City Limits

I was on a confused city limit highway in a rusty old red truck I borrowed from a dusty farmer driving in circles looking for my father. The thick metal body of the vehicle rattled as I shifted gears over the cheap asphalt, but all the parts were well built and she drove stiff and strong. The truck had gotten me through the barriers and obstacles that were in my way, but as I pulled around another off ramp to an underpass rest area, I was disheartened. There were no signs on how to get back the other way where my mom was waiting at the college to help me look for dad. Part of me didn’t want to go back, the roads there lead to dead ends into rivers and were more confusing footpaths. The only difference was that the roads there had art and spectacles around it where the highway I was on was utilitarian, streamlined and uncaring.

The off ramp lead me down to a strange parking lot. Several other cars were down there. Jeeps and BMWs and a Mercedes, modern and plastic and brittle. My old truck backfired and echoed with heavy gears around the underpass giving me looks from the middle aged layabouts and a couple energetic naive youth. I shifted down, pushing the handle so worn only the silver aluminum on the handle shown. I rolled my window down to ask one of them if there was a way to get back to the highway in the opposite direction, each I asked were friendly, they told me to follow the parking lot to the other ramp. I knew they were wrong, but I trusted them anyway. I knew deep down that I’d be going the same way I’ve been going.

I didn’t know if I was looking for dad anymore, or what I was looking for. I pushed the sluggish truck on , getting new power from each gear as the highway flew by around me. The cars of a generation speeding past me to whichever city we were on the limit of. The cars were driving themselves.

I thought maybe I could turn around if I got to the city and throttled up to overdrive. 

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[BTS2] Love From Business

When I first met her, she was competitive, unflinching, dealing out hard truths. Such is the proper role of a prudent and influential investor.

We were adults, but I felt like a child when I saw the big building. Feko games was like a dream factory. Ever since I could wear a headset and dive into their fantasy worlds I was hooked. I didn’t need to play the game right, I just needed an open world full of places and people and monsters and magic. My character, just a small boy with a few tools in his backpack to face the trials of the world.

The three of us started a small game company with the idea that we could make something great, build something, and so we made a game and I was the creative guy where my two compatriots were the technical and visual sides of things. Time and money went into making the game. Little did we know that creating was the easy part, the hard part was seeing if people would buy it.

Trying and succeeding only in woeful sales, we decided we would bring ourselves to one of the big companies, Feko games. The massive building looked like glass waves frozen in time on a hill greener than the windows background. It’s glass and steel construction rose in three towers that seemed to undulate in the sunlight with curved modern design in the stout structures.

We stepped inside and it was like stepping into one of their games, the world changed. The main atrium of the visitors center was full of neon and in its dark suggestive use of space, screens and VR stations were everywhere with people plugged in and playing games. On the landings and balconies were stores and food vendors, it was a revival of the old way spaces were used, with a cyberpunk and yet utterly modern bend to it all. From retro to state of the art, they had everything in this mall/arcade. 

As the three of us entered, we had no words, we were awestruck.

An aide soon greeted us and lead us up to a glass elevator that looked over the expansive atmosphere. There were even people hanging from the ceiling in full immersion harnesses that glowed in purple and blue.

We were brought to a large table in an alcove that overlooked the atrium. We were handed refreshments and were told to wait for one of their investment representatives. The low thrumming of my heart pounded the giddy fear and excitement through my veins. How were they actually giving us amateurs a chance? Were we woefully out of our depth, or could we rise to this occasion?

I had had maybe two sips of tea, my compatriots to either side jabbered away about their excitement and I found myself at an uneasy loss for words. I felt like I should have something to say, that I ought to be the business version of myself who always knew what the prudent thing to say was, who knew how to keep a level head, but I was too damn excited and nervous that this giddy childless would be my downfall.

Soon a small woman in a very businesswomanly suit entered our alcove from the double doors at the far end. She held a slim tablet under her arm and her shimmering black hair motionlessly reflected the neons of the massive space beyond the railing.

“Hi how are you all.” She said, reaching across the table and shaking each of our hands.

When she shook mine, her gaze cut me down, It was as though I were an ant to her.

 

 

[BTS1] Brigdon

Grinding rails from the train up on the elevated tracks evaporated into the night’s traffic. Sparks spilled over the side of the riveted steel bridge and were lost in the pollution of neon signs, headlamps, and street vendor lanterns. As the blocks spun by, she could only think of the hours that she had spent in these twisted corridors. The days that had gone by in this alien landscape within the press of some ten million other people.

The lights in the train car flickered and she caught a glimpse of herself in the window. Getting older, the bags darkening under her eyes, tired eyes, eyes that no longer knew what to look for, no longer knew what signs would bring meaning back. Somewhere in the routines she had lost something. Something was left behind in taxes and faces and mistakes that kept coming back to haunt her in stabs and jolts. The cars buckled uneasily around the next bend.

“What am I doing?” She said to her blurred reflection in the window and then looked past to the cityscape. As the train came out over the river the lights and millions of people faded away and for a moment all that remained was the dark river of sloshing darkness under the bridge. It was a black void.

She turned away from the window and looked about the dingy train car, the green lights flickered over the graffiti stained walls and the shimmering silver bars and the plastic red seats. She was alone.

She wondered where real friends were, wondered why she felt so strange, like something was about to happen, but nothing ever changed, caught somewhere between the comfort and security of routine and just utter boredom with no good way out. Where was the adventure life was supposed to take her on? The strange anxiety of being trapped in the moment rose in her throat and she closed her eyes.

The train sped on as she slept. Carrying her away.

She woke up with a start at the lack of motion. The train wasn’t moving. In no time, her mind was racing.

“STOP, DON’T LEAVE!” she hollered at whomever was running the train. She looked around for someone who might tell her which station they were at, but there was nobody. She gathered up her bag and moved down the aisle to the doors. They opened as she approached.

Passing in a daze out from the green flickering room of graffiti. She found herself on the dark platform. She looked for someone else, but there were no people in the glow of the platform lamps. There was a light rain in the hush of thick foliage all around the station. There was no city, no people, nothing but the hum of the dingy lamp and the unused benches. Her heart sank. The train doors closed behind her. The train sped away.

She was left alone, utterly alone, clutching her bag against her chest in the patter of the light rain. She deflated, looking at the station name which read in flat black letters: “Brigdon”.  She had never heard of it.

She looked about for some kind of booth, an overhang to get out of the damp. But the platform had nothing, she pulled out her phone and saw it light up only to notify her that the battery was at a mere 4% at which point it promptly died. She was left staring at the dark drops of water on the dormant screen.

She cursed and, seeing no shelter on the platform, she made her way down the stairs at one end and took shelter under a tree with broad leaves. The rush of wind and rain made her shelter-tree shudder and drops fell on her no matter how close she pushed her back up to the bark. She looked around, for something to reveal where she should go, the only path angled from the station into the dark woods with no light whatsoever.

“Another train will be along at some point.” said a voice. “Not until morning I’m afraid”

She looked around  and then noticed, below her gaze at about waist height a small umbrella being held by a tiny person with a furry face like a fox.

Her eyes bugged when she saw the creature hold up the umbrella with a smile.

“If you want you can use my umbrella, I don’t mind getting a little wet.”

She tentatively grasped the tiny handle and held it over her head. Not taking her eyes from the small being.

“I was actually here to meet someone, but I guess she missed her train.” Said the little guy, looking downward and scrunched up his shoulders against the rain.

“W-who were you waiting for?”

“Oh, an old friend… Anyway, no sense in us both getting wet out here, my name is Lander.” he stuck out a small furry hand that emerged from the long sleeves of his coat. She shuffled the umbrella to her other hand with her bag and grasped Lander’s hand shaking it up and down, stultified by the strange little person.

“My name is…” She drew a blank. Panic arose in her. “I don’t remember my name”

“Seems like kind of an important thing to forget; you might be catching a fever.” Said Lander. “Come, if you need a place to stay, you can come stay with me, the next train isn’t until the sun comes up. It’s not safe to be out at night alone, especially in a rain storm.”

The panic that was within her came out as “If it’s all the same I think I should wait for the train on my own.”

“Suit yourself, you can keep the umbrella.”

And then without another word he turned and walked briskly away, producing a small flashlight from his coat and lighting the way down the path into the woods.

She watched him go and was soon left alone in the rain, the drops pattering off the small canvas of the small umbrella. A few moments went by before she turned and saw his little light bumbling down the path away from the small train platform. She was a city girl after all, she didn’t need help. The thought came upon her suddenly, but she soon soured to this small bit of pride and then hurried with her bag and tiny umbrella clumsily balanced after him.

As she ran, puddles splashed and the wind picked up with the rain falling harder and harder. Ahead of her down the path she could see the light bumbling on. As cold drops fell, they got in her eyes. Then there was a dump of water that fell from one of the broad leaves right before her. The splash hit the ground and rose up, covering her in water. She didn’t stop, but she failed to see the water congeal and rise up behind her.

She found herself running, and as she did, more splashes of water fell from the trees and rose up as watery blobs with shimmering tendril hands reaching out. She could see Lander when another splash fell between them. This time the puddle rose up in front of her and the watery blob appeared, eyeless reaching out towards her.

She screamed and nearly fell back, turning from this apparition only to see the five others behind her. She dropped the umbrella and soaking wet reached into her bag for her knife. She pulled it out in the darkness, flipping out the blade.

“Get away from me!” She yelled, but the blobs only continued sliding toward her. Panicking she brandished and slashed with her knife at them, but they only seemed to grow closer and bigger in the rain. She slashed at the closest one, but her hand only went through the monster and came out wet on the other side. They began to press against her and tried to drown her with their blobby bodies.

Before that could happen, a yellow light fell upon them and the watery monsters shrank away returning to simple puddles.

“Are you alright?” He called as he came up to her. “I told you this place is dangerous at night, you shouldn’t walk in the darkness.”

“You’ve got to be straight with me right now!” She said.

“What what, of course, I’m glad those pests didn’-

“No, you be clear with me RIGHT NOW…” She said, the rain and her tears mingling “Am I in a fucking fantasy story right now?”

 

 

 

Balcony

He looked out from the balcony of his apartment and drew from another cigarette. There was not much to look at at 2AM, each of the cars in the parking lot had frost on them, the streetlamp flickered between the two trees that looked like brooding gods, everyone else was asleep in the world except for the diligent ones, the insomniacs, and the drunks. At best he was two out of the three. The languid vapors of gin shivered like heatstroke in his head and the dizzying combination of nicotine sent him clutching against the railing for support, but he could not take his eyes off the night sky, even as the roller-coaster of sensation made his body feel as though it were on the undulating wave of some impending time on the far side of a blissful oblivion. What could be captivating in this world if not the night sky.

He could hear the music from the end credits of the third movie he had watched in a row wind on from the other side of the sliding glass door and he wondered if he was keeping his neighbors up. The chase scene and the dramatic death of the climax had only been a few moments ago, gunshots and yelling and emotion that had captivated him so thoroughly the rest of the world ceased to exist and there was only the world of dreams and possibility that film brought to him. He wondered if that kept anyone up, that the music now might be calm and soothing. After the end of movies the real world comes rushing back in so fast, and the thoughts of neighbors and the wasted day pinged against the walls of his meandering mind.

The details of it all, of life and everything returned like a storm that circled around him and he hated himself for having nothing to show for all that brooding and wondering and hoping and wishing, and noticing. He hated how he had not done something with his time, that he was letting his days slip by with no advancement, no achievement beyond his own self gratification. Drink, movie, masturbate and make food. The couch, the balcony for a cigarette, his bedroom. The work he had to do sent away and the obligations that weighed his soul down unfettered for glimpses and grasps at fantasy before they ended and it all returned like a stone.

He had spent some time trying to separate used cooking oil from water. Two chicken breasts had spent the previous night and day marinating in spices and some kind of glaze.  The taste and scent of cooking them still lingered, but the oil had bubbled and burnt in the cast iron pan. The used cooking oil he had tried to distill into something that could be burned in a lamp. Heating it to get the water out, straining it, letting it separate, freezing it. He wanted something flammable to feel like he had done some kind of science, even going so far as to read online about the qualities of water and oil. But, it never got to that point and in his failure let the opaque brown fluid sit in a jam jar on the shelf over the kitchen sink.

The detail in which he went about this was only the minutia of someone very alone. Someone who was pining for something but afraid or too lazy to do it. He was fed up with the games that people play. Primitive games. But…Nothing deeper now welled within him, he was not at a loss, not regretful, just alive and between sleep and a living dream. Regret could wait for when time was no longer on his side, even as he lived the life of an old man, he was young and voices telling him to get out and enjoy life all sounded tired and played out, predictable and overplayed. What good were other people when their words and actions and emotions and thoughts were so easy to decipher.

Perhaps it was just him. He presently thought, that the reason the world seems so predictable, suffering through what he already knew or thought he knew was because of his own actions and trust and games that he played with the world. Perhaps that was why he was so alone.  Perhaps it was all a big game played on him or he was playing the game with himself. It was so easy to break the 4th wall of his life, and the shuddering waves of reality surrounded him quite suddenly and the brick walls of the building, the parkinglot and the night sky and the passage of time became quite real and yet surreal in their appearance.

He turned his back to the clear stars and looked down at his last puff of cigarette, and then focused on his robe and scarf and then on the concrete floor of the balcony, the ashes tumbled away from him in the cold wind, ashes like days of his life, ashes from his once full cigarette.

He leaned back against the balcony railing.

He tilted his head back and felt his chest rub against the inside of his sweatshirt. He took the last puff. The music repeated itself over and over from within, it was sweet and beautiful and the feelings of that last movie lingered on him like the breath of nicotine and the fullness of his stomach and the scent of oil and the haze of gin.

The dizzy spell continued then, overcoming all the previous sensations and the railing pressed into his back. He felt like he was flying.

Then it ended. He flicked the butt behind his back and over the side. Stumbled forward and re-entered his apartment finding that the TV was too loud for 2AM.

Burden

There once was a man who overthought life so much, he could never think beyond it. He couldn’t get the thoughts out of his head; the demons only swirled endlessly about him. He wanted all of his stories to feel real, but the journey began as an escape. To think that the sky might be a scoop of blue ice cream or that the moon might be an underdone pancake would be impossible for him. It would only deviate from finding the truth. His solemn goal and duty to figure it all out; to think his way to the understanding of it all. A burden he laid on his own shoulders. A great and untenable task. That made him bitter with no time for nonsense.

 

For he was lost like all men, looking to find something on his own, to be able to be certain of something for himself. To validate the years of thinking. Once he sold his soul on Acid. He wanted to know how to read minds or move things with his, and it is all already possible if you look at it the right way. It’s all significant, he thought. Life’s answers must be contained within all things. Each blade of grass, the caress of the wind, in the smiles and sadness, in the spider in the shed, or the unseen death of a trampled millipede. Every detail of life holds all meaning. Each moment, each breath, a clue that would bring him closer to learning it all.

 

Why?

 

The answers would save everyone. All war, all strife, all disease, all pain, misery, and joy, laughter, love, sex, birth, and death, would have a framework rooted in the experience of the world rather than by myth, or hearsay, or someone else’s contribution. The depth of things, the detail would be all in what is touched and felt and seen. It would give each of us hope that one person could figure it out and hold it all in their hands without the need for the validation of others.

 

And yet, validation is all he craves, not from cajoling or convincing, but by the merits of his own thoughts, with the only credential that he was alive, and thought each day of his life to find something important, something significant. And so his life became a pitch to others of his breakthroughs and his intellect.  He did not realize the maddening nature of his quest or the enormity of what was thrust upon him. He stayed true to it though. He stayed true to it.

 

In a house on a hill lives a man. His name is Delweather. He lives alone.

True Plot

The weary old man looked over the city and knew that his time was soon to come. It was not an illness, yet it was not wholly unexpected in his line of work, and the way the cards fell, he knew as sure as cancer that death was coming to him soon. Still, it was a nice day. He looked over to the wharf beyond the stinking docks where Crabtown whithered. The bend in the shore was sandy dwindling to the rise of a great cliff face where a rock formation jutted to a point where green and brown mingled amid the placid blue waters. It was a poor day for sailing, but a brilliant day for seeing, the ocean’s light blue sibling above was touched by thin brushstrokes of cloud that ambled under a crisp, sharply outlined sun.  The blue ocean waters stretched out to the horizon where the outlines of sails languished to one side and to the other the green fields beyond the walls of his home.

The Warf his gaze fell over was little more than a fisherman’s dock, too far to make out anything truly specific, but each moment he lingered over it, he felt like he knew it better.  The wharf was situated between the walls of the smoking city and the cliffs on the farther crescent edge of the sandy shore. Its minimal form must be only a few meters into the water, and the small connected warehouse had something shimmering hanging outside next to the small square window of the structure. He supposed it was probably fish hung out to dry. Following the bare pinpricks of white stones from the wharf, only little bit further inland was the modest cabin that he supposed the fisherman and his family might live in. Puffs of white smoke drifted away from it out of the stone chimbly. The outline of a porch could be seen facing the dock and warehouse.

He had watched this particular place all his life and just realized how he was now able to see so much in it. That tiny structure on the distant shore resolving into details perhaps no other living creature in the city had considered so delicately.  He had stood on this same palace vista and looked down over the world in his moments of brief reprieve and suffering and machination so many times throughout his life. He wondered how many times he had looked over that modest life below. It felt dear to him and yet he had never been there. Through plans and propositions that clouded his memory like a black miasma, it always remained. There was never truly a beginning and it was this blackness that he knew would always have consumed him in the end.

He thought now of the life the fisherman in that tiny house lived, simple and free from the burdens he had strived to face his whole life. Free from the tangled web that connected the city and the greater world that so entangles all who meddle in the affairs of other like beings. The fisherman has a clear task and each day he battles the elements and performs a duty that did not require the sacrifice of all morality. It was a duty with a clear end and a clear purpose. Sitting on his porch in the afternoon sun and smoking a pipe, looking over his children, and his boat bobbing before a rippling sea that shone with the colors of the sunset heavens.

His life was all stone walls, papers, stench, and smoke. It was what lies to call out and which ones to let fester in themselves. It was preparation, paranoia, and the devious mind of fellow humans he battled with each day. Grand ideals, and pragmatic logistics, codes and passwords and hatred, and just so many lies. The worst of all, the smile, the pat on the back, the joke and laugh, charm to be guarded against the devious plots. He wondered how many people he had killed, how many he had saved if the child in the sewer was glad to have his life rather than give it up for the honorable noble who fell before his true greatness.

Memory is short. Charm, youth, and gold are forever adored. Such quandaries returned to him in that barrage of miasma that approached. The door opened behind him. What could he have done differently? How did Lisidious gain the favor of so many he had helped?  How much blood needs be spilled before its over? Before the truth is seen by all and the issues are done and the plans are not needed and the love of revenge fades?

There was no sound of footsteps. Only the plunging of the blade into his back.

It would never be over. It never began. It always was.

The old man did not turn, but as he fell he looked over to the wharf and longed for that peace.

He touched it. Then died.

Down by the Dock

Our Sailor took the old man up on his offer, after a cup or two of coffee, his wits slowly returned. He had reached the resolve that he had been acting foolish this morning and felt ashamed that such sloth and villainy of carousing had taken him so far into the throes of a depression, not to mention causing him to miss his ship. He still felt like crap, but self-aware crap at least.

The words of the old man at the dock were running through his mind as he sipped down the  hot revitalizing beverage. Who was that old man?  How could he have come across him, right in his moment of need? What enterprise would cause a captain to search for his own crew, and such a desperate crewhand such as our sailor was? He did not design to think too much about it, a gift horse in the mouth and all that. Still, he seemed a curious little fellow and, as our sailor downed the last of his coffee, grounds and all, the old man’s curious style and what he had said compelled him to at least  go down to the dock at the mentioned time and get a measure of what kind of ship the old man ran and what company it would keep. If travels made way back towards friendlier waters, it might be his only chance in months or even a year to get off of this remote outpost town.

The winds of the day were rising with the sun. In little time he made his way back down the docks and rounded the warehouse on dock 7.  Moored to the peir was not a brig at all, but a sleek and relatively thin three-masted schooner bobbing and creaking on the slight waves.  He looked upon the ship and it seemed such a strange vessel from the stout and bloated craft he was used to seeing at home. Even here, this craft was unusually slim and beautiful in its sleek stance. Atop its deck was erected a stately and comforting looking cabin with rows of glass windows. The sails were rolled against the masts and it looked like a comfortable boat at least. Written over the back was the word “Wanderlust”. He swept his gaze to the gangplank and the dock where stood a queer assortment of individuals.

Eleven were made by his count, of people clad in such disparate garb as one dark-skinned woman with a long, loose, hooded garment that came down to her ankles with full sleeves. Her hood was down and showed her smooth skin-shaved head and she seemed to carry some kind of pack on her back. There were two tall, they must have been at least 6″7′, Scandinavian men with hair so blonde the strands seemed to radiate in the sunlight, their pale skin was reddened by the tropical sun and they stood silent and grimacing together with deep-cut wrinkled faces cast in their own shadow. They wore simple woolen tunics, one blue and one green. A child no more than 11 or 12 stood stoutly garbed like a pirate might with silk scarves and ornaments and even a pistol braced on his chest. There were then five sailors that our own sailor might have called “normal” on the first inspection. They were clad in boots and jackets of a similar in type to his own, he saw then that there was among them a tan Spaniard with black hair, a young lad with curly red hair,  an old man with long, greasy grey hair, a burly man with a massive gut but supported well by the rest of his frame, so it seemed, and a thin-faced man with brown hair who crouched atop a nearby barrel. These individuals stood about on the dock, not talking to one another, but seemed to be waiting on the words of the two remaining individuals: An individual with such broad shoulders and a puffing chest, it took a closer inspection to see that she was, in fact, a woman of such massive frame in a kind of officers coat, hat, and dressed smartly. Behind her was a sober and thin looking man in a long black coat, he stood cleaning his spectacles.

Our sailor made his way to the group and saw that the old man from earlier was exiting the cabin to stand up on the deck, the small man was smoking his pipe and took a moment to exchange a few words with the black-coated man. Our sailor walked up to the group of disparate people and came first upon the bald woman in the red hooded garb.

“Hello.” he said to her after a moment, “Is this some kind of passanger ship?”

She glanced in his direction and said “La tatahadath maei.”

He was taken aback and resolved to be silent.

“She says don’t talk to her.” Came the deep voice of one of the nearby Scandinavians, the one in the green shirt. The tree of a man did not uncross her arms or look back to our sailor but remained with as solemn a look as ever could.

“Oh.” Our sailor said.

“She don’t speak the King’s.” The red-haired lad interjected. ” Not sure, maybe she’s in the wrong port.” He began poking her shoulder as though she were an oddity. “My name’s Kib, Don’t know how the Norwegian knows her demon tongue, but he don’t speak much o’ anything I’m sure there’s a good reason to bring-”

The woman spun around and slapped his hand away and spoke sternly into his face, “La talmus ‘aya waqt madaa!”

Her dark eyes stunted the lad, striking him to paralysis down to his feet. He shook where he stood under her lasting gaze. Our sailor laughed at the stricken Kib with his bugged eyes.

The Scandinavian leaned over Kibs shoulder in his pose. “She said don’t ever touch her again.”

Kib put his hands up “No harm done, no harm done. Will you tell her Norwegian? Tell her I’m sorry.”

“Yaqul altifl ‘iinah asif.” The scandinavian said.

She did not take her gaze off from Kib for a beat before looking up to the scandinavian and nodding and turning her back to Kib.

The red-haired lad put a hand on his heart. “Lord above, I’d swear she put some spell on me.”

Our sailor was thoroughly amused, he had met enough young lads who go about the world as though it were something to poke fun at, all too often they met with the teeth of their own ignorance to how things worked. Still, he began to wonder if such a strange collection were to crew the ship or if they were merely passengers. Perhaps both.

He was about to inquire to the scandinavian how he had come to learn such a strange language and what tongue it was, for the bald woman before him evoked such an alluring curiosity of someone he had never seen before. He would have liked to know what lands she was from, but before he could ask, the large woman in the officer’s uniform on the gangplank spoke in a deep commanding voice.

“Captain Tilluck will see you one at a time to add you to the ledger. This man next to me is Dr. Lunding, he will write your names down and in his book, you’ll make your mark if allowed. The pay is for the passage and for each passage only of 30 marks per passage, if that doesn’t suit you forgotten lot, then you can wait for the next ship or otherwise begone. Each sailor on this vessel is expected to work to make their keep and pay. That’s for the captain to decide. The first passage is around the horn, so it is not for the faint of heart, but it is up to you whether you sign on. Furthermore, if you are signed on, you are bound to-”

She trailed off, as her eyes glared down at the young child with the pistol.

“What are you doing here?”

The kid jumped up onto a barrel. “I’m gonna be a pirate!”

This elicited laughs from everyone who spoke English, in the case of the bald woman, the scandinavian translated for her and she put a hand up to her mouth with pitying eyes.

The big woman in the officer’s uniform laughed heartily. “Get away with you, this is no place for a child, where are your parents?”

The child spit onto the dock. “I ran away and if ye won’t let me come then I’ll have to shoot!”

WIth that, the kid took up the pistol on his shirt and pointed it at the woman. Her eyes flashed wide and a moment later the hammer hit home in the child’s pistol. Nothing happened.

“HA! you’re dead now, Now I’m the captain!”

An uneasy silence pervaded except for the blue-shirted scandinavian and the man on the barrel and Kib who roared with laughter while the big woman glowered at the child. In a swift motion, she stepped off the gangplank, hefted the kid up with one arm by the seat of his pants and pitched him and his pistol with one arm into the water. The kid made a splash off the end of the dock and bobbed up a moment later, his little face redder than a storm bouy.

“Get on now, I don’t want to see you back here again! You wet little rat!”

The kid swam down to the next dock and climbed up, dripping out of sight…

 

 

The Cousin of Death.

 

The sun speckled on the warm waters off the port. The ships were already stirring with the bustle of morning activity of sailors unfurling sails out in the bay and loading the lazes of their hulks still at the dock. The shouts and cries, the whistles of the bosun and the motion of the daily human feat seemed to be in full swing through the sun was still low on the horizon and the waking earth had seemed to only just be blinking open its eyes to the curious busy creatures among their floating oak towers and tiny crafts.

He had awoken in his bed, under the warm covers in the cool morning air, bottles of grog and rum strewn about the small room like so many moments taken from his memory or wit by the vile drink . Pressing him into the straw was a great melancholia and keeping his feet plunged under his woolen blankets was a paralyzing hesitation to embark on his life’s journey. His head felt as solid as an iron cannonball and it tethered him to this place of immobility as much as the rest. The dry humors of his body constricting his life to the thirsty dying retch he remained. Why must he carry on so?

Through the cracked window he could feel the warm breezes of the coast, hear the tinny sound of the blacksmith’s hammer, the knock of the carpenters, the rolling of carts and the “how d’you do”  of the regular people going about heir morning business. All living life had seemed to start without him and continue, and he wondered if not his own feeling, languishing in his bed was not the same as some diseased wretch in the sanitorium, wasting away while the world lived on without them. Did the rest of the world even exist beyond his room?

He could not raise himself until a bolt of realization coursed through him and his body heaved and lept from the bed. What physical motion seemed impossible a moment ago! As if such an incorporeal thing as a thought could tug him out to push him into the world with no wit or thought in his head other than the eternal dread of any person might when their actions lead them straying the jagged reef of life’s worst possibilities. He clambored for his boots, one under the bed, the other upon the dresser kicked up by uncaring and unremembering feet in the vaunted memory of the drunkerd. His coat in a pile under the coathanger and his bag cast to the far corner near the window. He looked out to the port and could see the ships and an endless curse rang like a fly’s wings through his mind.

He sped from the inn, dropped some crusty salt-stained coins at the innkeep’s desk, and drove into the air of the bright world. How pleasing the outdoor air is to a restful mind and how awful and foreign it is to the sloth. Passing the people and motions of the bustling street, he was as a passing specter he moving along at some speed, carried by his legs like a stork might stalk stiffly through the pond. The undulations of his own body with each step sent a twang of pain into his head and his desicated form. His chest tightened and heaving with painful tobacco resin coating from last night. How jovial and perfect it was last night, how understood and clear things were in such port rituals as drinking and smoking now seemed like the reaper’s work on him. The palms swayed above in the breeze and the cobblestones glistened wetly below, all under in the rising orb of the sun but he felt marred and dull and broken in the perfect world.

He knocked through the people of the market and burst forth hobbling down to the docks. Ships stationed there beginning to make the way out into the blessed open sea with souts from the captains. And yet here he was still on land. He rounded the far building and beheld his own ship, his lifeline back home, his pay and his traveling home. The sleek sloop was moving now a few yards beyond the dock. He could make out the figures of Tom and Jack and the captain standing firm in his big hat on the stern quarter. The jib and the mizzen were set and it’s pure white sails were luffing in the low breezes chariotting the craft out out out and away from him. He ran down the dock and dropped his bag by his side standing on this foreign port. He saw tom glance in his direction and point and laugh.

Utter despair was a single thought to him and it pounded with each beat of his struggling heart.

It was as he saw the ship make way for the open sea beyond the bluffs of the cove that he became aware of a presence next to him. It was a small old man with a big bushy beard. Bursting forth from his majestic whiskers was the stem of a pipe and it billowed the blue wisps of smoke into the wind. The old man’s ice blue eyes were looking out with him to the ship. The sailor had nothing to say, or he could not muster any words in his ruined and hungover state.

The old man spoke to him. “I can see in your eyes what I feel deeper in my heart.” He said.

The sailor furrowed his brow, glazed brown eyes lacking all wit or understanding.

“Did you miss your ship as well?”

“No…but I’d wager you did.”

“Drink and company kept me too long in the comfort of my bed. I see now that it’s not worth it, what a pitiful mess my life is, a horrid excuse I am living, a sham and a sloth and an utter waste my life is. I wish I could only sleep and never know what failure is or fall victim to life’s tragedies, such as this. For now, I am stuck in this port and I am assuredly fired for them to have let me here. I feel death, and I would rather sleep away all the ills of my life.”

The old man smiled between his beard and took the pipe from his mouth to chuckle.

“Does my failure amuse you old man?” he said, now turning to face him. The squat man only laughed even harder.

“Alrighty then boyo,” The old man said. “Remember now the comforting song of Morpheus does not ring in your mind and only freed from him, staunch and stark you stand as a ragged army crying loud into the passing sun as though it is a thing that can be smitten by the fire within. You must be never ceasing lest the dusk should feel cold on thy brow and wit trail away as a wisp. Envious are all the creatures and fools who wile their time in those dark halls, lost as a puppy taken by the great current of time, a spiteful and twisting river that confounds all who are lost to the shoals and rocks of old age, closer to that great ocean of all things and return to thy primordial ooze with never once viewing the trees or shores of thy life. Yet treading up as a salmon might toil, brings the same end save you find yourself in some small pool upriver, but it is their pool, their place of choosing, and O’ they shall jump waterfalls and brave the currents. And all those taken away by the currents of comfort will wag their heads over such a terrable trouble it was. Was it a comfort? Does it prove a greater blessing than achievement? Sleep aways nothing. True endless sleep comes the day after of thy life.”

“What?”

“Get some coffee, I need an able seaman on my brig and you’ll have to do. Dock 7 in an hour.”

With that the old man turned and left. The sailor hefted up his bag after a moment and made his way back to the town…

 

 

The heirloom blade. 

When I was young, I wandered in the woods by my house. It was in a time before cell phones or the internet. The woods were where the young men and I, still in the influence of 20th century values went off with plastic guns and weapons to build forts and fortify the great causes of history across the lands in our mental depictions of great men. We were in Vietnam, we were in the civil war, we were in the medieval woods of England or in the Holy Land fighting as knights or Bandits. I can only say that in my experience, it was only the neighborhood boys who participated and, where I did not excel in football or streethocky as an uncoordinated youth, I loved playing war. It was perhaps the only opportunity to use my imagination. It was the first time I remember Imagining with others, a game where war meant comradery and ideals.  Not killing, but struggling with others as a team and playing outside. We were  among the fallen leaves and the sunshine and the tall trees, hiding and running through the small block of wood between our neighborhoods. But at least we were in the real world, if it could only be enjoyed through events we would never truly understand.

After many years of adventure passed, I wandered into those same woods where my neighborhood army had built their forts. The old tarps and support logs now ripped and deteriorating, still with our kits and relics left behind. But something new was there, newcomers and invaders. There were yellow and green stakes plotting out the new development that would make the woods a new row of houses. The destruction of all past days of war and struggle over the land would be imposed by a better equipped army of backhoes. In defiance I tore those stakes out, took them home, and using my dad’s sheet metal tape and some black electrical tape crafted swords to fight with.

Most were long blades made in the Gallic fashion. With slashing and swiping.  Coated in aluminum and duct tape, I went out to the neighbors houses. Dressed in my fighting clothes. I went to each house, laden down with the previous night’s work of arms for the army that I would lead to defend our woods from the construction companies. Many said no, but most agreed, that something had to be done.

On a hot summer day, we prepared ourselves and took our weapons. We trained and prepared for hacking and slashing the machines and the grown men who would be driving them. I don’t think any of us intended to actually hurt anyone, but we would try to at least scare them off. We re-fitted our forts and made defensive positions. We dug trenches and readied the field for our great battle.

I had made one blade especially for me. It was long and I had put extra tape around the handle as a guard. But it was broken in the training so I was forced to adapt it in the style of a roman gladius. I felt like Caesar then, and the others agreed, that that was the right type of sword for the general. It seemed I was promoted.

Then the sound of machines and breaking trees were heard. We ran into the woods and hid among our defensive forts. The trucks and bulldozers and backhoes readied on the far street, we were gripped with silence and fear. Yet I held strong. I knew that those before me had fought impossible odds. The others thought differently, they thought this was stupid, that we couldn’t stop them.

I gave a speech.

“Whoose woods are these?” I said, standing before them as the engines stirred behind me. “They want to build new houses in OUR woods, they never used it, they never built forts here. Solders are meant to fight and why are we here if not as solders and warriors?” I banged by garbage can lid shield “And if we should die this day, it will be with a shout form my heart and getting as many of these bastard’s off our land. WHO’s WITH ME!”

The others we heartened and in a frenzy we let out a great war cry and charged from the woods up the field towards the road where the contractors were eating lunch. The grown men in beards and hard hats and reflective vests looked out and saw six lads in clanging slipshod armor charging toward them. There was no greater sense of victory in our hearts than in those moments when our legs pounded up the muddy grass.

I charged ahead, my sword outstretched and the aluminum glinting off the noonday sunshine. One of the workers put up his hands and said “Woah Woah guys” and David ran ahead of me and hit him in the shin so hard the man let out a slew of curses and fell ponderously to the ground. The other workers, realizing just how serious we would defend our homeland snapped into action. One grabbed Ryan’s sword and took it off of him. I jumped to his rescue and pushed him with my shield. He did not move, but when he shifted his attention to me, Ryan grabbed his sword back and ran.

The rest became a chase and chaos as I ran for one of the backhoes. I clamored up and into the cab. The keys were in it. It was running. Unsure of how to operate it I pushed a lever forward and the caterpillar treads began to lurch forward down the grass, tearing up dirt and rocks on to the woods below.

It’s safe to say that I panicked.

Then the door to the cab opened and a man grabbed me. I hit him with my sword and he threw it out behind him. Pulled me out and shut down the machine.

We were all lined up as prisoners. We were told to tell our home phone numbers. We  had lost.

Such trouble that I will never forget.

Still i managed to go back that night and find my sword. My blade resting along the outskirts of the woods.

This blade survived a long time, but it passed into secret vaults and was placed in hidden places among the world through the course of ages. I grew up. Got a job. Did my own thing. Eventually I adjusted. And now I’m in a time when nothing like my childhood could be replicated. Not so much trying to liberate my woods from a construction company, but a sense of self, of individualism, of imagination. I see kids now with tablets and phones, swiping their life. Knowing facts but not understanding experiences.

I had a daughter born to my family. She would be the only child I would ever have with my wife. I loved her with all my heart and treated her as I thought befitting of a daughter. I shielded her from discomfort and promised to protect her always. But each time I affirmed such a promise, I knew that one day I would not be able to keep it. I knew that one day she would need to take charge of her own life, and that I would phase into the past as all those before me had done. However, I did not know if I had the strength within myself to shed this truth to her. My little girl was too precious for me to spoil with the ways of the world.

For six years she grew and I could see flits of myself within her. I could feel the adventure and the longing for the wide spaces and perils of the proving life gives us. She was smart and had no short wealth in what I admired about her mother. The friendship and joining of our personalities were instilled within this being that ran and laughed before me. What those had said about avoiding childbirth and making new people was out the window when I saw her eyes and hair and vibrant living existence in front of me.

Yet still, beyond it all, I knew that there would be the inevitable and unspeakable sadness at the end of this road, if not for me in the end, most certainly for her… It horrified me.

One day, I found myself unable to sleep with the thought of her, alone in the world. I knew it made no real sense, but I could only see her as she was, a small child standing at a bus stop at 3 in the morning on some deserted city street with the vultures of the world about her.

I eased out of my bed and made my way through the house and wandered into the attic. The mess of old things and knick nacks brought me to photo albums of my own family and their familiar, yet mysterious faces that smiled back at me; captured moments of life that were frozen and dead on shiny plastic paper.

I was met with an overwhelming longing for the past, the shreds of history, of my own origins and identity and meaning. Boxes untouched for decades flew open and pages and photos and tchotchkeys and heirlooms were examined and spread across the hot and dismally dark space. All of life seemed to mean nothing, how could I live up to all those gods and goddesses, these elderly and past and wise people who formulated my own tribe and love?

And that’s when I overturned another box. Contained within were such things as a “pin-up-girl” flask, a tile painted with a coyote howling at the moon, books on herbalism and wars of Irish Kings. Sitting within the center of the pile was an old construction stake covered in metal tape and aluminum. It was the sword of my childhood adventures…The Gladius that lead the charge for the woods.

The wood broke through in several places, the aluminum was wrinkled and the red tape on the grip was peeling, but it gave all the impression of an ancient relic.

I felt a clarity and took it from the musty tomb where it had been sealed.

Some days later, in secret, I took my daughter aside.

“I have a surprise for you.”

“What is it?”

“It’s something very special.”

With an illustrious pose and a flourish I pulled the small sword from behind my back and while kneeling down to her, presented the fabled blade in outstretched hands.

“This is a very ancient and mystical sword.” I said, realizing as I spoke what it had meant to me. “It has slain many monsters and evil wizards. It has seen many battles and defied rulers and armies both horrid and foul.”

“Really?”

“Oh yea. A young warrior once held this blade and journeyed alone for many years. He had a long and hard road to get to where he is now, but whatever this world threw at him, he was able to best it. Through betrayals and sacrifices, and hardships, this sword helped defy those who wished him harm.”

She looked at the relic in awe.

“Does it have fire breath?”

“Heck yeah!”

“Cooool”

I began to hand her the sword. She reached out her hands, but I pulled back.

“But the most most important thing that you must remember is this…”

“What?”

“The power of this sword does not come from anywhere, but yourself. You give this sword the power it needs to fight any obstacle.”

She furrowed her brow at it. “Okay.”

“Then, by the power given to me, I dub thee, the rightful owner of this magic blade and in your own right, use as you see fit to fight those who would do evil upon yourself and the world.”

I tapped the sword on her shoulders and then flipped the pommel around to her. Her small hands gingerly reached out to grab the electrical tape. Then, grasping it in her fingers, she lifted it up in the lantern light and I bowed before her power.

 

Spark

A shock wave runs through the system.

Time is fast approaching,

bring us to the event horizon

of all things great and terrible.

I was sleeping in my bed

I was covered and warm

I was pushing away my life

and now I am alive.

Should not have

hit

snooze