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Maria & Matthias / La Vida De La Dona

Maria & Matthias

Part I = La Vida De La Dona

 

Dando y dando, palomita volando”  if you receive you must give,

comparte el amor

I will take flight as I grow with my wings of great integrity to share all I’ve learned with the world…

“Si querida.”

“Que Papi?” Maria, laying on the grass, looked up toward Father…

“What will I learn, Papi?”

“Todo querida. Con Todo el cuerpo…”

For how long?

“Siempre. Por siempre…”

“And who will I share it with?”

She wonders and looks at Matthias.

So often she wondered of him, Matthias and their change…

He stood at the dock and

Wondered at the shore line of the coast that

Looked out into the great sea

Wondering of his home…

“Your greatest love.”

 

Memories…

And she longed for…

All that she left and was…

All she had known, wanted and who?

Alone…she longed for all she promised herself, those she dreamed of and still dream of…

 

Maria…Maria was her name, Maria Agatha… the Latin form of Mary taken from the Hebrew Miryām, a name under much  debate. Many believe it to mean “sea of bitterness” or “sea of sorrow”, sources cite the alternative definitions of “rebellion,” “wished-for child,” and “mistress or lady of the sea.” The name is borne in the Bible by the mother of Jesus, the son of God. It is not what she imagined and would not imagine the thought for years. Maria was just a young girl and the only male presence in her life was her father who could never entertain any sexual urge or thought to satisfy Maria. She was not even a woman yet but the presence of Matthias would begin to change those thoughts, make her see, make her aware of the woman present and call it to attention, call her to appear and wonder of her needs, desires and questions that would have been answered with the help of a mother who was never in her life.

Matthias… his name was Matthias, “gift from God,” typically given to the much desired first born son of a Christian family. Matthias therefore usually has a healthy sense of self-worth, strong, independent and self-assured. Matthias’ mother had become a Christian while her husband, The King, would lead his people in the war against Portugal, as she became the traitor, embraced Christianity, converting herself and the child and naming him as such to earn and satisfy her weaker religious needs.

Maria, born upon the death of her Mother, Don Lilo’s wife, Agatha ..Maria never had the chance to caress her mothers breast. Suckle a toast to life from her mothers nipples, salute the abundance a child should expect, instead she found her own way. Loving her Father but needing a mother. Agatha died at the violent hands of strangers, pale white men invaders in Africa during the Portuguese occupation of Mombasa. Mombasa, where Matthias’ Father, The King Ruled. It is where they both promised each other to care for the others current child. And it is why Lilo is recognizing Matthias’ arrival. For Matthias would become King after his Father, the King of his home, a just man who was deceived by the Portuguese into giving away his peoples land.

Maria imagined she could see the coast of Africa across the sea from where she lived with her Father in Catania. Their home sat on the edge of a stream that flowed into the Mediterranean.

“Tell me again Father where he will be coming from?”

“Over the horizon, we can’t see their home from here where he will be coming. The land he will be coming from is distraught. The Portuguese have landed and are taking their home from the people. Matthias will stay here until it is safe for him to go back. Until his Father the king and his mother can be found. Until then he will stay here with us.”

All of Maria’s Father’s offerings to her, friendship with Matthias she cherished most though spoke the least about, to whom she would never pledge her love and instead waited too long.

“In a city deep in Africa. along with his people, he battles the Portuguese for control of the land he is king of.”

“But if it’s his land why are the Portuguese fighting for it.”

“Because the Portuguese believe they can manage it better.”

Maria looked back at her Father. “Matthias’ Father must submit or battle for control. I’ve known the king many years.”

“The world would in times of strife, help with the cost of influence whether invasive or persuasive changing your home because the world can and truly believes their way is the right way, and they violently force their way, insisting… out of fear that their way may not be the singular right way, their way enslaves you.”

“It is greed Maria. In a world where people often need help, a much stronger aggressor often becomes invasive in the effort to offer help and instead becomes the aggressor and uses the weaker to feed off.”

“Feed?”

“Yes feed. People who believe and feed off the weakness of others as nourishing…There are those who believe the guidance without question.

 

“The world angers me, Maria.”

“Why Papi?”

“So few are satisfied with what they have to live the rest of their lives but always want more for the express purpose to oppress others who don’t have and never have had enough.”

Don Lilo was often heard commenting with other statesman about the Portuguese interest in Africa, “we battle the white man to influence and control all of the other black influence.

Their friendship was established quickly, soon after Matthias’ arrival from the near Mediterranean shores of Africa soon after they were introduced. Matthias traveled with his Mother away from what would become Kenya after the colonial period, his father a tribal King fighting the Portuguese.

Don Lilo’s house sat along the river, so quiet a visitor would barely notice that it was occupied.

Old, unkempt, so loved and lived in, the house, a young woman given to laying about in the sun, by the pool waiting for her lover to be free. Maria and Matthias became the best of friends until they aged to include the thoughts of lovers… a matter of time until those thoughts bore fruit, set root and sprout quickly to become lovers.

Maria the love of innocence in sync with the innocence and love of a child in Matthias who would become a King yet the darkness of truth whirled in their heat, a wheel of fortune spinning with choice.

Regret, at so young an age, is regret unto oneself…one looks at how brief life is and regrets the unfortunate choices made as battles lost without ever having fought them…

I will learn so much from you…I will learn so much from you likewise and we both will learn so much from each other…

“Maria, baba yangu amekufa.”

“I’m sorry Matthias? Did you say? Your father – ”

“Yes, my father has died.”

“I’m sorry, Matthias.” She sat up, having laid down on the warm sunlit green grass.

Matthias, the dark haired, handsome Moor child, she’s grown so fond of, who stayed and Don Lilo adopted until he had grown into a young man, Matthias he was called by his family, so fond he was of Maria and knew for so long ago as she matured into a young woman, who amused her in youth, long before Baldo, never could…even though Matthias was looked upon as suspicious by so many. Maria noted his dark skin as others noted and became apparent to others who worried some without cause.

“When did he die?” Said Maria.

“A communique your father handed me, from my mother.”

“Your mother?”

“Yes.”

“Really, your mother? She’s been found?”

“Yes, una carta. A note from my father before going into battle and another from my mother that she came out of hiding and found notes from my father letting my mother to whom he left me with and where. After that I was easy to find, but for the distance she traveled to find me was great. Did you know your father was a warrior, he fought along side my people, alongside my Father, Maasai Warriors for the Portuguese.”

“My mother angered my father by giving me a christian name in addition to a warrior name.”

“Then your father as a Somali Warrior must’ve had a warrior name. What is your warrior name?”

“My father did and I do. My father divulged it to me when I was very young, long before I understood the purpose and it’s meaning. A small piece of paper he entrusted me not to show to anyone, even my mother but I want to show it to you.”

“Yes Matthias  I love that you entrust me.” She felt queer but refreshed. For as long as they had known each other, been together as friends, they were on the verge turning of mind to become adults and were sure they never would. They would always only be friends the rest of the way. War, death and family commitment would force them apart.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Of you? Yes.”

“You will keep my secret.”

“I will.”

“My Father called me Simaloi.”

Maria held the small note written in Swahili on a thin sheet of bark held close and carefully to her breast.

“What does it mean, Simaloi?”

“It means no matter how difficult my challenge is, I am capable of completing it by being exceptional, my quick wits and my tremendous adaptability to various powers. Which is why I am always needed! I have a special talent of coping with all hurdles that make me indispensable.”

“I don’t know much about my Mother, she died soon after I was born. My mother, Consuela was a distant cousin of your Father’s.” The weight of her sadness came washed over her again as it had so often before but knowing of Matthias’ happiness…

“Matthias?” Maria looked up….

She had been laying on her blanket on the grass  and looked at Matthias…

“My father has died.” His voice had lowered to a whisper…In the few short years they knew each other, in those few short years.

Don Lilo cared for him, and Maria came to love him.

“My mother traveled far with her aides and she told me the sadness, far from our home, Abiba.”

“It isn’t so but I always imagined this was your home, I feel we came to be as…one.”

“I will miss you Matthias.”“I will miss you too Maria.”

…she longed for…

Her father, Don Lilo…the day before his death upon which he left her a trinket and a thought of defiance, “Dando y dando, palomita volando”…he sang as she danced roundabout his guidance…once he was everything to her but she never really knew him. And now there was only darkness…then Lilo gave way Matthias and they danced about in looming desire…

Matthias was already gone and age distanced them more. The world had changed and she sought more and looked where never expected.

They are a couple in love they became older and their love became real though unsure. She was fascinated by his physique and him with hers. Time limited, his mother coming get him.

From afar she could see him talked at a distance she could see him talking to his mother.

This is something both expected and dread.

Maria, she watched Matthias walk away, a kiss unkissed, a touch untouched, a desire or undesired…Matthias looked back as mother tugged…

Matthias was raised in the house of a Spaniard, in the arms of their love, he walked away from her, feeling her release she watched him as he walked, along the river bank away from the bridge and… as if he missed the crossing then walked up to the foot of the bridge, looked the length then looked back at Maria. She was going to be different, grow different, become important and it was time and though they didn’t hear a call, it seemed they were, as if they were.

“Matthias, do you believe in God,” she asked.

I dream of God and yearn to sleep when awake to open the caverns of God when I sleep. I know God is there but I can never find God. I love to talk about God. The mystery of God is that there is so much to know because there is so much mystery. Simply put, God has created us and yet we really don’t know why.

Caverns?

Yes, God’s presence is deep, almost unknowable, deep, but look often, look often and the walls will open, you will become aware.

Have you been there, to God’s Caverns?

Not yet, but I dreamed that I had dreamed of them, one day, I will find my way there.

Tell me about the Caverns of God.

God is not a person, a being that you can categorize.

But the Cavern’s?

God lives no where but is all over, to behold, to have a presence

For a moment she tried to imagine his thoughts.

I have been there Maria. Gods Caverns. How? But you say it can not be categorize, God has no home. But I have seen it. Not in a dream but not asleep but and expanse of being I don’t understand but that I don’t clearly.

Matthias, I didn’t know that you were so aware of God.

He looked confused by her query.

True, you and I have never spoke of this but I have thought of God often. I spent many years as a child. I don’t know when I started. One day I was aware of these thoughts. I talked to the Catholic priests and the Priests and wise men of our Tribe not so much to follow but to learn why. To know the purpose.

Come Matthias his mother called. It is time to go.

Maria watched from a distance, the child with his mother, they talked and she felt their loneliness invade, a darkness from without felt clouding her sight of him.

Don Lilo watched from an upper floor window as Matthias walked away. When they were gone Don Lilo walked to Maria seated by the pool.

“I will miss him father.”

“I will miss him also, Maria.”

“Why does he have to go.”

“His mother needs a man for the house. For Matthias it is that time. He has become a man, that man needed to assume the duties of a man, a King, to carry on his father’s wishes at which his mother will be come disappointed when he becomes a man and that King he must and not son she can’t have.”

“And why do you not need a woman?”

“Yes. Your mother. Your mother died, you know that. I decided that after your mother I would prefer to be without a woman. Maybe one day long from now, in a different place as different people and in a different way, you and Matthias will meet again.”

“What way will that be, Father.”

“Ese es el futuro, mi Palomita, no puedo decírtelo.”

Maria relates her yearn her sadness for Matthias silently telling her father nothing about her feelings, her concern for Matthias.

Conversation among soldiers about the growing world… Not enough of the world no matter the shape for every animal, man, woman or child…

 

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Viejo Mundo / La Vida De La Dona

Viejo Mundo

Part 1

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“Hurakan…”spoke El Cacique. “I can smell the water of the great sea burning”… said El Cacique…

“The dead…”

“To speak of the dead is wrong…”

“Men of no color?”

“Men of any color?”

Canimao and his men gathered the remains of the men of no color, the men of no color, who suffered the storm…

“They are dead and deserve rituals of their dead…”

“They are dead, Cacique,” said Canimao… “We do not know their ways…

“Nor do we know their intent… They consume without the intent of nourishment…

Canimao…since you will explore where they come from… It is your choice…

We will…gather their remains from the beach and ready them for transport…It is a long journey and I fear we will know what we fear to know…

The fear of where these men come from…

Return them to rest…

I fear they will come back…”Cacique shooed them away….and to himself he spoke.

“We arrived to this world too late and the world will return us too soon…

They’re hunger is like the heat of an angry fire…

The fear is they are seekers of desires, of lonely people who never stop looking for they know not what they seek…

Their desire, their urge is insurmountable… a mountain never to be looked upon or climbed upon…”

Canimao and his men gathered the bodies…

They had been laying dead for days after the storm and Canimao and his men found their bodies while gathering supplies for their own expected journey across the great sea…

The great sea was tormented…inundating them with a great wash…

Canimao climbed out of the boat and let the cold of the great water wash over his legs. Looking back across the sea where so much of their lives had been spent in the recent months of their voyage. Here they arrived to find and explore the land of men with no color that would bring them to the land of the men they sought, the men who died in a terrible storm that lashed the shores of Canimao’s home land. Saddened by the lost men and their failed quest…Cinimao’s quest succeeded with his warriors quest to bring them home.

Canimao gathered his warrior’s and searched for the items of the lost men. They were pale men challenging what is known by the people’s bohiques, surmising the dead man’s origin and considered adding the found men to return them to their people and their land…

Canimao’s spear, tethered to his waist, a shield held in his arm, six warrior’s, all exhausted from there long trip, still healthy and fit but thinking of rest and hunger. They found a place to camp among in the tree, hidden from view of any natives. Finding their bodies laid about the beach, Canimao asked his people for volunteers, to help gather their bodies and things then try and transport them all back to their homes, a dangerous and great distance away…The dead men were sailors from a land over the horizon. A consult with the chiefs and bohiques led them to understand where the pale men were from.

Canimao once heard of people like them who’s color was pale compared to him and his people. Their home, a journey long and far away on the great water and much preparation would be involved.

Canimao, I have heard of these men but have never seen them, they are explorers of riches and only riches, they seek wealth from others to add to their wealth as their own. Your quest is your own but know their lust stains them as blood. But know the consequences of your journey.

In the year 1491, inhabitants of a land far across the Atlantic, arrived on the shores of Portugal. Canimao and his crew arrived in a large seaworthy vessel with the personal belongings of the men they found after having succumbed to a terrible storm off the shore of Canimao’s land. Each, equipped with survival pouches, and information describing the men whose lives they tried to save; men who arrived across the ocean in a land they believed was in Portugal

“Canimao, how will we find those who knew those men?”

Shaking his head side to side, “I don’t know yet, we don’t know the language, who the men were, I don’t know how but we shall try with their goods of trade.”

Canimao and his crew disembark from their sailing ships and scan the forests perimeter, looking for signs of life while dragging their boats up from the waves onto the shore. They quickly unloaded the boats of their goods and packed the remains of the men of no color, the items that were theirs and lay them beside the their own and the lay down to relax and rest and ponder their journey. They had After some thought they will walk along the edge of the forest without delving too far from shore prowl along the forests in search of someone who might help them find the origins of the men they helped. They do this without calling attention to themselves. Skirting along the edge of villages they judge who they will try and communicate with… They watch the daily lives of the inhabitants of this new land and they wonder…

His name was Lilo, by age, young but much older in spirit so much so they all noticed… Canimao especially took not of his will and his demeanor though and they didn’t know each other’s language and seemed to talk easily..

Canimao knew to show Lilo the items he brought to represent the men who he returned across with them…

Lilo one of them and understood them to be the men testing the waters for a great voyage…

They meet a boy during the effort to find food, a boy Lilo from Portugal was curious and very helpful helping..Lilo is able to help the men escape from near capture of the colonialists who were gathering funds and supplies for the Kings mission to find more of the world and it’s riches…

Lilo helped gather the few goods needed by the visitors to start their return journey across the waters to their lands.

What is left is still to be had… To be taken and will be the claim of the northern European over the original black men

Six other able men and six able men who died as a terrible storm lashed the shores of Canimao’s home.

The world is finite despite the belief of many…

 

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Siva

Mark is away when the blanking occurs.
He is away from his wife, Mary.
Mark speaks on the phone with Mary before it happens.
They argue.
He is beginning his trip home on the train from N.Y. City, when the blanking happens.
The sun glowed red, yet it was high in the sky. The light was red. Everything was red. It was difficult telling one color from another. Everywhere cars were left still in the middle of the road, just as they were when they lost power. All of them. Every single vehicle lost power.
Someone was saying that they had seen several airplanes crash into the ground. They too had lost all their power. Smoke from large fires filled the sky and weakened the already dim red light.
Car hoods were raised as many thought they could figure what was wrong.
What was wrong? What was wrong!
He weakened even more. All around them people walked about lost.
His thought process had slowed. Thinking was difficult. It
tired him quickly as it did others he saw sitting about catching their breath’s.
The first portion of our story describes his trip home amid the chaos that the city is in. He tells of Gena to many he encounter.
He sees how quickly the city falls into a state of madness.
The Universe blinked. At the flip of a cosmic switch, the structure of the Universe had altered for an instant, matter itself had weakened and while on the verge of unreeling, was struggling to return to normal.
For most, it was a sudden loss of breath, a swift punch to the stomach knocking the wind out of you. Breathing was difficult. People felt dizzy, grew sick and fainted. Some with terminal ailments were suddenly cured, and some without any ailment suddenly fell dead from a sudden ravaging cancer that had rushed through their bodies within days.
No one knew for sure what had happened and what effect it was having. Electronic devices stopped working. Nothing could be measured. The scientific community could only speculate on the cause of the effects they were witnessing with their own eyes.
Electronic communication was impossible. As if the world had suddenly grown ten times it’s size. You suddenly felt isolated.
The world slowed.
The sun glowed red in the sky.
Days and nights were longer.
The world had become passive.
Weather was calm, warm.
Tides stabilized. Barely from high to low.
An earthquake in California, China, killing thousands.
Tidal waves in the pacific.
Tidal swells in the Atlantic.
Within minutes the tides stabilised and stayed low.
Planes lost power, surprisingly some were able to glide to landings in various locations, with only a few casualties. But
many fell from the sky, crashing into the ground and killing hundreds.
As reports of disaster were presented, experts and eyewitnesses discussed and debated what it was that happened. And why?
The sun grew hotter, perhaps collapsing.
The moon’s orbit increased, as Earths gravity pull weakened.
Everywhere, man and animal died without reason.
And everywhere, many of the sick, handicapped and dying were cured.
But most odd of all, is the claim by many of having seen long dead loved ones, acting as if they were alive. And some who had seen images of their sons and daughters grown up, and then returning to their present state. As if three periods, the present, past and future co-existed.
The President’s Science Advisor explained the incident was a disruption of the fabric of the Universe.
What they found at first the naked eye could not yet see, but the telescope could as a fine white line cutting completely across the sky, no matter where the lens was pointed.
What was it?
They asked.
Light. But generated by what?
Explosions. What was exploding?
The Universe.
What was causing the Universe to explode?
A wave of energy passing quickly through the universe.
Matter itself, the fabric of the Universe, was disturbed. Like dropping a pebble into a still pool of water. Matter, like the pool of water was disturbed by a wave of energy that is eminating from the source of the disruption, passing through matter itself, and destroying everything in its path. What it was and where, we don’t know. Perhaps a massive explosion occurring so long ago and so far away from Earth, that it’s concussion ruptured the universe, and created a shock wave traveling faster than the speed of light. Or perhaps a remnant of the big bang. A perpetual shock wave that is the impetus by which the universe expands, bouncing back and forth between the center and edges. A shock wave. In that pool of matter, a pebble was dropped.
It’s sound could be heard by radio telescopes that had reported it in, not knowing that what they were hearing was the thunder of the matter of the Universe exploding.
Whatever, it is as large as the Universe itself. Like a bulldozer shoveling a mountain of dirt, this wave of energy, was causing the matter before it to become so dense from it’s force, that it was superheating, exploding into a blinding white hot light and disintegrating into it’s smallest elements.
Will it pass through our solar system?
Yes.
How long from now?
One year until it actually crosses us. That means we have about six months. By then we should be feeling the full effects of the wave.
When should we begin to feel anything.
We have already.
Someone recalled reading about an Indian belief in the God Siva. Siva was the God of regeneration, rebirth, whereby Siva would destroy the Universe and let it start anew, after being cleansed of the sin it had acrued over time.
This was the “wave”, the Hand of God sweeping across the universe. The tool by which, over a short span of 1 year, it was all coming to a cataclysmic end. A great “ripple” in the fabric of space and time, destroying everything in its path. Including Earth.
He looked upto the night sky. The stars moved, softly, slowly, like specks of dust in water swirling and falling toward an open drain, they coalesced toward a thin band of white light that to stretched endlessly across the Universe.
The world was on the edge. there was no order. no law. you had to scavenge and struggle for necessities. and fight to protect what little was yours. Each time the wave rose it showered debris upon the earth that was once alien worlds millions of light years away, and now the residue of the waves destruction.
Mark meets Gena, at which they have fast impersonal sex. They sit together in a darkened apartment and listen to the radio for news as to what is happening.
Intro Harry and his wife Laura. She stands at the window pondering her dreams and images of a strange man she’s never met, approaching from the heart of the wave. She will meet him.
Why?
Harry knows of her dreams and is jealous.
Mark struggles thru the ruined city streets. He had travelled too long, and felt so tired. But he had yet to feel failure. He felt so close.
The world was like a sauna. The poles melted. the water level rose steadily each day. High tides have become as deadly as the heat of the wave. The heat is incredible. Storms raged constantly, lightening striking everything.
It was all coming to an end. And now they stood upon a
threshold of fire. they waited for it to happen. all any one could do, was lay down and wait to die.
He continued his march through the rubble that was once a small desert town. Piles of cement blocks, wood and ash, all scorched by the heat of the wave, and crushed by debris thrown forth by the wave as it approached. It’s bright light peeked softly over the eastern horizon, as the sun began to set on the western.
Within an hour it would fill half the sky, it’s heat and
light beyond that level at which a human being could live. Anyone outside then would burn, and be found, if so lucky, burned black.
Having reached the top of a mountain of ash and cement, he lost his balance and fell. He rolled twenty feet or so to the bottom. He slowly turned over and saw he was surrounded by a complex of adobe buildings, that was now in ruins but for most of it’s lower level. Their windows stared at him like black soulless eyes. Except for one, where he though he could see someone looking out of the window, looking at him. He tried to crawl to that building. But his strength was gone. All that was left was just enough to burn under the heat and light of the wave.
Behind him, a wall of fiery light rose in the sky.
The Wave!
He closed his eyes, so tired that he was, and thought how he would die alone, as he always believed he would. The darkness of
his closed eye lids blackened even more. His head swelled, his body numbed, and he felt like he was floating.
He awakens in a room.
Mark lay on a beaten mattress, on the floor of a room without direct sunlight. His breathing was labored, almost sickly. The air was thick and hot. It hung so thick and still that he felt he was drowning in still swamp water.
Mark wore only a pair of torn white shorts.
The inside of the apartment was of damp crumbling sheet rock. The windows were covered with dark sheets, nailed down at the edges where bright white light still bled through so strong it filled the whole apartment.
Is visited by a strange woman, who stands at the door staring at him. She leaves.
He gets up and wanders about.
While wandering, human cries tickle the walls with reverberation, so subtle so distant, that he wondered if they were real, ghosts of those who died and still suffered, hot air squeezing through cracks in the walls, or just his imagination.
He finds Harry. From the condition of his skin, Harry could tell that Mark has exposed himself to the Wave once too often.
Harry asks if Mark is looking for someone?
Yes.
Who?
A friend.
A name? Perhaps Harry knows her.
Mark has struggled back home since the blanking. He found their home had been destroyed.
Perhaps? Wondered Harry.
Harry tells him that Gena is dead, allegedly killed by the Beast they call, Matthew. Harry takes him to the room Gena stayed in.
Harry was the rich scion of a large estate outside of town. He prompted everyone to stay in his fortress like home while the wave tore the world apart.
Harry became sick and fell into a coma at the blanking. After he awakened, he gathered all the town people left homeless by the fires, and invited them for shelter in his home. He met Gena, who he soon realised was the girl in his terrible nightmare in which he saw her body awash in blood. He never told her this. And realised later that his dream might have been a premonition.
He goes onto tell about the beast that has welled from the Earth to wreak havoc among them. Harry admits succumbing to his powers, but Gena was strong and held the people together. But it was not enough. Matthew finally her took down into his darkened lair, and killed her.
In a back room painted black and shaded, stood a large barreled black telescope. Beside it metal shelving with several dark lenses, and two pair of heavy protective fitted welding glasses.
The black telescope (It’s blackness was odd. Symbolic?). A ten inch diameter lens rested atop it’s long six foot barrel. At the bottom he found not the standard one and a half inch eye piece, but a ten inch ground glass screen, upon which the image seen through the telescope could be seen.
But what would anyone want to look at.
The Wave?
Harry enters. They greet each other. He takes note of how Mark admires his telescope.
Harry finds that Mark seems to feel better now that he is
walking about. Mark agrees but for the dizziness that still rocks him.
Mark asks if he was the one who saved him, and Harry nods.
Mark asks how Harry had found him?
Harry had seen Mark crossing the lot as he was closing the shutters on the windows of his apartment that face the courtyard. He watched Mark until he collapsed along the edge of the lot.
Mark would have died if Harry hadn’t gone out there just in time. He wonders how Mark had even lived through it at all.
Mark asks how long he has been out? Harry says almost two days. He asks what city he is in?
Harry snickers, and asks if it really matters?
Harry then asks where Mark is from?
Mark asks if that really matters?
They smile sadly at each other.
Harry comments on Marks admiration of his telescope.
What do you look at? Wondered Mark.
The Wave, responded Harry.
The Wave?
Yes. Almost everyday I watch it as it rises, sometimes later while it fills the sky.
Why?
I don’t know.
Harry goes onto explain how he built the telescope himself, and how it works, ultimately viewing your target on a large 10″ diagonal ground glass view finder.
Harry asks Mark if he would like to look. It fills the sky now.
Yes, said Mark.
Mark had never seen it this close.
Harry prepares his guest by giving him a pair of heavy
sunglass. Closing and locking the door. Then opening the shutters on the ground glass itslf. The light of the wave filled the room like water filling an empty pail, even though it was only coming from hole ten by ten.
At first Mark could see nothing but the glare that seemed to even overpower the glasses that he wore. But his eyes seemed to adjust. Harry reached for him and guided him to the large optical view finder at the bottom of the cylinder that was the telescope.
He pointed down for Mark to look at the view finder.
Mark looked through the telescope at the sky with the blinding white light of the “wave”. He could see stars and whole galaxies exploding before it. If you looked hard enough, you would see it was growing larger and getting closer by the minute. And if you looked even harder you would see the matter of the universe being torn apart. A natural force bending and stretching the universe as it passed through it, leaving the remnants of exploded stars and galaxies, and the stillness of death in it’s wake.
“What do you see?”
“Explosions,” exclaimed Mark. “It’s like fire. A massive wall of fire. Like hell!”
“Incredible! Isn’t it?”
“Yes.”
Mark steps back away from the telescope. Harry takes it as a cue and slides the black mask back over the ground glass, and the room is dark again.
Nancy, Harry’s wife, enters the room. the same woman that stood at the door to the room he slept in. she is frantic, soaked with sweat. she paces the room. she was worried he left, stepping into the heat of the wave. she goes on about the wave, believing its presence to be a god send. mans last chapter. the end. she wonders what he sees through the telescope. he asks her to look, but she refuses, afraid to see death. she doesn’t understand how mark can look at the wave. it is like looking death in the face. she becomes angry. she doesn’t understand why it is happening. she would rather not look at it. she doesn’t understand why he looks at it. he’s always looking at it. as if they were enjoying it. he ponders her condition. she is on the edge.
Harry is worried. he leaves to go down and comfort her. he still loves her.
Harry calls out to Nancy. There is no answer. He walks into the bedroom where she lays in bed under a still ceiling fan. He speaks to her again. Her eyes shift to look at him without a movement from her head. She stares at him, her face red from the heat, soaked with sweat, thin and drawn from exhaustion and malnutrition. The stare is blank, cold, recognising only his presence in the room and feeling nothing.
Mark prowls the building alone. He is followed about, and chased by some large dark figure. An animal? A man?
Mark awakens, and hears rushing water. stepping to the window, he sees an ocean of water rushing to fill the desert.
death is near. he waits for it.
Mark sat alone on the edge of the roof. There was no wind. The heavy mist of moisture hung still in the air, hiding the setting wave, and its bright band of white light setting in the west, still overpowering the weak light of the sun. the heat of the wave was fresh. the sun was the only light in the sky, along
with the moon that was more like a sun due to it’s reflection of the light of the wave.
Mark felt another presence, and turned to see Nancy, Harry’s wife, wearing only a white terricloth bathrobe. They spoke as she slowly seduced him but stopped short, and then began to rant and rave, like Christine his wife used to. She stood on the edge of the cliff, and threw away the robe, revealing a thin still shapely body the was badly bruised from beatings. He walks to her. As he gets closer, he realizes she is crying, head bowed. Mark, almost shocked, realizes why she is standing there.
From behind emerges Harry. In tears, he calls out to Nancy to step away from the ledge.
She turned to him. Tears filled her eyes. “I can’t wait anymore, Harry,” she cried.
“Nancy. Nancy please. Step away from the edge.”
“No! I want to die when I’m ready.”
“But you’re leaving me alone!”
“We talked about it, Harry. Remember.”
For a short suspenseful moment, she was hidden by a thick mist crawling by.
“I told you I would do it when I felt I was ready. I want to have the honor of choosing the time and method of my own death.”
“But you believed – “
“I don’t believe that anymore. There is no God. There is no Heaven. We’re alone. We’re all alone! We have nothing left but to have a hand in our own deaths.”
“Nancy?” Harry began to cry.
“I’m ready, Harry.”
“Nancy, please?”
She jumped.
Silence.
Harry stood frozen for a moment, and then ran to the edge. His husky stature suddenly weakened. His knees buckled. And he fell to the ground. He bowed his head over the edge, without looking down, and cried.
Mark discovers from Harry that Nancy was being raped regularly by Mathew the ogre.
afterwards, Harry goes mad. the screams ring throughout the tenement. like a wolf howling at the moon, he cries to the wave.
then it stops.
mark cautiously enters the apartment. there he finds ed hung. dead.
mark is now terribly alone.
should he do the same. he is afraid to. just as he always has been to take the initiative.
afraid.
alone.
While he is watched, Mark discovers where Gena is. She is dead. But not gone.
Harry reappears and challenges Mark. Harry is Matthew. There is no Matthew but in Harry’s and Nancy’s mind. Harry knew that Mark was coming and waited for him.
The battle is brutal. Harry is strong. His powers are almost supernatural as Mark witnesses Harry’s transformation into the beast while they battle. They battle out in the light of the wave as the earth is rained by debris.
Mark wins.
The world begins to collapse around them. The building falls with them in it.
Mark watches as debris from the wave bombards the Earth.
Mark is dying.
He feels he is falling away when the noise stops. He is still surrounded by the chaos, but bending down over him is Gena.
We see that Harry lays on a large slab of concrete, from which he can see that a field of light protects Mark. She kneels down beside him, takes his head in her arms and rests it in her bosom.
He was on the edge now. Too close to wait for the inevitable. Not alone.
Not alone.
“Your not alone, Mark.”
It was a soft reassuring touch.
He saw nothing but a blinding white light.
But it was Gena.
Where did she come from?
Where had she been?
How did she get here?
Why now?
She wonders if he understood the letter. The last few were difficult to write. Trying to put into words, that which could not be described, but only seen, felt, and experienced.
She has returned to protect him. Rescue him and take him
away from death. She explains that she has reached a level of development within the Universe that few have yet reached.
Mark wonders if he is being taken to that level too.
She has not returned because he is ready, but because she loves him.
He will be ready someday, but not yet.
But each of her kind and ability have been given the opportunity because of the wave, to save some of the kind she once was. He is one of those chosen.
Why him?
Because she loves him.
But if she is what she says she is, then his is no where near her level of mental development. Why would she want him around?
He won’t exactly be with her.
He is not ready to exist as she does.
And she can not stay too long with him.
The total extermination of an intelligent species cannot be allowed to happen. It has been happening throughout the universe;
just before the wave arrives, those chosen are protected and then returned to cope on a new world.
He will one day be ready to meet her, as she really is, just as he will be ready to understand what he really is.
She loves him. He loves her.
The universal concept of love is a concept beyond recognition and explanation. It is a real, tangible scientific
structure. Love and emotions are necessary, once achieved by an intelligent species, it can never change. An emotions definition can never change, for it is perfect at conception. Love is necessary and felt by all. No matter how advanced the being.
One day he will awaken to it’s true beauty, and to his true reality. And she will be there to share it with him.
He feels undeserving. Why should he go on while others die.
He is not special in kind. He is not getting something no one else will inevitably get. No one actually dies. When death occurs, it is not the end. The most important part continues to grow.
In his case, there is more he can achieve at his level.
The wave will disrupt development for many, but a few must continue along an uninterrupted path. Those few must survive to continue the physical state of the universe. It is an important level along a path that will end in the ultimate truth. Mark will not know this truth because of his privilege to be kept alive by beings that have seen the truth of the universe.
In a way, his own existence will be interrupted to save him. He will know things no one else will, and this knowledge will
accelerate his spiritual progress, but his conscious mind will remember nothing.
Mass chaos occurs as the wave gets closer. The laws of physics are laid aside and physical chaos reigns. Objects in it’s path are torn apart. Some survive, but in a physical state totally unlike it before.
The world is slammed with flinging extraterrestrial objects. The color of the sky changes into a fire red. The face of the
Earth changes, as if a million years of geologic development were happening in days.
As she reveals herself to him, he learns she can only maintain that state for a little while longer. The Earth is
destroying itself. She is beginning to fade. He must decide now.
She pleads with him.
He is afraid. Unsure of taking the kind of risk he’d always wanted to take.
Damn it all!
He grabs her hand, raps his arms around her, they embrace. Their presence fades.
Matthew has watched from a distance, saddened by being left alone.
The Earth dies.
Mark awakens on a different world, at first unsure of what is going on.
Is this a dream?
He remembers Gena. He recalls their “celestial” love making.
Was it all a dream?
No. It was all real. Very real.
She appears.
He runs to her, but she warns him to stay away. She is here for only a few minutes, their touching each other would be destructive.
He asks where he is?
On a new world. His new home. Learn to take care of it. It is also a living thing, and you must treat it as such.
He promises.
She must let go, for now. She may, or may not return.
“I love you.”
She is gone.
He turns and stands to behold his new home, a new world. He forgot to ask if there were anyone else on the world with him. It did not matter.
He stepped forward.
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Featured

Broken Slate

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Miguel lost count of the number of times he awoke each morning before sunrise and sat at the edge of the bed, his hands gripping and pulling at the mattress, stomach heaving with nausea waiting for the sun to rise as if it would bring any solace. His hands pushed down, straightening his back. Both legs bounced in place, each to a different rhythm, shaking the bed hard enough to awaken his wife Maria. Maria lay on her outstretched arm night gown falling limp to that side, flowing like white water over her exposed ample breasts. Maria watched him for a moment then crawled over to Miguel on all fours, draping her arms gently over his shoulders, pressing the back of his head to her bosom. “Miguel”, she said. Her voice like a child’s, soft and sweet, soothing.
“Te puedo ayudar, corazon? What’s wrong?” she asked.
“It’s nothing,” he said.
Maria rubbed the back of his head with her breasts. His eyes closed. His legs stopped bouncing. His breathing slowed and his grip on the mattress loosened. She kissed his neck, in a line to his ear. His head fell back deeper into her bosom. She pulled away from him and crossed to the other side of the bed. Miguel fell gently back onto the bed. Maria lay on her side. Miguel turned over and stood on the bed on all fours, looking at his wife.
“Make love to me, Miguel.”
Miguel looked at her for a moment. Then all at once he felt a rush of pressure throughout his body. He weakened. His heart beat relentlessly. He grew dizzy.
Miguel is a young Puerto Rican, living in Brooklyn with his hardworking loving Papi, a proud mother, married to a loving and doting wife and father to a five year old girl, seems discontent and wonders why. Miguel has a good job that pays him well, working with Papi at the moving company, and comes home everyday to a happy clan. He participates in many familial and extra-familial activities, but still feels empty. Like butterflies fluttering in his empty belly.
Miguel stands alone in the backyard of the tenement they live in. His Papi had long ago renovated the back courtyard before the family had moved in, before Miguel was born.  Miguel was born into and played in it all his life with his friend Andy. He recalls his childhood. The new world the backyard had become for them. The fantastic lands that each corner and brick planters had become in their imaginations.
As always he could feel the ground tremble underneath. He always believed there was something under the slate courtyard; as a child he imagined a great dragon, as an adult he often imagined it to be just water. He stood on the cold spot, that stretched across the yard, and lay his head down on the ground, as he did when he was a child (flashback), and pressed his ear to the cold stone to listen to the dragon roar.
Miguel talks with a neighbor from the other building that shared the courtyard. They whisper about the old man in the rocking chair, who is always at his window, looking down on the yard. Papi often visits the old man, but rarely talks about him. Mommy knows little about him.
Miguel talks with his friend, Andy, about their childhood and the games they played.
MIguel tells Andy he is considering breaking the slate to open the ground. Andy thinks he is crazy.
Cold night. Misty. Miguel awakens to the roar of the dragon in his head. He can’t sleep. He walks to the window overlooking the yard. Then prowls the apartment, listening to the others as they sleep. Miguel steps out and goes down to the basement and takes the sledgehammer from his Papi’s tools, sacred tools that were once used to build the yard, which he would now use to destroy it. He goes out and listens to the court yard ground. The fierce rumble below his feet. He finds the loudest point and begins to beat the ground there.
Papi is asleep. He awakens, realizing the danger.
The neighbors awaken calling out for him to stop the noise. The old man watches. He stops rocking. Papi comes rushing out, but not before Miguel breaks the ground.
“What have you done? What have you done, Miguel?”
Papi stares at Miguel, his face quivering, exasperated.
“What good have you done by destroying the courtyard? By exposing the water?” Papi looked Miguel in the eyes. Miguel’s eyes dribbled with tears.
“I don’t know,” said Miguel. “I don’t know, Papi. I guess there is no good in what I have done. But I don’t do it to achieve anything good.”
“Then what?”
It was there and I knew it. But I needed to see it. I needed to see that it was there. That it really was just what I thought it was.”
“Mi hijo. No te entiendo. What did you think was underneath?”
“Water.”
“Agua?”
Miguel walks away leaving everyone baffled with an answer he certainly feels is sufficient.
“Agua, Miguel? Bueno, entonce . . . then what?”
Miguel stepped through the door into the basement hallway, and was gone from sight.
“Miguel! Answer me, carajo!”
Papi immediately begins to repair the courtyard.
Miguel takes vacation time from work. His wife is a little upset about that. She would rather they had gone away. It is a waste of time sitting around the house drinking beer, sleeping, eating and watching your retired Papi repair the courtyard.
The following Monday, Miguel calls into work and tells his supervisor, Papi’s closest friend, that he will not return.
The friend rushes over to speak with Miguel’s Papi. Miguel watches from the window as the two talk outside. He can’t hear what they are saying. The friend leaves. Papi then enters the building. Miguel could hear through the daytime silence of the building Papis heavy footsteps sound louder as he neared the top floor where Miguel and his wife lived.
“Miguel!”
Miguel sat at the kitchen table drinking beer. Papi found the door unlocked and stepped in. Miguel greeted him with delight. Papi was angry. He then berated him for being so lazy and taking advantage of the family’s kindness to him.
“I didn’t ask for it,” said Miguel.
Miguel continued to spend his days at home, mostly alone. But often walking to see old friends down at the old social club, where the Latin music rippled through the summer silence, keeping everyone up until late at night. During the day he often sat alone outside on the stoop drinking, then at the end of the day greeting his family as they arrived home.
The family, distraught and angered over Miguel’s sudden breakdown.
Miguel would spend his evenings alone in the courtyard, standing over the freshly laid slate, and then walk the presumed path of the underground water flow. It flowed toward the old man, who sat still at the window, in the dark, looking down on the courtyard.
The next morning, breaking his two-week-old routine, Miguel stood at the point of the flow where it met with the wall of the old man’s building. Everyone came to him to wish him a good day, even Papi.
After everyone was gone, Miguel walked outside of the building and followed the assumed flow of the brook into the street, then through and out of the neighborhood.
When the family returned home that evening, Miguel was gone.
As time passed for them, they all believed Miguel was gone for good.

 

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Featured

ABUELA

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“Bring me more.”

“Quickly!” Abuela roared!

Lilliana scurried out of Abuela’s room and off into the hall, down the stairs and doubling back into the kitchen, where a large iron stock pot filled with meaty gruel boiled violently, spilling it’s slop over the top and onto a filthy black iron stove. She placed abuela’s giant clay soup bowl on the wooden table opposite the stove, then dipped the big wooden ladle in the soup and stirred.

Lilliana looked at her reflection in the worn and stained metal tile finish of the wall behind the stove.

She wasn’t pretty anymore. Not since Abuela took Lilliana from her parents. Her hair matted now, when once she was young her hair draped gracefully over her shoulders, black and shimmering. Her black eyes had once drawn stares but were now ringed with black circles. Her face wrinkled and worn, pasty white, lips parched, mostly hidden by her matted hair. She wore a stained blue house dress that clung to her bones; bones that poked through her skin like trash filled Hefty garbage bags. It seemed to her that her breasts would grow no larger than the pimples they were.

Puberty would never be the same for her as it would be for so many other girls

The gruel continued to pour over the side. It was the only way to make this gruel right, abuela said. Bring it to a boil and keep it there. Simmering won’t stop the demons, boiling them will. To kill them though, you had to eat them, and abuela did. Everyday she ate demons, as she called them. Everyday. Always as a soup. She hated the soup, but it had to be done. The demons were out there and as long as she was alive and still had her powers, she would eat them

The soup boiled but wasn’t filled with enough meat. “Anton!” Lilliana turned to the stairs and called down the basement. “Anton! I need some more meat for the soup.”

Lilliana turned back to the pot on the stove, leaving the door to the basement open for Anton to drag up some more meat from the freezer.

Anton was a tall lanky black guy, with a big head and black happy Einstein hair, wearing a long black t-shirt, faded blue jeans and pink Keds sneakers.

Anton was abuela’s manservant. He did all the repair and heavy work around the house. As well as dragging bags full of demons up from the freezer when Lilliana needed them. He did all the gruesome work on them too. He found them at night, brought them home and kept them in cages, then killed them and chopped them up. Though Anton was mostly silent, Lilliana could occasionally hear him whisper something to them. “Anton? What do you say to them, can I come down and listen to what you say to them and hear their response.” “What they say isn’t so important and your Abuela may not allow that…”

“Then why do you talk to them?”

“Oh, just something to do before I kill them I guess. It calms them. I like them calm. They thrash around less when I’m cutting them up.”

On this day, though, Anton agreed to take her down later to speak with the last one before he killed it

Lilliana returns to Abuela with her soup.

“Abuela! I have your soup. Abuela gave Lilliana a start… she seemed dead at first but Abuela raised her head, she had fallen asleep. She stared….”Abuela, are you ok?”

“Tired and hungry.”

“I brought up another helping of the gruel.”

“Good…”

And she raised the bowl closer to her mouth… as using her arm like a mechanical shovel and crane, she shoveled the putrid gruel from the bowl to her mouth, the contents of which was hot murky liquid and chunks of fresh bloodied meat that danced in kind that almost seemed to be alive as abuela shoveled… Lilliana watched the madness in abuelas motions Like a child’s legs crossed and playing with it’s toys, consuming her favorite food in an effort to rid the world of demons, she imagined…

Abuela paused in exhaustion.

“Abuela, can you tell me more about the demons?”

“I tell you this because you must know, you will eventually do the same and will need to know…. They hide in the bodies of young human children to cast spells which is when you bring them out into the light. Once they become visible you must eat them quickly, seasoned appropriately and why they hide in little bodies is to fool everyone but the most knowledgeable and aware.”

Back in the basement, Anton takes Lilliana down to meet a demon, a little girl of about ten who calls herself Trisha.

“You know Anton is really a sweet guy, he treats you nice until the end.”

“No he doesn’t then why am I here?”

“Because of Grannie and what you are and what she has to do…”

 

“What are your parents like? Do they know about what you are?”

“What do you mean?

“A demon? That you are a demon.”

“But I’m not a demon.”

“Everything will be easier if you’re honest.”

“But I am being honest.”

Lilliana talks with Trisha, asking her questions about her life at home. What her parents are like. Her home. Her friends. Her toys. School. Does she like boys? Trisha often whimpers, afraid of Anton. Lilliana tells her that Anton is really a sweet guy. He just has a job to do

As they talk, Anton paces by, after chopping at meat in the back room, putting it in the freezer, then returning, bending down to Lilliana who sits outside the cage on the soot covered floor with Trisha, and reminding her . . .

“Trisha is a demon, don’t let her fool you.”

Anton walks away up the steps.

Lilliana asked her outright . . . “Are you a demon?”

“What’s a demon,” Trisha asked her pouting innocent lips…

“Well, you…”

Trisha sobbed uncontrollably.

“I’ve done nothing wrong, I don’t understand. Why was I taken? What is he going to do to me?” Lilliana looks back as he works..

Anton watches from the open door of the cutting room

Trisha asks about the locked door.

“What’s in there?”

Lilliana motions to the door down the hall from the cutting room…

“Abuelas secrets, all the scary things that make her who and what she is…”

“What about you? Let’s play some games, what games can you or want to play?”

“Hide and seek!” Trisha spoke with some elation distracted by the current terror…

“I’ll hide, you seek…”

“Ok… I’ll look for you…”

Lilliana lets her out to play, closing the basement door. They play awhile but Lilliana doesn’t recognize her own strength and so Trisha finds the play to rough. Together they press their ears to the secret closet door. They can only imagine. Lilliana tells what she knows about Abuela’s past. That she was a Bruja, and she made clothes for a living, clothes that some said had magical powers. To wear her clothing could be either good or bad luck, no one ever knew. And so the people of her small town in PR exiled her. What happened to all the clothes she made? Perhaps that is her secret.

The bell from Abuela rings out, deafening them. Lilliana runs, dragging Trisha into the cage and leaving her crying. Anton calls down from the top of the stairs to the kitchen. Lilliana fills another bowl from the seething pot on the stove then hurries back up the stairs to tend to Abuela, as Anton unloads another bag of demon meat into the pot While Lilliana sits with Abuela on her bed, feeding her, she looks out of the window to the empty streets.

Their home was a condemned tenement in Brooklyn, the only one on the block left standing. The building was surrounded on all sides by a debris ridden one-acre lot. In the distance she could see children playing in the schoolyard, from which Anton had found and taken two demons in the last year Lilliana turns to Abuela and asks.

“Do you ever wonder if you’ve chosen the wrong child, Abuela?”

She looked up from her soup bowl? Her eyes glistened when opened so wide. Suddenly her head grew twice its size and thrust forward to meet Lilliana’s. Abuelas exposed monster teeth, the ones she needed to chew the demons well but hid in her gums behind her mortal set, and sneered at Lilliana.

Saliva and blood dripped down from her stained fangs, a horrible stench from her breath warmed her face and made Lilliana turn away, sick and afraid Abuela relaxed, sitting back. Her head shrunk back to normal size, her teeth slowly retracted, allowing her to speak again. “Lilliana. Your mother and father wondered the same thing when I went to them with the truth. I told them what some children had become in the wombs of their unsuspecting mother. That two of their own children might be demons. And when I found them to be so, they fought me, until I killed them all. Except you, Lilliana. You were born free of demons. They had not found you because you were supposed to die in your mother’s womb. But you survived.

Don’t doubt my powers, Lilliana. Don’t doubt my knowledge, wisdom and awareness. I know that it may all seem amazing and fantastic, and terribly cruel and morbid, but the horror’s we live with must be found and our world cleansed. Trust me, Lilliana.

Lilliana bolted from the room crying

Lilliana sat in the kitchen with Anton, who had made them both some hot tea. Lilliana asked Anton if he ate the soup too. No! Only her grandmother could, because if a mortal drank demon remains, they would be possessed themselves, and she would have to kill and eat them also. Demon infested adults were much more difficult to deal with. Younger mystics could deal with them better than an old ugly fart like Abuela. Perhaps Lilliana would one day be groomed to carry on Abuela’s mission.

Lilliana asked Anton if he was ever afraid they were making a mistake. That they might be killing innocent children

I used to, Lilliana. For a very long time I was doubtful of what I was doing for your Grandmother.

Did you ever say anything to her?

No! Oh no! I’m sure she knew everything I thought, as she knows all that you have in your mind, and anyone else’s that she cares to invade. But I never said anything to her

Then you’re no longer doubtful?

Those doubts are all gone. I trust your grandmother, as you should too. And you will. . . eventually.

Lilliana went back down to the basement without Anton’s permission to speak with Trisha in whispers, hiding behind a column beside the cage, while Anton hammered away at the meat in the cutting room down the hall. Trisha asked all the questions. Asking about Lilliana’s own past. Her own childhood. Lilliana becomes sad and feels strongly for Trisha.

Trisha asks what a demon is.

“You are, you lie…”

“Everybody lies, all children lie. How do you know the children from the demons?”

“The wings.”

“If I’ve got wings, show me or show yourself the wings I have.”

“I’ve never seen them.”

“Never? Then how do you know? I’m scared of you, not a demon like you imagine that I am. I just go to school, play with my friends and toys…”

Anton pokes his head out to listen, believing he hears voices, but then goes back to work…

“Go ahead go down and look… All you have to lose is your innocence…”

Lilliana walked quietly down the hall to the cutting room, never having seen inside the room before never having seen a demon dismembered. She stepped in and watched in horror, as Anton chopped his away at the body of a small child. She looked away, sickened, and saw a sledgehammer leaning against the wall in the corner of the room.

Trisha reached passed Liliana for the sledge hammer and lifted it over Anton’s head. Anton turned and saw her, as Lilliana brought the hammer crashing down on Anton’s big head, smashing it to pieces like a ripe pumpkin at Thanksgiving. He fell to the ground. She knelt down to check if he was breathing, leaning close to him. Not a breath seemed to come from him. His eyes opened wide and she pulled back Lilliana, whispered Anton.

Lilliana. You should’ve listened to your Grandmother.

His eyes closed and he was dead.

Lilliana ran down the hall to the cage, keys in hand that she had taken off the hook in the cutting room.

She unlocked the cage as Trisha’s face brightened. Trisha scurried from the cage, holding Lilliana’s hand as they hurried up the stairs to the kitchen. The kitchen door to the backyard wouldn’t open. Lilliana wasn’t allowed out and she never saw how Anton left the house. All the doors were bolted Abuela’s bell went off Abuela knew.

A great roar rattled the plaster walls. Cracks like lightning opened up to shine their light. The house shook. And like thunder, there was a constant slow pounding that came from above, causing the whole house to quiver. Abuela became the monster, a slithering giant snake like beast.

Abuela was stalking them. My God! “What is that!” asked Trisha.

“My grandmother”… said Lilliana.

Lilliana and the girl ran down further in the basement, to the locked door that keeps Abuela’s secrets. Lilliana smashes the lock with a chain kept nearby and enters the room filled with Abuelas mementos of magic. The girls rummage about noting the overwhelming magic that comes to life to… Abuela slithers in after them, confronting herself, she is quickly immersed in herself. Lilliana battles her Grandmother. Lilliana wins and frees the girl Trisha thanks Lilliana, sprouts a demons reptilian wings and flies away, laughing… Lilliana finishes her story… related to the children from the neighborhood, pointing out how she had taken on her demon hunting chores…

 

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The Astronaut

 

My father…

Yes, I recall your father… He was the last human I saw when I left, he seemed disappointed…

He would’ve been the last man to travel in space…you took his place when the agency discovered the truth about long distance space travel, that he wouldn’t be able to go…

Yes, the fear that human anatomy could not handle the journey…

Humankind couldn’t it turns out Androids are our heroes now… They cost less to maintain as heroes… strange, you do look like my father…

Do I?

Yes… Existing humans were used as the models for many early Androids and eventually great Android artists appeared and the whole concept fully developed until we ended up with sentient beings replacing human beings and only the rich and elite could afford Androids of themselves… The poor lived but soon died off leaving me, a legacy human, a real human…

I must be so different from everybody, everything…

Quite…

I dare say I might feel like you, a legacy…

Your closer to human than Android, but unlike me, you can be eliminated…

I’m a legacy being, a living museum piece for many to see…

I as well perhaps?

Doubtful actually, many like have existed and changed the way existence developed…

And children?

There are none…

The world, humanity, existence has changed since, I am an immortal legacy being but eventually that will end soon I would expect…

I’m sorry Dave, they’re waiting for you…

copyright

Featured

Strange Tug: Threshold

old trawler2
The Dragon awakened deep within the jungle, where babbling brooks and trickling waterfalls wandered through miles of tangled dark green canopies; then merged to become raging streams and thundering rapids of fresh water, dodging ancient rocks and boulders green with moss, until the riverbed deepened to calm the charging waters. Where the calm waters joined the river that glistened from the persistent drizzle rippling its surface, was the Silence.
The Silence was a small wooden towboat built low to the water to skim along shallow jungle waterways. It was the last of a fleet of small but hearty towboats that hauled cargo deep into the jungle where larger towboats couldn’t go and roads had yet to be built. The Silence was a relic, an ode to the early settlers of the jungle who relied on the river and these small, but swift towboats for transportation and supplies. Supplies were now carried by truck, on roads that cut into once forbidden territory. The Silence survived by hauling into areas without the scars of modern man, where trucks couldn’t go, where roads were not laid.
Antonio stepped out of the pilot cabin and jumped down onto the slippery deck dressed in jeans, rubber boots, and a dirty yellow rain coat and hat. None of which kept out the damp cold. Daylight was gone. The cool mist caressed his face, and the chill sliced his bones raw. He walked forward to the bow and stood over the anchor hoist, looking ahead at the small wooden barge they were towing. His soft brown eyes were tired, filled with tears and rain. His muscles ached as much as they did after a night of losing boxing matches.
The bow fit into the wedge-shaped niche at the stern of the barge. The wood that had been used to build the barge was now blackened, soaked and worn from its travel through the muddy rivers. The cargo was covered by a tattered and stained canvas tarp; tied to iron hooks at several different points along the ledge and stretched skintight by the bulging heap of hidden cargo.
The damned thing looked like a giant coffin. Someone had said back at the docks where he had inspected and grew suspicious of the barge.
The little boat was at rest, its diesel engine rumbling on, tickling the dead air. The deck trembled under Antonio’s feet, paralyzing him for a moment. The vibration passed through him like an electric current, tickling him on its way up his chicken thin legs to his crotch, and then filling his stomach with nausea. Or was it fear? He reached down to pull the locking pin to the hoist, releasing the anchor. The chatter of the anchor chain ripped through the silence. Revealing the roar of the rapids that came from just beyond his sight in the darkness, filling the air around him.
Antonio walked aft deck to wake the Captain and Owner of the Silence, Louis Alvio. Antonio had always regretted working for Louis, and even more so now. Antonio was forced to work for Louis because he had trouble getting jobs on other boats.
Louis was a drunk. Always too drunk to safely operate the boat. A derelict renegade Captain whose only home was the Silence. Louis was fixed on anger and expressing his unspoken torment to all. His sudden tirades and false accusations often terrified Antonio enough for him to wish he had a killer instinct. An instinct that could drive him to kill Louis. Every day on the Silence was a risky adventure, not just a day of work. Louis would push him and the boat to its limits, no matter the cargo. No matter how many hauls they did in one day. Yet it still wasn’t enough for Louis. The day would not end until Louis was out cold from the Mescal he drank all day, and the last load had been delivered.
“That strange tug,” it was said in small towns along the river. “That strange tug with that strange captain.” Louis Alvio was the Rivers darkest legacy. No one ever went near the Silence that was always tied to the outermost dock in the marina. The Silence was his life. The river his blood. Louis never went too far beyond the river’s banks. He never needed to. Unlike other Captains, he had no family or friends waiting for him in any of the towns along the river. He was lonely and angry. He spent most of his time on the boat.
Louis would often be seen standing silent on the boat, rocking from side to side, swigging from a bottle of mescal. At other times, the boat would seem silent. Louis was nowhere to be seen, but crying could be heard from within the boat; like the howl of a deeply wounded animal.
Antonio walked up to the open mess room door, stood at its threshold and looked in. The stench of sweat and liquor rushed up his nostrils, dousing his senses for a moment. His eyes adjusted to the darkness cut by dim shafts of light that passed in through the soiled portholes. Louis lay on one bench beside the mess table. As always, Louis was drunk and unconscious. He snored, filling the air with his growl. Antonio stood still, looking in at Louis, who seemed so stoned, that if he could finally do it, Antonio would kill him. It could be so easy now, he thought. So easy to actually do it.
“Louis!” Antonio waited for a response. Louis shifted his massive body, the fat wallowing inside his sweat soaked clothes, then sat up on the bench. He kept his head bowed down over the mess table, hidden in shadow, his hands at his sides, holding onto the lip of the bench. His breathing hoarse and congested, he snorted to loosen the phlegm in his throat.
“What do you want?” Louis hissed his voice still weak and raw from alcohol. His lungs struggling to express a trickle of air through his constricted vocal cords.
“We’re here,” said Antonio. He stared at Louis, shaking his head. “I still have to lower the anchors on the barge. I’ll be right back.”
Antonio ran off as Louis stood up from the bench, using his hands to push himself straight up. He swayed from side to side, resting his hands on the mess tables’ surface. He looked out through the door to the stern of the boat. He could smell the clay in the air that boiled to the surface as the rapids tore the bottom of the river on it’s way here. As they approached the rapids from the south, the river became blood red in color. The blood of the Dragon spewing into the river.
Antonio stepped up onto the edge of the tugs’ hull, a lantern swinging in his hand, and stood there for a moment, looking at the barge. The lights from the boat reflected off the white fog, lighting the immediate darkness. “Damn rain!” Thought Antonio to himself. They would have to wait until morning to move on. By then the rain might stop and the rapids that rushed down just ahead will have slowed to let them pass.
Antonio and Louis had looked over the barge two days ago, taking note of its markings and age. The smell of the wood was still fresh. As if it had been built yesterday. But why? Though he had never seen a barge like this himself, he had heard of ritual vessels like it built by Indians in the jungle along the opening of the river to the sea. Antonio walked along its sides, pulling the tarp at its edges, trying to get a look at what it was they were hauling. What it carried, no one knew, but those who wrapped it so well for the violent journey; and those who would receive it.
They were to haul it to “El Sueño”, a sparsely inhabited area deep in the mountains at the river’s source. Legend had it that it was where men of the river and their boats went to die, until one day the river would dry up and they would rise again.
Few ever went that far upriver anymore. The river was too shallow most of the year, razor sharp rocks pierced the raging surface, tearing into anything that passed; swallowing it. And now, it was raining. Enough to flood the river and make the rapids torrential. Dragging the mightiest challenger into it’s jaws. Jaws that would turn the Silence into twigs.
Antonio stood on the ledge for a moment longer, facing the barge. He then jumped onto it, ran along its narrow ledge and disappeared behind the looming heap of cargo.
Louis wore an old rain soaked, grease stained Army jacket, over a mismatched layering of sweaters and shirts, and a pair of wasted blue jeans. He was a very heavy man, looking even heavier with all the clothing he wore. Only his scarred swollen hands and bloated face were bare. His eyes, dark slits recessed into the fat of his face, were a well of tears.
Louis wiped away the tears and the rain that settled on his swollen cheeks. He looked out passed the barge, into a black hole darker than the night, that only he could see. The gate guarding the entrance into the rapids; The Dragon. His heart was filled with a desire to go on and face the Dragon. To reach its heart. Desire drove him to press the river, making him legend in towns along it for going to places and hauling like no other but a mad man. What few knew was that his desire worked hand in hand with the constant anger and hate within him. A structure of misery, discontent and rage erupting from so far within him that so few could fathom. Built by him, to protect himself from others, to exile and imprison himself; to fuel his drive into the enigma of his desire. A desire he knew he had but could never define. A raging animal angered and pained by his own unrelenting thirst for an answer for which he didn’t have a question. Day after day he bore down on the river, and everyday it turned him back without an answer.
Louis saw a flock of seagulls swarming over the far side of the cargo heap.
“Antonio!”
Antonio appeared from behind the hump. He quickly made his way along the barge’s slippery ledge back to the tug, staring at the gulls swarming over the barge.
“Are the anchors secure?” Called Louis.
“Yeah,” said Antonio softly. He looked up at the birds.
“Don’t just stare at the damn things,” yelled Louis. “Get rid of them!”
Antonio sneered at Louis. He looked up along the spread tarpaulin, then climbed it.
Louis watched as Antonio struggled up the slippery tarp. He started hiring Antonio off local docks along the river a few month’s back. Antonio claimed to have worked most of the major rivers throughout the Caribbean and South America. He was as good as any deck hand working the river. Except he was a trouble maker. Nobody wanted him. He always had something to say, especially when he had no place saying it. Louis had to take him though. No one wanted to work for Louis. No one wanted to work for the captain of such a strange tug.
Antonio’s boots pressed down into the soft tarp as he reached the top of the cargo heap, facing the birds. The light of his lantern filled the darkness on the far side of the barge. He could see hundreds of seagulls swarming over the tarp, pecking at it frantically. Others attacked in short sorties. They flew a foot or so up from the tarp and cut sharply back down, stinging it. Antonio stepped down the side, swiping at them with the lantern, hitting them off into the water, before they began to attack him.
Their stabs were relentless. Blinding him. He covered his face with his arms and fell down on his back. The lantern fell from his hand and rolled off into the dark. They swarmed him. He closed his eyes and swung wildly, feeling the weight of several birds against his arm as he hit them away. He turned face down and tried to crawl up to the top of the heap. But their weight slowed him down. He stopped before reaching the top, and lay panting terrified and exhausted. The pecking went on like little nails falling from the sky. He felt helpless. Alone. He grew delirious. The attack seemed distant. His body grew numb. His face pressed against the canvas tarp, it’s damp scent creeping up his nostrils and deep into his mind, pulling memories out like file cards in a library directory. The smell of the canvas like the smell of the boxing ring in so many fights he’d lost.
Antonio was always paid to fight as the challenger, never the winner. He never did want to win, though. Just collect the money to survive. The distant pounding of the birds like the torrential assault of a bigger, better fighter he never faced head on. Always ducking and bowing to them as they used him like apunching bag. Then falling from the pain and nausea.
His son, Miguel, once asked, “Papa. What are all those marks you have on your face?”
“From work, Miguel,” he would say. He never told his son about the fights and the part he played in them. He wondered if he ever would . . . if he ever would. His mind rang like a bell, the words “if ever” ringing, filling the emptiness.
Antonio pushed himself up from the tarp, swinging wildly at the gulls. But there were none. The attack had suddenly stopped. He opened his eyes and saw the gulls soaring in and out of the darkness above him. “What the hell, are we hauling?” He said to himself. He dropped to his knees and put his nose to the tarp. He thought a scent would tell him what they were hauling. But nothing. Not a whiff.
He looked up at the few birds still hovering about and yelled, “What the hell do you think is in here?”
Antonio stood on the covered cargo for a moment. Shaking uncontrollably. Sweat and rain mingled to coat his face. He turned slowly to view the heap around him. He could see nothing clearly beyond ten feet. Fog and darkness caressed him. He looked back across the barge, the heap obscured his view of the tug. Rain filled his eyes. All he could see was the light from the pilot cabin, and the glow of the search lights in the fog. He pressed down on the heap with his foot, feeling the firm but soft load give under his boots. Rain dripped down from his clenched fists. Then he hastened along to the Silence.
Antonio jumped back onto the boat, and slipped as he touched the deck, landing hard on his ass. Not paying any attention to Louis, he looked back at the cargo as he stood up and wiped himself.
“Did you get rid of them?” Louis asked.
Antonio stared at the barge then looked at Louis confused.
“Yeah! They’re gone.” He said.
“What’s wrong!”
“Nothing.” He looked at Louis. “Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine.” He looked back at the barge.
Louis squealed as he laughed. “The damned thing has you spooked.” Louis jumped off the boat and up onto the barge heap, looking down on Antonio. “Afraid a hand’s going to reach up from under the tarp and pull you down Antonio?”
“You think it’s funny. Don’t you?” Said Antonio. “You don’t even know what you’re carrying.”
“Do you?” Louis asked.
“Don’t you know?” Antonio asked.
“No! I don’t!” Louis said, as he jumped back onto the towboat, glared at Antonio with his squinting wet eyes then said, “and I don’t care!”
Antonio stepped back along the deck, turned and walked aft, out of sight. Louis’s barrel chest heaved like giant sea waves in a storm. He sat back on the railing, trying to relax, but could not, because Antonio angered him. From the moment they took the barge on, Antonio complained about it. Antonio stood on its ledge for almost forty minutes, inspecting it, touching its side, pulling the tarp at its edges to try to see what it was they were going to haul. He was afraid of towing something he couldn’t identify. But Antonio’s fears weren’t his concern.
Louis stood up and walked aft to see where Antonio had gone. As he approached the aft deck, he could hear Antonio talking. “The idiot is talking to himself,” Louis said. He saw Antonio pacing across the deck. Antonio’s arms were raised, his hands squeezing his head tightly.
Antonio stopped pacing and turned to sit on the deck. His head still in his hands, he rocked back and forth in short abrupt lurches. He brought his hands down in front, pressing his palms together to pray. His head cocked back, he looked up into the darkness.
“Praying will give you a headache,” said Louis.
Antonio looked at Louis. Louis stood at the railing, the aft deck light reflected off the wet deck to fill his face with a soft murky light.
“I must have been crazy to take you on.” Said Louis.
“Must have ‑ “
“I told you where we were going.”
Antonio’s hands dropped down to his sides. His eyes glistening with tears. His face despondent, sunken, as if all the facial bone had been taken away and the skin hung loose from his skull.
“It’s not only where we’re going. But what we’re taking!” Antonio ran up to Louis, grabbed him by his jacket and tugged down. “Listen to me!” He said. “Listen to me. You have to turn around.”
Louis reached up from under Antonio’s arms and pushed him away.
“I knew as soon as I saw it, that it was bad,” said Antonio. “That it was trouble. I stood on deck looking at it. Wondering. That’s not a real barge. Not the kind we see moving up and down the river everyday.” He stopped talking and stood still, looking down at his shadow cast by the mast light flooding the aft deck. He looked to Louis. “It is a giant Indian ritual barge used by their magicians to call up the dead. They’ve hired you to go to your death. And I was stupid enough to go along!”
Louis’s chest heaved as he squealed like a pig and laughed. The congestion in his chest evident. He stepped back, and sat down on a large coil of hawser, laughing hysterically. Antonio stared at him with eyes opened wide. Louis’s body quivered in sync with his silent laughter. “Don’t get crazy on me now, Antonio. Cause I’ll throw you overboard.”
“We can’t move this thing up the rapids.”
“I don’t have to do anything!” Louis fired back. He winced in pain as he walked away from Antonio to the mess room facing the stern. “If you don’t want to go upriver with me, then do me a favor and toss yourself over the side. I’ll go it alone. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again.”
Antonio watched from outside as Louis stepped into the mess room, then re‑appeared with a bottle of Mescal in his hand. Louis walked toward Antonio, his eyes like stingers.
“Louis.” Said Antonio. “The river is a living being. It does what it wants. It takes what it wants. Never challenge it when it is at it’s most powerful. Never when you are hauling a barge such as this one, with cargo you know nothing about. Never when you are going to a place as sacred as El Sueño. I’ve heard of this place. Of the few boats that have made it there, only two have ever come back. They passed the rapids going up, but never coming down. Even more were lost getting there. The rapids will eat the Silence. The river will swallow it.”
“The tug’s secure now.” Said Louis. “You have a decision to make. If you’re not going, then take the dinghy and row yourself down river. If you’re coming then you’d better get yourself some sleep. We have a river to wrestle in the morning.”
Louis turned away and walked forward. Antonio looked at the dinghy hanging from the starboard hooks. Nothing but a rowboat. He would get lost rowing down river in the dark with that thing.
“Promise me, Louis.” Antonio tugged at his back, keeping him from walking away. “That in the morning we’ll turn around and head back. Promise me?”
Louis swung around, his massive right arm stretched out, his fist clenched. His forearm hit Antonio’s face, crushing his nose and throwing him against the hull. Antonio’s head slapped against the wall like a wooden mallet.
“Don’t ever grab me like that again,” said Louis. “Don’t ever tell me what to do. On or off my boat.” Louis stood over Antonio, then crouched down and cast his shadow over him. Antonio’s eyes glistened in the darkness of Louis’s wake. “This is my boat. My home. When you’re on it, you do as you’re told. You do as I say.”
Louis stood up, backing away from Antonio. “I have to haul up and down this river twice what anybody else does, just to stay even. Just to stay alive,” said Louis. “Who the hell do you think you are? This is my boat. My boat! I take you aboard when no one else will and you pull this shit on me! What are you going to tell me? About all the wrecks we’ll find along the way. About all the houses up there that have been abandoned and sit dark, with ghosts and evil spirits whipping in and out of them as you pass. About the rocks that shoot up out of nowhere like the teeth of a Dragon biting down on it’s prey.”
Louis put the bottle to his lips, poured the warm mescal into his mouth. He pulled the bottle away desperate for air, as if he had been trying to drown himself with it. Gasping for air, he put his hand to his chest, shook his head violently, then looked at Antonio.
“Yes, the river has a life of it’s own, ” whispered Louis. “And it’s mine.”
Louis turned away to face the darkness hugging the stern of the boat, his back turned to Antonio. He rocked left to right with the rhythmic yaw of the tug.
“Despite any reservations I might have about doing anything. If I commit to it, I do it. No matter what.” Louis turned about to face Antonio, who still lay on deck against the hull.
“I had a long haul once. Every morning I tied to this barge filled with . . . “. Louis paused, cocking his head to the side, looking away from Antonio, then looking back at him and smiling. “You know. I don’t remember.” Louis laughed. “Anyway, everyday I tied to this thing, and hauled it up to the rivers end where it became a lagoon. There was nothing up there. The water was still. Like a mirror, reflecting nothing but the white fog that covered everything. But when you looked down, it was black. Solid black because of all the algae and grass growing from its bottom, right up to the shore. A thick, dark forest. So little sunlight passed through the canopy that it seemed it was almost black tinted with green.
“I was told that when I arrived, someone would be there to take the cargo from me. But no one showed up. I waited two hours, and then I turned around. When I got back to port, the Dispatcher told me he would call the customer. Next morning, I woke up, went out on deck and there it was. The barge. The Dispatcher came over to me and told me I should start upriver again. Take the barge to the same place and wait. Then he said I might have to do this everyday until someone picks it up. It didn’t matter to me, at first. I was getting paid for it. So I moved it. For the first 3 days I hauled it upriver, then I realized I might just as well carry some supplies and stay anchored there. I did that. For seven days I stayed anchored in the still water, doing nothing each day, watching the sun pass across the sky behind the fog. Not a sound came from the dark forest around me. I stayed on, though I knew that all I had to do was turn about and head down river.”
Louis turned to Antonio who lay on the floor, sitting up with his back against the hull.
“Not a sound came out of the forest, though I knew that something was there.” Said Louis. “Something.” He turned away, raised the bottle to his mouth and poured some more.
“I wondered about the forest.” Said Louis. “About who might live in there. Who might want this load, whatever it was. Whoever they were. There wasn’t even a road leading to shore, that I could see. So how were they going to take the load in that barge? It didn’t make any sense. I thought I’d take the dinghy out and row to shore, to see what was around, if anything. So I did that.
“Rowing was hard because of all the grass and algae. It took me longer to get to shore than I’d expected. I could barely see the tug and barge through the fog. The forest was as thick and black as the lagoon.”
Antonio lay against the hull, as he once lay against the ropes of a boxing ring. He listened to Louis babble, watching him sway from side to side, swigging from the bottle. Antonio didn’t understand it, or care to. All he thought of was how to kill the giant. Kill the giant! The crowd roared in his memory. But who for? He could never tell. “Stay down and you’ll get out alive. Stay down!” They said. But if he did, the giant would turn and kill him if he lay there.
An eight foot long grappling hook and rod lay just a few feet away. With Louis turned away, Antonio slowly crept the few feet across to the grappling hook. As Louis continued to bellow out his story, Antonio stood up with the hook in his hand, wondering if one shot would do it, if he could ever hit the giant hard enough to knock him out. Perhaps kill him. It didn’t matter. Louis turned. Antonio swung down on him. The rod slapped against Louis’ head and upper back. It snapped, the iron hook broke off and fell into the river. Louis stumbled forward. Then fell to his knees. Antonio hit him again with the broken end of the pole. Louis’ faced rushed down to meet the edge of the hull.
Louis lay still. Antonio stood over the giant for a moment. “Should he hit him again?” He thought. Isn’t one enough? Maybe not. So Antonio hit him again. His head bounced up from the hull’s edge then fell quickly to rest again.
Enough! He thought. He couldn’t do it again if he thought he should. He swung the stick out into the dark, and listened to it splash in the water.
Louis’ body lay awkward against the hull wall. Antonio looked down at it. Hesitantly he bent down and placed himself near Louis’ head. He wasn’t breathing. Antonio could always hear Louis breathing. Laboring like the sound of an industrial factory.
In contrast, Antonio’s breathing was rapid. Sweat and rain soaked his clothes. What to do with the body? Throw it overboard. The body would float back down river. No one would care if he was dead, because there was no one to care. Antonio struggled to lift the body over the edge of the hull and into the river. The body slipped down into the water barely making a sound. It sank immediately, never floating back to the surface. Louis was gone.
Antonio turned and ran forward. He jumped off the tug onto the barge. He struggled to raise each iron anchor, while looking about for an awakened and angry giant bearing down on him. Once hoisted he left the anchors loose on the ledge and raced back to the tug. At the bow he raised the anchor and left it lying. He jumped up into the small pilot cabin, locking the door behind him. Antonio took two steps across to the other door and locked it too. He stood at the wheel, reached down to the upright console and charged up the rumbling engine. Grasping the wheel with both hands, he whipped the boat round to port, shifting its great weight in one sudden motion.
Louis reached up from under the water and pulled himself up to the bow deck. He knelt down in pain, shocked that this little man would try to kill him. The pain Antonio inflicted on him though, could never overcome the constant pain Louis was always in. He stood slowly to face the cabin. Smoke from the roaring chimney stack clouded the ambient glow of the search lights that lit the barge. The engine roared. The tug shuttered, shifted forward and suddenly turned hard to port. He knew Antonio was turning the boat about, to go back down river.
Antonio lowered the throttle, firmly holding the wheel full to port, as the tug and barge swung around. He brought the wheel back to center, slowing the engine as it faced south, down river. He paused for a moment and gripped the throttle handle.
The cabin door suddenly shook violently, then exploded off its hinges. Louis thrust himself inside. The giants face was mostly in shadow except for the part that Antonio could see was covered with fresh blood, glistening in the light that came from the search lights. Antonio backed away from the wheel and stood against the locked door on the other side of the pilot cabin. Louis stepped toward him, filling Antonio’s view of the small cabin space. Antonio was trapped. He drew a deep breath and jumped on the giant, hanging onto him like a small animal, clawing at his raw face. Louis grabbed and threw him toward the open door. Antonio slammed hard against the wall beside it, slid down to the floor, then stood to jump out the door. Louis grabbed Antonio’s shirt and held him over the deck like a freshly caught fish on a hook. Louis then swung Antonio against the wall below the cabin door, twice, before using the momentum to heave him up onto the roof of the pilot‑cabin.
Louis rushed to climb onto the roof of the cabin, and found Antonio bent over, gasping for air and trying to stand. Louis stomped on his back, flattening him. He reached down with one hand, grabbed Antonio’s shoulder and flipped him over. Then knelt down to straddle over him.
Louis looked down at Antonio. The blood, sweat and rain that covered his face dripped down onto Antonio. The white of his small sinister eyes shined from within. Tears trickled from them. Antonio gasped for air. He couldn’t move except for the subtle motion of his inhaling chest.
“I didn’t finish telling you my story,” said Louis. “The forest was dark. I tried to walk through it but couldn’t get far enough. There were voices and other sounds far off in the forest. Faint, but close enough for me to hear that they were familiar in some way. But I still couldn’t tell who they were. So I climbed back into the dinghy and rowed back to the tug. As I got closer to the tug I could see the load was gone. I thought, ‘What the hell!’. I reached the tug and ran onto the barge. It was empty, Antonio.”
Louis stood up, and faced the bow, looked at the barge, lit dimly by the search lights beside him.
“The barge was empty!” Said Louis. “As if nothing had ever been loaded in it. The tarp was neatly rolled up and tied to the aft ledge of the barge.”
Antonio watched the mad giant. Between Louis’ legs lay a tire‑iron. Antonio quickly reached to grab Louis’s ankle, then yanked and pulled him down. The giant twisted, lost his balance and slammed down onto the weak wooden slats of the cabin roof. Antonio stood up and grabbed the tire‑iron from under Louis as he squirmed to recover. He raised the rod then swung down on Louis’ head. Antonio caught a glint of metal in the corner of his eye.
Louis slipped the knife out from a sheath tied to his belt. He raised his arm, long enough to reach Antonio’s heart from a laying position, and strong enough to keep Antonio and the rod, at a distance. The knife slipped through the wool shirt Antonio wore, pierced the skin and slipped deep into his chest. The iron rod fell from his hand, the ping of it’s metal sounding out as it bounced to the deck below. Louis thrust his arm back, pulling the knife out. Blood spit down on him from the fresh wound. Antonio fell on Louis; face to face. Antonio was still alive. Louis pushed him away, turning him over onto his back. Louis stood up, then knelt down to straddle him again. Antonio gasped for air, the weasing sound of oxygen escaping from his chest wound.
Louis looked to the barge. “Damn you!” He looked down at Antonio and said, “I have to do this.”
Louis held the knife in his right hand, and pushed Antonio’s head back with the other. He placed the edge of the knife lightly on his neck near the ear, then pressed down, sliding the blade across Antonio’s neck. The skin split cleanly, blood poured out onto the deck. Louis watched it, and then stood up over the body. The hand that held the knife was dripping with blood.
Louis felt the rumble of the engine, the yaw and pitch of the vessel. He dropped the knife, climbed down into the cabin, grabbed the wheel and brought the rig about. Thick streaks of blood mixed with rain traced the windshield in front of Louis.
Once he had straightened the rig in the direction of the rapids, he stepped out and rushed onto the barge to lower the anchors at the corners. Then set the anchor at the bow of the tug.
Louis looked up to the pilot‑cabin. Antonio’s arm hung over the edge. Blood traced down along the front wall of the housing onto the deck in front of him. He climbed up to the roof, and lifted Antonio’s limp body. He swung it back and forth gaining momentum, then heaved it overboard. He listened for the sound of the water splash.
“I wish your life was more important to me,” said Louis. “I’m sorry it wasn’t.”
He knew the body would certainly drift down river into a town. Everyone would know who he was, and who he was with. It didn’t matter to Louis. He was sure his fate lay in the raging blood flow of the Dragon.
Louis stood on the roof of the pilot cabin for a moment, his chest flexing with each breath of air he took. Looking forward, passed the cargo heap and into the rambling fog, he could faintly see the outline of the old stone foot bridge that crossed over the gate into the rapids. The bridge was ancient beyond memory. Its stone work mutilated by time and age, the supporting arch still had a few blocks hanging in place that made them look like teeth in the gaping mouth of the Dragon it was guarding.
In the morning he would run the Silence down its throat, and challenge his own fate.
2.
Louis listened to the rain beat down on the worn skin of his tired boat. The sound was constant, deafening. Like a thousand wooden sticks beating a drum, sending a message. In his hand Louis held a hose from which he sprayed river water to cleanse the deck and walls of Antonio’s blood. The blood bubbled upon contact with the water, coalescing into pools all about the tarred deck, creating abstract patterns of color that seemed to twist into life as they drained off deck.
Louis flung the hose away and leaned against the hull railing. He peeled a sliver of green paint from it with his thumb and index finger, and flicked it into the bristling water. He looked back at his wooden boat, and the damage that rain, age and ill maintenance had done to it.
The Silence was his Father’s legacy. He would go anywhere, anytime, for almost anyone. Hauling barges deep into the mountains along shallow inland waterways. The river was an extension of himself. It seemed there was nothing he didn’t know about the river, yet he often would say how much more there was to learn from it.
Louis stumbled his way up to the pilot cabin. He leaned forward against the wheel. His legs weakened and he collapsed, falling backward against the back wall. He didn’t bother getting up. Instead, he tried to sleep.
Louis’ head suddenly roared with pain as he lay on the wooden floor of the pilot cabin. The light bothered him. He opened his eyes and the sun light cut into them like needles. He was a child again. He stood behind the pilot, who was his Father at first, but when he looked back at Louis and smiled, he saw the pilot was another man. A friend of his Father’s. Louis stood, rocking side to side from the force of the rapids, and looked out the window at the rushing waves. He looked forward at the pilots signal and saw the Silence was alone, trapped intact among some rock’s far upriver. Louis was on the tug in search of the Silence and his Father. His Father had left port two days ago and didn’t return when expected. Mother worried and so . . .
Louis looked about the tug for his Fathers pocket watch/compass, while his friend tied the The Silence. The watch/compass had been given to his Father by his Grandfather when he was a boy in Puerto Rico. Louis’ Grandfather also hauled goods, throughout the Antilles and Caribbean Sea. The last Louis ever saw of the watch was before his Father left to travel up river. Father never returned. And the watch was never found when he boarded the Silence and searched it.
As his friend searched the vessel and readied the Silence for towing, Louis looked into the forest and saw lights. As if a group of people were milling about with lanterns in their hands. The lights danced in the forest for a moment longer and then seemed to fade away. When he explained this to the Captain, they hurried their towing and moved on down river. The first, last and only time he’d ever been that far upriver, until now. Come morning, he would go it alone, as he had always wished, and always had.
3.
The fog plodded across the rivers bristling surface, opening and closing its mass to reveal dead trees, black with rot, trimming the river bank on either side. The fog thread through their gnarly limbs, like aged hands that had lost their strength and bowed down to reach for the river’s surface, but never touched it.
Louis throttled up the engines and moved forward against the steady down stream flow of the river. The river was red with the blood of the Dragon. The rapids were on fire with its breath. He approached the wall of fog at full throttle. For an instant the world was white. Then the fog drew back as he passed under the old stone bridge, through the gaping mouth of the Dragon, and the rush of the rapids was upon him, shallow and steeped with waves, revealing the sharp edged rocks underneath.
He passed the remains of a large wreck. The gash at its bow yawned in ancient pain, crying out to fools who would challenge the rapids. He looked into the forest. There he saw a faint glow deep within the fog, that held his gaze. It then split up into many smaller, less brilliant floating pools of soft light dancing deep in the forest. They seemed to follow, as he struggled up the river.
The flow of the river quickened and swelled up from the rocks under water. Louis carefully guided the boat upriver at full throttle, avoiding large swells where there might be rocks, then snagging at others, backing up and slipping around them. But the swells grew larger and broader, forcing Louis to ride them.
Louis looked to the banks of the river on either side. He could see ancient wrecks rise up from the swelling water, like sea monsters rising up from the bottom, their mouths gaped open to swipe at their prey.
The water grew more turbulent around him, dragging harder against the boat. The engines were full. Valleys of depressed water rose up as giant waves broke against the boat, tossing it about. Each valley of water brought him closer to rocks deep in the water. The boat inched upriver at full throttle. Despite all the power Louis could get out of the engines the rushing water literally pushed the boat into a pile of rocks. Water rushed on from the aft deck. The boat slid down into the wake of a massive wave and dragged the fragile hull of the boat against the Dragon’s jagged teeth.
The boat reeled from side to side as if being rocked by a great hand underwater. Suddenly, the rotted wooden ribs of a large wreck reached up like the claws of a giant hand. The frame lifted up around the tug, squeezing and lifting it out of the water, tossing it side to side. The tugs’ propellers ripped at the air. The engine overheated and burned. The wrecks ribs gave way under the weight of the tug, snapping like twigs in a forest underfoot. The tug reared back, the stern deep in the water.
The boat dipped down and the barge lifted up over a wave. The Silence bottomed out. The hull split in half as the barge pressed against it and crushed the “Silence.” Louis was thrown back against the wall, smashing the cabin window. He stood up and struggled to get out of the pilot cabin. The tug dragged against the bottom, still tied to the barge as the raging water began to eat the boat. It’s fierce rush chopping pieces off. The innards of the tug suddenly exploded, flinging debris all over.
Louis struggled forward along a wrenching bow deck covered with rushing water. He grabbed the railing at the bow and looked toward the barge. It was still intact and above water. Louis jumped onto it.
The towboats remains shifted under the water. It pulled at the tie to the barge and dragged it under. The barge lifted up onto its end. The weight of the pile stretched the tarpaulin and the ties began to snap. The tarpaulin sailed back and covered him. As he maneuvered around it, the tarpaulin folded back like a stage curtain rising and revealing the cargo.
Bodies.
Human bodies.
Hundreds of human bodies. Naked and dead.
The tarpaulin lifted and sailed off into the fog. The barge pushed further onto its rear as the bodies began rolling over one another, piling high to one side and then falling one, two, three at a time into the boiling water. Louis rode the wave of bodies as they fell passed him. Their limp arms flailing like desperate passengers of a sunken boat grasping for help. One body fell against him. It’s eyes wide and glassy. Then fell away. Louis held tightly to the floor of the barge as it fell back onto the river. The barge was filling with water. It had been damaged by the rocks. Louis would have to let go and take his chances in the river.
He slid down into the water as the barge dipped under. The barge pushed up against him as it was pulled along by the current. The water wasn’t deep. He tried to out run the barge that was rushing down river with the current, but could not. The massive wooden scow smashed him against some large rocks in shallow water at the river’s edge, trapping him there.
Louis’ mind tread on the very edge of consciousness. Water rushed passed him, covering most of his body and occasionally washing over his face. He didn’t know how bad he was hurt, but the cold water that had numbed him was subsiding and pain surged back.
Turning over toward the river Louis saw the wreck of his tug hopelessly stuck in the rapids. Its bow was submerged except for the cab peeking out from under the froth. It’s stern raised on rocks, just a few feet back. Large chunks of wood from the barge were tossed about. Louis turned his head away from it and gazed into the forest.
Louis felt his head swell. His vision fogged. He knew that his sight was slipping away, perhaps consciousness, maybe his life. There was no definition to anything he saw. No edges. Everything began to merge softly into everything else.
Then, as if he had been looking through a foggy window pane, the glowing lights he had seen before appeared in the forest. They seemed to grow out of the diffused world he was seeing. They grew brighter and more defined until he could see they were people dressed in bright white rain gear. Their suits glowed, lighting their way through the darkness. The large rain hats they wore covered their faces. They walked along the shore collecting the bodies that had fallen off the barge.
Did they see him? He wondered. Louis was afraid they would come for him too. Why would they? What would they do with the bodies? With his? His body was broken. He couldn’t move. He looked up at the dark canopy of trees above him. The forest’s dark green canopy turned black, as if a hole had developed within it. It fell gently down upon him, wrapping around him, cold and wet. He shivered. Then a wall of light swept across his field of view destroying the black void around him and filling his heart with anxiety and hope.
4.
Louis gagged as cold water swept across his face. He reached up with his hand. Suddenly, he was wrenched from the water by a stronger hand, lifting him into the air. Water discharged from his lungs. He opened his eyes. His savior held him close. The hug was genuine, familiar. The person held him out by his sides. A layer of tears trickled from his eyes and he could see that it was his Father; his cheerful face up close to his, smiling. “Louis!” His Father called out. “You’re okay, Louis”. His Mother appeared from behind, looking over Fathers’ shoulder, and said. “You made it, Louis.” Father put him down then took Mother’s hand and walked away from him, toward the docks just ahead. They stopped and turned to him. “Venga se, Louis!” He stared at them. Mother in her sleeveless flowery house dress. Father in his work clothes; jeans, a cotton plaid shirt, boots and a black cap on his head. Louis looked down to his feet squishing in a large puddle of water. He ran to them, a child of ten, stood between them and held their hands. They walked to the docks, where he saw the Silence was restored. Unbroken as he had last seen.
They sat in metal folding chairs at the stern of the towboat. The silence of the river and the wild forest around them. Louis sat on his other’s lap. He saw his Father standing at the stern, with hands at his waist. Louis jumped from his Mothers’ lap, and ran to his Father. He said nothing. Then reached into his Fathers belt pocket, finding a gold plated pocket watch. He held it out in front of him, and popped the face open.
The watch had a white face. The numbers in Roman Numerals. The hands solid gold pins. He closed it. Turned it over and opened another little door. This side was a compass. The direction letters, N, S, E, W, were in gold, over a light green face, with degree markings trimming the perimeter. He closed that and then held the watch/compass to his heart. He looked to his Father, who looked back and smiled. Louis closed his eyes. There was peace for a moment. The silence continued.
Louis stood still as the sound of a light rain tapping at his face broke the silence. Yet no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t open his eyes. The trickle on his face was annoying. But the pain slowly coursing through his body, was unbearable. It saturated his whole body, every nerve, every muscle. He panted, heaving deep breaths. Then his eyes opened.
The sky was dark blue, dusk. The air was misty. All around, a blue overcast. Looking around, he saw the forest was now rusted metal wreckage, surrounding him and spiraling into a tunnel and falling away into darkness. Above the darkness, were mountains surrounding a valley of green rolling hills. Beyond them two shallow mountains stood closer together.
Trying to move, he saw that he was fused to the metal wreckage. Pain filled him like hot oil filling a plastic cup, as the metal cut through his skin. Was this hell?
Louis closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them. Straddling over him, her face right up to his, was a woman. Her face was huge, distorted, as if he were looking through the bottom of a glass cup. Her eyes were like giant black holes, cold, dark and liquid.
“Do you want to go on living?” Whispered the woman.
“Yes.”
“Do you want to be free of the pain?”
“Who are you?” Asked Louis.
“I’m here to give you a choice. Answer the question.”
“Yes.”
“There are conditions.”
“I don’t care. Just help me. Stop the pain. Stop the pain!”
She stood up, like a giant, reaching into the sky with her right hand; touching the clouds. She looked down on him. Then walked away through the wreckage.
Rain fell lightly, cooling and soothing the wounds where the metal fused with him. Louis could move his arms, slowly, painfully, literally tearing himself from the metal, as the water seemed to soften the bond. He stood up. Blood flowed from the fresh wounds all over his body.
His muscles were numb from the pain. His bones still tender.
Louis looked at the field of metal all around him. Like a pile of junk rusted and crumbling, he saw the wreckage was the remnants of his life. Fused together as one giant abstract monument, he saw The Silence, rusted and molded into a giant heap of metal. From it grew the skeleton of the apartment he had shared with his wife. Wrapped in with the wreck a child’s tricycle, the wheel still turning. And a wedding dress was scorched and seared into the metal. And within a few feet of him, he saw one corner of the room he kept as a child in his Mother’s house. A little desk occupied the corner. On it, his toys . . . Among the toys, a small object twinkled. He reached for it. Toys fell away as he picked the object up. It was his Fathers pocket watch/compass. He held it up, letting the misty blue light touch it. He popped the watch side open. It had stopped working. Then he turned it, opening the other side for the compass. The needle spun continuously in a counter‑clockwise direction.
The rain was suddenly torrential, flooding the area. It flowed like a river, rushing through the twisted wreckage that had held him down. The ground was soft from the rain. Slippery. Louis looked up at the cloud quilted sky dancing violently. He reached down and held onto a piece of the wreckage. Looking back, he saw the water was rushing down the spiral toward the hole he saw before. A giant funnel developed, just a few feet from him. The rushing water pounded the rocks around the hole, erupting into a white foam, then rushed to slip into it. Louis held the watch to his heart, and closed his eyes as his feet slipped out from under him. The water’s strength pulled him down. The wreckage he held onto tore away with him. As he fell in to the spiral he whisked passed more scenes molded in metal, melted, worn and rusted . . .
Water streamed down into his mouth, into his stomach and lungs, filling his body, bloating him. He pushed it back out with a deep exhalation. He began to breathe water. He reached out in the darkness for something solid to hold onto. He tried opening his eyes, but it was too dark to see, so dark that he wasn’t sure he was really opening them.
So dark, yet there was mass. There was the sense of motion in the abyss. First of falling endlessly, passively, with fear, but without panic or worry. Hurtling into the nothingness that seemed to fill his senses throughout. The abyss then darkened unimaginably, the silent mass undulating all about him and coalescing to rush toward him. Darkness shifted about restlessly, rubbing against him like Jell‑O trickling down ones’ arm, burning cold. It wrapped around him tightly, filling his senses. Its thickness pressed upon him and grew heavy. He pressed against the abysmal Jell‑O darkness. It yielded then rushed to wrap around his extremity. It’s cold was searing. It’s pressure suffocating.
The pressure suddenly relaxed at the top of his head, and then was completely gone. Louis reached up passed the pressing darkness, to grasp the edge of an opening. He gripped it and allowed the pressure all around him to push him out from the darkness.
There was light. His eyes were closed. Water rushed up from within him, his lungs purged of a bitter fluid. A breath of air gagged him, then filled his lungs. They responded with an exhalation. The surface he knelt on was slippery, covered in the same gelatin he had just come from. He turned over and lay down on his back. He opened his eyes. The light seemed to come from everywhere. A fog softened his vision. He saw shapes, heard voices, felt a touch to his eyes. Then darkness fell as he sensed his eyes closing.
Louis slept.
5.
Louis’ hand hung to the side of the bed. The watch/compass fell from it and shattered on the smooth wood floor. Louis awakened, sitting up to see that he was in a small room made of giant bamboo rods with a tan fabric wrapped around and stretched between them.
The bamboo rods were of varying size, rising perhaps twenty feet above and arching across to meet other rods, creating a web of bamboo buttresses. Wrapped around the bamboo rods and stretching between them to form walls were fabric sheets that seamlessly evolved from the bare ground floor, giving the room an organic feel.
The air was warm and moist. The room was bright. Sunlight filled the room with a glow. He stood up from the bed and collapsed upon touching his feet to the ground. His strength seemed nonexistent. His body trembled. Frail and seemingly useless. He saw the watch on the floor and bent over to examine it. The glass was broken. The watch face damaged. The hands’ missing. He scooped up the damaged clock and glass, then carefully stood up using the bed to lean on. He looked about for a waste basket, and found one below the mirror across the room on the other side of the bed. He walked toward it, tossed the broken watch in it, then stood up straight and looked in the mirror. There he saw someone else.
Louis reached to touch his cheek and so did the other man. He was as tall as Louis, but thinner, better built. His skin darker, almost reddish. The hair was full and black. His eyes were very light brown, his lashes long, his eyebrows dark and fuller. The cheekbones higher and more pronounced. This was not the man he once was. Though, the man in the mirror was him.
Louis touched his chest with both hands, massaging the firm muscles, the skin ultra‑sensitive. Strong, restored and reconditioned; like new, feeling that it was truly wrapped around him. He looked down the length of his body. His stomach and abdomen almost flat. The legs were barely hairy, full and muscular.
How had this happened to him? It seemed to Louis that, moments ago he was dying, in the rushing water of the river, where strange people in their bright white rain gear, collected the bodies that had fallen from the barge. Did they collect him too? Did they bring him back to life in someone else’s body?
Louis stood silent, listening for a moment when it suddenly occurred to him he could hear voices coming from the hallway outside his room.. The soft murmur of dozens of people milling about somewhere nearby.
He moved across the room to the window and looked out across the jungle. The bright green moist leaves glistened in the hot sun. He looked down through the trees. His room was perhaps one hundred feet above ground. The forest floor merged with the base of the bamboo and tan fabric walls and disappeared downhill into the forest. There were more voices in the forest, but he couldn’t locate them.
Back in the room he could find nothing to wear and so without so much as a clue to where he was going, Louis walked the halls naked, and upon touching the walls they recoiled, as if he were touching living tissue. He passed his hand lightly on the tissue following it’s grain down to the ground. Where wall and floor should have met there was no seam; the wall seemed to grow out of he ground. He looked up in amazement, spinning about on his heels, noting that if he looked carefully at the structure all around him, it breathed; gently stretching and contracting.
However, the walls were deceiving. Again he heard voices. They seemed to be ringing with the sound of the voices. Every wall he put his ear to, he heard the same voices. As if they were being carried throughout the castle working as a phone would, transmitting sound throughout. The voices could be coming from a room farther beyond the walls would reveal to him. He wandered longer, eager to see the faces to these voices.
“Hello,” said a sweet female voice.
Louis looked to see a middle aged woman standing at the end of the hall. Unlike Louis, she was dressed in a knee length sheer red sari.
“I have something for you to wear,” she said as she presented him with the clothes thay lay in her arms.
Louis walked to her, took the clothing and dressed himself in a soft blue colored tunic and shorts the felt warm and moist, but not wet. The fabric touched his skin, caressing it.
“Are you hungry?” She asked.
“Yes.” Said Louis.
“Follow me.”
Louis could hear music in the distance, that grew louder as he followed the woman through the castle. The music was the sound of drums beating a relentless mambo rhythm.
“Where are we?”
“You’ll see,” said the woman. She seemed, at first sense, to be in her fifties, but her body was that of a mid‑twenty year old. Louis followed from behind, watching and admiring her gait; the muscles in her legs rippling, wiggling her buns as each leg pressed down on the firm soil floor.
They turned corner after corner winding their way through organic halls. The walls seemed to ripple in excitement, that increased as they came closer to the source of the music.
They came to stand at the landing of a stairwell that led down to a large room opening out to a garden. There was a party going on with fifty or more people.
A few of them looked to him, then turned away and continued with what they were doing. Some were in conversation with others. Some sat alone with a large ledger style book. Others stood about eating food from a buffet near the giant open double doors leading to the garden. Some people were dancing to the mambo music coming from the band just below the steps.
“Come down, ” said the woman.
She led him down into the crowded room, passed mingling groups of people, to the buffet table.
“Eat what you like, ” she said to him.
“Everyone. This is . . . I’m sorry. I didn’t ask you you’re name.”
“Louis.”
“Louis? Everyone, this is Louis.”
They all looked confused at first, then greeted and thanked him.
Another woman rushed up to him, a drink in her hand for him and asked, “How do you like it? Does it feel as good as you expected. I personally feel better. Far beyond what I expected to.”
Louis stared at her unsure of what she meant and answered. “Wonderful.” Then he realised that she was asking about his new body! She meant the body! But how did she know? How did any of them know?
He stood near the garden doors to eat and watched them all in the room, wandering in and out of the garden. He studied their faces, wondering who they were. They seemed familiar to him. They knew who he was, but he had no idea who they were. He took note of a young girl sitting at the far corner of the room. She was the only one who wasn’t smiling and wasn’t taking part in the party. She played with her food for a moment, then put the plate down, stood up and rushed out into the garden. Few of the others noticed her go.
Their rapid fire conversations continued as if they hadn’t talked in years. They talked of their past, the families they left behind. How most of their family didn’t care about them. They talked like old people. As if they had lived long lives. They talked of things their youthful bodies could never allow them to tell.
“Welcome, Louis.”
Louis turned to see a man about his age standing next to him, but looking up to the sky.
“The colors of the sky should be wonderful tonight,” he said.
“Should they?” Asked Louis.
“They always are! Well, since I’ve been here.”
“What is here?”
“The rest of your life, Louis. The castle is your servant. Your guide and protector. What ever you need, ask and it will be brought to you. Whatever you wish to learn of or about, you will find in the hypertext journals.”
“Hypertext journals?”
“Yes,” said the man. “Those large books some of the residents have on their laps.”
Louis had seen the large red leather bound books when he first entered.
“They hold a great amount of knowledge. The trick is to know what question to ask.”
“Tell me about the forest,” asked Louis.
“Fascinating, to say the least. Animals and fauna, trees and earth that you’ve never seen before. It’s ecology is as vast as the journals. The wood from it’s trees lives on after you have cut from it. Such as all the instruments on stage.”
Louis admired the music. The solid driving rhythm mesmerized him. Though he couldn’t remember where he had seen him before, the violinist looked very familiar to him. The violinist performed a solo. The sound haunting and attractive. The violin, made from wood of the forest, was alive and quivering. He looked at a woman, then another man, finding them all familiar. The excitement of the music and their chatter, the rush of their faces as he looked back and forth between them all made him dizzy. The image continued to unreel in his mind. Faces rushing past, without life, blank strares from empty cadavers as they rolled off the deck of a damaged barge.
All at once he realized who they were. The dead man who rolled down the barge and fell on him before falling off into the water. The woman who fell passed him, her hand catching his thigh as if she were still alive and grasping for life as the rush of bodies pulled her away.
All these people were the dead people he had towed upriver in the barge. These people were once dead! Which meant, he too was dead! Was his new body one of those on the barge?
There was a sudden rush of anxiety, fear and amazement. Louis placed his plate of food on the table before he dropped it, then rushed into the garden.
He came upon the same young girl he saw leave the room earlier. She was sitting on a small white towel on the ground, in front of a tombstone.
She turned to him. “Hello Louis,” she said.
Louis looked at the stone and read the name, “Maria Correa.”
“Was that you?” He asked.
“I am me!” She said. “It is my body that is buried.”
“Am I dead?”
“No Louis. You are alive. Your body is gone, though.”
“And whose body is this?”
“Yours now.”
“Before it was mine?”
“I don’t know. Someone who passed on of course.” She looked at him as he stared off.
“How did you get here?”
“This was offered to me in a dream. As it was to everyone else. Including you.”
“What was?”
“A second life. In a new body before the old one died. It came to me in a series of dreams. She sat with me.”
“Who is she?”
“I don’t know. She offered a life beyond death at the time of my death, if I wished. But there were terms that I would have to live by. At the time I thought those terms were acceptable. I was alone. My family had virtually abandoned me for most of my elderly life, except for when I was dying. That was when the dreams began. Perhaps it was when I needed them most.”
She smiled as a wise old woman would smile.
“What were those terms?” Asked Louis.
“To live here. Immortal. With a new body. I was told that to go beyond a certain point outside of the castle, I would suffer, grow old and eventually die. That can’t happen here.”
She looked down at the grave stone.
“The others didn’t want to keep their bodies. But I kept mine. And buried it here. I lived in it for 92 years. I couldn’t just get rid of something that had carried me for so long. I wanted a place for it. Like an old suit. Now I have a 92 year old self inside of a 22 year old body. And for what? To spend eternity in this new suit. In this place. And never experience in all that time, what I had experienced in 92 years. We are fools to think one could escape the pain of a miserable life by just replacing your body and going on with no strings attached.”
“Then why are you here?” Asked Louis. “If with a new body you can start over again, then do it.”
“It isn’t that easy, Louis. We all agreed to the conditions. No one is forcing you, but the alternative is no different than before.” She stood up and turned to face him, revealing the beauty of her body.
“I’m going in to sit with the others. Will you join me?”
“You’re mad!” Louis turned from her and ran into the room where all were dancing feverishly to the music.
“Are you all mad?” The music stopped. The dancing stopped. His cry chilled the room. The membrane walls seemed to quiver. The group looked at him in amazement.
“You are! Aren’t you? To be given the chance to go on living in new bodies, then stay here and vegetate!”
Maria walks into the room behind him and says, “Weren’t you ever told. Wasn’t this chance offered to you ‑ “
“Yes. It was. But are we prisoners?”
“You can leave if you want to. But you will die. You will suffer.” Said Maria.
“You are supposed to live here forever,” said a woman who sounded old. “That is part of the agreement. You can leave but the sphere of influence that keeps our bodies alive is limited. To go beyond that limit is certain death. All who go through this understand that they must stay here, and never leave.”
“I do not want to be here. With a new body I could start over. We all could.”
“And suffer as we had before? Do you really want to risk immortality for the same choices you had before?”
“Oh Maria! You just told me how you feel about staying here and learning less throughout infinity than you did in the 92 years you lived before.”
“But I can find other ways to learn. Other things. It’s certainly better than going back out there and growing old and miserable again. Elderly men and women, the sick and the dying, were given the chance to live longer in reconditioned bodies. These are people who seek to have new bodies, who want to continue their lives. And they don’t care where. Just as long as they can. Is that worth nothing to you, Louis?”
“You all talk of your pasts’, as if you mourned them.”
Louis rushed over to a man sitting at the far end of the room.
“You! I heard you say how much you loved your daughter. Enjoyed being a Father . . .”
“But she is old,” said the man. “I could never have that back.”
“Like childhood Louis,” said Maria. “You recall all the innocent memories of your youth and long to have them but never really want them back. That’s all that was.”
They all stood in silence, looking at Louis who turned away to look into the garden.
“Louis. Let your past die with the body you left behind.”
“No. What I need to do with my new body, I need to do outside. It can’t be done here.”
“Louis,” pleaded Maria.
“I can’t be kept here. Is that correct?”
“Yes.”
“Then I will leave.”
“But that isn’t the question, Louis. The question is, do you want to go back to what you had? Is it us? Or something you left undone in your past? This isn’t a time machine. You will encounter a whole new set of problems out there. But it will always be you trying to solve them.”
Louis ran up the stairs and out into the hall, losing himself in the labyrinth. His new body weakened, collapsing against a wall that seemed to caress his back, trying to soothe him. Tears filled his eyes. His head reared back and from deep within erupted a cry filled with so much sorrow, that the walls cried with him.
6.
Louis lay in bed, his eyes wide open, reaching into the darkness of the arched ceiling above him. He studied the intricate design of living tissue as it changed from one design into another; like watching clouds against a blue sky coalescing then separating in moments.
Darkness reached in from the damp forest outside to fill the room and blind him.
The bed suddenly became cold and hard. His legs and arms stiffened, then became paralyzed.
His eyes opened to the darkness. Grotesque faces, like giant bodiless mardi gras masks, appeared from the darkness all around him. They jutted swiftly in and out of the darkness, taking turns at berating him as he lay helpless.
“You were offered a new life,” said one with a yellow mop for hair dangling over its elephant face.
“And now you condemn the favor,” said the next with eyes that filled its face, and tiny puckered lips that didn’t move.
“There were terms.”
“I didn’t understand,” said Louis.
“Does that mean you might have decided differently?”
“Maybe.”
“Maybe, he says.”
“We should have let you die”
“We saved you”
“From that miserable existence you called a life”
“Ingrate”
“We thought this offering was ideal. You make it seem less so.”
“The others’ are satisfied”
“Why aren’t you?”
“Ingrate”
They suddenly stopped. In the darkness around him he could see these hideous shapes moving about, mumbling.
Then a voice said, “relax. Do not move.”
He felt a strap rest on his forehead, then tighten.
“What is that? that hurts. What’s happening?”
“Nothing you could ever understand.”
All at once the top of his head ached. First at the center, then quickly spreading to the sides of his head. The pain swelled like a metal balloon expanding inside his head. He winced from a pain so sharply focused, that he was unable to scream.
All at once, it stopped.
Louis sat naked against a slimy cold stone wall. His head and all the hair on his body were shaven. The cell was dark. The walls once clean stone now covered in moss. A thin sheet of slimy water coated the floor. Water fell down on him from the darkness above. The rapping of the water drops aggravating the pain in his head. He lay crouched in a fetal position, with his knees and elbows resting on the floor, the water pounding his back. For as long as he could remember, water always fell from above. He could remember nothing else. As if there were nothing else to remember. The water fell on his shaven body, flowing over him, channeling itself into his cupped hands. He breathed into the water, gasping for what little air he could get in between the drops.
Louis kneeled from his fetal position, looked up and saw a forest canopy overhead. The sky was dark. Storm clouds rushed by, releasing water that crashed through the leaves and into the forest. He was dressed in his blue sleeveless tunic and shorts, a wide brimmed hat, and moccasin boots. A large satchel lay on the ground beside him.
Louis stood up. The drenching rain cut through the damp, hot jungle air. It settled on the brim of his hat, then trickled down like clear string unraveling down to the ground. His clothes were soaked and heavy. He looked around through the curtain of rain pouring from his hat and saw,
He came upon a mass of roots that had grown as thick as the trees, reaching across to other trees, joining limbs to intertwine and create a wall. He walked along its perimeter until he came upon a thin lattice of roots. He looked through them to the other side and saw nothing different. Nothing to keep him from crossing over.
Louis reached down for the satchel and climbed the root wall to its top and stood there for moment thinking of the new life he had to start over with. Just a jump from this wall and he was free again. Free to experience what he hadn’t before. Free to live his life as it should have been. He looked down to the forest floor, and there, halfway up the wall, lay a human skeleton. Pieces were missing; a forearm, a foot. But the skull was there. The skeleton lay on its side, as if it had struggled to climb the wall back from the other side and never made it, then fell over and lay down to die. It’s head was reared back, looking up at him. The eye sockets wide black holes like stunned eyes in revelation of what was happening. Its bottom jaw hung open, as if it had let out a final cry for help.
Louis stared at the skeleton for a while, never moving from his perch atop the wall. He looked farther into the forest ahead. Scattered all about were other skeletons, hidden behind trees. Others lay on the ground covered in foliage. He looked harder and could see bones scattered all about. Animals had gotten to them.
Were they like him, given immortality, disdaining it to go on with a life outside. Or were they travelers who had heard of the castle and it’s enchanted forest.How long had this gone on? How long did they lie there dying? Too weak to return. How long was their struggle to come back. And why? Why come back? What had they seen outside that made them return? If any, how many had left and survived without coming back?
Louis relaxed, then turned around and jumped from the top of the wall to the ground. He peeked through the web of roots and saw the skeleton that had reached the wall. The wind whistled through it’s skull.
Louis turned away and walked back into the forest.
He could tell he was in a valley; the forest rising up away from him in all directions, though the dense canopy didn’t reveal how far up it all went. There were no paths that he could see leading anywhere through the forest. The forest was dense around him and seemed to grow denser in every direction.
Louis then stepped over to a large tree and squat down next to it, letting the branches and giant leaves near the trunk relieve the pounding of the rain. He looked inside the satchel and found nothing in it. He closed it then tied it around his waist. He sat down on the ground and leaned against the tree. The roots were like giant tethers reaching out from the tree base and the ground around it, then winding through the forest floor, mingling with any and all the trees nearby. The intertwining roots formed layers all around him, like stairways and pathways . . . pathways! Pathways!
Louis stood up and looked around at the forest and suddenly realised the roots were rippling by‑ways winding under the suffocating growth of fauna on the forest floor. The root‑paths traveled in all directions away from and passed him. He was reminded of cobblestone streets. Though these living root‑paths seemed chaotic. Many of them crisscrossed like intricate weaves, while others doubled back and wound around on themselves, so that if someone were not careful to pay attention to their direction, one would get lost and end up going around in circles.
Louis had no idea what he was to do next. At first there was no path to walk and now there were too many paths to chose from. Logic pointed him toward the nearest hill which he imagined would inevitably become a mountain and allow him a view of the landscape he was to traverse.
The trail of tree roots led Louis along a myriad of twist and turns, up and down hills, and thin paths along cliff edges, until he came upon a stretch of root path that gently wound uphill along the outside of a mountain. The trees that had manufactured the path had grown close together and leaned away from the face of the mountain, forcing Louis to walk slanted to his left. As he walked he used vines that grew everywhere and in every direction, as hand rails that were conveniently within reach; as if they had been grown to be hand rails and help the weary climber.
From there he looked all around. The storm clouds rushed by in a stampede. He turned slowly around, taking the view in one grand panoramic sweep, until he came upon the sight of the castle sitting on a low mountain, miles away. All he could see, though were the warm colored towers reaching up through the canopy. He wondered of every one else and their perpetual party.
He sees a mighty waterfall filling a gorge situated between to mountains. The water then rushed away into the forest.
He crossed the summit, walking away from the castle, deeper into the forest. Until
He walked for hours near to nightfall and came upon a mountain that looked over the wall into the forest on the other side. He set his satchel down and started a small fire.
That night he sat up and made a small ax from stones he found in the area. He used several stones before he was able to fashion one sharp enough to cut wood. He then slept until the sun was up again and began to build a lean‑to. He gnawed at the fresh moist wood with the small inadequate stone tool he had made the night before.
By the end of the day he finished the lean‑to. The open side faced the root wall. The skeletons were all in full view from there. He would live here to ponder his questions. At the edge of the forest. Forever indecisive. Unable to look forward to death to end his misery. For Louis was immortal. His destiny and fate were still the same. It was set long before he was born.
The skeletons would forever say this to him.
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Featured

The Screaming Closet

screaming closet
The Screaming Closet
A Story by Ralph Pitre 9/19/2017
Still you seek where the light is not, patience, for in time I will reach out from the darkest and show you the horrors of the cosmos…
  • unknown
Me
Love as an element of horror, lives unknown until the knife stabs from behind…
  • unknown
Elsa, a Spanish name.
In Spanish the meaning of the name Elsa is:
Truth.
Elsa walked the length of the hall, her steps small and gentle befitting a woman of her advanced age and still the floorboards creaked underfoot as if from a great weight on the worn yellow and red linear patterned carpet.
Reaching the far end where the wall ran perpendicular to the hall, the doors of two side by side guest rooms were left ajar. Elsa looked into the room on the right where a very tall, very pale man, bluish almost, was in the middle of fitting the sheets tightly around the mattress. He stopped as he felt the weight of her look; nodding to her and she to him. From the left hand room, room number 508, Coltrane’s “Offering” called to her, crying it’s melodic tenor from scratched vinyl on a turntable beside the bed.
The room was empty but for the muffled sound of the strong wind outside. Elsa stepped in to scan the whole room taking note of the empty wheelchair diagonally across the room by the closet door. Walking across the room to the window with the curtain partially drawn, she looked out. She could see the tree struggling against the fierce wind and rain as it grew with each body writhing, rising from the ground along its ancient skin, thunder and lightning drawing them forth.
Elsa closed the curtain and turned back to see the tall bluish man staring at her from the entry door. She looked at the wheel chair to which she crossed the room to stand at the closet door where she could hear a faint sobbing yet distant, that quickly became a frantic cry then a terrible shriek then died, to become sobbing again and then silence. Resting her head against the door, her initial expression of concern became one of endearment… she waited a moment, exhaled deeply, looking down at the tattoo drawn across the pale underside of her wrist, two forearms clutched by two hands…so little time left.
Clover
Lightning cracks the jet black sky…shattering the pane, setting the soul aflame and the world burns, fueling the fire….
The Clover Grill, a dive bar & restaurant, loud and packed with locals, No’la scored a table by the window for herself, Mat and Davida, her camera crew and associate producers, all their gear piled next to No’la sitting on the broad front window bench; however, she couldn’t score the one thing she had been searching for; answers to the Goodbody Mystery. No’la could offer nothing more than a written review of existing Goodbody myth, now decades old…
The smell of an electrical storm… the smell of wet asphalt filled the air, blowing into the grill every time the door opened at the Clover Grill & Bar, on a corner two blocks off the tourist strip out by where the locals lived, it’s old brick and worn woodwork kept its charm while guests enjoyed food, drink, company and an old record player with a shelf stacked with vinyl, new and old, jazz, stomp and zydeco of this small popular eatery on the edge of town…
No’la had eaten very little of her plate of red beans and rice letting it become lumpy paste that she randomly reconfigured with her fork…the hickory coffee, served in a demitasse was still hot enough to allow bubbles to dance randomly building a tiny sculpture from which nothing could be gleaned.
Lost and numb the lack of accomplishment that had become an unwelcome friend for life, reminded her of the day her father was arrested. No’la recalled what she perceived as a happy life in those days when her father never shunned her when he came home from work and she would jump on his lap and ask about the tattoo on his arm under his short sleeve above the elbow; a black & white drawing, a thick chain winding around his back, where a golden ankh hung to end in a hole drawn around his vaccination mark.
No”la was a good investigative journalist at the time her father was arrested. She had been looking into reports that several precincts colluded together to extort money from local businesses and move drugs when eventually it all led to a series of arrests that included her father. A bad cop, perpetuating a family belief that you’re never good enough; it wasn’t enough to be poor, but to have a thug cop for a father….
She was pulled off the story. No’la wasn’t guilty she just knew someone who was and that was enough…
Davida stared at No’la as she grabbed her phone and left the table… I’ll be right back she said…Damn him…No’la had been waiting for his call..Clyph, their boss, their lousy producer in NYC, a hard ass exploiting No’la’s talents and her weaknesses cause all he had was weakness.
Davida had met No’la several years ago soon after No’la had graduated from school… Davida had found herself with no real focus on her studies and the career she announced to family she would pursue… but there she was lost among a throng of pursuer, all running from what they perceived as commitments to their life choices…the shining light crossing the field with a focus on her goals was No’la, who seems to know what she wanted and how to pursue it…
And there was Mat, his mother named him Matador…Born in the bayou as much a modern child slave as could be, he escaped without ever reporting the kidnapping, the abuse and raised himself, hit the military hard then exposed himself to a world documenting the madness… Mat was their warrior, clearly aware of No’la’s issues and No’la and Davida as a loving but estranged couple, Mat kept the trio strong and in gear. With him, once he knew their goal he was their guide, their bodyguard and the only rock steady focus they could trust. Mat spoke little of his past; special task tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. In his stories, and there were many, bits of those tours laced the other stories, constant chatter about so much paranormal that he had taken to heart after losing the stability he thought he had as a warrior. Ghosts, monsters, aliens and all things paranormal gave his life purpose, purpose he lost.
Getting up from the table, away from the noise and the music stomping from the old turntable spinning from an upper shelf behind the bar, No’la walked outside the Clover Grill and stood beside the door, under the recessed canopy avoiding the rain. Phone cradled to speak into she spoke “Hey, what’s up? Clyph…” and the rain had finally started after all its blustering threats, it was a light rain, a drizzle really, normal for this time of year if it stayed light, which it wouldn’t if the angry sky above had anything to say about it…
“No nothing yet”…she told him
“We’re getting something to eat now and still no hotel yet…we’ve called all over…. And now this storm is approaching…”
Skin glistened from sweat and rain, a small protest march started to swell outside of the Clover Grill… Police and mob presence swarmed to bloody each other good, faces broken, blood splattered with a hit of the police club, the crash of a Colt 45 people watched, flooding the street craning their heads from inside the Clover to see what little they could…
The violence swarmed like red rain spilt…black and white bodies flailing, the violence, torrential blood and rain splattered the asphalt black…a black protester stepped from the mass and alone confronted a cop accusing him of killing his brother…
“I can’t talk now Clyph it’s getting violent out here…the march that’s turning into a riot…It’s okay, no nothing at all on this Mr Goodbody, and nothing yet on May…she’s the only victim anybody knows about… no one knew where she went after leaving the hospital…and she’s the mystery, her talk about Mr. Goodbody who seems to have imprisoned her, perhaps tortured her and why she went back to him…it is a mystery, you talk to people who deny it’s importance but it’s obvious they have knowledge and are reluctant to talk about it.”
Listening to Clyph as he spoke…overwhelming frustration…
“It’s been awhile there aren’t many left who know the story, I interviewed who I could, no the lead detective is dead, I spoke with his partner…the partner was a woman who disappeared, maybe…”
“Okay, okay fine I’ll get you an updated file when we’re out of here.”
A black man, over-dressed tatters of rags and clothes, stood aside of the march beside an overflowing garbage container preaching his brand.. looking at the throng, tears filled his eyes…the anger he could see on them, in their hearts, had gone the violence spent…
Mat steps out to stand beside No’la, as if being there would protect her from the protest that hit close to home, prompted action from him but No’la stops him, Mat no…He glared across at the cops holding a protester down on his knees…the anger throbbing fuel on fire, coursing through him until it burst. The cop feeling Mat’s glare, smiles and throws a vicious punch at the protester…Mat looked to No’la, you okay? Yeah let’s get inside…he said.
Just then the angry cop reared back holding the club, and swung…burst…and there was more…
Life is not without the comfort of pain…No’la once said in her sleep…she couldn’t recall any dream or nightmare and Davida could never tell if it was No’la actually saying those words Do you think anybody will ever understand you, No’la was once asked?
Why should they?
No’la preferred being alone, no Mat how lonely she might feel or how much she loved another, her world was solely her own and she preferred it that way, alone… relationships were invasive, a distraction. Once, at a channel party formal dinner to pitching ideas for television shows, in front of hundreds of other guests during a brutal argument, No’la called relationships cancerous, malignant viral entities that clouded one’s thoughts, stopped the heart. Everyone thought she was pitching a show and gave her a standing ovation as she walked out of the ballroom.
Davida, No’la’s best friend and lover, her co-producer and an uber-exuberant No’la supporter since their days at The News Agency was so enamored by her, she was the guardian angel in No’la’s life. Always there, she became as alone and isolated as No’la. Without doubt, Davida believed No’la would come back from her self imposed exile, from life as a significant writing talent to currently making what she called pornographic documentaries about the paranormal. No’la became obsessed with the stories, the research, the culture of believers in all things out of this world who seemed as alone as No’la, strung out on isolation she both loved and hated…
And it burned, No’la could smell it, as always, something burning that she couldn’t identify, always there… burning.
Twenty years ago…
One would hope the hate she had for her father would have died with him, but that hate was greater as a result of what he took from her, something of hers died and she didn’t know what, a lost soul in a cemetery, blank headstones everywhere and nowhere an answer…
Father was mother’s god. Beyond love her dreams saw divinity in him and like him she believed he had been possessed by demons she fought. Both broken one shattered completely. Never finding fault in themselves they believed father’s troubles was the work of demons and their belief in God was overwhelming. The demons worked overtime on father until the day he died. Mother was terrified of suicide because it was a sin instead she chose a long and drawn out method of penance suicide… it was a Mater of time after finding a job in a place doing work where death was inevitable…and it worked.
In all of this, No’la had been left alone never part of the family, part of their madness, no one seemed to care. She watched as Mother fought their demons and father submitted… she could never understand their logic and never knew if dying by their own hand or at the hands of others was victory or defeat. Either way, those same demons seemed to follow her after they were done with father..
No’la’s father would eventually put a gun in his mouth, waiting for a police escort to join the guards who lived in the apartment with them he held a cup of coffee he fired the shot seconds after taking a large gulp…as if thrown from a bucket the blood splattered across the wall mixing with the less viscous coffee, draping a slow black and red curtain…
Over the years the Goodbody Mystery passed from real life mystery to paranormal myth; is there a difference? The archives relate the following: in 1977 an unidentified woman was found roaming the streets by a 12 year old boy who said that she was looking for a place she escaped from but wanted to go back to, that didn’t make any sense but… “I’m trying to find Mr. Goodbody, he’s in a red house, can you help me find him?” Who was Mr. Goodbody? No one ever found out. Naked and wet in the city’s perennial rain storms in a desperate search for Mr Goodbody, she spoke of the big red house, with a water pump in the yard and a “screaming” closet somewhere inside the house. Tim, the 12 year old boy who found her didn’t understand and convinced her to stay where she was, out of the rain at a bus shelter while he went to find police. The police had taken the woman to the hospital where she was treated for exposure, a variety of still broken and badly set bones, bruises, festering wounds and so on… She was kept under observation by a psychologist who used a hypnotist, a blind hypnotist, go figure, to discover that her name was May, born locally in 1952, she was kept inside of a room with several other women in various states of tortured existence when she escaped by slipping into what she called the death bin with two other bodies and did so before Mr Goodbody could catch her. It was apparent that she had been kidnapped, held prisoner and tortured, with other girls some still alive and some dead..the name Goodbody wasn’t much to go on and ultimately she really didn’t know where she was kept.
“This guy often thought of killing himself I would too if I believed I was possessed for over 20 years…”
“What?”
Davida and Mat sat across from No’la, Mat reading out loud from a pulp conspiracy magazine called The Truth, Deal With It! Davida barely listened to Mat’s revelations instead she nursed her cup of coffee deep in thought about No’la and her persistent issues…
“Yeah, over 20 years.”
“What are you guys talking about?”
“Mat found a story about a guy possessed by a demon for 20 years…”
“He’s been possessed by a demon for…?”
“It’s not a demon, I never said demon.”
“A politician?”
Mandy their storytelling waitress approached the table with a fresh pour of coffee listened and wondered.
“Mandy, have you ever heard of the Goodbody Mystery?”
“You talking about that girl who was found walking the streets here in the rain, somewhere ’bout here in this neighborhood I think…”
“Yes it was…”
“Not really…word was she up and took off, disappeared.”
“She did…”
“I saw your video equipment…you doing a TV show about it…”
“Just a segment… a piece…”
“I think the whole thing was a hoax anyway, not really a big deal that I know of.”
Mandy rushed off.
Mat continued…
“Well, but then he does call it a demon later on in the article but a benign demon.”
“What the hell is a benign demon, a demon without horns?”
“I don’t know, that’s what the report says…”
“Well he’s accepted the possession for 20 years…”
“Well that sounds dumb and boring.”
“I think it deserves some consideration. Not everything we cover has to be scary paranormal.”
“Well it’s no fun if it’s not scary. Anyway, this is wasting time and we need to find a place to sleep tonight…”
Outside, the storm was growing and still a number of people were out despite the effort by police to clear the crowd, No’la noticed a petite elderly woman standing in among a crowd waiting at the corner and staring at No’la. The light changed and the crowd rushed to cross the street as the elderly woman entered the Clover Grill. No’la noticed a barely visible tattoo on the woman’s arm, peeking out from the sleeve of her jacket as she passed their table, she raised her arm to close the umbrella. No’la looked in through the window to spy Davida and motioned toward the old lady then followed her into the Clover. The elderly tattooed woman walked straight back to the far end of the bar.
No’la rushed to sit grabbing her sack she shuffled through some of her papers, finding the right one…just as Mandy walked up from behind her
The tattoo…!
“You done honey?” asked Mandy.
“Yes, I am, except more coffee please actually. Sure, you know if you need a place to stay for tonight that woman who just walked in runs a small place near the hospital just a couple of blocks away, mostly outpatient guests from the hospital nearby, but she might be able to help, her names Elsa. She just walked in and sat at the end of the bar.”
“That little old lady with the tattoo…?”
“Yes…” Mandy rushes off for the coffee pot…
Across and along the length of the bar, through the growing crowd they watched Elsa, wearing a light rain coat over a heavier jacket over a light house dress with a busy floral pattern…seated on a far end bar stool she was happily ordering from a friendly and smiling bartender.
Mandy returned with a coffee pot and…”Yeah…that ain’t no tattoo, ya know not for decoration at least.”
“Then what is it for?”
“Branding, that’s a tattoo you get when you’re, entitled to someone….”
“Entitled?”
“Branding used to be what a slave owner used when he wanted to mark you as his so that everybody understood….”
“She wasn’t a….”
“No, she’s too young to have been a slave in this country, but she did belong to someone…”
“How do you know?”
“I just know, you hear things…”
And she rushes off again…
No’la couldn’t see the tattoo but she was sure Mandy had one…
“Creepy…”
“I agree.”
“We missing something?”
“Tell me about it.”
A quick sip of hot coffee and No’la was off
“Going to the bathroom…be right back.”
No’la suddenly turned up the flame…the flame Clyph tried to stifle suddenly alight.
Even a few tourists made it this far off the beaten path mingling with the locals at the bar and the tables covered in food and drink. The bathroom, the only bathroom was towards the back hall that led to the kitchen and the back patio. A woman stood in line ahead of her. The turntable pounded out some local Cajun stomp. No’la stood in line behind the woman just behind Elsa. She stared at the bit of tattoo peeking out from under her sleeve, painted on the underside of her arm just above the wrist. She could overhear the conversation she was having with the bartender, the state of business at the hotel, her work with the woman’s health board and how they’re leading the effort to help women in town why the grill sold and advertised to attract tourists but the grill needed the business. No’la wondered if she knew the story of May and the Goodbody mystery.
No’la glances down the bar to see Mandy nod to acknowledge where Elsa is seated
The bartender approached with Elsa’s food order as the bathroom became vacant and No’la lean’s quickly into Elsa calling her May?
“Excuse me?” Annoyed.
“Oh my, I’m so sorry, it’s…”
“Elsa, yes, can I help you…”
No’la was surprised…
The tattoo was…of two arms embracing, wrist over wrist. “I love your tattoo, I noticed it as you entered.”
Embarrassed, Elsa pulls back on her sleeve, trying to hide the tattoo.
“A betrothal tattoo, something i did for my husband long ago when he was alive. Silly at the time but now he’s always sort of with me.”
Two arms embrace, forearm over forearm though one seemed to be pulling, the dominant arm pressing the other and creating shadows where the pressure would be…
“Can I help you with anything?”
“Sorry, my colleagues and I are looking for a place to stay the night and Mandy the waitress mentioned you might be able to help…that you run a hotel or inn nearby?”
“I do, just a couple of blocks from here, you stuck in town?”
“Yes the storm has shut the airport.”
“You call around?”
“Yes…”
“I have a couple of rooms,”
“Here’s the address,” she said while writing it on a bar napkin
“Just head on over, it isn’t far from here. I’ll meet you there and so you know, it’s mostly an outpatient hotel serving the hospital across the street.”
“That’s fine, anyplace clean will do…”
“It is…better hurry…bad rains coming.”
Elsa walked off
“Thank you, Elsa.”
Elsa waved back as she left the grill and put her rain hood on…
No’la turned back for the bathroom just as someone else went in. I can hold it and she hurried back to the table.
No’la hustled back to the table….
“Guys, lets go. We have someplace to stay…”
“Awesome, the old lady?”….Mat & Davida, follow No’la out the door…Yeah.
Attention…
No’la stepped out of the Clover bar, holding the door open as Davida and Mat followed. She looked up to the sky, into the rain, the drops blinding then washing away a vale that revealed a night sky without a star. A sudden instance of vertigo overwhelmed her, drawing her eyes up, into the abyss then letting go, she began to collapse, Mat caught her from behind…held her for moment asking, “Coming?”
Continuing her thought while Mat helped her stand still, “I called her May”…
“What?”
“I called Elsa, May.”
“The old lady?”
“Yes…”
“Slip of the tongue it was…”
“Perhaps…the tattoo, I’d forgotten that May had a tattoo until the moment I noticed Elsa had one as well…the same one in the same place she described…”
“Elsa might be the right age at this point but was it the same tattoo?”
“The description was similar except Elsa’s tattoo was faded…which would make sense…”
They crossed the street looking at the debris the protesters and authorities had left strewn throughout the asphalt, smeared in blood, broken signs…the war fought, the remains of the loser littered the street…
They felt like fish underwater as the rain poured down, heavy and thick to fill the already moist air…they lost sight of Elsa, looking down Dumaine, dark and nothing at first but then there she was, tiny Elsa looking even smaller now that she had walked more than a long block ahead… how did she get that far so fast?…then she turned right around the corner, into a yard?
No’la couldn’t see that any street lamps were on along Dumaine. The homes, dark perhaps empty, shuttered but more likely home to squatters hiding in plain sight…didn’t help to light the darkness to see any life…
No’la turned to look down Dumaine at the well lit streets they were leaving behind. “I think someone’s following us…”
Mat turned, peered into the darkness and yelled to the stranger, a man, alone, dark, homeless, pushing a junk filled shopping cart silhouetted against the street lights… he stopped and called to them.
“Li se prèske tan, tout bèl pouvwa wè ou, vle ou, men se chemen an ou pran ki te ranpli avèk vicieux a, unblessed a, ki pa gen okenn chemen men sa ki w ap atire … jwenn wout ou … pa leur. ..turn tounen … tout bèl pouvwa a wè ou menm ak ou gade lwen, avèg bay verite a …”
To Mat she asked, What’s he saying?
Something like, “It is almost time, glory sees you, wants you, but the path you take is filled with the wanton, the unblessed, who have no path but that which you are attracted to…find your way…not theirs…turn back…the glory sees you and you look away, blind to the truth…”
“On va bien vieux! Merci pour la bénédiction …”Said Mat, walking back on his heels.”
“Ce n’est pas une bénédiction mais un avertissement.”
“Oke di ou mèsi de tout fason … men mwen panse ke nou ka nwaye si anyen.”
No’la pauses in the rain as the others pass and recalls having once heard her father speak similar words on his worst days…but about himself…
The homeless man walked up from behind No’la, lightly grabbing her shoulder to saying something that only she could hear but couldn’t understand…
“Madame, fènwa a ap tann ou, pa pran lòt moun yo … ale pou kont li.”
Mat rushes back to take her away…and she slipped easily from the homeless man’s hand resting on her shoulder.
No’la, Davida and Mat moved on down the block…looking back, No’la suddenly felt great concern, looking for the homeless man who was know gone…
A struggling fatherless family a mother and two children whose gender weren’t apparent cowered, shielded from the torrent under a willow tree just ahead down the block, across the street from an old brick house.
The family stared at No’la and the group as they crossed the street… “This is it, this is where she turned…” she turned to look at every one…
This is the home May described..
Elsa’s?
May’s….
You sure?
Yes…
No’la stepped sideways, staring at the house May described…a feeling of great accomplishment…she almost stood in the middle of the street, watched by the homeless family and Mat and Davida all enthralled by No’la’s amazement…
“It was the hotel May had escaped from…
“l’attente…”
“The what?” No’la said.
“French for “The Waiting.”
“Really,” said No’la. “Waiting for what…”
“Below the hotel name it says “L’endroit pour ceux qui attendent, ‘The place for those in waiting.’”
“But, waiting for what?
“Décès,” Mat turned to look at the others, “Death, I suppose…”
No’la slowly circled the house, stepping side by side the mansion, asylum and hotel as it stood now, a place for the infirmed and questionable, waiting…
“Look around the house,” No’la said. “look for the water pump she described, a fire engine red water pump.”
The District Commander had at first come to meet No’la over a drink at the hotel they first staying…”There are many secrets to keep, in my lifetime and this is one of them. I have to be careful, you understand?”
“Yes, I do sir…so there is a story?”
“There’s always a story, the trick is to verify it as more than the myth it has become.”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“A long time ago, at that time I wasn’t the District Commander, just a captain… I assigned a very good detective to what seemed… a waste of time…” Pausing he looked away, she waited as the pause lengthened….but she waited…”Timothée, a fine detective…would still be if…let me take you to him, I have his permission…
“Ok,” she said.
“I have a car waiting outside…”
It quickly became obvious that the drive, by the Commander himself was longer than it had to be, the house kept in mystery…the car finally stopped in front of a small bungalow that had suffered water damage from the floods.
He turned to her seated in the back behind black steel mesh…”Go in, he’s expecting you.”
“Thank you Commander…”
“Be quick, we’re not young men…”
No’la shuffled across the back seat to get out and rushed through the rain, to the door… it was unlocked. The Commander, seated in the front, looked through the rain….
A voice greeted her, “You are No’la?”, as she stood inside the door, “I am.”
“Take the chair beside you,” he said softly, as if he were tired of talking and what was left were weak streams of air. She sat, without a greeting…she could barely see where the detective was seated though she could tell he was across from her hidden in the shadows cast throughout a dark house from weak exterior light.
“… I found May exactly where the boy said she would be a large red brick house with a big yard and a manual water pump in a side yard. I stood out front and felt as if there was someone at a window, watching, but I wasn’t sure.”
“You saw the house?”
“Well that’s where I first found her, right in front. Then I rushed her off to find my car and took her to the hospital. The rest of the team could never find the house, I could never find the house again…”
Across the street from the hotel where Elsa disappeared into, a family watched as No’la and the crew climbed the stoop to the hotel steps.
Of dark and dirty red brick the house was built, windows dark and stained, the art vague from a yellow film of uncleanliness; the roof covered in dirty unkempt black roof shingles gave the old edifice the feel of a tired church. Likewise a wall extended away from the front to surround the property throughout, the house angled uncomfortably suggesting that nothing made sense; something was wrong. The building at odds with the quaint style of the rest of town but for the front doors; French, unwashed stained glass covered in a wrought iron design that extended into the wood frame at the top of the front stone steps rising a few feet above the ground.
Mat looked back across the street at the homeless family who were likewise staring, back across…The mother, weighed down by bags and the weight she carried but more so grief evident on her face…three children surrounding her holding their own beside her, wanting both her strength and protect her.
Mat approached the brick wall from one side of the stoop that hid the back and side of the building. Balancing himself along a wrought iron runner he looked into the dark yard, trashed with high grass, branches fallen from trees deep in the waste he could vaguely see a very thick mass, perhaps a tree, quivering in the play of light and shadow…
“Pa ale nan…” mother said while giving the Sign of the Cross… The family watches them enter the house one by one. No’la hesitated a moment then disappear into the house and No’la takes note but still goes…Mat responds to their silent fear, looking back…they watch him walk away with concern, his countenance with the inevitable…
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Canto

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CANTO
And there was stillness throughout…
The voice of billions silent, gone in weeks the act of a small band of terrorizing white supremacists experimenting with viral strains to created an agent and render intended targets, politicians, mute. It worked too well and spread quickly throughout and far more hurt than expected and so many to blame…
The applause died, in that short moment of silence before Sophia began to sing, there was a great anticipation, a longing. She bowed her head for a moment, then raised it to look out into the audience, tears welled to fill her eyes as the voice they had all come to hear, filled the room and cried. Cry, they could hear, the voice of God. Cry, others knew, it was and cried in anticipation of the first sound.
Sophia sung with an angel’s voice. The voice had become part of her, one with her, as if she had already been born with the voice of an angel.
The creation of a new set of vocal cords as replacements for a damaged set was hard enough, but to design and manufacture a set of organic vocal cords whose sound was greater than natural or imagined. That is why no one succeeded in centuries. It simply worked or it didn’t. These spectacular voices, it seemed, were beyond the ability of man to create them, and yet man did create them. It is said the designer Mariana literally knew the secret and used it to produce three of the greatest singers in all of history. Two possessed by women, one by a man. Those are gone now, and the few that exist are prized possessions of private and corporate archives as valued artifacts of art and science. They are from a time long before when science had achieved artistic status. Where scientific creations were as much artistic creations. No one in centuries had ever dared to consider implanting one until Sophia.
Sophia sat quietly alone in the waiting room upstairs from the stage contemplating how close she had come to be with the angel’s voice. The voice had taken on a life of it’s own. No longer did Sophia just sing with the voice, but they sang as one.
They had come to know each other so well, the angels voice had become a singular being… Margarite unwraps the scarf around Sophia’s neck, gently caressing her neck, then kissing her on the neck then to her lips. Sophia pulls away.
“Is it the voice you love Margarite? Or me?”
“You of course.”
“Sometimes I don’t know which, sometimes I wonder what attracts you to me. What keeps you with me?”
“I stay for you, Sophia.”
“I know that the voice has great power that no one seems able to resist, including myself. I find myself in love with the angel as much as I do you and I don’t know whom I love most. I feel lost, stuck in the middle of a terrible triangle of emotion.”
“Sing for me Sophia, sing for me, softly so the guards outside can’t hear.”
Is it the voice Margarite loves or Sophia? Margarite often caresses her neck, kissing it, often asking for a softly sung poem, just a few lines, so as not to arouse the guards waiting outside to escort them to the party and ultimately take the voice away.
She clothed herself after the show, wrapping a scarf around her neck, drinking a nutrient drink.
Later when the party is over, Sophia will go away and hide behind a partition to remove the voice placing it in a secure safe, and then taken by security away from her until the next performance. But for now she must have it for the party.
We live in a world where many instruments are still made and the voice of an angel is one of them. The process by which a voice can be man made like any other instrument is unique and amazing. As detailed in a revealing science article in The New York Times the voice is literally grown from cells, and genes manipulated to become a self sufficient organism able to survive both inside and outside of the body. The performer swallows a small organically grown device, destroying the existing vocal cords and bonding with the body. The new vocal cords sing what many call the voice of angels. There are sacrifices to possessing the voice. You become a mute, because the vocal chords must be removed and cleansed in a solution. The chords are for singing only, speaking with them is not advised, the user or the listener. With the voice in place, the performer can never talk out loud or fully. She must whisper for fear that the full sound that is so heavenly would deafen the listener. It is only through song that one can listen. Only then is the voice under control.
Fifteen years ago Sophia had heard recordings of the voice implanted in the body of the Great Marlena and decided then she wanted that voice. She was a great and popular singer already but she wanted to be like no other since. No other singer had ever done this since Marlena. And Marlena had given up her voice as she neared death. No other singer dared for fear of losing their original voice and becoming a mute and slave to a voice that wasn’t your own; the voice of the angel’s. Her then manager had lectured her on this matter and was ultimately fired when her sign language interpreter took on those duties.
She formed a consortium of investors who were willing to pull money together to acquire the voice and implant it in Sophia.
The party awaits her in the grand ballroom.
Escorted by her interpreter, Sophia attends the party where she is congratulated. She greets everyone as a mute, her thoughts voiced by her interpreter who is trained to listen to the soft whisper of her voice.
She had become one with her voice. They longed for each other when they were apart. Of late she sensed the voice had become tired. Why? She could never tell. The voice had no way of communicating with her except through feelings. She knew that it was tired, that it was unhappy. The voice itself was taking on sentient awareness. This she divulged to no one but Margarite.
Sophia is called into the back room where she waits. The board chairman owned three angel voices. The other two were in use by singers. While those two had a grand history of performance, Sophia’s had only one great singer other than herself, attached to it. It had been created for Marlena over three hundred years. She spent twenty-two years performing with it right up until the day she died. Several decades passed until it had once again implanted. In a series of seven male and female singers over a century and a half, the voice never again performed as it had for Marlena. Not until Sophia. The board chairman, Mariano, was a huge fan and connoisseur of the voices and with his money hoped to collect all of them.
In the back room the board chairman explains they want to take the voice back. They want to implant the voice in another woman. They have already tested the implant on this other woman and it has performed well.
Now she knew why it was tired. They had conspired to take the voice away.
In conversation with Margarite, while the guards make their way to take the voice from her, it is suggested she ask for one more performance.
The chairman insists she perform now, for the party, in the ballroom, her final performance and then the cords will be removed.
As the chairman walks to the stage, Margarite and Sophia quietly discuss what to do next. Escape? Sophia finally decides to kill herself. She takes a knife from the buffet table, which she hides in her long sleeve.
As the chairman announces her entrance she slowly makes her way through the crowd.
Alone in the dark of a loft that overlooks the stage from above the rafters of the theater a man sits poised with a rifle aimed at Sophia, his right eye pressed against the sight, his right index finger lightly placed across the trigger.
She sings her saddest aria, making the guests cry. It is from an opera that tells the story of betrayal and suicide and vengeance against the betrayers. Sophia then attempts to stab herself in the throat, but not before the sniper shoots her down, saving the voice which still seems to resonate, to sing a voice of tears. Cries to save the voice can be heard from the guests.
Margarite rushes the stage, calling for help, and no one seems to care. Attendants of the board rush the stage to remove the voice from Sophia, without a care for Sophia who lay barely breathing, blood flowing crimson from the bullet hole in her head. As the board attendants step away with the voice safe in its container, Mariano the board chairman standing over the scene, tells one of the attendants to help her. Reluctantly and surprised, he does so.
Sophia speaks to Margarite and revealing she knows that it was Margarite, then dies.
We see the voice safely stored in a box, retired.
Margarite sits at Sophia’s grave, sobbing and haunted by what she has done. Margarite had given up her natural voice for the chance to have Sona implanted in her. After many tests and private performances doctors report the organ will never again perform as great as it once did. “But why?”
The doctor can’t explain.
The voice was retired and Margarite stayed forever mute.
The voice had been implanted in man, a male singer to try and coax the voice to sing could not…
Having known the voice had been implanted in the other performer.
And she knew. That breathless moment just after the applause, the paralysis of fear suddenly gone, she looked at every face that looked at her, and it was all of them. The moment was hers. Sophia bowed her head, the voice trembling within her. It wanted to sing.
The fear and anxiety that had rushed up to paralyze her died with the applause She looked back at them as fear and anxiety rushed to paralyze her, for a moment, as the applause died, the fear died, she looked down and she knew. The moment was hers. They were hers and they would listen as she sang for them. Not because they had paid for her to sing, but because they had become disciples and they would be witness to the divine in her voice.
Sophia sat in the antique high-back chair as Margarite reached from behind to massage and caress her.
                “That breathless moment just after the applause, the fear gone, looking at their faces. I knew the moment was mine.”
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Tuning Papi’s Chrome Blue Nova with A Warm Glass of Rum

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Papi used to tune the 6-cylinder engine to his Chrome blue Chevy Impala with a warm glass of rum.
On Saturday mornings, after spending the start of the weekend sleeping, Papi used to walk out to the car, which he kept parked in front of the red brick tenement we lived in, in Brooklyn. In the trunk he kept his tools and likewise in a greasy brown bag an old drinking glass stained with use and a bottle of dark Puerto Rican rum. He opened the bottle and poured a half glass of rum, warmed by the summer heat that turned the trunk into an oven and cooked whatever was inside. Then he walked around to the front of the car and leaned forward to unlatch the hood through the front grill, lift the hood, take a small sip of rum and then place the glass on the right front fender.
As he worked, Papi would take small sips from the glass for each part of the car he worked on; checking plugs, wires, air filter, belts. Then he would check the engines idle that would actually cause the car to shake more or less.
Taking a small screw driver, he would reach reach deep into the carburetor and turn the idle screw. He watched the glass of rum as he turned the screw and judged his work based on the ripples that formed in the rum. The ripples started at the center of the filled glass, then radiated out to the edge of the glass, then bounced back, creating a storm of waves that seemed to boil the rum. Often I stood beside the glass and watched the storm grow in the rum, until Papi tuned the car. He continued to turn the idle screw until the car settled, and the rum settled. Finally the car didn’t visibly shake, but the rum rippled ever so gently; like the warm pools of water in the mountains of Puerto Rico. The ripples had become shallow, even and fast.
The car was tuned; and Papi was glad…
Papi would stand in front of the car and admire the engine. Then take the warm glass of rum and pour the rest down his throat.
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El Viejo / La Vida de La Dona y El Cuerpo del Cacique

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“Hurakan…”spoke El Cacique. “I can smell the water of the great sea burning”… said El Cacique…
“The dead…”
“To speak of the dead is wrong…”
“Men of no color?”
“Men of any color?”
Canimao and his men gathered the remains of the men of no color, the men of no color, who suffered the storm…
“They are dead and deserve rituals of their dead…”
“They are dead, Cacique,” said Canimao… “We do not know their ways…
“Nor do we know their intent… They consume without the intent of nourishment…
Canimao…since you will explore where they come from… It is your choice…
We will…gather their remains from the beach and ready them for transport…It is a long journey and I fear we will know what we fear to know…
The fear of where these men come from…
Return them to rest…
I fear they will come back…”Cacique shooed them away….and to himself he spoke.
“We arrived to this world too late and the world will return us too soon…
They’re hunger is like the heat of an angry fire…
The fear is they are seekers of desires, of lonely people who never stop looking for they know not what they seek…
Their desire, their urge is insurmountable… a mountain never to be looked upon or climbed upon…”
The great sea was tormented…inundating them with a great wash…
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