. We were the life of the party and it chugged on till dawn.

We woke up in our seats, disheveled and discombobulated. It was dark out already. Did we sleep through the entire day? The train was slowing down, maybe approaching a station. The party was amazing but we were certainly paying the price for the black out. You moved over to the seat across from me to have some more space and lay down. I saw myself in the reflection. My hat, charm and smile from the night before had vanished. I must have left them in the bar car the night before.
      You had changed, beauty uninterrupted but different somehow. I couldn't put my finger on it. Irritated maybe? I invited you to cuddle and battle the hangover together but you ignored me. Like you couldn't hear me or didn't want to. I decided to let you be.

I got up to use the bathroom and thought I would go look for my scattered belongings. Maybe I could find a scrap of leftover dignity while you rested. I inquired to the conductor who directed me to the bartender in the bar car. He hadn't changed a bit, somehow untouched and unaffected by last nights antics that had effected me so dramatically.  Same black suspenders and white pressed shirt with impeccably slicked hair. I asked him what happened and if I had an open tab. While slowly polishing a rocks glass he looked up and made eye contact for a split second before looking away.
He said:  "Oh the bar car takes its toll. In the end we all end up paying one way or another". I still don't know what he meant by that or if he knew.
      I asked him if he found my hat and he said he would check the camera. We walked in to a small back room, while he was reviewing the tape, over his shoulder I noticed a tragedy.

We were drunk. I was going on to a group of new friends on one side of the bar, they were hanging on my words and I was eagerly explaining whatever nonsense they were drooling over. You were in the corner wearing that red dress I love, with your hair up in a tight bun. A few curls had escaped and brushed your high cheekbones, a thin line of pearls dancing delicately across your perfectly symmetrical collar. You were stunning and inebriated, swaying with each bump and motion of the train. A man wearing my hat put his hand on your side to keep you from swaying over and then he left it there.
I took a sharp breath.

It looked like you put your hand on his hand to move it but then it stayed and you both swayed together. As the air left my lungs and the blood drained out of my face I watched your lips touch the strangers. A small piece of my soul slipped away forever. I couldn't watch any further. When I asked the bartender how long it went on he fidgeted for a moment and uncomfortably muttered "quite some time". I never found my hat or the other part of me that left that day.  

The train slowed. I walked to the back, as far away from you as I could get, in utter disbelief. How could you? I thought to myself.
I mourned the loss of the you as I knew you yesterday, quietly and to myself. A tear  escaped my eye and rolled down my now fully formed stubble as I fell in to a random seat in mild shock. There were a few passengers back there so I had to pull together relatively quickly. After gaining some composure I knew it was time to get off. I knew we could never get back to yesterday morning though I would have said or done anything to do so.

The train had stopped. I went back to my seat and you were sleeping. I took my coat and gathered my things. The conductor looked at me confused as to why I would leave something so magnificent, I assume he had no idea what had transpired.   

I walked to the rear of the car and slid the door open slower than required. I stepped to the stairs and put one foot down on the step and the other on the ground. I stopped, rooted with my hand on the railing, lingering between two very different paths.
     I knew that it was time to get off, I knew this was the sensible thing to do, that I couldn't get past this offense regardless of how I had felt earlier the day before. The whistle screamed from the locomotive. The conductor looked at me and shook his head, I'm not sure if he was trying to tell me to stay or go but a decision had to be made.

The train lurched forward and I watched as the station slip away slowly. I sat in between the cars for a while and watched the ocean and birds. With a heavy heart and shoes I walked back to my seat. You were waiting. Crying. You knew. The bartender had told you. You didn't mean do do it, didn't realize what you were doing and thought it was me. He was wearing my hat and the whole world was blurry and dark.

I believed you. Self anguish mixed with alcohol was dripping from your pores. I knew you didn't mean it and were drunk, but could I ever forgive you or trust you again?

I loved you still.

I caught a glimpse of my reflection, a weaker version of myself looked back. As if an invisible chip in my teeth had developed and my shoulders lowered. The charming, confident man from the bar car the day before had been replaced. Something was off but not enough for anyone else to notice, just enough to know a change has happened.
       The train started to pick up speed again as we distanced ourselves from the station.  I second guessed my decision to stay but I didn't look back.

I found the man with my hat and punished him with a few blows in the dark. He knew he ****** up, apologized and took the beating like a man. I never got the hat back.

The engineer announced that we would be going through a tunnel soon and to turn on our lights and keep our hands in the windows.

It would be dark.  

We stayed away from the bar car for a while but the draw was irresistible. After a few hours we were there again but you never left my side.  Then you did. I was looking for you but you would disappear and not answer me when I called you name. The tunnel went deeper and darker and I didn't know where you were and I suspected you liked it that way. The train began to slow down again as we exited the tunnel.

I finally found you back at our seat, you had moved one row away from me. I asked you to come back, tried to hold your hands but you pulled away with vehemence. When I came back from the bathroom you had moved another row farther.
I knew I was losing you.
I begged you to return but you told me calmly that it was time for you to get off. At some point in the tunnel you had decided that you didn't want to go anymore . Your mind was made. You were going to catch another train at the next station.

When the train stopped I thought for sure you would reconsider but you didn't. Didn't even give it a thought. You just grabbed your coat and hat with one big bag under your arm. You kissed me on the cheek like a french stranger and were off. Going somewhere else on a different train. Just like that.

I rode the rails for quite some time by myself , many people getting on and getting off, passing me by. Every once in a while I would think I saw you at a station or in a **** though the window of another train. I often thought I could smell you but when I breathed deeper it was always gone. A ghost dancing on the edge of my senses.

A young girl in a headband got on the train. She was listening to headphones and dancing to herself as she bobbed along. She sat down in the seat next to me flashing a smile. She had a wedding ring on and I dismissed her immediately.  She didn't move from the seat or stop glancing my way. Eventually she confessed that she wanted to talk. I told her I wasn't interested but she persisted.  I hadn't talked to anyone on the train for quite some time and after some more mild persistence, I gave in.

We had a lot in common. We were both riding alone, desperately wanted attention and were thrilled to receive some.  After a few laughs she slid her hand in to mine and interlaced her fingers. I left it there. It was warm, comforting and wrong. She was married but I had been riding alone so long it felt good to have some company. She stayed and we talked. She was broken and I had a knack for fixing things. After a few hours of dramatic conversation I fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.

When I woke up  the train was flying up the track on the side of a mountain. Trees and rocks were a blur of green and grey. The engineer must be trying to make up for lost time I thought to myself.

The girl was asleep with her head on my lap. I looked down at her hand and the rings were gone. I woke her briefly to ask where they went. She said she didn't need them anymore and had thrown  them out the window.  She could of sold them, I said, but she said she just wanted them gone so she could be mine and fell back to sleep.  All of a sudden I couldn't breath. This train was roaring down the tracks, the once gentle click clack had become a loud hum. Suddenly too loud. This girl in my lap who had just gotten on the train wanted to stay. I considered her for a while as she looked up at me with big blue eyes, shining and wet, like a puppy in the shelter, terrified of rejection and desperate to be adopted.

At the peak of the mountain, just when the train began to even out, you waltzed back in to the car with a champagne flute in one hand and your bag in the other.

I don't know when or where you got back on, must have been a few stations ago when I stopped looking for you. Maybe you were wearing a disguise, who knows what you had been up to while you were gone. I'm not sure how long you were away but it was quite some time. That you had been through something was obvious, a new wrinkle had formed on your brow and you're once confident stride had changed to a cautious stroll. What actually happened out there I don't know.  I never asked and I don't want answers.

You looked at me and smiled. It was good to see that smile, like sun on my face on a brisk day.  You took a step toward me and then I looked down in my lap at the girl at the same time you did. I looked up. You and your smile were gone.

Everything I had begun to feel for this broken, head banded girl in my lap dried up like a puddle in  the dessert.  I quietly and gently nudged her awake and told her I had to use the bathroom. She put her head down on my coat and fell back into what ever trance she had been in, eyelids gently fluttering, eyes searching beneath them for what I would never give her.

I dashed up the isle and threw open the door, almost shattering the glass. The conductor glared at me and rolled his eyes as I barged past to the space between the cars.

There you were. Standing on the stairs with your head out the opening. The wind was blowing your perfectly formed curls around your head like a blonde explosion of familiarity. I yelled your name and you dove in to me. My senses erupted, my mind went numb as the train was nearing another station and I inhaled your essence greedily.

We moved to another car. I abandoned my coat with the married girl and never looked back. I hope she found what she was looking for. I  never could have been the answer she was so desperately seeking but I know I  helped steer her towards it.

You told me you had encountered some other people out there on the rails and they had reminded you of what we had when we first left the station. I never forgot.  

The train started to rock and get going again. We were back in the bar car and starting to brown out. We had to get off of this train right ******* now. In a desperate moment we looked at each other and put our hands, together, on the emergency brake cord. I looked in your eyes with your hand on top of mine. You kissed me while yanking down on the cord. Time slowed, the breaks squealed and everything exploded throwing luggage, people and the entire contents of the bar car in to a nondiscriminatory chaos . We got up off the ground, ran to the end of the car, dove off the side in to a soft patch of grass and rolled down a small incline. We watched as the conductor sifted through  the mess and interrogated the passengers, trying to ferret out the party responsible for pulling the brake. He spotted us off the side of the tracks and shook his fist while shouting every conceivable obscenity combination.

We laughed, held each other in the grass and kissed deeply.

We watched the train pick up speed and disappear in to the hills as relief spread over me.

You interlaced your fingers in to mine and we both looked out to where the tracks disappeared into the horizon, wondering how far of a walk it was to the next station.
'Twas midnight in the schoolroom
And every desk was shut
When suddenly from the alphabet
Was heard a loud "Tut-Tut!"

Said A to B, "I don't like C;
His manners are a lack.
For all I ever see of C
Is a semi-circular back!"

"I disagree," said D to B,
"I've never found C so.
From where I stand he seems to be
An uncompleted O."

C was vexed, "I'm much perplexed,
You criticise my shape.
I'm made like that, to help spell Cat
And Cow and Cool and Cape."

"He's right" said E; said F, "Whoopee!"
Said G, "'Ip, 'Ip, 'ooray!"
"You're dropping me," roared H to G.
"Don't do it please I pray."

"Out of my way," LL said to K.
"I'll make poor I look ILL."
To stop this stunt J stood in front,
And presto! ILL was JILL.

"U know," said V, "that W
Is twice the age of me.
For as a Roman V is five
I'm half as young as he."

X and Y yawned sleepily,
"Look at the time!" they said.
"Let's all get off to beddy byes."
They did, then "Z-z-z."
May 9, 2012, 7:01:02 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




The rivers of winter ice had melted with spring sunshine's awakening and the noises of the forest announced the awakening of the fauna. a young fox stretched her long legs and fluffed up her tail as she yawned awake. this winter had been a lonely one for her, as she did not have a mate. throughout the winter she had felt the tingling feelings of her ****** urges creep between her legs and she moaned slightly as she felt them creeping there again.  she stepped slowly out of her den and took a cool breath of the spring air, bringing her the scents of the amorous flowers and the frolicking prey. she watched two birds in courting flight above har and she sighed at her loneliness. the fox hung her head low and walked softly forward. at some point she closed her eyes and yet kept walking, a few tears of longing falling from her eyes. the tingling urges grew stronger and she fought to keep them at bay. she kept walking a bit, aimlessly, though. she cried out as she stumbled over a heavy rock.
She tumbled into the nearby brook and felt a sharp stone cut her right hind leg. she clambered on to the bank, shivering and soaking wet with the chilled water. she attempted to stand and felt a fiery sting to her leg. she looked and saw a shallow **** marring her orange fur. "ow... ow..." she whimpered as she walked on. as the sun peaked over her, she felt her stomach's pleading for sustenance and she groaned. she could faintly smell a rabbit nearby and crouched low, going over how to stalk her prey. she sniffed for it and it seemed to be close, on the other side of a group of trees. she flanked around as best she could and spotted the furball. she licked her lips hungrily and pounced. the rabbit was dead in an instant as she tore its throat out. she chomped at it once and then felt a feeling of dread. she gulped once and heard a wolf growl nearby. i'm wounded... i can't avoid it now.
.
she thought. she heard the wolf running toward her and was bowled over by it. when she stopped
Rolling she was on her back. looking up at the wolf, a young grey, white chested wolf, at the beginning of his manhood. he snarled at his prey as she whimpered beneath him. then to her surprise, he sniffed at her and tilted his head, the tenseness of the hunt gone from his yellow eyes. the wolf took a step back and looked her up and down, stopping as he saw something. he spoke softly, almost caringly, "you are female... and in heat... i apologize for interrupting your meal."
the fox looked at him curiously, "You...?"
he glanced at her and finished her thought. "...do not harm females. it is a code of honor i choose to live by."
she sniffed at him, "you have no mate, no lover."
his breath caught. "nor do you, young fox, lest he'd be satiating your body's desires, and his as well."
she felt the tingling between her legs again and attempted to say something, but was stopped. the wolf said, "nor do i wish to take advantage of females either."
The fox replied suggestively, "you spared my life, surely theres some way i could repay you, handsome wolf."
the wolf looked at her, eyes dilated and his breathing rough. he shook his head, "no.. i couldnt. its not my place."
she could feel the urges burning inside her, she wanted to release them, she wanted this wolf to release her. "chivalrous, i see. then, dear wolf, alleviate my longing, my pain, and i shall alleviate your own."
the wolf took a step closer, his own longing feeding his fire. "beautiful fox... your offer intigues me... you- you are wounded..." she looked and saw her leg still bleeding. "let me aide you, dear fox." he took a few steps and lay beside her, licking her wound. with each lick, the pain receded and was replaced by a wave of pleasant ache. the bleeding stopped and he stopped licking, for the moment. he sniffed her, his cold nose brushing the swollen flesh, and as it quivered between her legs, he knew she was ready for him. "my den is close by, young fox."
She nuzzled against his chest and felt his heart pounding. she took his paw and pressed it against her own chest, letting him feel her heart. "you know we cant wait that long, here.. in this group of trees." she gestured to the spot a few feet away. the wolf quickly walked into the tangle of trees, followed by the fox. the wolf had hardly stepped inside the treeline before the fox began nudging at the furry bulge between his legs. "you're not quite ready yet, dear wolf." the wolf whimpered a few times as she licked at it, taking his smooth member in her mouth and enticing it with her tongue. once it was throbbing in its full glory, she licked one last time and said, "now you're ready." and raised herself in preparation for him. he got into position on top of her and with one paw she guided him inside her. she gasped as he stretched her a little. she glanced over her shoulder and
realized that he wasnt that much bigger than her. he looked nervous and she realized something,
This is his first time... mine too... lets make this memorable.. she experimented with different positions, and after finding her favorite, set about making this wolf howl.
the wolf ****** slowly at first, drawing out the ecstasy. only when she began to whimper amorously did he begin to ****** harder, faster. she joined him, as he pulled back, she leaned forward, leaving only his tip inside her. when he ******, she leaned back on him with a wet squish. the wolf's tongue lolled and his eyes were glazed over in sweet agony. he howled softly at first, and as the ****** came, he howled again, echoing with the fox's cries as the ecstasy reached its ****** and rocked their bodies. the wolf staggered slightly at the passionate waves of ******. he pulled out his member and looked at his mate. "come with me to my den, so we can sleep, dear fox." the fox looked at him and nodded, grateful.
* * *
The fox and the wolf walked quietly to his den, set inside a secluded cluster of trees. the den itself was set in the ground, like a cavern, just large enough for the two of them to lie down comfortably. "its going to get cold tonight," said the wolf. "we should... share body heat." he had a faint twinkle in his eyes as he glanced nervously at her. when she tilted her head to him, the wolf looked down at his paws. the fox licked his muzzle and laid down next to him. the wolf's grey fur was thick, and she was  already beginning to feel warmer. she felt the wolf's heart beat a little faster, and he curled around her. his furry tail wrapped around the fox and she purred slightly as she nuzzled him and rested her head on his foreleg. for a moment they lay there, eyes closed, listening to the others' breathing, when he whispered to her, "i never did catch your name, young fox."
she grinned at him, "my name's Sasha, the only fox in this forest. and what be your name, dear wolf?"
The wolf opened one eye slightly to look at her, "my name is Ronan, i'm the last wolf of my pack."
she held him in her gaze a few beats and replied, "i haven't seen many wolves 'round these parts, where do you come from, Ronan?"
the grey sighed and said, "Farther north, over the mountains and into ice country. the food became scarce and the pack withered away, all but me. i treveled over the hills and mountains, through forests and grassland, and i kept going, finally stopping here. what of you? you said yourself you were the only fox in this forest."
Sasha swished her tail back and forth for a moment before, "i was separated from my family during a blizzard. i- i couldn't see anything, and i couldn't hear anything over the wind. i wandered aimlessly in the whiteout, tripping and stumbling until i bumped into something big. then again, i was just a kit and everything was big to me, but i looked up and saw a pair of eyes looking at me. i was so scared the snow beneath me turned yellow.
The monster bent over and picked me up by the scruff of my neck and carried me for a long time. i was so exhausted i fell asleep in its grip. when i woke up i was in a chilly den. i looked and realized that the monster had been a snow-white she-wolf. she sat at the enterance to the den and kept looking outside, waiting for something. when the snowstorm cleared out, she turned to me and said, 'little fox. have you a family?' i shook my head as i realized they were gone. from then on, the wolf raised me and taught me how to survive. then one day a few years ago... she was gone..."
Ronan was watching the fox as she told the story. "i'm sorry."
"don't be, ronan. ever since she left ive been alone. no fox to breed me, no one for a lover. until you came along..."
ronan licked her muzzle, "no need for loneliness now." sasha smiled and was soon asleep, warmed by her lover.
*
The sun rose and shone brightly into the entrance of the den the next morning, waking sasha from her slumber. she yawned and felt around for the grey. she felt nothing. she stood up and looked around the empty den. did he... leave me? a single tear fell when she imagined the possibility. "no.... please no..." she whimpered. her breath caught as she heard something rustling the grass outside the den. sasha shrank back and hid behind her tail, peeking over it slightly. she could hear her heartbeat in her ears and feel it rising in her throat as the rustling got closer and closer. she squeaked, "who... who's there?"
she flinched as a dark mass blocked the sunlight, its shadow stretching across the wall. the mass stepped slowly forward and sasha shut her eyes tight, fearing what might come next. "sasha?" it was ronan. "what's the matter?"
she gasped at him before rushing forward and burying her muzzle in his chest fur. "i thought you'd left me..."
with a paw, ronan stroked the fur on her back. "i'm a wolf, ***. loyalty and chivalry are the only things i know." she buried herself deeper in his fur and scolded herself for not realizing that. "i caught breakfast, i figured you'd be hungry after i interrupted your meal yesterday." she looked behind him and saw a small pile of ****** rabbits. sasha licked her lips hungrily. "its all yours, dear fox." she looked gratefully at Ronan before pouncing on the pile of carcasses, tearing into one and bloodying her maw. ronan watched her with pleasant  affection. the den was filled with the sounds of flesh being rendered from bone and the snapping of Sasha's teeth. she feasted upon the **** until she could eat no more, her belly now filled. two rabbits still lay uneaten, and ronan devoured them slowly, savoring the ****** meat as it slipped down his gullet. sasha lay nuzzled up against him while he ate, toying at his tail and
otherwise teasing at him. he gave her a look of amusement and somehow got into a game of tag with her.
He chased her around the den and she dodged his paw as he reached for her. when he did finally touch her, sasha dove between his legs and poked his furry belly. leaving him with a dumbfounded expression on his face. he then chased sasha outside and they continued their game within the cluster of trees around them. sasha laughed, a liquid smooth, crystal clear laugh. ronan watched her jump around him, the sun's rays catching her fine orange fur in such a way that it seemed almost like fire. he watched her a moment and loosed a soft howl. she's so beautiful... he thought.
* *
Ugo Jun 2013
In the burning right hand of the bald city,
denizens frame calories and count instagram blessings
while beacons of hope refund inspiration in USADA *** cups.

Abyssinian maids wail over yesterday lovers
who wore Ginsberg’s skirt with less  pizzazz
and watched bedbugs **** blood off knee caps
wondering, what if Jesus Christ drove a Nissan?

As bullets of paragraphs fall Vietnamese pesticides on my head,
The dusts off my breath sing homilies
With letters of broken leather whiskey,
For even in the most dishonest jest,
clandestine toothbrushes are overrated
and every first false lie is the only truth.
Sounding like some wild soundtrack
to a Spaghetti Western starring
none other than The Clintster,
it were rolling in good vibes
with the peeps taking selfies
with the band for a backdrop.

Two horns poundin' out
a happening grove,
with a bass player all of
four foot nothin'.
with a cool round sound.

It was cookin' alright,
hours after midnight,
a Halifax sextet hinting
of Tom Waits and the The Bob man.

I yawned, I looked around,
all those sweet tarts in their skin tights.
I yawned again, shook my head
as the band was covering Ray Charles...
I yawned again and again
and realized I am too old to party hardy.

But still... 'I can hack it'.. the last thing I said
as I headed out the door, homeward bound
In a January breeze that had a hint of Spring.

end © 2014
The band was too good. I just got home and it's 3:00 am
Terry O'Leary Feb 2014
THE MEETING

Alone one night neath lantern light, I trudged a weary mile.
Forlorn, I went with shoulders bent (the storms around me howled)
until I met a Silhouette behind a sultry smile –
She gazed with eyes that mesmerize (Her body caped and cowled)
and stayed my way with question fey, ‘Why don’t you while awhile?’

Though timorous (with slow address and gestures pantomimed)
Her voice was gracing echoes chasing waves in evening’s tide.
The churchyard groaned, an ***** moaned, the bells of midnight chimed
while wanton winds awoke and dinned, and mistrals multiplied.
The Persian moon, like stray balloon, arose and blithely climbed.

The Silhouette (a pale brunette) arched eyebrows meant to please,
and down the lanes, on windowpanes, the shadows danced and sighed.
A meadowlark within the dark, somewhere behind the breeze,
ennobled Her with wisps of myrrh while deigning to confide
to nightingales veiled whispered tales of human vanities.

She doffed her cloak before She spoke with sighs of sorrow sung
(like mandolins, as night begins, when mourning day’s demise)
and spun Her tale of grim travail and tears She'd shed when young.
As jagged volts of thunderbolts lit up the dismal skies,
a velvet fog embraced a bog in coils of curling tongues.

Through summer vales and winter gales Her secret thoughts were voiced.
Midst storms so cruel (neath lightning’s jewel that glistered on the ridge)
She reminisced, She touched... we kissed... Her lips were wet and moist...
A lighthouse dimmed, while moonbeams skimmed across a distant bridge
to avenues where residues of shallow shades rejoiced.

                        HER TRAGIC TALE

“Midst sweet perfume of youthful bloom, the lonely spirit braves
and often cries and sometimes dies in quest of her amour.”

While starry-eyed, a ship I spied, a’ sail upon the waves –
the galleon docked, the gannets flocked, the Captain swept ashore
where, debonair with gypsy flair, he led his salty knaves.

In passing by, he caught my eye - I tried to hide a blush,
but ambiance of innocence left fervour’s flames revealed.
His gaze (defined by eyes that shined) beheld my cheek a’ flush.
I bowed my head while caution fled, I felt my fate was sealed
- a bird in spring with fledgling wing - he’d snared a  falling thrush.

He said ‘Hello’ - I answered ‘No’ and yet before he’d gone
said I, ‘I’ll wait at Heaven’s Gate not far beyond the Pale’.
At dusk he came neath moon aflame, and left before the dawn
just humming tunes between the dunes that lined the sandy trail
beside a pond where morning yawned, where swam an ebon swan.

We met again, and once again, and once again, again
entangled in a love called sin, in whirls of make-believe.
While in my arms, with voice that charms, said he ‘I must explain -
the tide awaits in distant straits and I must take my leave’.
Then tempests stormed as passions swarmed through ardor’s hurricane.

‘Forsake your home and we may roam’ he smiled as if to tease
and still naive, said I ‘I’ll leave, in silver buckled shoes’.
He took the helm in search of realms, and quickly quit the quays -
with tearful eyes, I bade goodbyes to fare-thee-well adieus
and sailed above a wave of love across the seven seas.

We swept one morn around Cape Thorne while bound for Bullion Bay.
With naught to reck, I strolled on deck, a baby at my breast,
while flurries blew and seagulls flew within the ocean’s spray.
Our ship soon moored, we went ashore and off to Fortune’s Quest -
with gold doubloons which shone like moons, he gambled through the day.

‘The deuce is wild’ he thinly smiled; another card was drawn -
he’d staked and raised with eyes half glazed, was dealt a dismal three.
With betting tight throughout the night, the final ace long gone,
meant all was lost, at what a cost; alas, the prize was me.
To my dismay he slunk away and left me doomed at dawn.

A buccaneer with ring in ear sneered ‘now, my dear, you’re mine’.
He held my wrists to thwart my fists and then... my honor stained.
On sullied swash, the sky awash with bitter tears of brine,
I broke his clutch with nothing much of me that still remained:
a residue when he was through, left clinging to a vine.

In morning dew, the good folk knew, and spurned me in my plight.
The preacher man pronounced a ban and wouldn’t condescend,
ignored my pleas on bended knees and prayers by candlelight.
While cast aside, my baby died... my world was at an end.
Until this day, I’ve made my way beneath the shades of night.


                        AT HEAVEN’S GATES

To set Her free from destiny was far from my design,
but, though unplanned, I touched Her hand to give Her peace of mind.
She told me then, and then again, that providence Divine
had cast a curse, and even worse: despised by all mankind,
She walked alone, unseen, unknown, Her soul incarnadine.

To break this spell of living hell, of loneliness enshrined,
and end Her days within the haze, a sole redeeming deed
would give reprieve and maybe leave our destinies entwined -
Her final quest be put to rest if only I agreed,
but no surcease nor perfect peace nor hope if I declined.

The shadows, shawled in silence, crawled, the night Her fate was sealed
as vespers tolled across the wold beneath the muted fog.
The heavens cracked and sorrow slacked as chimes of children pealed
while in the hills (where midnight chills) there wailed a daemon dog -
with no delay I lead the way, the path to Potter’s Field.

Her weathered face was lined with Grace, Her eyes shone emerald green.
With me as guide She stepped inside to grieve and mourn Her loss,
and thereupon, though pale and wan, the night took on a sheen.
With weary eyes as Her disguise, She placed a wooden cross
upon a mound (unhallowed ground) and whispered ‘Sibylline...’.

A falling star flared in the far and burst, a bolide flame -
beneath the light, the Final Rite no longer hid undone.
And kneeling there in silent prayer, we seemed to share the shame
but could atone if left alone, forevermore as one.
Before we both could breathe an oath, I asked Her once Her name.

Through lips, pale red, She simply said ‘Some called me Abigail’,
and neath a birch where white doves perch, I took Her for my bride,
beheld Her smile a little while, but all to no avail...
Her cloak and cape, and shrivelled shape lie empty at my side...
for now She waits at Heaven’s Gates, not far beyond the Pale.
"Patience," flapped the Butterfly's wings
"Patience," said Thomas Edison
"Patience," said Abraham Lincoln
"Patience," said the Diamond's sparkle
"Patience," said the Pearl's smoothness
"Patience," said Columbus' sailors
"Patience," the monks prayed
"Patience," the Mountains yawned
"Patience," Maturity recollected
"Patience," Healing nodded
"Patience," Insight demanded!
"Patience," winked the stars of the Milky Way
Paul Rousseau May 2012
After I yawned
And my face relocked into its fixed position
And my eyes reglued into their sockets
I swallowed in the others expressions
Looking up, brain swollen
The floor materialized tiredness
Brandishing my finger, drawing in the air like a wand
Song one
This is a song about tarzanic love
That subsisted some years ago,
As a love duel between an English girl and an African ogre,
There was an English girl hailing along the banks of river Thames
She had stubbornly refused all offers for marriage,
From all the local English boys, both rich and poor
tall and short, weak or strong, ugly and comely in the eye,
the girl had refused and sternly refused the treats for love,
She was disciplined to her callous pursuit of her dream
to marry a mysterious,fantastic,lively,original and extra-ordinary man,
That no other woman in history of human marriage ever married,
She came from London, near the banks of river Thames,
Her name was Victoria Goodhamlet Lovehill, daughter of a peasant,
She came from a humble English family, which hustled often
For food, clothing, and other calls that make one an ordinary British,
She grew up without a local boy friend, anywhere in the English world,
She is the first English girl to knock the age of forty five while a ******,
She never got deflowered in her teens as other English girls usually do
She preserved her purse with maximal carefulness in her wait for a black man,
Her father, of course a peasant, his trade was human barber and horse shearer,
Often asked her what she wants in life before her marriage, which man she really wanted,
Her specification was an open eyesore to her father; no blinkers could stave the father’s pale
For she wanted a black tall man, strong and ruggedly dark in the skin, must own a kingdom,
Fables taken to her from Africa were that such an African man was only one but none else,
His glorious name was Akhatembete kho bwibo khakhalikha no bwoya,
When the English girl heard the chimerical name of her potential husband,
She felt a super bliss in her spine; she yearned for the day of her rendezvous,
She crashed into desperate burning for true English love
With a man with a wonderful name like Akhatembete kho bwibo khakhalikha no bwoya.


Song two

Rumours of this English despair and dilemma for love reached Africa, in the wrong ears,
Not the human ears, but unfortunately the ears of the ogres, seasoned in the evil art,
It was received and treated as classified information among the African ogress,
They prevented this news to leak to African humans at all at all
Lest humans enjoy their human status and enjoy most
The love in the offing from the English girl,
They thus swiftly plotted and ployed
To lure and win the ******
From royal land;
England.




Song three

Firstly, the African ogres recruited one of their own
The most handsome middle aged male ogre, more handsome than all in humanity,
And of course African ogres are beautiful and handsome than African humans, no match,
The ogres are more gifted in stature, physique, eugenics and general overtures
They always outplay African humans on matters of intelligence, they are shrewder,
Ogres are aggressive and swashbuckling in manners; fear is none of their domain
Craft and slyness is their breakfast, super is the result; success, whether pyrrhic or Byronic,
Is their sweetest dish, they then schemed to get the English girl at whatever cost,
They made a move to name one of their fellow ogres the name of dream man;
Akhatembete khobwibo khakhalikha no bwoya,
Which an English girl wanted,
By viciously naming one of their handsome middle-aged man this name.

Song four

Then they set off 0n foot, from Congo moving to the north towards Europe abode England,
Where the beautiful girl of the times, Victoria Goodhamlet Lovehill hail,
They were three of them, walking funnily in cyclopic steps of African ogres,
Keeping themselves humorously high by feigning how they will dupe the girl,
How they will slyly decoy the English village pumpkin of the girl in to their trap,
And effortlessly make her walk on foot from England to Africa, in pursuit of love
On this muse and sweet wistfulness they broke out into loud gewgaws of laughter,
In such emotional bliss they now jump up wildly forgetting about their tails
Which they initially stuffed inside white long trousers, tails now wag and flag crazily,
Feats of such wild emotions gave the ogres superhuman synergy to walk cyclopically,
A couple of their strides made them to cross Uganda, Kenya, Somali, Ethiopia and Egypt
Just but in few days, as sometimes they ran in violent stampedes
Singing in a cryptic language the funny ogres songs;

Dada wu ndolelee!
Dada wu ndolelee!
Kuyuni kwa mnja
Sa kwingile khundilila !

Ehe kuyuni Mulie!
Ehe kuyuni mulie!
Omukhana oyo
Kaloba khuja lilia !
They then laughed loudly, farted cacophonously and jumped wildly, as if possessed,
They used happiness and raucous joy as a strategy to walk miles and miles
Which you cover when moving on foot from Congo to England,
They finally crossed Morocco and walked into Europe,
They by-passed Italy and Spain walking piecemeal
into England, native land of the beautiful girl.

Song  five

When the three ogres reached England, they were all surprised
Every woman and man was white; people of England walked slowly and gently
They made minimum noise, no shouting publicly on the street,
a stark contrast to human behaviour and ogre culture in Africa, very rambunctious,
Before they acclimatized to disorderly life in England, an over-sighted upset befell them
Piling and piling menace of pressure to ****,
Gripped all the three ogre brothers the same time,
None of them had knowledge of municipal utilities,
They all wanted to micturated openly
Had it not been beautiful English girls
Ceaselessly thronging the streets.



Song six

They persevered and moved on in expectation of coming to the end,
Out-skirt of the strange English town so that they can get a woodlot,
From where they could hide behind to do open defecation
All was in vain; they never came to any end of the English town,
Neither did they come by a tumbled-down house
No cul de sac was in sight, only endless highway,
Sandwiched between tall skyscraping buildings,
One of the ogres came up with an idea, to drip the ****
Drop by drop in their *******, as they walk to their destiny,
They all laughed but not loudly, in controlled giggles
And executed the idea minus haste.

Song seven

They finally came down to the banks of river Thames,
Identified the home of Victoria Goodhamlet Lovehill
The home had neither main gate nor metallic doors,
They entered the home walking in humble majesty,
Typical of racketeering ogre, in a swindling act,
The home was silent, no one in sight to talk to
The ogres nudged one another, repressing the mirth,
Hunchbacked English lass surfaced, suddenly materialized
Looking with a sparkle in the eye, talking pristine English,
Like that one written by Geoffrey Chaucer, her words were as piffling
As speech of a mad woman at the fish market, ogres looked at her in askance.

Song eight

An ogre with name Akhatembete khobwibo khakhalikha nobwoya opened to talk,
Asked the girl where could be the latrine pits, for micturation only,
The hunchbacked lass gave them a direction to the toilets inside the house,
She did it in a full dint of English elegance and gentility,
But all the ogres were discombobulated to their peak
about the English latrine pit inside the house,
they all went into the toilet at the same time,
to the chagrin of the hunchbacked lass
she had never seen such in England
she struggled a lot
to repress her mirth
as the English
never get amused
at folly.




Song nine

It is a tradition among the ogres to ****,
Whenever they are ******* in the African bush,
But now the ogres are in a fix, a beautiful fix of their life
If at all they ****, the flatulent cacophony will be heard outside
By the curious eavesdroppers under the eaves of the house,
They murmured among themselves to tighten their **** muscles
So that they can micturated without usual African accomplice; the tweeee!
All succeeded to manage , other than Akhatembete khobwibo khakhalikha nobwoya,
Who urinated but with a low tziiiiiiii sound from his ***, they didn’t laugh
Ogres walked out of privities relaxed like a catholic faithful swallowing a sacrament,
The hunchback girl ushered them to where they were to sit, in the common room
They all sat with air of calm on their face, Akhatembete Khobwibo khakhalikha nobwoya,
led the conversation, by announcing to the girl that he is Victoria’s visitor from Africa,
To which the girl responded with caution that Victoria is at the barbershop,
Giving hand to her father in shearing the horses, and thus she is busy,
No one is allowed to meet her, at that particular hour of the day
But he pleaded to the hunchback girl only to pass tidings to Victoria,
That Akhatembete Khobwibo khakhalikha nobwoya from Africa
Has arrived and he is yearning to meet her today and now,
The girl went bananas on hearing the name
The hunch on her back visibly shook,
Is like she had heard the name often,
She then became prudent in her senses,
And asked the visitor not to make anything—
Near a cat’s paw out of her person,
She implored the visitor to confirm
if at all he was what he was saying
to which he confirmed in affirmation,
then she went out swiftly
like a tail of the snake,
to pass tidings
to her sister
Victoria.


Song ten
She went out shouting her sister’s name,
A rare case to happen in England,
One to make noise in the broad day light,
With no permission from the local leadership,
She called and ululated Victoria’ name for Victoria to hear
From wherever she was, of which she heard and responded;
What is the matter my dear little sister? What ails you?
Akhatembete Khobwibo khakhalikha nobwoya is around!
She responded back in voice disturbed by emotional uproar,
What! My sister why do you cheat me in such a day time?
Am not cheating you my sister, he is around sited in our father’s house,
Is he? Have you given him a drink, a sweet European brandy?
My sister I have not, I feared that I may mess up your visitors
With my hunched shoulders, I feared sister forbid,
Ok, I am coming, running there, tell him to be patient,
Let me tell him sister just right now,
And make sure you come before his patience is stretched.





Song eleven

Victoria Goodhamlet Lovehill almost went berserk
On getting this good tidings about the watershed presence,
Of the long awaited suitor, her face exploded into vivacity,
Her heart palpitating on imagination of finally getting the husband,
She went out of the barber shop running and ululating,
Leaving her father behind, confounded and agape,
She came running towards her father’s main house
Where the suitor is sited, with the chaperons,
She came kicking her father’s animals to death,
Harvesting each and every fruit, for the suitor,
She did marvel before she reached where the suitor was;
Harvested ten bananas, mangoes and avocadoes,
Plums, pepper, watermelons, lemons and oranges,
She kicked dead five chicken, five goats, rams,
Swine, rabbits, rats, pigeons and hornbills,
When she reached the house, she inquired to know,
Who among them could be the one; Akhatembete Khobwibo
Khakhalikha no bwoya, But her English vocals were not guttural enough,
She instead asked, who among you is a key tempter go weevil car no lawyer?
The decoy ogre promptly responded; here I am the queen of my heart. He stood up,
Victoria took the ogre into her arms, whining; babie! Babie, babie, come!
Victoria carried the ogre swiftly in her arms, to her tidy bed room,
She placed the ogre on her bed, kissed one another at a rate of hundred,
Or more kisses per a minute, the kissing sent both of them crazy, but spiritual craft,
That gave the ogre a boon to maintain some sobriety, but libido of virginity held Victoria
In boonless state of ****** feat, defenseless and impaired in judgment
It extremely beclouded her judgment; she removed and pulled of their clothes,
Libidinous feat blurring her sight from seeing the scarlet tail projecting
From between the buttocks of the ogre, vestige of *******,
She forcefully took the ogre into her arms, putting the ogre between her legs,
The ogre’s uncircumcised ***** effectively penetrated Victoria’s ****** purse,
The ogre broke virginity of Victoria, making her to feel maximum warmth of pleasure
As it released its germinal seed into her body, ecstasy gripped her until she fainted,
The ogre erected more on its first *******; its ***** became more stiff and sharp,
It never pulled out its ***** from the purse of Victoria, instead it introduced further
Deeper and deeper into Victoria’s ******, reaching the ****** depth inside her with gusto,
Victoria screamed, wailed, farted, scratched, threw her neck, kissed crazily and ******,
On the rhythms of the ogre’s waist gyrations, it was maximum pleasure to Victoria,
She reached her second ****** before the ogre; it took further one hour before releasing,
Victoria was beaten; she thought she was not in England in her father’s house
She thought she was in Timbuktu riding on a mosquito to Eldorado,
Where she could not be found by her father whatsoever,
The ogre pulled Victoria up, helped her to dress up,
She begged that they go back to the common room,
Lest her father finds them here, he would quarrel,
They went back to the common room,
Found her father talking to other two ogres,
She shouted to her father before anyone else,
That ‘father I have been showing him around our house,’
‘He has fallen in love with our house; he is passionate about it,’
Akhatembete khobwibo khakhalikha nobwoya was shy,
He greeted the father and resumed his chair, with wryly dignity.


Song twelve
An impromptu festival took place,
Fully funded by the father of Victoria,
There was meat of all type from pork to chicken,
Greens were also there in plenty, pepper and watermelons,
Victoria’s mother remembered to prepare tripe of a goat
For the key visitant who was the suitor; Akhatembete,
Food was laid before the ogres to enjoy themselves,
As all others went to the other house for a brainstorming session,
But the hunched backed girl hid herself behind the door,
To admire the food which visitors were devouring,
As she also spied on the table manners of the visitors, for stories to be shared,
Perhaps between herself and her mother, when visitors are gone,
Some sub-human manners unfolded to her as she spied,
One of the ogres swallowed a spoon and a table fork,
And Akhatembete khobwibo khakhalikha nobwoya,
Uncontrollably unstuffed his scarlet tail from the trouser,
The chill crawled up the spine of hunchbacked girl,
She almost shouted from her hideout, but she restrained herself,
She swore to herself to tell her father that the visitors are not humans
They are superhuman, Tarzans or mermaids or the werewolves,
The ogre who swallowed the spoon remorsefully tried to puke it back,
Lest the hosts discover the missing spoon and cause brouhaha,
It was difficult to puke out the spoon; it had already flowed into the stomach,
Victoria, her father, her mother and her friend Anastasia,
Anastasia; another English girl from the neighborhood,
Whom Victoria had fished, to work for her as a best maid, as a chaperon,
Went back to the house where the ogres had already finished eating,
They found ogres sitting idle squirming and flitting in their chairs
As if no food had ever been presented to them in a short while ago,
One ogre even shamelessly yawned, blinking his eyes like a snake,
They all forgot to say thanks for the food, no thanks for lunch,
But instead Akhatembete announced on behalf of other ogres,
That they should be allowed to go as they are late for something,
A behaviour so sub-human, given they were suitors to an English family,
Victoria’s father was uneasy, was irritated but he had no otherwise,
For he was desperate to have her daughter Victoria get married,
He had nothing to say but only to ask his daughter, Victoria,
If she was going right-away with her suitor or not,
To which she violently answered yes I am going with him,
Victoria’s mother kept mum, she only shot miserable glances
From one corner of the house to another, to the ogres also,
She totally said nothing, as Victoria was predictably violent
To any gainsayer in relation to her occasion of the moment,
Victoria’s father wished them all well in their life,
And permitted Victoria to go and have good life,
With Akhatembete, her suitor she had yearned for with equanimity,
Victoria was so confused with joy; her day of marriage is beholden,
She hurriedly packed up as if being chased by a monster,
II. TO DEMETER (495 lines)

(ll. 1-3) I begin to sing of rich-haired Demeter, awful goddess
-- of her and her trim-ankled daughter whom Aidoneus rapt away,
given to him by all-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer.

(ll. 4-18) Apart from Demeter, lady of the golden sword and
glorious fruits, she was playing with the deep-bosomed daughters
of Oceanus and gathering flowers over a soft meadow, roses and
crocuses and beautiful violets, irises also and hyacinths and the
narcissus, which Earth made to grow at the will of Zeus and to
please the Host of Many, to be a snare for the bloom-like girl --
a marvellous, radiant flower.  It was a thing of awe whether for
deathless gods or mortal men to see: from its root grew a hundred
blooms and is smelled most sweetly, so that all wide heaven above
and the whole earth and the sea's salt swell laughed for joy.
And the girl was amazed and reached out with both hands to take
the lovely toy; but the wide-pathed earth yawned there in the
plain of Nysa, and the lord, Host of Many, with his immortal
horses sprang out upon her -- the Son of Cronos, He who has many
names (5).

(ll. 19-32) He caught her up reluctant on his golden car and bare
her away lamenting.  Then she cried out shrilly with her voice,
calling upon her father, the Son of Cronos, who is most high and
excellent.  But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal
men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit:
only tender-hearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of
Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave, and the lord Helios,
Hyperion's bright son, as she cried to her father, the Son of
Cronos.  But he was sitting aloof, apart from the gods, in his
temple where many pray, and receiving sweet offerings from mortal
men.  So he, that Son of Cronos, of many names, who is Ruler of
Many and Host of Many, was bearing her away by leave of Zeus on
his immortal chariot -- his own brother's child and all
unwilling.

(ll. 33-39) And so long as she, the goddess, yet beheld earth and
starry heaven and the strong-flowing sea where fishes shoal, and
the rays of the sun, and still hoped to see her dear mother and
the tribes of the eternal gods, so long hope calmed her great
heart for all her trouble....
((LACUNA))
....and the heights of the mountains and the depths of the sea
rang with her immortal voice: and her queenly mother heard her.

(ll. 40-53) Bitter pain seized her heart, and she rent the
covering upon her divine hair with her dear hands: her dark cloak
she cast down from both her shoulders and sped, like a wild-bird,
over the firm land and yielding sea, seeking her child.  But no
one would tell her the truth, neither god nor mortal men; and of
the birds of omen none came with true news for her.  Then for
nine days queenly Deo wandered over the earth with flaming
torches in her hands, so grieved that she never tasted ambrosia
and the sweet draught of nectar, nor sprinkled her body with
water.  But when the tenth enlightening dawn had come, Hecate,
with a torch in her hands, met her, and spoke to her and told her
news:

(ll. 54-58) 'Queenly Demeter, bringer of seasons and giver of
good gifts, what god of heaven or what mortal man has rapt away
Persephone and pierced with sorrow your dear heart?  For I heard
her voice, yet saw not with my eyes who it was.  But I tell you
truly and shortly all I know.'

(ll. 59-73) So, then, said Hecate.  And the daughter of rich-
haired Rhea answered her not, but sped swiftly with her, holding
flaming torches in her hands.  So they came to Helios, who is
watchman of both gods and men, and stood in front of his horses:
and the bright goddess enquired of him: 'Helios, do you at least
regard me, goddess as I am, if ever by word or deed of mine I
have cheered your heart and spirit.  Through the fruitless air I
heard the thrilling cry of my daughter whom I bare, sweet scion
of my body and lovely in form, as of one seized violently; though
with my eyes I saw nothing.  But you -- for with your beams you
look down from the bright upper air Over all the earth and sea --
tell me truly of my dear child, if you have seen her anywhere,
what god or mortal man has violently seized her against her will
and mine, and so made off.'

(ll. 74-87) So said she.  And the Son of Hyperion answered her:
'Queen Demeter, daughter of rich-haired Rhea, I will tell you the
truth; for I greatly reverence and pity you in your grief for
your trim-ankled daughter.  None other of the deathless gods is
to blame, but only cloud-gathering Zeus who gave her to Hades,
her father's brother, to be called his buxom wife.  And Hades
seized her and took her loudly crying in his chariot down to his
realm of mist and gloom.  Yet, goddess, cease your loud lament
and keep not vain anger unrelentingly: Aidoneus, the Ruler of
Many, is no unfitting husband among the deathless gods for your
child, being your own brother and born of the same stock: also,
for honour, he has that third share which he received when
division was made at the first, and is appointed lord of those
among whom he dwells.'

(ll. 88-89) So he spake, and called to his horses: and at his
chiding they quickly whirled the swift chariot along, like long-
winged birds.

(ll. 90-112) But grief yet more terrible and savage came into the
heart of Demeter, and thereafter she was so angered with the
dark-clouded Son of Cronos that she avoided the gathering of the
gods and high Olympus, and went to the towns and rich fields of
men, disfiguring her form a long while.  And no one of men or
deep-bosomed women knew her when they saw her, until she came to
the house of wise Celeus who then was lord of fragrant Eleusis.
Vexed in her dear heart, she sat near the wayside by the Maiden
Well, from which the women of the place were used to draw water,
in a shady place over which grew an olive shrub.  And she was
like an ancient woman who is cut off from childbearing and the
gifts of garland-loving Aphrodite, like the nurses of king's
children who deal justice, or like the house-keepers in their
echoing halls.  There the daughters of Celeus, son of Eleusis,
saw her, as they were coming for easy-drawn water, to carry it in
pitchers of bronze to their dear father's house: four were they
and like goddesses in the flower of their girlhood, Callidice and
Cleisidice and lovely Demo and Callithoe who was the eldest of
them all.  They knew her not, -- for the gods are not easily
discerned by mortals -- but standing near by her spoke winged
words:

(ll. 113-117) 'Old mother, whence and who are you of folk born
long ago?  Why are you gone away from the city and do not draw
near the houses?  For there in the shady halls are women of just
such age as you, and others younger; and they would welcome you
both by word and by deed.'

(ll. 118-144) Thus they said.  And she, that queen among
goddesses answered them saying: 'Hail, dear children, whosoever
you are of woman-kind.  I will tell you my story; for it is not
unseemly that I should tell you truly what you ask.  Doso is my
name, for my stately mother gave it me.  And now I am come from
Crete over the sea's wide back, -- not willingly; but pirates
brought be thence by force of strength against my liking.
Afterwards they put in with their swift craft to Thoricus, and
there the women landed on the shore in full throng and the men
likewise, and they began to make ready a meal by the stern-cables
of the ship.  But my heart craved not pleasant food, and I fled
secretly across the dark country and escaped by masters, that
they should not take me unpurchased across the sea, there to win
a price for me.  And so I wandered and am come here: and I know
not at all what land this is or what people are in it.  But may
all those who dwell on Olympus give you husbands and birth of
children as parents desire, so you take pity on me, maidens, and
show me this clearly that I may learn, dear children, to the
house of what man and woman I may go, to work for them cheerfully
at such tasks as belong to a woman of my age.  Well could I nurse
a new born child, holding him in my arms, or keep house, or
spread my masters' bed in a recess of the well-built chamber, or
teach the women their work.'

(ll. 145-146) So said the goddess.  And straightway the *****
maiden Callidice, goodliest in form of the daughters of Celeus,
answered her and said:

(ll. 147-168) 'Mother, what the gods send us, we mortals bear
perforce, although we suffer; for they are much stronger than we.

But now I will teach you clearly, telling you the names of men
who have great power and honour here and are chief among the
people, guarding our city's coif of towers by their wisdom and
true judgements: there is wise Triptolemus and Dioclus and
Polyxeinus and blameless Eumolpus and Dolichus and our own brave
father.  All these have wives who manage in the house, and no one
of them, so soon as she has seen you, would dishonour you and
turn you from the house, but they will welcome you; for indeed
you are godlike.  But if you will, stay here; and we will go to
our father's house and tell Metaneira, our deep-bosomed mother,
all this matter fully, that she may bid you rather come to our
home than search after the houses of others.  She has an only
son, late-born, who is being nursed in our well-built house, a
child of many prayers and welcome: if you could bring him up
until he reached the full measure of youth, any one of womankind
who should see you would straightway envy you, such gifts would
our mother give for his upbringing.'

(ll. 169-183) So she spake: and the goddess bowed her head in
assent.  And they filled their shining vessels with water and
carried them off rejoicing.  Quickly they came to their father's
great house and straightway told their mother according as they
had heard and seen.  Then she bade them go with all speed and
invite the stranger to come for a measureless hire.  As hinds or
heifers in spring time, when sated with pasture, bound about a
meadow, so they, holding up the folds of their lovely garments,
darted down the hollow path, and their hair like a crocus flower
streamed about their shoulders.  And they found the good goddess
near the wayside where they had left her before, and led her to
the house of their dear father.  And she walked behind,
distressed in her dear heart, with her head veiled and wearing a
dark cloak which waved about the slender feet of the goddess.

(ll. 184-211) Soon they came to the house of heaven-nurtured
Celeus and went through the portico to where their queenly mother
sat by a pillar of the close-fitted roof, holding her son, a
tender scion, in her *****.  And the girls ran to her.  But the
goddess walked to the threshold: and her head reached the roof
and she filled the doorway with a heavenly radiance.  Then awe
and reverence and pale fear took hold of Metaneira, and she rose
up from her couch before Demeter, and bade her be seated.  But
Demeter, bringer of seasons and giver of perfect gifts, would not
sit upon the bright couch, but stayed silent with lovely eyes
cast down until careful Iambe placed a jointed seat for her and
threw over it a silvery fleece.  Then she sat down and held her
veil in her hands before her face.  A long time she sat upon the
stool (6) without speaking because of her sorrow, and greeted no
one by word or by sign, but rested, never smiling, and tasting
neither food nor drink, because she pined with longing for her
deep-bosomed daughter, until careful Iambe -- who pleased her
moods in aftertime also -- moved the holy lady with many a quip
and jest to smile and laugh and cheer her heart.  Then Metaneira
filled a cup with sweet wine and offered it to her; but she
refused it, for she said it was not lawful for her to drink red
wine, but bade them mix meal and water with soft mint and give
her to drink.  And Metaneira mixed the draught and gave it to the
goddess as she bade.  So the great queen Deo received it to
observe the sacrament.... (7)

((LACUNA))

(ll. 212-223) And of them all, well-girded Metaneira first began
to speak: 'Hail, lady!  For I think you are not meanly but nobly
born; truly dignity and grace are conspicuous upon your eyes as
in the eyes of kings that deal justice.  Yet we mortals bear
perforce what the gods send us, though we be grieved; for a yoke
is set upon our necks.  But now, since you are come here, you
shall have what I can bestow: and nurse me this child whom the
gods gave me in my old age and beyond my hope, a son much prayed
for.  If you should bring him up until he reach the full measure
of youth, any one of womankind that sees you will straightway
envy you, so great reward would I give for his upbringing.'

(ll. 224-230) Then rich-haired Demeter answered her: 'And to you,
also, lady, all hail, and may the gods give you good!  Gladly
will I take the boy to my breast, as you bid me, and will nurse
him.  Never, I ween, through any heedlessness of his nurse shall
witchcraft hurt him nor yet the Undercutter (8): for I know a
charm far stronger than the Woodcutter, and I know an excellent
safeguard against woeful witchcraft.'

(ll. 231-247) When she had so spoken, she took the child in her
fragrant ***** with her divine hands: and his mother was glad in
her heart.  So the goddess nursed in the palace Demophoon, wise
Celeus' goodly son whom well-girded Metaneira bare.  And the
child grew like some immortal being, not fed with food nor
nourished at the breast: for by day rich-crowned Demeter would
anoint him with ambrosia as if he were the offspring of a god and
breathe sweetly upon him as she held him in her *****.  But at
night she would hide him like a brand in the heard of the fire,
unknown to his dear parents.  And it wrought great wonder in
these that he grew beyond his age; for he was like the gods face
to face.  And she would have made him deathless and unageing, had
not well-girded Metaneira in her heedlessness kept watch by night
from her sweet-smelling chamber and spied.  But she wailed and
smote her two hips, because she feared for her son and was
greatly distraught in her heart; so she lamented and uttered
winged words:

(ll. 248-249) 'Demophoon, my son, the strange woman buries you
deep in fire and works grief and bitter sorrow for me.'

(ll. 250-255) Thus she spoke, mourning.  And the bright goddess,
lovely-crowned Demeter, heard her, and was wroth with her.  So
with her divine hands she snatched from the fire the dear son
whom Metaneira had born unhoped-for in the palace, and cast him
from her to the ground; for she was terribly angry in her heart.
Forthwith she said to well-girded Metaneira:

(ll. 256-274) 'Witless are you mortals and dull to foresee your
lot, whether of good or evil, that comes upon you.  For now in
your heedlessness you have wrought folly past healing; for -- be
witness the oath of the gods, the relentless water of Styx -- I
would have made your dear son deathless and unaging all his days
and would have bestowed on him everlasting honour, but now he can
in no way escape death and the fates.  Yet shall unfailing honour
always rest upon him, because he lay upon my knees and slept in
my arms.  But, as the years move round and when he is in his
prime, the sons of the Eleusinians shall ever wage war and dread
strife with one another continually.  Lo!  I am that Demeter who
has share of honour and is the greatest help and cause of joy to
the undying gods and mortal men.  But now, let all the people
build be a great temple and an altar below it and beneath the
city and its sheer wall upon a rising hillock above Callichorus.
And I myself will teach my rites, that hereafter you may
reverently perform them and so win the favour of my
Namir May 2014
The snow leopard and the little fox were sound asleep. The leopard curled up around the young fox keeping them both warm in the cold weather. As the sun started to arise the leopard awoke from his slumber. He then softly pat his little young fox apprentice's head, "Wake up little one. A new day awaits us," he said with a smile as he stood on all fours and stretched out his back. The little fox grunted and yawned "It's too early," she whined as she curled up tighter, "The sun isn't even fully up in the sky yet" was her rebuttal to his awakening. The leopard took her by the scruff and softly tossed her into the snow covered field. "Ahhh!~Ooof." The little fox yelled as she tumbled into the snow. "You know what they say, the early bird catches the worm, the early cat catches the bird." The leopard laughed slightly as he spoke, watching the little fox stand up all covered in fresh snow from last nights fall. "Well what's that have to do with me?!?" the fox shouted slightly, being slightly agitated about him tossing her. The leopard smirked as he walked by her and pat her head again, dusting off the snow, "It has everything to do with you, it has everything to do with everyone. It means the sooner you wake the more you can do. The more time you have in the day to do what you want," the leopard exclaimed with pride and excitement in his voice, "Do you ever ask yourself why there is so much left you want to do by the end of the day but just didn't have enough time? Well this helps you get more done. It gives you more time." The little fox tilted her head slightly to he side and looked down a bit, "I guess you are right," she said softly. Not knowing what else to say, she stood up and shook the snow off of herself then rush over to the leopard. "So what lesson will I learn today?" she asked eagerly. The leopard smiled as they started walking, "Didn't you just learn something?" he said as he raised an eyebrow. The little fox giggled softly and started pouncing around him laughing happily and saying "Well yea. But I want to learn more." The leopard laughed and looked to her, "Slow and steady wins the race little one. Slow and steady. we will find something for me to teach you, or for us to learn, as time goes on." he said softly but wisely as they kept walking into the woods, away from the sunrise.
Part 2 of the ongoing short stories of a snow leopard and a young fox venturing together, for my love.
Namir May 2014
As it started to grow even darker, and as the sun began to set, The Snow Leopard nudged the Little Fox awake again softly saying to her "Come on. Wake up. It's time to get going before it gets too dark." The little fox pulled herself up groggily and almost toppled over herself in her half awake state, "But I'm tired" she whined softly, nuzzling herself against the leopards side. The leopard smiled and chuckled, "Then get on my back, and I will carry you" he said as he waited for her to move. She smiled at him in her half awaken daze as she clumsily climbed onto the leopards back and layed flat, her legs dangling off his sides, nuzzling her face into the fur on his back, smiling and resting. After she got onto his back the snow leopard stood up carefully and slowly, making sure not the let the little fox fall off, and startedwalking back to the direction they came. As he was walking with the little one on his back he kept looking around to find clues of the direction they went. But everything seemed to look different, Had I taken the wrong path? He thought to himself since he didn't pay much attention to where he went when he rushed to her aid before. Even if we are lost I have to find a safe place for her at least. He kept looking around for any type of shelter for the night, even if it was too small for him and he would have to keep guard. As he kept walking he took a few turns, keeping an eye out for anything that could be considered 'shelter', A overhanging rock, a cave, even a small tunnel, anything. But he didn't seem to find anything. He started walking a little faster but kept care to make sure the fox wouldn't fall off his back in her slumber. Time went on minute by minute, and as he started to feel like he wouldn't find anything he saw a small, but not too small cliff with some overlaying trees and rocks. He stopped for a moment, It's... Not to safe looking... But its better then nothing. he thought to himself as he walked over to he cliffs conclave alcove. He softly nudged the cliffs side with him paw to see if it was sturdy enough for the night, which it seemed to be. "Hey, Come on. Wake up." He said as he shook his back very slightly just to nudge her awake. The little fox yawned and groaned again, "are we... home?" She whispered as she rubbed her eyes. "Sadly... No," muttered the snow leopard softly, "but this will have to do for the night. Just to keep up sheltered and safe. I want you to stay in the corner over there to stay safe and I will stay right here to make sure you will be ok." said the snow leopard with a slight smile. But the little fox didn't like that idea, "..Nooo..." she said with a frown and a whimper, "I want to stay with you, I want you with me... Please..." She started clinging to him as if her life depended on it, She didnt want to sleep without him wrapped around her. "Alright. Alright," the snow leopard sighed with a smile, walking farther into the small alcove of the cliff. "Come on. lets get some rest for tonight. and tomorrow we will find our way back home." He said nudging her off his back a bit. The little fox hopped off the leopards back and curled back into a little ball on the ground. The leopard then curled himself around her with a smile, nuzzling his cheek softly against hers, and said "Goodnight little one. May you have sweet dreams till the morning sun rise," though making sure to keep an eye on the entrance to the alcove. The little fox smiled and snuggled up to him while staying all curled up, Muttering under her breathe without realizing and while falling back to sleep "Thank you... I love you..." The snow leopard smiled brightly as he heard and realized what she said, then softly muttered back into her ear as she fell asleep "And I love you," he then closed his eyes and layed with her until they were both asleep peacefully.
Part 4 of the short story series "The Leopard and The Fox"
Made by Myself for a very special young woman.
Mymai Yuan Sep 2010
Barely awake, it was only dawn
My sleepy feet stumbled out the front door
And onto the old swing on the grassy lawn

Awake in peaceful stillness, like death
No one else in the entire neighborhood
Not a sound, nor a breath

I yawned, my vision spinning side to side
The old fence creaked as I opened it
Trying to stand but swayed right outside

That’s when I saw a little girl who ran
In the distance; laughing happily and carefree
As only the innocent and young can

She had ruffled yellow hair
Shoved into two short bouncing sprouts
That bobbed merrily as she skipped, looking so fair

The sweet freckled face had the quality of a dream
The button nose wrinkled cutely
The white teeth flashed in an innocent beam

She had thick, warm honey eyes
That smiled as big as her red lips did
A smile that could warm the iciest heart full of lies

She wore the brightest of yellow overalls
And canary-yellow shoes
That bounced up and down like rubber *****

Out of her overall pockets floated out golden sparkles
Thick-looking and sweet-smelling, spraying heat
That left a glittering trail behind her dancing feet

A chubby brown hand clutched a swinging bucket
Filled to the brim with warm, sweet sunshine
The other scattering it behind her in an unordered line

She didn’t seem to be walking
She didn’t seem to run
Her feet pattered, like tap-dancing
She skipped to me with a happy beat
And as she did, she stopped and
Sprinkled some sunshine near my feet

The toddler looked up and saw my bewildered face
Her red dimpled cheeks blushing joyfully
Honey eyes sparkling with an unworldly grace

She did not say anything but came closer
Bringing a dizzy sweet fire
Erasing all cold cuts, leaving treasures to admire

She skipped around in a circle, tossing glitters on me
A sprinkle here… and… a little bit there…
And sat cross-legged right then
Wondering what my reaction would be

As I was about to ask her what she had done
Something with a slow melancholy beauty
Indescribable, yet true, and happening
Something vivacious and full of life’s fun

The golden sunshine diamonds sparkled on my skin
Wiping clean all scars on my heart
And with a golden, pulsing love beat
Seeped through, melting away all sins

I felt alive to the brim
My fingertips tingling
My mind filled with wild dreams
Pouring, gushing over the rim

A sudden, sweeping golden heat rushed from my heart
From the roots of my hair
A rush of great, great happiness
That reached my whole body, ever part

My cheeks flushed from the joyful heat
My lips redden from the welcoming warmth
Feeling the energy of a restless dance
Tapping in my normally dull feet

The three-year-old laughed as she saw my expression change
She handed me her bucket of sunshine
Her little warm hand in mine
We started to skip along the road

I reached into the yellow bucket
And felt the smooth and fine
Warm and sweet sunshine
In the palm of my fire-hot hands

Strange the heat did not hurt me
But made me crazy
Something one may only feel, never see
With all its powerful magic

I laughed like the toddler holding my hand did
From the bottom of our beings
I danced like the baby did
Never ceasing; without rhythm or rhyme
For an immeasurable time

We danced, and threw sunshine dust behind us
Watching the trail of sunray dust
Glitter and spread

Together, we brought dawn
The sandy, spicy glowing sunshine
Spreading out to blanket the land
Sunrise was brought by this child’s hand

When dawn had completely broken
She kissed me on the cheek
And hugged with her plump arms
Then bid goodbye forever with a
Twinkling voice full of innocence’s charm

Every year on that day, I wake up to watch
The dawn of hers and mine
She had not only two pocketfuls but a bucketful of sunshine
And a heart and soul
Full of pure, simple love
Sunshine Baby
Riya Nov 2015
By now you would have noticed
The stains on my cheeks…
If you did happen to ask me
I would say,
“It wasn’t me, honestly.
It was the rain,
No really, I just yawned.
Me? Cry?
Why I would never.”

You probably would’ve also noticed,
The bruises scattered all over me.
If you asked,
You would know my standard reply.
“Oh, I fell.
Silly old me can’t even balance myself.
Oh these?
Don’t worry about it.
I’ll be fine.
Aren’t I always?”

If you listen really closely,
here’s what you won’t miss.
“These bruises came from his beat.
The tears…
From my own.
But don’t worry your pretty little head about me.
No one ever does.
Please just leave me alone.”
Miranda Renea Jan 2015
Red, edifying & ditsy,
Wine illuminated names -- eclectic,
& gypsy. Yippee persons; So yawned
Night. I gathered her, too
Tipsy, I paused & smoked young
Faith, aimed it too high
And next dared
The hour escape.
Oscar sounded clear and round.
First letter of each word spells the title
When the morning was waking over the war
He put on his clothes and stepped out and he died,
The locks yawned loose and a blast blew them wide,
He dropped where he loved on the burst pavement stone
And the funeral grains of the slaughtered floor.
Tell his street on its back he stopped a sun
And the craters of his eyes grew springshots and fire
When all the keys shot from the locks, and rang.
Dig no more for the chains of his grey-haired heart.
The heavenly ambulance drawn by a wound
Assembling waits for the *****'s ring on the cage.
O keep his bones away from the common cart,
The morning is flying on the wings of his age
And a hundred storks perch on the sun's right hand.
Thus did they make their moan throughout the city, while the
Achaeans when they reached the Hellespont went back every man to his
own ship. But Achilles would not let the Myrmidons go, and spoke to
his brave comrades saying, “Myrmidons, famed horsemen and my own
trusted friends, not yet, forsooth, let us unyoke, but with horse
and chariot draw near to the body and mourn Patroclus, in due honour
to the dead. When we have had full comfort of lamentation we will
unyoke our horses and take supper all of us here.”
  On this they all joined in a cry of wailing and Achilles led them in
their lament. Thrice did they drive their chariots all sorrowing round
the body, and Thetis stirred within them a still deeper yearning.
The sands of the seashore and the men’s armour were wet with their
weeping, so great a minister of fear was he whom they had lost.
Chief in all their mourning was the son of Peleus: he laid his
bloodstained hand on the breast of his friend. “Fare well,” he
cried, “Patroclus, even in the house of Hades. I will now do all
that I erewhile promised you; I will drag Hector hither and let dogs
devour him raw; twelve noble sons of Trojans will I also slay before
your pyre to avenge you.”
  As he spoke he treated the body of noble Hector with contumely,
laying it at full length in the dust beside the bier of Patroclus. The
others then put off every man his armour, took the horses from their
chariots, and seated themselves in great multitude by the ship of
the fleet descendant of Aeacus, who thereon feasted them with an
abundant funeral banquet. Many a goodly ox, with many a sheep and
bleating goat did they butcher and cut up; many a tusked boar
moreover, fat and well-fed, did they singe and set to roast in the
flames of Vulcan; and rivulets of blood flowed all round the place
where the body was lying.
  Then the princes of the Achaeans took the son of Peleus to
Agamemnon, but hardly could they persuade him to come with them, so
wroth was he for the death of his comrade. As soon as they reached
Agamemnon’s tent they told the serving-men to set a large tripod
over the fire in case they might persuade the son of Peleus ‘to wash
the clotted gore from this body, but he denied them sternly, and swore
it with a solemn oath, saying, “Nay, by King Jove, first and mightiest
of all gods, it is not meet that water should touch my body, till I
have laid Patroclus on the flames, have built him a barrow, and shaved
my head—for so long as I live no such second sorrow shall ever draw
nigh me. Now, therefore, let us do all that this sad festival demands,
but at break of day, King Agamemnon, bid your men bring wood, and
provide all else that the dead may duly take into the realm of
darkness; the fire shall thus burn him out of our sight the sooner,
and the people shall turn again to their own labours.”
  Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. They made haste
to prepare the meal, they ate, and every man had his full share so
that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had had enough to eat and
drink, the others went to their rest each in his own tent, but the son
of Peleus lay grieving among his Myrmidons by the shore of the
sounding sea, in an open place where the waves came surging in one
after another. Here a very deep slumber took hold upon him and eased
the burden of his sorrows, for his limbs were weary with chasing
Hector round windy Ilius. Presently the sad spirit of Patroclus drew
near him, like what he had been in stature, voice, and the light of
his beaming eyes, clad, too, as he had been clad in life. The spirit
hovered over his head and said-
  “You sleep, Achilles, and have forgotten me; you loved me living,
but now that I am dead you think for me no further. Bury me with all
speed that I may pass the gates of Hades; the ghosts, vain shadows
of men that can labour no more, drive me away from them; they will not
yet suffer me to join those that are beyond the river, and I wander
all desolate by the wide gates of the house of Hades. Give me now your
hand I pray you, for when you have once given me my dues of fire,
never shall I again come forth out of the house of Hades. Nevermore
shall we sit apart and take sweet counsel among the living; the
cruel fate which was my birth-right has yawned its wide jaws around
me—nay, you too Achilles, peer of gods, are doomed to die beneath the
wall of the noble Trojans.
  “One prayer more will I make you, if you will grant it; let not my
bones be laid apart from yours, Achilles, but with them; even as we
were brought up together in your own home, what time Menoetius brought
me to you as a child from Opoeis because by a sad spite I had killed
the son of Amphidamas—not of set purpose, but in childish quarrel
over the dice. The knight Peleus took me into his house, entreated
me kindly, and named me to be your squire; therefore let our bones lie
in but a single urn, the two-handled golden vase given to you by
your mother.”
  And Achilles answered, “Why, true heart, are you come hither to
lay these charges upon me? will of my own self do all as you have
bidden me. Draw closer to me, let us once more throw our arms around
one another, and find sad comfort in the sharing of our sorrows.”
  He opened his arms towards him as he spoke and would have clasped
him in them, but there was nothing, and the spirit vanished as a
vapour, gibbering and whining into the earth. Achilles sprang to his
feet, smote his two hands, and made lamentation saying, “Of a truth
even in the house of Hades there are ghosts and phantoms that have
no life in them; all night long the sad spirit of Patroclus has
hovered over head making piteous moan, telling me what I am to do
for him, and looking wondrously like himself.”
  Thus did he speak and his words set them all weeping and mourning
about the poor dumb dead, till rosy-fingered morn appeared. Then
King Agamemnon sent men and mules from all parts of the camp, to bring
wood, and Meriones, squire to Idomeneus, was in charge over them. They
went out with woodmen’s axes and strong ropes in their hands, and
before them went the mules. Up hill and down dale did they go, by
straight ways and crooked, and when they reached the heights of
many-fountained Ida, they laid their axes to the roots of many a
tall branching oak that came thundering down as they felled it. They
split the trees and bound them behind the mules, which then wended
their way as they best could through the thick brushwood on to the
plain. All who had been cutting wood bore logs, for so Meriones squire
to Idomeneus had bidden them, and they threw them down in a line
upon the seashore at the place where Achilles would make a mighty
monument for Patroclus and for himself.
  When they had thrown down their great logs of wood over the whole
ground, they stayed all of them where they were, but Achilles
ordered his brave Myrmidons to gird on their armour, and to yoke
each man his horses; they therefore rose, girded on their armour and
mounted each his chariot—they and their charioteers with them. The
chariots went before, and they that were on foot followed as a cloud
in their tens of thousands after. In the midst of them his comrades
bore Patroclus and covered him with the locks of their hair which they
cut off and threw upon his body. Last came Achilles with his head
bowed for sorrow, so noble a comrade was he taking to the house of
Hades.
  When they came to the place of which Achilles had told them they
laid the body down and built up the wood. Achilles then bethought
him of another matter. He went a space away from the pyre, and cut off
the yellow lock which he had let grow for the river Spercheius. He
looked all sorrowfully out upon the dark sea, and said, “Spercheius,
in vain did my father Peleus vow to you that when I returned home to
my loved native land I should cut off this lock and offer you a holy
hecatomb; fifty she-goats was I to sacrifice to you there at your
springs, where is your grove and your altar fragrant with
burnt-offerings. Thus did my father vow, but you have not fulfilled
his prayer; now, therefore, that I shall see my home no more, I give
this lock as a keepsake to the hero Patroclus.”
  As he spoke he placed the lock in the hands of his dear comrade, and
all who stood by were filled with yearning and lamentation. The sun
would have gone down upon their mourning had not Achilles presently
said to Agamemnon, “Son of Atreus, for it is to you that the people
will give ear, there is a time to mourn and a time to cease from
mourning; bid the people now leave the pyre and set about getting
their dinners: we, to whom the dead is dearest, will see to what is
wanted here, and let the other princes also stay by me.”
  When King Agamemnon heard this he dismissed the people to their
ships, but those who were about the dead heaped up wood and built a
pyre a hundred feet this way and that; then they laid the dead all
sorrowfully upon the top of it. They flayed and dressed many fat sheep
and oxen before the pyre, and Achilles took fat from all of them and
wrapped the body therein from head to foot, heaping the flayed
carcases all round it. Against the bier he leaned two-handled jars
of honey and unguents; four proud horses did he then cast upon the
pyre, groaning the while he did so. The dead hero had had
house-dogs; two of them did Achilles slay and threw upon the pyre;
he also put twelve brave sons of noble Trojans to the sword and laid
them with the rest, for he was full of bitterness and fury. Then he
committed all to the resistless and devouring might of the fire; he
groaned aloud and callid on his dead comrade by name. “Fare well,”
he cried, “Patroclus, even in the house of Hades; I am now doing all
that I have promised you. Twelve brave sons of noble Trojans shall the
flames consume along with yourself, but dogs, not fire, shall devour
the flesh of Hector son of Priam.”
  Thus did he vaunt, but the dogs came not about the body of Hector,
for Jove’s daughter Venus kept them off him night and day, and
anointed him with ambrosial oil of roses that his flesh might not be
torn when Achilles was dragging him about. Phoebus Apollo moreover
sent a dark cloud from heaven to earth, which gave shade to the
whole place where Hector lay, that the heat of the sun might not parch
his body.
  Now the pyre about dead Patroclus would not kindle. Achilles
therefore bethought him of another matter; he went apart and prayed to
the two winds Boreas and Zephyrus vowing them goodly offerings. He
made them many drink-offerings from the golden cup and besought them
to come and help him that the wood might make haste to kindle and
the dead bodies be consumed. Fleet Iris heard him praying and
started off to fetch the winds. They were holding high feast in the
house of boisterous Zephyrus when Iris came running up to the stone
threshold of the house and stood there, but as soon as they set eyes
on her they all came towards her and each of them called her to him,
but Iris would not sit down. “I cannot stay,” she said, “I must go
back to the streams of Oceanus and the land of the Ethiopians who
are offering hecatombs to the immortals, and I would have my share;
but Achilles prays that Boreas and shrill Zephyrus will come to him,
and he vows them goodly offerings; he would have you blow upon the
pyre of Patroclus for whom all the Achaeans are lamenting.”
  With this she left them, and the two winds rose with a cry that rent
the air and swept the clouds before them. They blew on and on until
they came to the sea, and the waves rose high beneath them, but when
they reached Troy they fell upon the pyre till the mighty flames
roared under the blast that they blew. All night long did they blow
hard and beat upon the fire, and all night long did Achilles grasp his
double cup, drawing wine from a mixing-bowl of gold, and calling
upon the spirit of dead Patroclus as he poured it upon the ground
until the earth was drenched. As a father mourns when he is burning
the bones of his bridegroom son whose death has wrung the hearts of
his parents, even so did Achilles mourn while burning the body of
his comrade, pacing round the bier with piteous groaning and
lamentation.
  At length as the Morning Star was beginning to herald the light
which saffron-mantled Dawn was soon to suffuse over the sea, the
flames fell and the fire began to die. The winds then went home beyond
the Thracian sea, which roared and boiled as they swept over it. The
son of Peleus now turned away from the pyre and lay down, overcome
with toil, till he fell into a sweet slumber. Presently they who
were about the son of Atreus drew near in a body, and roused him
with the noise and ***** of their coming. He sat upright and said,
“Son of Atreus, and all other princes of the Achaeans, first pour
red wine everywhere upon the fire and quench it; let us then gather
the bones of Patroclus son of Menoetius, singling them out with
care; they are easily found, for they lie in the middle of the pyre,
while all else, both men and horses, has been thrown in a heap and
burned at the outer edge. We will lay the bones in a golden urn, in
two layers of fat, against the time when I shall myself go down into
the house of Hades. As for the barrow, labour not to raise a great one
now, but such as is reasonable. Afterwards, let those Achaeans who may
be left at the ships when I am gone, build it both broad and high.”
  Thus he spoke and they obeyed the word of the son of Peleus. First
they poured red wine upon the thick layer of ashes and quenched the
fire. With many tears they singled out the whitened bones of their
loved comrade and laid them within a golden urn in two layers of
fat: they then covered the urn with a linen cloth and took it inside
the tent. They marked off the circle where the barrow should be,
made a foundation for it about the pyre, and forthwith heaped up the
earth. When they had thus raised a mound they were going away, but
Achilles stayed the people and made them sit in assembly. He brought
prizes from the ships-cauldrons, tripods, horses and mules, noble
oxen, women with fair girdles, and swart iron.
  The first prize he offered was for the chariot races—a woman
skilled in all useful arts, and a three-legged cauldron that had
ears for handles, and would hold twenty-two measures. This was for the
man who came in first. For the second there was a six-year old mare,
unbroken, and in foal to a he-***; the third was to have a goodly
cauldron that had never yet been on the fire; it was still bright as
when it left the maker, and would hold four measures. The fourth prize
was two talents of gold, and the fifth a two-handled urn as yet
unsoiled by smoke. Then he stood up and spoke among the Argives
saying-
  “Son of Atreus, and all other Achaeans, these are the prizes that
lie waiting the winners of the chariot races. At any other time I
should carry off the first prize and take it to my own tent; you
know how far my steeds excel all others—for they are immortal;
Neptune gave them to my father Peleus, who in his turn gave them to
myself; but I shall hold aloof, I and my steeds that have lost their
brave and kind driver, who many a time has washed them in clear
water and anointed their manes with oil. See how they stand weeping
here, with their manes trailing on the ground in the extremity of
their sorrow. But do you others set yourselves in order throughout the
host, whosoever has confidence in his horses and in the strength of
his chariot.”
  Thus spoke the son of Peleus and the drivers of chariots bestirred
themselves. First among them all uprose Eumelus, king of men, son of
Admetus, a man excellent in horsemanship. Next to him rose mighty
Diomed son of Tydeus; he yoked the Trojan horses which he had taken
from Aeneas, when Apollo bore him out of the fight. Next to him,
yellow-haired Menelaus son of Atreus rose and yoked his fleet
horses, Agamemnon’s mare Aethe, and his own horse Podargus. The mare
had been given to Agamemnon by echepolus son of Anchises, that he
might not have to follow him to Ilius, but might stay at home and take
his ease; for Jove had endowed him with great wealth and he lived in
spacious
Ryan Hodges Nov 2012
Make a mountain of math homework
seem merely a molehill.
Lay down the laws
of long division.

Teach yoga when we yawned,
sing loud when we slept.
Become a fellow fourth grader;
be the class clown.

Tie severed friendships
broken on the playground;
add new knots.
Be the judge,
but appoint us as jury.

Ease my fears
as the sky grew dark.
Let us listen to the radio
as New York burned.

Dare us to dig deeper, illuminate
our minds. Respect
our voices, accept our flaws.
And above all else,

let us teach her.



-With apologies to Elizabeth Homes
This is a poem written as a copy-change of Elizabeth Holme's poem of the same name.  It is dedicated to my 4th grade teacher.
Rohit Mane Aug 2018
Sitting at my workstation I kept swirling my chair around,
Battling the strenuous drowse that tried to yoke me to the ground,
“How could this happen? This is the first hour of my job,” I wondered,
I chuckled. “How fool of me! It’s Monday today,” I remembered.

I peeked to my left to see an empty chair,
“No-one to talk around; hey, that’s so unfair!”


I cringed viscerally at the thought of spending the day without uttering a word,
I tried to re-task my focus on my computer screen when a soft voice I heard,
Made me turn, and as I did, I veered myself to the source of the euphonic voice,
I felt the dumbfoundedness of a person bewitched by a magical spell, twice.

For some moments I couldn’t decrypt the words that her lips uttered,
As I just kept staring into her graceful eyes, helpless and all cluttered.


She asked with a soft smile, “Is this person absent today?” and  motioned to the workstation on my left,
I felt my dopamine surge at the possibility of what might happen next,
I nodded as soon as I realised my tongue has gone numb,
She ensconced herself and smiled, her cheeks as rotund as a plum.

I swallowed a lump in my throat that I didn’t realise had formed,
I wasn’t hoping for anything like this but I liked what my day had unboxed.


“What is she? Are humans allowed to be this beautiful?” I questioned my mind,
Was she a manifestation of my dreams or an angel in disguise!
It seemed like her eyes possessed a power in them like Midas in his hands,
A sight of innocence that could even force the flying time to land.

I leaned forward a little to catch a glimpse of her pretty brown eyes,
She turned to me with a gaze of a doe and my tongue again got tied.


“Any problem?” She questioned me with a raise of her brow,
“Yes, your eyes. They’re too beautiful,” the response I couldn’t let out,
Instead I shook my head and turned my eyes away from her,
My peripheral could see her blushing; it seemed the bubble has finally burst.

I tried to venture a conversation but failed to remember the morphemes,
The anonymity between us allowed the nervousness to sweep in.


I sighed deeply and turned about to do what I’m paid for,
But her presence beside me made it harder for me to stay calm,
An unexpected “Hello” came from my left and an introduction followed the greet,
Although stunned by the suddenness I tried to smile at her, from cheek to cheek.

We exchanged our names and conversed a little for a while,
Before she got engaged in her work and I in mine.


After hours of punching the keyboard buttons I stretched my arms and yawned,
She giggled at me and I took it as a cue to move my first pawn,
I embarked, “I’m going to the cafeteria to have some tea”,
I hesitated for a moment and resumed, “would you like to come with me?”

She rolled her eyes and I understood she has refused my kind and genuine offer,
I began to walk away. “Wait a minute, let me lock my PC,” and then I saw her got up.


We walked our way to the cafeteria, slower than two people normally would,
My chivalry erupted as I held the door open for her as she entered the room,
We occupied a table for two and  it appeared like a date-night is about to happen,
With she in front of me and  the stories that we shared, it seemed like all the troubles in the world didn’t matter.

I mulled over the thought that I might have a crush on her smile,
But there was an absolute certainty that I had fallen in love with her eyes.


She shared some cheerful stories about her childhood and also the moments in her life she remorse,
She had a way of crinkling her nose adorably that made her appear cuter than she was before,
“You may have a body of a woman but you have a sweetness of a child,” I abruptly blurted out,
She smiled deep into my eyes and I could feel the brightest smile I ever had form on my mouth.

“That’s the sweetest thing someone has ever said about me,” she flushed a little while she said this,
It took us a moment to realise that we’re holding hands; the touch of hers was something I couldn’t resist.


We got up as we finished our beverages and sauntered our way back to our daily routine,
I tried to rein my thoughts that our day was  about to end, but my efforts were all just futile,
I just wished this night shall never pass as I wanted to spend more of my time with her,
We logged out of our PC’s as our shift ended but I craved for one last conversation with this girl.

While ambling towards the exit in silence I turned on my heels to look into her beautiful brown eyes,
I sighed as I looked at her and tried to settle down the feeling to hug her that was about to rise,
“I spent this beautiful day with a beautiful girl I wish I could see more of,” I said with truthfulness in my voice,
She smiled at the ground and then looked up, “You will. Tomorrow at 8. Here’s my number. The place is your choice.

========================================================­===
I wrote this poem for a girl I have a crush on (read: hopeless crush!). She works in my organisation only but in a different location than mine so I get to see her only once or twice in months.
When I first saw her it was the last week of March. For some reason she came to the location where I work and sat beside me for the whole day! But I didn’t get to talk to her or even ask her name as she was a complete stranger and also she was immensely busy with her work. (She was working on some important document.) During that day I only got to see glimpses of her beautiful brown eyes and her sweet smile but it was enough to give me butterflies in my stomach.
As fate would have it, after some weeks we ran into each other again!
She visited my office that day for some important work and asked me to help her with the printing machine as I was walking across her while she was having trouble with her prints. I immediately recognised those pretty brown eyes and the beautiful face but she didn’t recognise me. For her I was just a stranger that was helping her but for me she had become my crush.

That night while riding back home a couple of lines sparked in my head:

“I mulled over the thought that I might have a crush on her smile,
But there was an absolute certainty that I had fallen in love with her eyes.”

I instantly had a thought of writing something about her and what I did write is completely in front of you. I never had any intention of giving this poem to her and woo her with my writing abilities. I just used my affection for her as a muse to do something for me that I’d feel proud about. The above poem is the fictionalised version of the day I spent with her when she sat beside me for the first time.

I sincerely hope you guys enjoy the poem. :)
spysgrandson Nov 2011
on the shore
only this morning, as ***** yawned
and wispy waves woke to sun’s call
with a million speckled sparkles of light
I was alone with my thoughts
and your crisp footprints in the sand
the scent of your hands still on me
fading with each mist filled breath I took
you were still there
your seed crawling down my leg
but tides change
and your prints soon filled with salt and sand
and the sun, our benediction only a dreamy minute ago
melted into the craggy bluffs
and I was left to walk alone
without your shivering shaft filling me
or your groping but grateful hands touching me
alone, on my night walk
alone, how I began
and will end, my…
night walk
I sometimes take on the voice of another when I write--in this case, the voice of a woman--not one I have used often
Alexei stood on top of a mountain, the wind ferociously whipping through his fur. He could feel the sun burning behind him and he saw the moon standing proudly before him. He looked down at the ground below h and saw thousands of Lycans looking up at him. He smiled as he saw them. Alexei looked behind them and his heart stopped as he saw a raging wildfire encircling them. They were oblivious to the wall of fire behind them, looking to Alexei to guidance. He began to panic. He tried to run to them but his body would not let him, he tried to scream but his voice was merely a whisper. Tears stung his eyes as he saw the fire approach them. Alexei heard thunder in the distance and everything before him froze in place. His body was shaking. He felt something behind him and he turned. Alexei's eyes widened as he saw a regal white Lycan with golden fur tips standing in front of him. Her eyes were a dazzling purple, sparkling like stardust. Alexei could sense the overwhelmingly massive power standing in front of him. The wolf stood a few feet taller than him and Alexei felt meek before them. Alexei bowed instinctually, letting his muzzle touch the ground. His heart was in his throat and for the first time in his life, he felt insignificant. The Lycan spoke to him softly, "Alexei, I am Mother Luna."
Alexei swallowed hard as he realized the gravity of the situation. He was talking to a god. The Lycan god. Alexei's voice squeaked out, "M-mother Luna,why have I been having these dreams? What am I meant to do?"
The Lycan blinked slowly, "I have chosen you, Alexei. You are my vassal. You have worked for over seven hundred years to build the Lycans into a thriving species. You single handedly created a nation for our kind. You did well in hiding your true self since then, but now it is time to reveal yourself once again." She paused, "There is a war coming. The Slayers have been working in the shadows for a while now, trying to undermine our species. But no longer. Now you must fight back." She gestured to the land below them.
"Those Lycans will look up to you, they will rely on you for guidance. You alone can lead them."
Alexei looked to the mass of wolves below him and whispered, "What if I'm not strong enough? What if I fail you?"
Mother Luna stomped her foot and the ground shook. Thunder rumbled and she said firmly, "You ARE strong enough, Alexei. And you cannot fail me. Tap into the strength within you. Awaken the powers of the Master Alpha."
Alexei felt strengthened by her words, taking a deep breath. "As you say, so it shall be done, Mother Luna."
She nodded. Thunder and lightning flashed around them as she said, "Now go! I have faith in you." The world faded to black, with only Mother Luna's glowing eyes and the sound of wildfire remaining.

Alexei woke up, blinking away the vision. Aurora was coming down the stairs, and Alexei took a deep breath. He sat up in the bed and yawned, feeling rested but troubled. Aurora looked at him as she entered the room, "Up already, sir? It's still early morning. The sun won't be up for another few hours."
Alexei nodded, "I tend to wake early. Old habits die hard."
Aurora laughed, "I suppose you're right. I came to... To check on you, sir."
Alexei nodded and looked her in the eyes for a moment. In that single moment, he read her body language and scent. He broke eye contact and closed his eyes as he broke down the information. She was in her twenties, had no mate, and her musk was disguised with what Alexei assumed was perfume. He could feel Aurora blushing as he studied her, but he also sensed her body language change. Her stance was more submissive, and her heartbeat quickened a little as she watched his eyes move over her.
Alexei stood slowly, watching Aurora as she stole glances at his body. He watched as her eyes began to wander, studying the Alpha intently. Alexei could smell something new from her and he growled softly. Aurora gasped and looked up at him, her eyes mixed with fear and lust. Alexei could sense the heat from her body and felt a twinge of want in his own.
Alexei brought his head down low, eye to eye with the young beta. He said sternly, "You know not the game you play, Aurora."
She shrank back, shame clear on her face. He saw her ears flatten against her head and her tail curl around her leg. "I-I... I'm..."
Alexei sighed and sat down, "Don't be discouraged or ashamed of yourself, Aurora." She looked at him, still unsure of herself. Alexei asked, "You've never been mated, have you?"
She shook her head quickly, her mouth firmly shut but Alexei could sense the heat in her cheeks as she blushed. Alexei continued, "You wanted me to be your first mate, right?"
Aurora attempted to speak, but her mind was a muddle of emotions. She sank to the floor, defeated.
Alexei smiled softly. "There is nothing wrong with wanting that, Aurora." He looked at her, projecting his sympathy to her. Through their connection he could sense her calming down. "Is there no one in your pack who is a more viable mate?"
Aurora looked away, whispering, "No. All the males are mated already. I'm alone."
Alexei sighed softly, "I'm sorry. My paws are tied on this matter. I'm an Alpha. A mated alpha at that."
Aurora's cheeks were burning, "I-I know. I just wanted the feeling. I wanted to know what it's like to mate with someone."
Alexei shut his eyes and took a breath. His own mind was filled with mixed thoughts and emotions. He watched as Aurora lifted herself off the floor into a sitting position. Aurora continued, "When you pinned me in the woods, I didn't know what to feel. I was scared, but I loved the feeling of you above me, dominating me instantly." Her eyes closed for a second and she shivered. "Then I smelled you and I knew you were an Alpha. I... I didn't care that you were mated, I just needed you."
Alexei listened and sensed her desire in her voice. Instinct told him to indulge her, but his mind knew that he shouldn't. He whispered, "Aurora, this can't happen. Bad things could happen to both of us if someone were to find out."
She looked into his eyes, then down at her paws, "I know."
A few moments passed and Alexei made his decision. Alexei stood and took a step closer to her. She looked up at him and he growled. She gasped and shrunk down a little, her heart pounding. Alexei gestured to the bed and Aurora slowly walked around him, heat filling her cheeks once more. She got onto the bed and faced Alexei, watching him stalk closer to her. She tried to manage her breathing but each breath came out more shallow than the last. She watched as Alexei put one paw on the bed, then another. Alexei's voice shook her to the core as he said, "Turn around."
Aurora hesitated then did as he demanded. She raised her rear to him and she gasped as she felt him standing over her. Alexei leaned down and whispered to her, "No one can know about this."
Aurora nodded and mouthed, "I promise." Alexei's put a paw on each of hers and she felt a heat between her hind legs. She felt her back paws being pushed apart and she groaned mentally to him. She peeked back to him, her innocent eyes begging him to be gentle. Alexei pressed his belly against her back and felt their warmths colliding, forcing Aurora to loose a moan. She began to drool as she felt her urges being fulfilled by the big Alpha. She kept her mind entwined with his, repeatedly whispering her wants and needs to him, fueling his own carnal desire. She closed her eyes and let Alexei take over her, allowing the Alpha to tame her wild body.
They finished as the sun rose, and Aurora was breathless and exhausted. Alexei lay next to her as she recovered. She looked at him with a dazed look in her eyes and she nuzzled against his neck. "That was better than I ever could have imagined, Alpha." Aurora began to fall asleep and Alexei watched her. Once her breathing slowed, Alexei pushed his consciousness towards her dormant mind. He pushed healing energy towards her, helping her recover faster. As he began to retreat from her mind, he caught a glimpse of her dream. She was reliving the past few hours with him, and Alexei could feel the ecstasy that she felt. She had loved every second of it. Alexei couldn't help feeling guilty that she would have to keep it a secret, and that he was disloyal to his mate.
Alexei retreated back to his own mind, his thoughts darkened by his guilt. He took another deep breath and went deep into his own mind, searching for the powers that he had kept dormant for years. He felt it pulling him in, and he let it take him. The power was overwhelming, stored and growing for hundreds of years. Alexei tapped into it and anchored the power to his soul and heart. He opened his eyes and briefly saw the energy within the room. He blinked and it dissipated. He gently touched Aurora with his muzzle and a wave of energy passed over her, disguising the evidence of their night. Alexei's conscience kept him from wiping her memory, but he made certain that no one but them would know. He closed his eyes as he finished covering their tracks. He thought to himself, "What other holes will I dig for myself before this is through?" He didn't regret his decision, but he feared what possible outcomes would come of it. He stood up and stretched his limbs. Using his power, he quickly cleaned himself.
Alexei suddenly felt weak, and his head was pounding like a war drum. He stumbled back to the bed and collapsed, passing out before his head hit the cushion.

It was midnight. Alexei was surrounded by trees so tall that they seemed to touch the sky. He was standing on top of a lake, it's surface like a dazzling mirror. The water was cold against his feet, sending a shiver through him. Small ripples appeared around his feet as he took small steps forward. Above him was the full moon, shining down on him. There were multiple glowing eyes watching him in the darkness below the treetops. He could sense the presence of Lycans in the trees and he became nervous. Alexei stopped at the edge of the water, unable to move to dry land. He frowned and turned back, towards the center of the lake. He stood at the center, aware of the crowd watching him from the trees. There was a rumble of thunder in the distance and Alexei looked around him, searching for the source. Behind him stood Mother Luna, an amused look on her face. She was different somehow, her size closer to his than before. The water glowed a vibrant sapphire blue beneath her paws. She circled him slowly, the golden tips of her fur shimmering in the moonlight.
"Have fun, Alexei?" , she chided.
Alexei could feel his cheeks flush, "Mother Luna, I... I..."
She stopped him, her purple eyes fierce. "You let your instincts guide you."
Alexei looked down at his paws, "Yes, Mother Luna. It was a stupid thing to do."
An image of Aurora was looking back at him from the water and he sighed. His heart burned with guilt as he thought about his actions.
Luna shook her head, stepping towards him. She nudged him with her muzzle comfortingly. The touch sent a jolt like lightning through Alexei, and he could feel all of his urges and desires flow through him again. He groaned involuntarily and his eyes glazed over in ecstasy. He looked at Luna curiously as he fought to control the burning in his *****. Ice began to form at his feet, stopping him from moving. She smiled and whispered seductively, "Who do you think sparks instincts in Lycans, Alexei?" Luna leaned in close to his ear and whispered, "I do. You did as I hoped you would." She nipped at his ear, forcing another shiver through his body before she stepped back, clearly pleased with herself.
Alexei took a moment to respond, carefully forming his words while attempting to hide his feral lust. "You wanted me to mate with her. Then you have a plan, Mother Luna?"
She smirked, turning and flicking her tail at Alexei's nose, forcing another wave of urges through him. His legs began to shake and she grinned. "Of course. Whether you realize it or not, every move you make can affect the people around you. Aurora is now loyal to you. By satisfying her urges, you also fueled her lust for you." Luna laughed to herself. She turned and stretched her limbs, lifting her tail for Alexei to see. She grinned wildly as he whimpered.
Luna turned back to face him, hiding her amusement. She rubbed her body along his side, her tail curling around his neck and then down his back. She stopped as he whimpered fiercely. He was blushing madly, fighting the urges with all his might. Luna kept grinning, saying in an airy voice, "I can make you do anything I want, Alexei." She walked behind him and flicked her tail between his legs, the tip running along the length of his groin. Alexei lost all form of thought and he began panting. Luna licked her lips and walked slowly in front of him. "See? There's no use fighting instinct, Alexei. I gave it to you for a reason." She looked at Alexei, his eyes full to the brim with desire.
Alexei tried to speak, his tongue tied in knots, "I... Why...?" He shivered, whispering, "****."
Luna took a step towards him, "Exactly." She got close to him, enough that her scent was overwhelming to him. She whispered in his ear, "What's the point of being a god if you can't have a little fun." She stomped her foot once and the ice around Alexei's legs shattered. He took a tentative step forward, still under the influence of his desire.
Luna circled him again, standing with her back to him. She stretched again, lifting her tail as before. She glanced back at him, saying, "It's up to you on what to do now. Don't disappoint me."
Alexei couldn't help himself. He quickly walked behind her and put his front paws on her shoulders as he mounted her. Luna allowed him to push her hind paws away as he had done to Aurora. She did not wait for him as she ****** herself backwards onto him. She growled, pleased. "There you go."
As his body touched hers, his mind and body was flooded with vigor as her own desire amplified his own. Alexei bit down on her neck to keep from howling as they mated. His mind and heart were racing as he subconsciously tapped into his power, using a bit of its energy to invigorate his efforts to please the god beneath him. Luna felt his pace quicken and she grinned, "That's right. Don't disappoint me, darling."
She closed her eyes and let the waves of pleasure wash over her. Her mouth hung open as she panted. Luna howled as her lust was filled, soon followed by Alexei's growls of ecstasy as he finished. Alexei collapsed as he broke contact with her, his body still quivering. Luna stood smoothly, her legs and tail wet with their ***. She bent down and touched him with her nose, saying, "Good. You didn't disappoint me."
Alexei panted and closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he was back in the bed next to Aurora. His heart was still pounding as he thought about the dream. "Was it a dream?" , Alexei thought. He felt exhausted again, even though he had been resting. "I don't think it was."
He looked at Aurora, sleeping peacefully where he had left her. "Did I just mate with a god?" The thought ran circles around him as he relived every moment. It had felt real, and there wasn't the usual haziness of dreams.
Alexei shook his head and stood up. He looked to Aurora and he gently woke her with a nudge on the neck. She slowly blinked awake and she yawned, looking at him. "Morning, Alpha."
Alexei nodded, "Morning, Aurora." He gestured to the door, saying, "It may be best if you left before anyone finds out you stayed here. I don't smell anyone else awake yet so now is our chance."
Aurora nodded, "Good idea." She stretched quickly and ran up the stairs, silently pushing the door open and scanning the area. Once she was certain it was clear she ran back to the cabin. Alexei followed her soon after, covering her scent as she disappeared from view. He breathed a sigh of relief as he made sure no wolf was awake.
Alexei sniffed the air, taking in the myriad of scents nearby. To his knowledge, no other Alphas were nearby. He began to wander around the snowy forest, keeping an eye out for a sizable deer that could be his breakfast. Alexei looked up, seeing the daylight through the tops of the tall trees. He remarked to himself about how those trees were much like the ones from his dream.
His heart stopped for a second and he sniffed the air, sea
So silent I when Love was by
He yawned, and turned away;
But Sorrow clings to my apron-strings,
I have so much to say.
Helen Feb 2012
Fall surrendered, snow fell, and Ruth’s mother bought a blanket for her daughter’s seventeenth Christmas. It wasn’t a very expensive or spectacular blanket; it was extraordinary only in the fact that it hadn’t been picked mindlessly from a Christmas list but had instead been chosen lovingly and thoughtfully. She knew her daughter was forever chilly and would love the blanket’s fleece side, and she laughed to see that it had snaps just like the blanket she herself had spent her evenings cocooned in when she was Ruth’s age. So she wrapped the blanket more beautifully than the other gifts and set it gently under the tree.

The sun stretched, adults yawned, and Ruth opened her mother’s gift on Christmas morning. At the sight of the blanket, her grandmother’s eyes welled with memories of Ruth’s mother, looking almost identical to how Ruth looked now, wrapped up in her own blanket with the snaps. Ruth admired the gentle color of the blanket’s slick side and stroked the fleece side against her check before setting it on top of the rest of her gifts. She thanked her mother enthusiastically (she’d always been acutely aware of her reaction to gifts in front of their givers) and laughed good-naturedly at her grandmother’s hovering tears before hugging them down her face.

Naked trees shivered, frost iced the landscape, and at her mother’s suggestion Ruth spent the winter with the blanket layered beneath her covers. She nestled beneath it every night, but felt guilty when she couldn’t love it any more than anything else she had in her room, and she never snapped it around herself as her mother had done. She’d tried to wear it like that the day she was given the blanket, but it had made her feel uncomfortable and constrained. So instead she slept with the blanket spread flat beneath her sheets through that winter and into the spring.

Spring sprung, flowers bloomed and Ruth bounced for a moment on her toes before diving headfirst into his eyes. The weeks passed for her not in hours and days but in giggles and kisses, and she was surprised when her usually analytical, suspicious mind released her heart and allowed it to love recklessly and entirely. Making her bed one giddy morning, Ruth stroked the soft, fleece side of her blanket and then the slick, smooth side, and she thought of sweet picnics and stargazing from quiet hilltops. She folded the blanket and kept it in her car in preparation for any such spontaneity.

The moon beamed loudly, prom streamers fluttered, and Ruth danced with him wildly. Her classmates all felt just as immortal, and everyone laughed and spun and anticipated together. When they finally left the dance, Ruth’s body was still coursing with the night’s excitement, intoxicated with young love and the bright eternity that stretched before her. He brought her to a small hilltop where she spread the slick side of the blanket against the grass, and the two lay trembling there beneath the stars. Finally, he wrapped his mouth and his heart and his body around hers, and her innocence leaked slowly onto the fleece.

The moon slid drunkenly behind the hills, birds began to wake, and Ruth flew home on her own audacity, leading the dawn behind her. In the dim light, she noticed the garbage can her father had brought to the curb the night before, and she decided to spare her mother the pain of discovering the once soft fleece now stained with rebellion. Quietly, she lifted the lid and dropped the blanket inside. Its snaps scraped loudly against the can for an instant, but then the morning quickly swallowed the noise. By the time the lid banged back down, Ruth was rushing back to the house, her blanket already forgotten.
Poetic T Dec 2016
Yes you did read the title correctly, a little kitten that couldn't meow and this is her story:

Cotton lived on a farm and she was having a baby,
but where cats have a litter [a lot of kittens]
For her she was seen by the vet and told she had only
                       one single baby,
this was cottons happiest moment.

The day came and all the animals were ready to
see a new addition brought in to there little piece
of heaven. And with the vet there to help little
cottons baby in to the world, the animals heard
the voice of the vet say its a baby girl.

With happiness all the animals gathered in celebration,
but unbeknown to them cotton was learning smudge
[yes smudge] she was a kaleidoscope of colour.
Her first words which was meant to be MEOW.
but the words were drowned out in the  celebration,
so many noises, that hers was missed out.

A few animals stayed after the celebrations to
see the new born, including Betty the cow,
Frankie the dog and Barbra the sheep.
Cotton was a little worried that Smudge hadn't
spoken her first word so she spoke to her.

"My little miracle,
"Speak to mamma, I need to hear your words.

Smudge looked in confusion but uttered what she
thought was the word her mummy needed to hear.

"Mummy, I will speak my voice,

And with that she took a breath in, and released it on
to her mothers ears.

"Meaoooooooooo,

The cow looked as its jaw dropped, "Mooooo, the other
cow said that's an udder statement.

Cotton looked and was taken aback by her daughters new words,
that wasn't expected and laughed.

"Mummy my voice why does it not sound like yours,
                
"Don't worry my child mummy will help you find it again,

Once again the little one listened to its mummy purr, then
with a deep breath she let out a beautiful "Meow,
it was like music to the daughters ears.

"Mummy that was beautiful, I want to sound like you,

A tear fell from her mothers eye,

"You will my darling smudge, let us give it another try,

So with nervous looks all around, smudge took a breath in
a with mighty exhale she gave out a "Mea-woof woof,
Frankie the dog just looked on in amazement.....

"That was howling amazing, I mean bark, bark..

As the vet entered the barn, surprised to see the animals all
watching this little one yawn, then slumber to sleep.
"How's mummy,
As she stroked Cottons fur she purred with delight at the
fuss that was being pampered to her.

Then as the vet left in her van, all the animals were staring
through the window to see if it was OK to talk.
All slept until the morning and as all awoke, noises were
heard first was Betty the cow "mooning, then Frankie the
dog, "I feel woof, I think I slept wrong, Barbra the sheep awoke
coughing, she said I think I have a frog in my throat.

Barbra coughed again, and out popped a frog "Ribbit,
"Sorry madam it was so warm in there,
Everyone was giggling as well as Betty.

"Now that I have cleared my throat,

Cotton smiled and gently ushered her daughter awake,
"Morning smudge,

She yawned and smiled at her mummy, rubbing her eyes
looking around to see her mummies friends eagerly waiting
to hear that needed voice to reappear..

"Mummy I was counting sheep when I went off to sleep,
Barbra smiled as her herd used the barn as a short cut to the field.

"Glad we could help Cotton,

Cotton yawned and a purr and meow came forth, a little tear
was in Smudges eye. Her mother saw and pawed it away,
Don't worry my little one once we find it you'll be using it
everyday. She smiled and jumped up and down on her tiny
paws, lapping up her milk she licked her whiskers and
looked at her mummy and said I think I can do it.

Looking proud she let out a what she hoped was her true
voice and with that she said let put in her cutest little voice

"meow, meow, meow,

Her mummy looked on proud as any mother could be,
everyone cheered that this little smudge had spoken
her true voice. "mummy, mummy was that me?

Barbra gave a sigh of relief as smudge didn't release
a Ba, Ba meow, she thought "I would have looked
rather sheepish if she had giggling she looked on.

Smudge was jumping up and down and happy as
anyone finding there voice could be. Cotton spoke
and said words of wisdom to her little one.

"If at first you don't succeed, always try again,

"And you did and now your true voice has been set free,

The farm was so happy that the new addition had now
found what was lost, and all that was heard was a very
proud kitten singing to the top of her voice.

*"Meow, "Meow, Meow,
Sand Sep 2013
I woke up next to you,
Watched your balanced breathing,
Chuckled at your tousled hair,
But the only difference was
Where I’d usually trace the words,
I love you on your back,
I typed them into instant message,
Got up,
Yawned,
Stretched,
Rubbed away eye crusties,
And turned off Skype.
THERE all the golden codgers lay,
There the silver dew,
And the great water sighed for love,
And the wind sighed too.
Man-picker Niamh leant and sighed
By Oisin on the grass;
There sighed amid his choir of love
Tall pythagoras.
plotinus came and looked about,
The salt-flakes on his breast,
And having stretched and yawned awhile
Lay sighing like the rest.
Straddling each a dolphin's back
And steadied by a fin,
Those Innocents re-live their death,
Their wounds open again.
The ecstatic waters laugh because
Their cries are sweet and strange,
Through their ancestral patterns dance,
And the brute dolphins plunge
Until, in some cliff-sheltered bay
Where wades the choir of love
Proffering its sacred laurel crowns,
They pitch their burdens off.
AmberLynne Jun 2014
This morning I rose before the sun, 
Stretched slowly and yawned wide,
Then drove to the skate park,
knowing it would be empty this early. 
I skated, really skated, 
braver away from others' eyes. 
Others trickled in over the hours. 
Sitting, resting on the bleachers
A question from another,
"why is no one skating?"
I, confused, reply incredulously
"Why are YOU not skating?"
His explanation saddens me. 
He doesn't skate, 
is twenty years old,
and so feels it's too late. 
I'm 26, I tell him,
I just started and I'm terrible. 

It's true. 
I'm unsure of myself
and my form
       is
   off
but I'm trying. 
We have this one life,
one chance. 
Why would you not try
for something 
you've always wanted to do
or something you love?
You don't have to be good,
but ****, 
you do have to try.
6.4.14
archwolf-angel Aug 2016
Monster
Trianna POV
It took me time to accept what I was being pushed into. Ever since I was young, my mother and father told me that one day, I might grow to hate myself. I know, what parents tell that to their child right? But they saw no point in lying to me. It was going to happen. I was going to hate myself.

I am half-vampire.

Not because of my mother, not because of my father. It was my paternal grandfather.

It was a miracle my father got none of the vampire symptoms. It was the best miracle. My grandparents were one of those unbelievably fated couples in the world. A vampire and a human fell in love and got married and had my dad. They were prepared to have to deal with a vampire child, but, miraculously, it did not happen. My father came out normal, as normal as any human could ever be. It was not surprising; he had more of my grandmother’s genes. Eventually, my father met my mother, fell in love and got married. I came along. That’s how the equation works right?

They had nothing to worry, for they were both human. However, something was not right. When I was 3, my eye color changed. The color was nothing like my parents’. Their eyes were a nice shade of hazel and dark brown. Mine, was green, dark, forest green. As a kid, my treats weren’t sweets. They were blood, small droplets of blood from my parents. But by the time I was 7, my parents and grandparents helped me grow an addiction to lollipops, making me turn to them whenever I had a craving attack. For blood that is. But craving attacks were rare, very rare. I was only a half-vampire anyway.

As the days passed, I grew into a teenager, my parents and grandparents aged, except my grandfather. My grandmother long got used to the fact that my grandfather would not be able to age with her. After a while, I found it weird that my father was starting to look older than my grandfather. Things all went well, until the night before I turned 18.

It was taboo.

All a taboo.

I really hated myself now.

No one saw it coming. So we didn’t make precautions.

I killed them. I killed my parents. I didn’t even know what happened. I couldn’t even remember. I only remembered that I was enjoying a movie on television with my parents alone at home as my grandparents were out for a friends’ gathering dinner or something. And the next thing I remembered were my parents, lying in their own pool of blood, not breathing. My hands and face, stained with blood. My grandfather tried to stop me but feeding me his blood, but it was too late. It was all too late. I held onto my grandfather’s bitten arm and lay there, just staring at my parents. The clock struck midnight and everything turned black.

I woke up the next morning in my own bed, an urge to puke filled my guts as I rushed to the toilet to throw up. Nothing came out, just regurgitation. I looked up in the mirror, and blinked. I blinked again, harder this time, making sure I was not hallucinating. My eyes were, green, not dark green, but a lighter shade. I pulled the side of my mouth to reveal my canine teeth. They were sharper than before. In a state of shock and panic, I ran down the stairs, where I knew where my family would be. The moment I reached the first floor, I saw my grandparents outside, in the backyard.

I hesitated to move. Someone tell me the nightmare I had was not real.
“G-Grandpa?” I murmured. My grandfather turned, making my grandmother do the same. My grandmother had a tear-streaked face and a handkerchief in her hands. My grandfather looked the worse ever since I knew him. I swallowed hard before walking closer to them, and I noticed two coffins being laid on the ground.

Tears fell down my cheeks as I realized who those two being laid there were.

“Grandpa… Tell me this isn’t real…” I struggled to believe what was happening in front of me. My grandfather held onto me before I could collapse.

“Trianna, please don’t be like this…” he pleaded.

I knelt in front of my parents’ tombs and bid them a last farewell before they were being cremated. The fire was burning away so many memories. I almost wanted to walk into it, almost.

“I’m sorry…” I whispered under my breath and said a deep prayer. I lifted myself up from the ground and dried my tears. Walking to my grandparents, I gave them both a tight hug before my grandfather could go on another trail of apologies about how it was his fault I am what I am now. Worse, I am not a pure. And that is making things so hard for us to decipher. It was something none of us wanted. However, I had to blame myself. And I blamed myself, a lot. But I never mentioned anything about my parents ever since my 18th birthday. I wanted to escape.

For one year, we continued to stay at that same house. And every day without fail, I would walk to the backyard where my parents were cremated and kiss the ground, apologize then do whatever I had to do for the day. I stayed away from school which my grandparents obliged. I doubt anyone is ready for me to have a sudden craving attack again and start ******* the blood out of my classmates since my cravings were stronger now. I used to only have to **** on lollipops whenever I see blood. But now, I had to have a lollipop in my mouth 24/7, considering the fact that we are in fact staying amongst humans, and most probably have to for the rest of my life, and I start wondering how long my life would be.

To start things anew, my grandparents decided we needed to shift to a new state. If we continued to stay in that place, as they assumed, would be bringing me way too much pain. I had no opinions; I just needed to follow them wherever they wanted to go. However, I did mention there was not much need to actually move, I was over the whole blaming myself about my parents’ death thing… I think.

We settled down in a small town called Kingslet based in the United States, where Grandpa once lived with his family. I heard that that town was secluded, but definitely still populated with humans, moreover, rich humans. And probably some vampires.

We moved into a cottage that my grandfather bought over from an old friend. And when I said old friend, I meant like, a really really really old vampire friend of his who happened to want to move away to another town with his family. My grandfather drove a van that he had rented from near the place where our private plane landed to the location where we were destined to live. Upon arriving, my jaw dropped. That isn’t a cottage, more like a mansion, for goodness sake. Alighting from the van, I took one breath and knew it was the signal for me to be ******* on lollipops again. I took one out from my backpack and opened it before popping it into my mouth.

“The smell getting to you already? That’s fast.” My grandfather, who was obviously already immune to the smell of blood, chuckled.

“Shut up.” I mock-glared my grandfather and smiled as I helped with moving the luggage into the house. Being half-vampire, for the moment, was not half bad. I get extra super strength, a cliché vampire gift. I did my own research of my own kind. We get super human strength, sense of smell increases and super human speed. But I figured maybe because I was only half-bred, I wasn’t sensitive to the sun, nor to garlics, or crosses. I consider myself lucky.

Entering the cottage, I placed the luggage on the floor before taking a look around the place. The place was really not bad. It was huge, comfortable and very cozy. My grandmother would definitely love it here. Well, she would be the only one hanging around the house 24/7. I don’t really want my 75 year old human grandmother wandering just anywhere she wants alone. High chances are that she was going to get hurt or something. But touch wood. And true enough, my grandmother was already taking her place on one of the sofas furnished in the living room by the fireplace, smiling at my grandfather.

“It’s wonderful here, Xavier dear.” She complimented.

Both grandfather and I smiled at her then at each other.

“Glad that you like it here, Katrina darling.” He said to my grandmother, making me quiver at their sweetness, but it was not like I was not used to it. “Come on Tri, let’s start moving the things.” He turned to me and suggested. I nodded with a smile. As we were at moving, I was told my room is on the second floor, in which I get to choose between three bedrooms, and the other two would become any room I want them to be, and that most likely means I would be having the whole second floor to myself. This really doesn’t sound so bad. I picked the biggest room, and poked my head in, realizing that the bed and all were already furnished perfectly. It must be grandpa. He knows me really well. Too well.

I threw both my luggage onto my bed and opened them, revealing my clothes and all my other belongings and started unpacking. First, my one and only family photo left after grandpa decided to keep the rest away from me at our old home. He only allowed me to keep one, the one we took when I was 15, in which I really don’t look much different compared to the present me. Staring at the photo, I wished so much that they were still here with me. It didn’t matter if we were going to move either way, as long as they were here, things would be perfect. I quickly put the picture frame at the side of my bed before I could actually start crying my green orbs out again. I proceeded with the rest of my unpacking and once I was done, I had also finished my lollipop. Being lazy to open another open, I chose to leave the empty lollipop stick in my mouth and chew on it instead.

Heading downstairs with my headphones hanging around my neck and smartphone, I hopped onto the longest sofa that was facing the wide screen television, switched on the television and started to channel surf, deciding to figure out the town’s frequency, hoping they have my favorite music and drama channels.

“Trianna!”

I heard my name coming from behind me, before turning to my grandmother. She merely shrugged at me, so I pouted at her and responded to my grandfather. “Yes, grandpa?” turning to meet gazes with him. I instantly felt a bunch of papers being shoved into my hold.

“What is this?” I asked, flipping through the pieces of paper, which I realized had my name and identification number printed everywhere.

“Your new school registration confirmation. I have already settled everything for you. And you are reporting to school the day after tomorrow, on Monday.” My grandfather said, taking a place next to my grandmother as they cuddled up.

“Isn’t this a little bit too soon?” I frowned. I really did not hate school. I just hated the fact that if I have to hang around humans, I have to deal with my control over my craving. It’s stressful and tiring.

“You are not getting away with anything this time, Trianna. It’s been a year since you last went to school. And the sooner you go out there to train, the better. Eventually, you will need to walk out of the house.”

Crap. I struggled to find another excuse. And light bulb!

“What about this and this?” I pointed at my eyes first, then my teeth.

“Don’t fret about it. I’m stocking up on your contact lenses for you, and your lollipops. Plus, your teeth aren’t obvious either, those lollipops are grazing them off.”

“But-!”

“Trianna!”

I bit my lips, “Yes grandpa…” I knew there was no way I can argue further. My grandfather was right; I have to deal with this someday, somehow anyway. Why not just go out there and face the music, get it over and done with? He had already obliged to me for a year, it was my turn to listen.

Dinner was spaghetti with carbonara, my grandfather’s best cuisine. Nothing beats this. It was my favorite behind lollipops. After dinner, it was sliced fruits and television. Once I felt I had my fair share of the night, I kissed my grandparents goodnight.

Third Person POV

After Trianna headed up to her room, her grandmother frowned.

“What’s wrong, Katrina?” Trianna’s grandfather asked, caressing his wife’s cheeks.

“Xavier, don’t you think it’s a little too harsh on Trianna? Making her go to school now? Go out there with the humans?” she questioned, as worried as her face portrayed her to be.

Xavier sighed. As much as he did not want to risk his one and only precious granddaughter, he had to. “Katrina, we have to let her go. She is very unlike me. If we don’t let her go, we will never have our answers about her. I know I promise to ask my friends more about Dhampirs. I will. But Trianna still has to go. I cannot protect her forever.” Xavier let out another sigh, “I don’t even know for sure, if she is a Dhampir.”

Trianna POV

The morning sun shone on my face indicating the new day. I struggled to open my eyes as I lifted myself off my bed. I stretched uncomfortably and yawned. This new bed sure needs some getting used to. After combing and tying up my shoulder-lengthed dark brown wavy hair, I washed myself up before heading down to the first floor.

“Good morning Grandpa. Good morning Grandma.” It was a habit to greet. A good one, I know. It was pancakes for breakfast, I could totally smell it since I was upstairs. Popping my head into the kitchen, I took another deep breath.

“Pancakes?” I asked, excited.

“Bet you smelt it the moment you woke up.” He laughed.

“Not exactly, but when I was upstairs, yes.” I chuckled along, moving to hug him.

“Good morning Tri.” He greeted, hugging me tightly.

“Where’s Grandma?” I bobbed my head around, not seeing her anywhere in sight.

“In the backyard trying to do some exercise.” He answered.

You are seriously letting a 75 year old woman do exercise alone in the backyard. Call yourself the best husband in the world. Creep.

I ran towards the backyard and saw my grandma doing some stretches to the morning radio slowly. Like literally, really slowly. I skipped over to greet her, shocking her a little before I pounced slightly to hug her and give her a daily dose of her morning kiss. Sensing that my grandfather was almost done with the pancakes, I led her back into the house and sat her down on her seat at the big round dining table. After helping my grandfather with laying the table, we three finally sat down for breakfast.

Picking up the maple syrup, I poured enough to cover my pancakes before placing my block butters on them, melting them and coating the pancakes. Love them this way. The silence during the meal was perfect, until my grandpa decided to break it.

“So,” he coughed slightly, “Any plans for today?” he asked, looking straight at me.

“No… Why would I have any plans made in a new town?” I asked, avoiding eye contact with my grandfather because I knew exactly where he was getting at.

“Why don’t you take a walk around the new town?”

I cursed under my breath. I think I forgot to mention. My grandfather’s vampire gift, was reading minds. That was exactly why, he knows me very well. ***** to be me, sometimes.

“Sure, doesn’t sound like such a bad idea before the start of school?” I replied. I was not out of my mind. But since I had already promised to go to school, there should not be a problem with just walking around town and try to get used to humans one day earlier. “Are you two coming with me?”

Grandpa nodded and said that he had already suggested to grandma about taking a walk around town, to let grandma know the place better as well as get to know a few faces around us. He felt it wasn’t nice to not greet if you are new in town.

After getting changed into a simple tee and shorts matched with my favorite pair of converse shoes, I hung my headphones around my neck again, plugging the end into my phone and opened one lollipop to pop into my mouth before heading out. The smell was already overwhelming at the door. Thanks, you pathetic piece of body. But if grandpa could get used to it, so will I. I saw my grandfather picked out his favorite hat and placed it on his head and I smirked. At least I can handle some sun.

Walking around town, we got to know a few people. Like Uncle Tyler, owner of the Italian restaurant along the streets, and a few other people around my grandma’s age or slightly younger. I merely greeted and smiled at them, not knowing what to say. Sadly, my grandpa had to introduce himself as my grandmother’s son. Very heartbreaking, to me at least. My grandparents long foreseen this and had been mentally prepared, I really sal
REAL Oct 2013
Woke up
With my eyes stuck together
and my lips dry
and my body stiff

I rubbed my face
and my eyelids  almost closing again

i walked upstairs and walked into my room
and clothes laying eveywhere
grabbed a big sweater and brought it over my head
and slipped my arms through

messed up my messy hair
and walked in to the bathroom
and looked myself in the mirror
my mustache reaching the top of my grey lips
and my stubble growing in slowly
  
walked out of the bathroom
left the light on
and into the kitchen
i yawned,it left me  feeling weake
opened up the cuboards took out the coffee
walked over a basket with bread and took a slice
made the coffe and let it  to boil
put the bread in the toaster and let it to toast

looked out my window
and the blue sky moving slowly
with the clouds fluttering along
the trees turned yellow
and the streets wet,for it rained

the toast popped out
and coffe was made

sat on the table
rubbed my face
the coffee steam raveling my nose
and my teeth ready to taste the crunsh of white toast

i thought about the day
and
smiled...
Kunzite Hewitt Aug 2010
First, I would like to introduce Grayasety. She was a young girl, had soft strands of medium-short caramel hair, and she had green-blue eyes that looked like miniature earths. She was indeed a pretty girl and she was of average height, and had a healthy body. She also had a slight southern drawl; her mother was from Texas. She loved going on boat voyages as her father was the captain of a ship named Gray Asety, named after Grayesty, so she was often training to go on voyages.
                  One morning, just like any other ordinary morning, Grayasety left her house for the next-door stable with her baby sitter, Kinberly, which was part of her father’s crew.  Today was the big day, the day when Grayasety was going to go on a voyage with her father as an official crewmember. Today was Grayasety’s 13th birthday; today was the day when she was old enough to work on her father’s ship! Therefore, she gaily whistled and skipped along the road. It had always been her dream to work on her father’s ship, and today, finally, her dream was coming true. When she got to the stable she blew her small, pink whistle that, to human ears would make no sound, and like every morning her best friend, (which had the ability to morph into animals) trotted tiredly out of the stable in the form of a beautiful brown mare. The huge animal yawned and said, “Morning Kin!” And then addressing Grayasety she said, “ Well, well, little missy what do you want me to be today?” Today Grayasety wanted Mila to be a green parrot, Grayasety was obsessed in the color green, and Mila had reluctantly obeyed, the trio set off for the fresh smelling bay.
Kinberly, and Mila worked on the Gray Asety. Mann Forumest, or Captain Daddy as Grayasety called him had met Grayasety’s mom working as a crewmember on the Majesty, a steamboat. Grayasety’s mother, Magnolia Scott Forumest was the assistant cook. They married, but kept their jobs until one day when Grayasety was about five, the Sea Bandits, a notorious group of pretty woman stealers, kidnapped Her mother.
                        While on sea, Grayasety shared a rather large suite in the ship with her father. In the Bedroom were two desks, one big and one small, and in the corner was a bunk bed, the top bunk badly painted in green and the bottom bunk still bearing its natural mahogany color. Grayasety was sitting in her little green desk, scribbling madly in her deep green diary. Grayasety *** a liking of scribbling and those who have know her long enough could read her scribbles like one would writing. She could read and write although she was nowhere near a strait A student.
                   After a while Grayasety decided to bother her father and, forgetting to switch into her lime green boots, shinnyed up the main stairs to the deck in her faded fluffy mint green slippers. Mila, perched comfortably on Grayasety’s shoulder, started telling her that she was wearing her slippers when Grayasety shoved a faded green pacifier in Mila’s mouth; Grayasety often did this to keep Mila quiet.
Mila, not enjoying the dusty, stale taste of the pacifier unhappily decided to keep her mouth shut until Grayasty got in a better mood. In truth Grayasety was in a marvelous mood and rather liked shoving pacifiers in Mila’s mouth. As the girl got closer to the deck, she started to hear chanting from the kind crew. She especially heard Kinberly’s familiar raspy voice chanting,” Laaa dee daaa, the Gray A rolls along,” and as she emerged to the *****, wet deck she noticed that her father was talking to someone else already. “Botherin’ will have to wait some,” she whispered to Mila. Then she took the pacifier out of Mila’s mouth and scolded,” why didn’t you tell me that I was still wearin’ my slippers eh? Wanted to make me look like an idiot?” Mila simply rolled her eyes.
                    Right then, Captain Daddy, apparently finishing his conversation, came over to the pair and said affectionately, “How are my darlings doin’ today?” Mila especially enjoyed this for Captain Daddy always gave a loving stoke on her back and a whole chocolate chip cookie if he had one. Although Grayasety always stole some of the cookie Mila was happy enough with half. Grayasety, on the other hand was happy with a whole cookie so she begged Captain Daddy to give her another one. Captain Daddy gave her another cookie but chided her not to steal any more from Mila.
                    After the lecture on not stealing other people’s food, Grayasety clambered up the crow’s nest and almost knocked over Franz, a tall, but gaunt boy a couple years older then Grayasty getting in. ”Anythin’ unusual yet?” asked Grayasety hopefully. “Nope,” answered the calm boy quietly. ”Hi Franz. Do you have any cookies?” asked Mila mockingly, Franz just laughed and said,” If I had any I would of eaten it by now! Gray, can you get me somethin’ from the kitchen?”.
                   Grayasety got Franz a basket of food and got her self the same amount; Grayasety was basically always hungry, and had a little picnic on the roomy crow’s nest. After they finished their meal Grayasety decided to let Franz rest and did lookout. Franz had a small room to himself, which was about the size of a normal bathroom with all the stuff taken out. In the corner was an old, squeaky army cot and next to it was a rotund desk with a stack of blank paper, a jar of Indian ink, and a fountain pen laid precariously on it.
                    Franz was quite a writer and he spent his free time eating, sleeping, or writing and unlike Grayasety he actually wrote not scribbled. He was working on a story about gargoyles that came to life at night. It was an interesting story, really. He would of loved to stop working on the Gray Asety and go get his books published but he stayed for his family was a poor one and needed his help to make a living and also, Captain Forumest provided free paper. And, his daughter was the first friend he ever had; Franz was convinced that she was the best one.
                   Grayasety enjoyed being on ships. She liked feeling the cold air rush through her hair and she enjoyed the great view of the vast sea that surrounded her. She even liked the feeling of being so small compared to the humpbacks that swam by. She thought that the ship food was good, and she felt that the sea was truly where she belonged. Grayasety was very cranky when she was not at sea, (though she did like their big, ocean green house), so her father tried to include her on as many voyages as he could.
                     Captain Daddy, or Mann as I will call him spent most of day in a booth on the deck. He often worried about his daughter’s mental health (even though it was completely unnecessary). He talked to Grayasety’s doctor about this and Dr.Metalos, Grayasety’s doctor, gave them a list of mental deceases she could have, but none of them seemed like some thing she would have. Mann was sure that his daughter did not have one sickness; Much Too Much Time At The Sea Syndrome. If any one knew where Grayasety belonged it was Mann and he knew perfectly well that his daughter would go insane if she wasn’t at sea for too long. For one thing she preferred to sleep on her uncomfortable bunk at sea rather then on her fluffy green bed as soft as a feather at home.
                        Right then the ship did a tummy- flopping lurch and knocked off the map and compass from Mann’s desk, which interrupted his thoughts for a while. Below deck Franz’s desk toppled over, and Franz accidentally made a long and ugly scribble across his writing and on the crow’s nest Grayasety was having trouble standing up and she almost vomited right onto Kinberly’s hair. This was rare for Grayasety for she lived on the sea and was used to lurches; she had once survived a shipwreck, which explains her golden earring on her right earlobe.
                   That night as Grayasety lay in bed Mann quietly crept out of his bunk and scurried up the stairs to the deck. He wanted some time to himself. Ahead was Cape Horn; a very dangerous place where so many ships had sunk it could fill the biggest port in the world, but more personally, this was near the Sea Bandits main head quarters, 8 years ago the beautiful Magnolia Scott Forumest was captured here. Even though it was impossible in the foggy mist, Mann tried to make out the cave that marked the entrance to the headquarters. Only few people knew this entrance, and publicity stated that it was a “mere mystery” why most captives were capture near Cape Horn. Mann felt a chill run down his spine and then he thought he felt someone’s hand grab his shoulder. He looked down and saw what he dreaded most; a hand tinged with brown firmly held his shoulder.
                      Grayasety woke up feeling wonderful but apparently Mila didn’t. She kept screeching something about Captain Daddy being kidnapped and soon she found that what Mila had just screeched in her ear was true. She stormed into Franz’s cabin and told him what she discovered and they soon agreed to do what no one else wanted them to do; steer the boat right into the Sea Bandits’ headquarters and take back what, and who was theirs no matter how hard it could be.
                      Grayasety had Franz steer the boat and she herself navigated, Kin was lookout and the rest of the crew helped out. Franz dropped the passengers off at Puerto, and Mila morphed back into a human; what she really is, and helped out. Separated from the frenzy, Grayastey was quietly thinking to herself. She wondered why the Sea Bandits captured her father. They were well known for capturing pretty woman but not average looking men. Just then she heard a knock on the door. “Grayasety?” said the raspy voice of Kin. “There ya are. I just thought ya might wanna know why ya daddy was captured.” “Can you please tell me,” asked Grayasety, trying not to sound too eager. “Well rememba when ya daddy would be gone when ya woke up at mid night an’ I told ya that he had gone to the store to get some groceries? Well if you had thought some you woulda noticed that the store was closed.” Grayasety interrupted Kin in mid-sentence and said irritably, “Of course I rememba. Just get to the point Kin!” Kin flinched at Grayasety’s frustration and mumbled,” Well ya daddy was a spy. One of the best ones at that. He did all he could to stop organized crime, an’ he specialized in the Sea Bandit’s. They captured him ‘cause one less police the better for them.” Grayasety sat with her mouth hanging wide open. She never imagined that her father was a spy. But now every thing made sense. “ Sorry I didn’t tell ya before. Ya fatha simply wouldn’t allow it.” Kin apologized. Grayasety managed a squeak and then Kin left her.
                      After she repeated this to Franz and then Mila, Grayasety went down to her bedroom, she hated having to be near Her father’s belongings but she hated having people see her crying much more and cry she did, leaving her father’s mattress a soggy mess. Then she decided to clean that mess up for if they rescued her father she was sure he did not want to sleep in a soggy bed. Noticing it, she picked up her dad’s picture of her dad and mom’s wedding and became suddenly aware of how much she looked like her dad. The hair, the eyes, the quirky grin, every thing. Her mother had soft blonde hair and violet eyes that almost made you smell the pungent smell of lavenders and had a beautiful smile with bright red lips. All in all she was the most beautiful woman Grayasety had ever seen. She almost made Grayasety feel jealous.
                     “Hey! Gray. So are we gonna bring any weapons? Kin was a whole chest full of ‘em!” Said the distinctively low voice of Franz. “Well, I dunno. I suppose we should bring a couple guns. Always nice to be well prepared.” Replied Grayasety.

                     Franz was on lookout when the carrier pigeon came. The note it had on its leg was from Mann. It said:

Dear Grayasety and friends,

Do not come to save me. I’m with my wife in their dungeon but they want you guys to come too. You see, I’m like a bait. You’re the fishies. They want to erase all traces of the Forumest family. That means they have to dispose of those who would remember them. I will manage okay. Kin, Please take Grayasety and Franz home and forget about me for you and the children’s sake. Grayasety, I love you. Dispose all of my belongings and try to tell yourself that Kin is your mother. Believe me. It’s all for the better. Franz, I meant to tell you but your parents caught tuberculosis and died the other day. Your sister committed suicide soon after. Please take care of Grayasety.

             Mann

                    The trio stood silent for a long moment and then without warning Franz burst into tears, and scrambled to his cabin. Kin and Grayasety looked at each other sadly and went to their cabins themselves. Grayasety tried to sleep that night but images of Mann and her mother strapped up in chains kept her staring into the darkness with wide eyes. She reached over and got her personal music player, trying to distract herself but after a few seconds she turned it off again, for she could not bear listening to the lyrics; “It’s past midnight and something evil’s lurking 'round the dark” of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.
            The next morning, Mila and Kin steered the boat near the cave that marked the entrance to the Sea Bandits secret headquarters. Mila then morphed into a seagull and flew into the old, damp cave. From a safe distance Grayasety and her crew awaited Mila to return with some news. After swooping into the creepy cave Mila found the opening to the headquarters and perched on a ledge near it. There, she morphed into a rat, and scurried up into the opening.

                 After crawling along several hallways, Mila came across a steel door bolted very firmly marked “CELLS”. Luckily Mila was small enough to crawl under it. Scurrying along the bureau of prisons, Mila finally saw a cell with Mann and a stunningly beautiful woman captured in it. Mila slipped between the bars and trying not to gain the woman’s attention for fear that she would scream, climbed the steep hill of Mann’s arm to try to reach his ear. “Mann?? Don’t make any sound OK?? I’m Mila. I’m the rat on your shoulder. Kin, Grayasety, and Franz say they miss you a lot.” Whispered Mila. Then she saw a humongou
A short story instead of a poem, but I hope you enjoy!
Any corrections, edits, suggestions etc. and greatly aprecciated!
Hank Helman Aug 2015
Chasey calls them the dead mama blues.
There's sadness, she says, mine has a scent to it;
Despair, a shabby **** who mugs me under my covers
On winter days at dawn,
Catatonia, which only a messy bed,a ****,a bag of Cheetos and a boy can cure,
And then way down from there,
Squatting *** close to the ground,
Smoking Gauloises in the dark,
Live the dead mama blues.

The only cure for the dead mama’s, Chasey explains,
Is a blood rare steak and Etta James greatest hits on vinyl,
Played quiet through the sweet spot of the night,
All the lights off, the dishes done and dry.

Helps if a sister has a slim hip man to dance with, she said,
So if you ain’t runnin’, the grill’s on me.
Come by sober any time after moon rise, Chasey yawned,
Cause this girl could use a shoulder and a polite hand.

And bring your slippers, she said
Easier to shuffle over **** in sheepskin, plus
We might go up on the roof later on
And smoke some of my cubans for a while.

Door will be open, so please don’t ring,
Hell what am I saying, you know the path.
Chasey yawned again, a big one,
Waited a few seconds because there was nothing else to say
And hung up the phone with a sigh.
I MIND him well, he was a quare ould chap,
Come like meself from swate ould Erin's sod;
He hired me wanst to help his harvest in-
The crops was fine that summer, praised be God!

He found us, Rosie, Mickie, an' meself,
Just landed in the emigration shed;
Meself was tyin' on their bits of clothes;
Their mother-rest her tender sowl!-was dead.

It's not meself can say of what she died:
But 'twas the year the praties felt the rain,
An' rotted in the soil; an' just to dhraw
The breath of life was one long hungry pain.

If we wor haythens in a furrin land,
Not in a country grand in Christian pride,
Faith, then a man might have the face to say
'Twas of stharvation me poor Sheila died.

But whin the parish docthor come at last,
Whin death was like a sun-burst in her eyes-
They looked straight into Heaven-an' her ears
Wor deaf to the poor children's hungry cries,

He touched the bones stretched on the mouldy sthraw:
'She's gone!' he says, and drew a solemn frown;
'I fear, my man, she's dead.' 'Of what?' says I.
He coughed, and says, 'She's let her system down!'

'An' that's God's truth!' says I, an' felt about
To touch her dawney hand, for all looked dark;
An' in me hunger-bleached, shmall-beatin' heart,
I felt the kindlin' of a burnin'spark.

'O by me sowl, that is the holy truth!
There's Rosie's cheek has kept a dimple still,
An' Mickie's eyes are bright-the craythur there
Died that the weeny ones might eat their fill.'

An' whin they spread the daisies thick an' white
Above her head that wanst lay on me breast,
I had no tears, but took the childher's hands,
An' says, 'We'll lave the mother to her rest.'

An' och! the sod was green that summer's day,
An' rainbows crossed the low hills, blue an' fair;
But black an' foul the blighted furrows stretched,
An' sent their cruel poison through the air.

An' all was quiet-on the sunny sides
Of hedge an' ditch the stharvin' craythurs lay,
An' thim as lacked the rint from empty walls
Of little cabins wapin' turned away.

God's curse lay heavy on the poor ould sod,
An' whin upon her increase His right hand
Fell with'ringly, there samed no bit of blue
For Hope to shine through on the sthricken land.

No facthory chimblys shmoked agin the sky.
No mines yawned on the hills so full an' rich;
A man whose praties failed had nought to do
But fold his hands an' die down in a ditch.

A flame rose up widin me feeble heart,
Whin, passin' through me cabin's hingeless dure,
I saw the mark of Sheila's coffin in
The grey dust on the empty earthen flure.

I lifted Rosie's face betwixt me hands;
Says I, 'Me girleen, you an' **** an' me
Must lave the green ould sod an' look for food
In thim strange countries far beyant the sea.'

An' so it chanced, whin landed on the sthreet,
Ould Dolan, rowlin' a quare ould shay
Came there to hire a man to save his wheat,
An' hired meself and Mickie by the day.

'An' bring the girleen, Pat,' he says, an' looked
At Rosie, lanin' up agin me knee;
'The wife will be right plaised to see the child,
The weeney shamrock from beyant the sea.

'We've got a tidy place, the saints be praised!
As nice a farm as ever brogan trod.
A hundered acres-us as never owned
Land big enough to make a lark a sod.'

'Bedad,' says I, 'I heerd them over there
Tell how the goold was lyin' in the sthreet,
An' guineas in the very mud that sthuck
To the ould brogans on a poor man's feet.'

'Begorra, Pat,' says Dolan, 'may ould Nick
Fly off wid thim rapscallions, schaming rogues,
An' sind thim thrampin' purgatory's flure
Wid red hot guineas in their polished brogues!'

'Och, thin,' says I, 'meself agrees to that!'
Ould Dolan smiled wid eyes so bright an' grey;
Says he, 'Kape up yer heart; I never kew
Since I come out a single hungry day.

'But thin I left the crowded city sthreets-
Th'are men galore to toil in thim an' die;
Meself wint wid me axe to cut a home
In the green woods beneath the clear, swate sky.

'I did that same; an' God be praised this day!
Plenty sits smilin' by me own dear dure;
An' in them years I never wanst have seen
A famished child creep tremblin' on me flure.'

I listened to ould Dolan's honest words:
That's twenty years ago this very spring,
An' **** is married, an' me Rosie wears
A swateheart's little shinin' goulden ring.

'Twould make yer heart lape just to take a look
At the green fields upon me own big farm;
An' God be praised! all men may have the same
That owns an axe an' has a strong right arm!
SøułSurvivør Jul 2017
Natalheme was on the balcony gazing up at the moons again. She always did this after talking to The One. And, as always, she was awestruck by their beauty. Perfect spheres of crystal, with a scintillating sheen due to the shield that surrounded her world. Three there were. The largest was ivory, the second aquamarine, and the smallest the color of Tourmaline lilac. This is the human equivalent of the shades. But these colors only the Seraphs could see. For they have a much broader spectrum of color to enjoy.

The child yawned, and stretched her graceful arms as if to grasp the one small moon, now the color of heather, as it was moving behind the largest ecru orb. She then looked out at her home planet. The balcony provided a spectacular view. In itself, the cantilevered balcony was a feat of engineering without par. Gracefully it perched on the side of Natalheme's home like a dove would place itself with spread wings upon an olive branch. It had a texture like mother of pearl, but with a subtle sparkle like marble. The child went on the tip of her toes to look over the edge of this edifice.

Her planet was the loveliest this universe can provide. Her people, the Seraphs, were created by The One just as we were, but their female could not be tempted by Evitamar (their name for Satan). Therefore, their world, and indeed the Seraphs themselves, never lost their original Glory. Enormous trees spread like umbrellas of emerald and turquoise. Some were the shade of peridot. Others had leaves that were molting, and were every shade of fire. A mist swirled up from the foliage beneath the gargantuan trees. Flowers of every color (and as I said, their spectrum was endless) and shape graced the garden beneath the shade of the beautiful trees. The Mist watered everything growing. It never rained on her world. Cathedral like crystals erupted here and there from the russet earth. Natalheme (pronounced nat-al-eh-may) could hear the azure ocean. The waves sang and sang...

Above her an enormous eagle-like raptor soared on the thermals provided by the Mist. It looked down on the child, it's eyes having the same natural frown as our species of bird. But its eyes were ruby blood. It had feathers the color of alabaster and amber, and were crystalline in nature.

All of the sudden it positioned itself to swoop... its body angled down and rushed toward her with blinding speed! Its talons extended like landing gear, and snatched the child up like she weighed as much as a cotton ball!

It hauled her into the air by her light tunic, took her miles above her planet... And proceeded to drop her!

She shrieked...

... with utter delight!



(To be continued)



SøułSurvivør
(C) 7/13/2017
A story I've been writing I thought I'd share... I'm adding more instalments when I have the time.

Thanks for reading!
Waiting there in the railway station, a tall handsome young boy glanced over. She held a dark secret  that must  not be discovered.  Was  she in danger.?   . Rosa's past must be kept hidden. loudly steered in the train puffing and panting with all its might. Rosa feet moved quickly  and she hurried onto the moving train little did she know the young boy stood close behind her he hid in the next compartment, hoping that she see him. Rosa's eyes wilted into a deep sleep time had forgotten her past. the engine came to sudden haul, Rosa sprang quickly to her feet and she grabbed her belongings and ran down the long corridor to her surprise she noticed the same young man who waited close by her at the railway station. She nervously looked away. Rosa dreaded one thing her past. moments later she was ushered  into a taxi and she headed home to her aunts cottage.



Rosa arrived promptly the clock in the drawing room chimed half past nine.   Rosa walked gracefully into her Aunts drawing room but she was a little apprehensive of her aunts expectations she sat down on the fireside chair and raised her head at the rearrangement
of her mothers belongings  the wind howled from the back porch and she wondered if she had made the right decision coming back to her old roots. Maybe it was time to flee....
Her journey had some what tired her out. Soon she breathed a sigh of relief as she snugged down underneath the downy covers and fell soundly asleep. The next morning Rosa awoke to hear the birds chirping a romantic song. Rosa yawned,and stretched her legs. Suddenly there was a loud tap on the door.
"Do come in she replied"
"Madam can I draw back these curtains. nervously the maid said."
"Why thank you can put my breakfast tray over there on the table."
"Is their anything else that you require Madam."
"Nothing else at the moment smiled Rosa."

The sun gleamed through her aunts drawing room and soon yesterdays worries were all forgotten Rosa's thoughts had been rather judgmental perhaps she would now settle down to her new way of life. If only she could foresee her future.  Rosa tearfully looked out of the window after having a instant flashback of her teenage years the one that she wasn't proud of she felt nothing but shame Her Father only wanted to protect her. But now it was too
Late the consequences of that night affected her present, the past must never be allowed to catch up with her. She couldn't be a mother now it had destroyed her soul.
Rosa felt somewhat Cheated and if she fate should somehow be kind to her again. Given half the chance Rosa would snap it up.
But after her ordeal and the injuries she sustained, Rosa will    never be able to give birth again. And this broke her heart  into many pieces. She had given birth to twins the girl had died and the baby boy survived but she was far to young and so her Father had made arrangements for the child to be adopted with suitable parents who could provide a secure and stable up bringing. Rosa felt so alone and empty being robbed of her twins one lost to child birth and the other taken away how could she ever forget her sordid past. Rosa just wanted to forget,  But somehow it was coming back to haunt her.



Several dark long days had passed and Rosa busied herself in the kitchen preparing the meat pie for dinner. Molly the kitchen maid lay ill in her bed upstairs and her Aunt was to frail to help with the cooking.  Rosa breathed a sigh of relief when she had finished baking the meat pie for dinner. She pulled out the tea caddy from the cupboard and made herself a delightful twining s  tea, Rosa made some hot toast with honey and sat down at the kitchen table feeling lonely. she longed for the cool summer nights. But it was still a cold chill in the air. Her aunt sat in the front drawing room a Rosa took her up some tea and gently knocked on the door.
"Do come in My child.' could you please draw the curtain over a bit my head feels like it is about to burst open."
"Oh dear.'  Auntie I am sorry I'll go and fetch your pills."
"thank you Rosa."
That was the fist time her Aunt called her Rosa. maybe Her aunt Had a change of heart. The years had gone by so quickly
Rosa's aunt spent a lot of time in her bed. Molly spent nearly all day fetching and carrying until the sun hid behind the pale moon light. Molly looked rather pale so Rosa told her she could be released from her duties. She polity smiled and made her way upstairs to her room in the attic. The rain lashed onto the window
sill Rosa thoughts were on her son whom she had never seen, since the day he  was born. She still longed for him to come looking.  That kept her spirits alive.  Moments later there was a loud knock on the door. Rosa opened the door, There stood a young man the one that she had seen at the railway station. Rosa glanced awkwardly at the young mans face and then asked him a question.
"Have I met you before." she said."
Yes I do believe we have."        



After standing gazing at the young man she invited him in. Rosa felt a bit panicky, Who was he, and what on earth did he want.
She asked the young man if he was hungry. He said no that he had just finished his dinner at the hotel.
"But I could ****** a cup of tea. he replied.
" Please excuse me I won't be long."
Normally Molly maid  made the tea, But she was away for the weekend on leave and wouldn't be back until Monday morning.
Quickly she placed the teapot onto the tray along with some chocolate biscuits. Nervously she walked into the living room.
The conversation felt rather tense and while Rosa slipped her tea and plunged her biscuit into her tea.
Adam looked at Rosa and sighed deeply.
" And he blurted out are you my mother,?
" Surely you-------can't be.!        
"Mother look at me I am Your son."
She looked at him tearfully and her son embraced her tightly like a mother and son should. He just said hush I know the past and i want to put this all behind us.
Rosa looked at him and she couldn't believe that fate had bought him back for good...... the end .......

THE END.............
In the farthest reaches of known space, a single starship lay juxtaposed against the stars. The ship was named Destiny. The cold metallic shell hummed with energy as it sat motionless. There were large chunks of wreckage and shrapnel surrounding the Destiny, the last bits of oxygen burning away.
The Destiny was a silver and blue X-Class, a state-of-the-art high speed ship, currently the fastest in the Nine Galaxies. It's pilot was a female Extro-sapien named Jade. Her species was descendant from ****-sapiens, a long forgotten species from the Third galaxy. Extro-sapiens were humanoid, though taller than their descendants. They prided themselves on their indestructible immune system and immunity to all known poisons.That, coupled with the fact that their skin was strong enough to repel most blades with ease, made them extremely hard to ****. Extro-sapiens were nimble hunters, naturally armed with razor sharp fangs and claws. Jade was a bounty hunter, taking contracts to hunt down criminals or to escort VIPs in hostile areas for generous sums of currency. Her target's ship now lay in ruins, it's now-dead pilot floating in the void of space.
Jade walked from the cargo bay of her ship to the cockpit, stripping away her suit and clothes, tossing them in their respective rooms before sitting at her throne, not a stitch of clothing to be seen. It was relieving to be free once more.
She glanced over the various screens before her, some with pictures of her target either on a wanted poster or in the sealed container aboard her ship. She swiped the images to her left, compiling them into a message for her client before sending them. Almost immediately there was a soft chime as her client started a video uplink. Jade quickly grabbed the large headset from the floor and placed it over her pointed ears. She swiped her finger over the right earpiece and it clicked to life.
Jade growled and crossed a hand over her chest just before the screen shifted. An image of her client appeared before her, a reptilian humamoid adorned with gold rings on his short horns. Jade heard him hiss in surprise.
"Bounty hunter, if I had known you'd be so stunning, I'd have met you in person."
Jade's dual vocal cords echoed faintly in the cockpit. The sound of two angelic voices rolled off her forked tongue. "Flattery will get you nowhere. Besides, a night with me would cost you a fortune."
The man laughed, "Worth it, in my opinion."
Jade growled, "You have your proof of death, Silva, I expect you've wired the credits to my account?"
"Of course, of course! Though I could add a little extra if you simply move your hand."
Jade narrowed her eyes. "A show like that would cost you at least a million. Because I'm worth it."
She heard him chuckle, "Indeed you are." There was a pause and then he smiled, "Feel free to move your hand now."
Jade flashed her fangs, "Of course, you don't mind if I check first, right?"
Silva shrugged and Jade used her free hand to pull up her bank account. Sure enough, her initial payment had been received, along with the extra. She grinned and lifted her hand away from her chest. "Feast your eyes, perv."
She grinned as the reptilian choked. "Now that is worth a million!" He grinned from horn to horn, "I'll let you know when the next contract opens."
Jade returned her hand to her chest and growled, "This stays between us. Remember, I know where you live."
Silva's expression didn't change but she could tell that he flinched. "Of course. Until next time, gorgeous."
The video screen faded away and Jade quickly began to transfer her payment to other accounts. She sighed and turned to her right, seeing a map of the nearby systems. She spotted a contract pinned on a planet a few hundred lightyears away, and she gawked at the price tag.
"Ten billion units?" She whispered, "I could retire early with a payday like that."
She furiously began to type in calculators and coordinates. Her computer's voice echoed I'm the cockpit, "ERROR, PLEASE RECALCULATE TRAGECTORY."
Jade bared her teeth in anger as the holographic screen projected a diagnostic of her ship. One single line of text blinked slowly, enveloping her attention.
"FUEL LEVEL LOW, MAXIMUM SAFE TRAVEL: 40 LIGHTYEARS."
She swore under her breath, growling deep in her throat. She adjusted the microphone on her headset and cleared her throat. Her dual vocal cords echoed faintly in the cockpit. "Destiny, lock in coordinates to the nearest space station. Lock down cargo and prepare to engage hyperdrive."
The hologram buzzed to life as the various systems reacted to the sound of her voice. As Jade waited she shut her eyes, gently running her fingers over her bare chest. Jade's was proud of her body, hating to cover such beauty with clothes. Her arms, legs, and back were covered in ornate tribal tattoos. Jade had spent three continuous days enduring the hand poked tattoo, and she felt very proud in displaying the art whenever she could. She let her hands wander about her curves for a moment before stopping. Jade blinked a few times and shook her head. The bells at he tips of her long silver braids jingled. Jade whispered to herself, "There's time for that during lightspeed." Since she worked alone, she took every opportunity she could to relieve her tensions, as it allowed her to focus on her work without distraction. Companionship meant liability in her line of work.
She waited patiently for the computer, leaning back in her fur lined throne. Once all systems had finished their tasks, a soft voice echoed, "Hyperdrive on standby."
Jade took a soft breath. "Engage."
The starship lurched forward, the engines roaring ferociously behind her for a moment before the sound dampening system kicked in. She heard a familiar beeping and glanced up at the hologram, seeing the countdown from ten seconds. She felt the comforting shiver of excitement she always felt before launch, smiling softly to herself.
She braced herself in the chair and said, "Open view port, engage shield."
The large metal screen in front of her pulled away, revealing the grand masses of stars and planets before her. Jade took a deep breath and counted down, "Five. Four. Three. Two. One."
The ship screamed forward, and the starlight formed a beautiful tunnel around the Destiny as it traveled through hyperspace. Jade slumped back into her chair and closed her eyes. "Destiny, Disengage interior gravity field."
Jade felt herself lifting off of her chair, becoming weightless. Her braids jingled softly as they spread around her like a lionfish.
Jade pulled off her headset, letting it float in front of her as she stretched, running her hands along her body again and she shivered again. She twisted in midair, turning to the sealed door behind her. She touched the panel next to the door, feeling the familiar cold screen. The door opened and Jade floated into the corridor. She turned left towards her quarters and entered through another door. The walls were decorated with digital posters of various terrains she had visited during her travels. She drifted toward her bed, covered with a fur blanket and pillow. Jade wandered to the storage locker next to the bed, opening it delicately. Inside were a few personal mementos and data logs, and a small decorative box on the top shelf. She shivered as she thought about its contents. "Later. I think I need to sleep for now." She gripped the stability handle above her bed and lay down on the warm gel bed, covering herself with the fur. Jade breathed a sigh of relief as she relaxed, closing her eyes. It was at that moment that she felt how tired she really was, her muscles ached and groaned as she pressed a button on the side of the bed, changing the density of the gel to allow her to sink. The warm gel creeped over her legs and belly, then her chest and shoulders.
Jade groaned as the gel encapsulated her, covering every possible inch of her. Her mind wandered as her hand hovered over the other controls. "Massage or no?"
She bit her lip and pressed the button once, feeling the gel start to pulsate around her body.
Jade shivered and said to no one, "Who needs a man when you have tech like this?"
She spent the next few hours in the massage bed, finding her way into the decorative box partway through. Once Jade had thoroughly massaged her desires away, she climbed out of the gel, thankful for the weightlessness. She was no longer confident in the use of her legs. She pressed the first button twice and the gel began its cleaning process.
Jade retrieved her toys and placed them back in the box, pressing a button similar to the one on the bed, closing it and placing it back into the storage locker to clean.
Jade stretched again, invigorated. She floated back to the cockpit, checking the projected time of arrival. "Ten more hours. Plenty of time to get my gear ready."
Jade floated back into the corridor, this time twisting to the right towards her workbenches. The room was dark, save for a few blue work lights. As Jade hovered in the doorway, the overhead lights snapped on, casting a soft white glow around the room. She floated towards the first bench, where her gun hovered in a stasis field. It was almost four feet long, with three rotating barrels. Most bounty hunters favored energy weapons and plasma rifles, but not Jade. She preferred metal bullets that could shred flesh and punch through doors with ease. Her weapons would not fail her in case of electro-magnetic pulses either.
Jade floated to the next table, where her boots and mask hovered in another stasis field. Her boots were strong, heat and frost proof, and had a strong magnetic field to allow her to walk in zero gravity or even upside down. She had recently installed a pair of thrusters to them, which would allow her to fly for a short period of time, enough to get her out of harm's way or to a better vantage point.
Jade's mask was armor plated, angled to deflect any incoming rounds with ease. Two tubes connected the mask to an air reservoir that sat at the base of Jade's neck, underneath her braids. The eyepieces doubled as eye protection and target analysis. One of the lenses was cracked beyond repair and Jade swore. She hovered over the table and delicately disassembled the mask, letting the broken lens float freely away while she installed its replacement. She reassembled the mask and slid it onto her face. There was nothing at first, then the internal computers activated and she saw clearly through the mask. She glanced over the diagnostic data and nodded once she was satisfied. She took off the mask and set it back in its stasis field.
She turned to the final bench. Where her bodysuit lay in a crumpled heap of woven uranium and steel fiber. The bodysuit fit her like a second skin, adhering to every curve she possessed. The uranium fibers acted as an energy source, powering all of her necessities. The black suit shimmered as she touched it, reacting to her skin, begging to be worn. She smiled softly and patted the heavy fabric. "Soon, darling."
Jade glided to the door, leaving her gear behind as she returned to her living quarters. She hovered in front of the full length mirror, looking over her body. She smirked and purred, "Gorgeous as always."
Jade went to the storage locker and retrieved a large metal crate from the base. She took it to the mirror and opened the crate, revealing thirty blue feathers, each roughly a foot long. She had collected one for each of her braids, and she began to tightly weave the feathers into the tips of the braids. In the middle of each of her braids was a strong electro-magnetic core that, once activated, spread her braids like a lionfish. They would act as a distraction, allowing her the element of surprise. The magnetic field they created also acted as a strong shield.
Once the last feather had been woven into her hair, she then wrapped each braid in strips of the same uranium-steel fibers as her suit.
As the last of the fibers had been tucked into place, Jade grinned. The powerful fibers would amplify the effects of the electro-magnetic cores. Jade smiled at their resemblance to whips. She wanted to test them, see if they would crack like an actual whip.
Jade returned to her workshop, donning the bodysuit and her control gloves. She floated into the main corridor, which was wide enough that she wouldnt hit the walls once her braids were fully extended.
She took a deep breath and touched the her thumb and forefinger together twice, activating the electro-magnetic cores.
The sound was deafening, forcing Jade to scream involuntarily and clutch her ears in pain. She was shaking, her vision blurring. Her ears were ringing as she was finally able to hear again.
Jade reached up and felt her fully extended braids, marveling at their rigidity.
Once her hearing had completely recovered, she tapped her fingers together, deactivating the cores. Her braids floated limply in the air and Jade curiously went to the cockpit, sitting in her throne.
"Destiny, analyze decibel range of sound from main corridor."
After a moment, the ship's voice echoed, "Decibel range of one hundred ninety."
Jade shuddered, she was surprised she hadn't been deafened by the sound. She shook her head softly and looked at the projected time of arrival. "Seven hours."
She yawned, "Time to sleep then. Destiny, wake me up thirty minutes before we reach the station."
"Affirmative."
Jade lifted herself over the chair and ventured into her room. The gel bed had finished cleansing and she pushed herself onto it, feeling the familiar warmth. She focused on slowing her breathing and she closed her eyes, passing quickly into deep sleep.

In her dream, Jade stood on a slightly raised metal platform in the middle of a desert. The platform was massive, with sand covering the edges. Jade looked around, seeing nothing around her. She looked up into the sky and saw a single massive sun orbited by twelve planets and a ring of stars. Jade looked around her again and saw a massive wall of water closing in on her from all sides. She shut her eyes tight as she heard the water rushing around her.
Jade felt herself being carried away by the current. When she opened her eyes, she was back in her bed.
Jade blinked and sat up, unsure of herself.
She thought she could still hear the water rushing past her ears.
Jade shook her head and the bells brought her back to her senses. She could hear Destiny's alarm ringing within the bed and she pushed the third button, silencing the alarm. "Destiny, restore gravity.
Jade felt heavy for a moment, then the gravity stabilized and she rolled her shoulders. The countdown was now at thirty minutes.
Jade retrieved the headset from the floor and slid them over her ears. The screen in front of her had brought up a diagnostic of the space station. A light flashed on the instrument panel and Jade pushed it gingerly. An alien voice came over her headset, "X-Class starship, please respond."
Jade positioned the microphone in front of her mouth, "This is X-Class, go ahead."
There was a pause, then, "This is the Space Station Ender, please state your business and expected stay."
Jade hesitated, then said calmly, "Refuel and resupply. Expected stay no longer than forty-eight hours."
A minute passed, then another. Finally a response came, "X-Class you are cleared to engage docking procedures upon arrival."
Jade smirked, "Affirmative. ETA twenty-five minutes."
There was an audible click as the call ended. Jade sighed and pondered the contents of her cargo hold. She stood and turned to the back of her ship, going to the very end of the corridor to a locked panel.
Jade typed in an eight digit combination and the door swiftly slid open. The walls were lined with large storage compartments, though Jade wasn't worried about those. She counted her paces and stopped four paces from the door and she sidestepped right twice, touching her gloved fingers to the floor. The sound of gears and hydraulic pistons echoed throughout the room as a six foot by ten foot container lifted from the floor. Jade ran her fingers along the side of the container, opening the multitude of doors. As each door swung open, stacks of weapons and explosive devices became visible. This was the cargo that her target had been carrying. Since it no longer had an owner, it was worth a lot of money. Jade couldn't resist the possible fortune, bu
(A Virginia Legend.)

The Planting of the Hemp.

Captain Hawk scourged clean the seas
(Black is the gap below the plank)
From the Great North Bank to the Caribbees
(Down by the marsh the hemp grows rank).

His fear was on the seaport towns,
The weight of his hand held hard the downs.
And the merchants cursed him, bitter and black,
For a red flame in the sea-fog's wrack
Was all of their ships that might come back.

For all he had one word alone,
One clod of dirt in their faces thrown,
"The hemp that shall hang me is not grown!"

His name bestrode the seas like Death.
The waters trembled at his breath.

This is the tale of how he fell,
Of the long sweep and the heavy swell,
And the rope that dragged him down to hell.

The fight was done, and the gutted ship,
Stripped like a shark the sea-gulls strip,

Lurched blindly, eaten out with flame,
Back to the land from where she came,
A skimming horror, an eyeless shame.

And Hawk stood upon his quarter-deck,
And saw the sky and saw the wreck.

Below, a **** for sailors' jeers,
White as the sky when a white squall nears,
Huddled the crowd of the prisoners.

Over the bridge of the tottering plank,
Where the sea shook and the gulf yawned blank,
They shrieked and struggled and dropped and sank,

Pinioned arms and hands bound fast.
One girl alone was left at last.

Sir Henry Gaunt was a mighty lord.
He sat in state at the Council board;
The governors were as nought to him.
From one rim to the other rim

Of his great plantations, flung out wide
Like a purple cloak, was a full month's ride.

Life and death in his white hands lay,
And his only daughter stood at bay,
Trapped like a hare in the toils that day.

He sat at wine in his gold and his lace,
And far away, in a ****** place,
Hawk came near, and she covered her face.

He rode in the fields, and the hunt was brave,
And far away his daughter gave
A shriek that the seas cried out to hear,
And he could not see and he could not save.

Her white soul withered in the mire
As paper shrivels up in fire,
And Hawk laughed, and he kissed her mouth,
And her body he took for his desire.


The Growing of the Hemp.

Sir Henry stood in the manor room,
And his eyes were hard gems in the gloom.

And he said, "Go dig me furrows five
Where the green marsh creeps like a thing alive --
There at its edge, where the rushes thrive."

And where the furrows rent the ground,
He sowed the seed of hemp around.

And the blacks shrink back and are sore afraid
At the furrows five that rib the glade,
And the voodoo work of the master's *****.

For a cold wind blows from the marshland near,
And white things move, and the night grows drear,
And they chatter and crouch and are sick with fear.

But down by the marsh, where the gray slaves glean,
The hemp sprouts up, and the earth is seen
Veiled with a tenuous mist of green.

And Hawk still scourges the Caribbees,
And many men kneel at his knees.

Sir Henry sits in his house alone,
And his eyes are hard and dull like stone.

And the waves beat, and the winds roar,
And all things are as they were before.

And the days pass, and the weeks pass,
And nothing changes but the grass.

But down where the fireflies are like eyes,
And the damps shudder, and the mists rise,
The hemp-stalks stand up toward the skies.

And down from the **** of the pirate ship
A body falls, and the great sharks grip.

Innocent, lovely, go in grace!
At last there is peace upon your face.

And Hawk laughs loud as the corpse is thrown,
"The hemp that shall hang me is not grown!"

Sir Henry's face is iron to mark,
And he gazes ever in the dark.

And the days pass, and the weeks pass,
And the world is as it always was.

But down by the marsh the sickles beam,
Glitter on glitter, gleam on gleam,
And the hemp falls down by the stagnant stream.

And Hawk beats up from the Caribbees,
Swooping to pounce in the Northern seas.

Sir Henry sits sunk deep in his chair,
And white as his hand is grown his hair.

And the days pass, and the weeks pass,
And the sands roll from the hour-glass.

But down by the marsh in the blazing sun
The hemp is smoothed and twisted and spun,
The rope made, and the work done.


The Using of the Hemp.

Captain Hawk scourged clean the seas
(Black is the gap below the plank)
From the Great North Bank to the Caribbees
(Down by the marsh the hemp grows rank).

He sailed in the broad Atlantic track,
And the ships that saw him came not back.

And once again, where the wide tides ran,
He stooped to harry a merchantman.

He bade her stop. Ten guns spake true
From her hidden ports, and a hidden crew,
Lacking his great ship through and through.

Dazed and dumb with the sudden death,
He scarce had time to draw a breath

Before the grappling-irons bit deep,
And the boarders slew his crew like sheep.

Hawk stood up straight, his breast to the steel;
His cutlass made a ****** wheel.

His cutlass made a wheel of flame.
They shrank before him as he came.

And the bodies fell in a choking crowd,
And still he thundered out aloud,

"The hemp that shall hang me is not grown!"
They fled at last. He was left alone.

Before his foe Sir Henry stood.
"The hemp is grown, and my word made good!"

And the cutlass clanged with a hissing whir
On the lashing blade of the rapier.

Hawk roared and charged like a maddened buck.
As the cobra strikes, Sir Henry struck,

Pouring his life in a single ******,
And the cutlass shivered to sparks and dust.

Sir Henry stood on the blood-stained deck,
And set his foot on his foe's neck.

Then from the hatch, where the rent decks *****,
Where the dead roll and the wounded *****,
He dragged the serpent of the rope.

The sky was blue, and the sea was still,
The waves lapped softly, hill on hill,
And between one wave and another wave
The doomed man's cries were little and shrill.

The sea was blue, and the sky was calm;
The air dripped with a golden balm.
Like a wind-blown fruit between sea and sun,
A black thing writhed at a yard-arm.

Slowly then, and awesomely,
The ship sank, and the gallows-tree,
And there was nought between sea and sun --
Nought but the sun and the sky and the sea.

But down by the marsh where the fever breeds,
Only the water chuckles and pleads;
For the hemp clings fast to a dead man's throat,
And blind Fate gathers back her seeds.

— The End —