The first Star was considered a savior at first...
Chapter One: Shibi
Shibi walked down an alley, kicking trash to the wall. He didn’t care. That’s what he told himself. People called him hateful names. Demon boy, cursed child, bad luck…the devil. He’d heard it all. He heard it everywhere. He heard whispers when his back was turned. Hell, some people said it straight to his face. He was used to it, he told himself. Though he knew it wasn’t true. He wasn’t even allowed to go to school. In the town of Shalizi, even the poorest kids were forced to go to school for the sake of keeping up their precious reputation as ‘The City of Scholars.’ But no school for him! He had to learn to read and write using a book he found in a dumpster down on Morth Path. Once, he had gathered the courage to ask the principal if he could join her school. As expected, he was denied.
Shibi didn’t even know why everybody hated him. Nobody would tell him! He was a good enough kid. He was pretty average. Brown hair, brown eyes, tan skin. He was a little short for his age, and yeah, he got into trouble sometimes, but so did the other kids. They didn’t get treated like pond scum. Shibi sighed and sat down against the wall.
A large man stalked into the alley. “Hey! You there! What are you doing here?” He stalked forward, swaggering a bit.
Shibi stood quickly, looking towards him, and the man paused. “Wait, you’re that kid. The cursed one. Right?” He took a small step backwards, staring at Shibi still. “They said I should avoid you.” Shibi paused. The large man was obviously from outside the city, nobody born in Shalizi would talk with an accent like that. Actually, not many people came to Shalizi unless they were there for schooling.
“Yup. Guess I am.”
“What do you mean ‘I guess’? You are, or you aint! Which one is it?” Shibi thought for a few minutes. Nobody born and raised in Shalizi would tell him why they hated him; maybe an outsider would be a bit more loose-lipped.
“Mmhm, yeah. Cursed, devil, blight…that’s what they call me.”
The man jogged backwards a bit, almost tripping over his own feet, “Well then, I’ve…gotta go. I don’t want any bad luck voodoo, so just leave me ’lone. Yeah?” He said before running out into the town center.
Staring after him, Shibi cursed the lost opportunity. Visitors were scarce, and he didn’t know the next time he’d see a foreigner. Weighing his options carefully, he decided this was a chance he wasn’t passing up. He ran around the corner into the square, people parting in his wake, before hurrying into an ally where he thought he saw the man. There he found him backed against a wall, catching his breath. He may be tall, but he apparently had no stamina. “Ah! What are you doing here! Get away from me, rat. I’m applying for a good course today and I don’t nee’ any bad luck.” The man yelled, still against the wall with nowhere to run. “Don’t hurt me. Don’t mess with me!”
Shibi tilted his head. “I’m not gonna hurt you. Not sure I could, even if I wanted to. I come up to, like, your elbow.” He chanced a step forwards, abandoning that idea when the man flinched back. “Listen, I just wanna know why they told you to avoid me. Then I’ll leave you alone.”
“What’re you trying? There’s no way you don’t know ‘bout the curse. I’ve only been here a week and it's been pounded into my brain already.” He said. “You playing with me? You probably aren’t even the cursed kid! This some joke ya’ play on folks new to town?” He picked himself off the wall and bent down to look Shibi in the eye, “run back to yer parents, ya rat.”
Shibi’s face shifted into a small scowl involuntarily, “My parents are gone. They’ve been gone for a long time.”
The man’s eyes widened, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” He sighed and rolled his neck, looking up at the sky before settling against the wall comfortably, “guess it’s time for a lil story.”
“Almost ten years ago, there was a family. They had a nanny or somethin’ cause they weren’t home a lot…and she watched their little boy for ’em. He was about two.”
“Well, anyway when she went up to the second floor the only sound was the cryin’ of the ‘lil boy. The poor girl opened the door and there was a man standin’ over his bed. She got really scared and screamed. The man looked over and…”
He lowered his voice, out of either fear or for dramatic effect, “...there just wasn’t anything there. The man had no face. She--the nanny--got a broom and shoved him right out the window. He ran away yelling about stars and curses; doom, despair, and stuff. Some folks in cloaks came by and said we should avoid him…and the town started avoiding the boy. You’d think in the City of Scholars, people would be less superstitious, but I guess with the Forbidden Woods people have a reason to be worried.”
Shibi glanced out of the alley, deep in thought for a minute. “Do you think…do you think the kid is actually cursed? Was the man telling the truth?
“I don’t know what to think. The guy may just have been crazy,” the man got up, “I have to go, my application is due soon,” he said and walked away.
Shibi slumped. Was he actually bad, or was it just a big misunderstanding? Which would be worse? To actually be bad, or to have been avoided for no reason?
He stood and weaved his way between houses ‘til he reached his home, a small gazebo on the outskirts of the town. It was close to The Woods, outside even of the wall; it was a small place, but it was where he’d weathered the nights since he was eight. He pushed past his ‘door’, actually just a tattered curtain he had found while out scavenging. Rummaging through some ratty blankets he had stored in a corner, he pulled out his sword, the only thing in his possession of some value. He sat down on his stool--it tottered horribly, for it was missing a leg--and put the blanket he had grabbed over his lap, resting his sword upon it. He rubbed the edge of the blanket along the sheath, cleaning it to the best of his abilities.
He didn’t know where it came from. The sword had been left upon his step shortly after he had made the gazebo his home. There was no note, no ceremony. He had simply woken up one morning and it was there. A golden sheath, clearly holding a sword, with strange markings up and down the sides. Shibi laughed, remembering days spent trying to find their purpose. He had once found a similar symbol in a book about mages, but it had given him no explanation.
He had always felt drawn to the sword like a moth to a flame; when he saw it that first day he had felt so…whole. Like he had been missing it his entire life. But for all its splendor, he had never drawn the sword from its sheath before; it felt so innately wrong to even consider. So the sword stayed sheathed, tucked safely away in his abode, brought out only at times such as these--when he craved comfort the most.
Holding the sword tightly to his chest, he walked over to one of his piles of books. Fingers lightly brushing the spine of each, he selected one randomly and very carefully pulled it from the stack. He wandered back over to his stool and curled up to read The Encyclopedia of Botanica Magica.
When the sun began to lower in the sky and he lacked the light to continue reading, he stood, returned his sword to its place, and left his home. He never had found any food earlier, and the ache in his stomach reminded him it had been at least a day since he had last eaten. He searched the barrel behind the bakery, and found a few bread crusts and berries. He ate them quickly; before the baker saw his loot, and then meandered back to his home to sleep.
He set all of his blankets down on the floor and arranged them comfortably before curling up in his makeshift bed. He was tired, but…something was missing. He trudged to the corner, and then back over to his bed--this time with the sword. He closed his eyes, and was soon lost in a dream.
No rain. No rain. Still no rain. He was a young boy, and there was a drought. There was no food to be found, nor water. The river had long dried up. The other villagers had resigned themselves to their fate. But he held out hope. He wandered the river bed each day, glancing at the few plants still living, until one day he found a creature. It was sick, thirsty perhaps? He took out his canteen, looking inside at the few remaining drops of precious water. The creature, a lovely blue lizard that seemed almost to glow, blinking weakly. He tipped the container, allowing it a drink. He would be okay…
The lizard, seemingly revived by the sip, scurried into a small hole beneath a wilting cendar bush. He turned to leave, but the lizard returned; this time followed by a glowing ball of light. Eruther stared for a bit before reaching out to touch the shimmering globe.
There was a rush of…something, and then water poured from his hands! It was a miracle, it was magic.
He threaded the wind through his fingers…a small smile upon his face. He had done this. He, Eruther, had found the lifeblood of the world! He had made magic! He rose, and walked to the door. He laughed aloud; he must be a god! No mortal could create a storm, raze a home to ash with only his mind! He was special, so special! Everyone around him was inferior, he was their ruler! He should be their ruler! No longer would he water their crops or heal their ailments, without their worship!
He turned, eyes wide. How could this be? Him, a god, killed by a mere mortal? He touched the long knife emerging from sternum. Derran, the only man he thought close to equal to him…
Eruther shot awake, “no!” He looked frantically around him. Where was Derran? Hadn’t he just been stabbed? Where was he? He seemed to be in a hut of some sort. He looked down at his hands; they looked too young. This wasn’t him…this…this…
His name was Shibi, not Eruther. This was his home! He felt his stomach; no knife. He hadn’t been stabbed…he clutched his sword, running his hands down it, trying to calm himself. He could still remember the sharp pain, the sharp stab of betrayal.
Suddenly, a girl--probably around six or seven--walked through his door, startling him from his thoughts.
He quickly hid the sword behind his back and stood up, “what do you want?” The girl looked around his home and suddenly started taking books off of their stacks. “Hey! Stop! Don’t touch those!” He grabbed her wrist and turned her around.
“Hi, mister! How are you?” she asked innocently.
“What are you doing here?”
“Dunno, exploring…wanna play?”
“No,” he sighed, “please, just…get out.” He released her arm.
“Oh, sure. You don’t wanna play with ‘‘little kids’, huh?” After saying the last two words, she made a face.
“What? What’s wrong?” Shibi asked.
“My parents are always bossing me around. ’Dori do this, Dori do that.” She sighed, “sometimes I really wish they were gone.”
Anger flooded Shibi’s mind, “don’t ever wish your parents were gone! I don’t have parents, but no matter how bad they are, it has to be a whole lot better than my life right now!” He took a deep breath and backed away. “I’m sorry. Forget…forget about that.”
She followed him, shooting off questions, “you don’t have parents? Where do you live?” Dori asked. Shibi winced, “Well, right now you are standing on my bed.” She looked at the blankets on the ground. “This is your bed? So this is your house?”
“Yeah…so, can you leave now?” he asked tentatively. Dori seemed to consider it, but then in typical childish manner, decided to do things her own way. Humming, she skipped around, looking at everything in his house. Then, it seems she caught sight of something he was trying to keep hidden.
“Why do you have a sword?” she asked, “can I see it? Is it enchanted? Are you a knight?” Shibi turned, hiding the sword behind his back again. “None of your business, no, I don’t know, and no.”
Dori pouted, crossing her arms, “you’re just as bad as my parents! Nobody lets me do anything!” Shibi turned back to her. “Listen, the sword is mine. This house is mine. Please, get out.” He held open the curtain for her to leave. Dori relaxed her stance.
“Answer one question. Why do you have it, and why is everyone afraid of you?”
“That’s two questions and…” here, Shibi hesitated, “I…I don’t know. I have to go. Please put my books back where you found them and leave.”
“Wait! I don’t know where they go! Stay and put them away with me, and then we can go play!” Dori exclaimed, persistent. She grabbed hold of his sword, and a shiver ran down his spine. He felt the overwhelming need to get away. His breaths quickened, and his heart was beating loudly in his chest. Shibi wrenched it from her grasp and looked around, his gaze resting on The Woods. Nobody was supposed to go into them, and no matter how fearless Dori was, she wouldn’t follow him there.
He took off at a sprint for the trees, adrenaline coursing through his body. Get away, get away, get away!
When the only sound he could hear were his own heavy inhales, he stopped and doubled over, gasping for breath. The rush of energy that had kept him going abandoned him, and he started to think more clearly again. Why had he run into the Forbidden Woods? There were beasts, both magical and mundane that would just love to gobble him up, and he was unarmed and vulnerable. He glanced down at his sword; well maybe not unarmed, but he was still lost. He didn’t have food, water, or shelter either.
Suddenly, a voice, smooth and menacing, whispered in his ear, “draw the sword; embrace your power.”
Shibi snapped his head around, but he couldn’t see anyone. “Hello? Where are you? Who are you?”
“Oh, dear boy. You ask such silly questions.”
There was a whoosh of wind, and a rustle of leaves. Shibi spun around, eyes frantically searching for the owner of the mysterious voice. He shivered, his hair on end. The voice felt so familiar, but so wrong.
“The clock is ticking,” the voice sang, and Shibi decided that it was not his friend.
“If you think I should unsheathe the sword, that gives me another reason not to!” Shibi said.
The voice sighed, “you force my hand, child.”
At that second, he heard the beat of ginormous feet tearing through the undergrowth. Shibi grabbed a large branch from the ground and held it in front of him like a weapon. He stuck his sword into the waistband of his pants.
“How are you going to fight off the beast without drawing the sword? Unsheath it if you want to live!”
“No!” Shibi choked out, limbs quaking in fear. The Voice just chuckled, an eerie noise. It seemed almost remorseful, only adding to the ethereal moment. “Wait until your stomach churns in fright. Wait until you feel Death's jaws around your throat. Just wait. And then, you will gladly draw the sword.”
Shibi backed slowly into the darkness, trying to get away from whatever was coming. He put his back against a large tree; that way it could only attack from the front. Hopefully, it wouldn’t even come to that, though. He held the branch in front of him, held his breath, and focused on being as quiet and still as physically possible.
Then, the beast came into sight. It was huge; easily 10 feet tall and just as wide. It had cat-like eyes, an almost reptilian face, and a hairy, ursine body.
“It is looking for you. Ready to draw the sword yet?” The Voice said gleefully. Shibi stiffened in fear, but the beast didn’t react. Could it not hear? Shibi shifted back and forth, and a twig snapped under his weight. Its head snapped up, and Shibi gasped. That ruled out that possibility. So why didn’t it react when The Voice spoke? Unless… no. That’s impossible.
Shibi focused, and then thought as ‘loudly’ as he could, “are you in my head?”
For a moment, there was nothing. Maybe, Shibi had finally gone crazy. Maybe fear had melted his brain. Then, clear as day, “took you long enough to realize. No need to ‘shout’, though. I can hear all of your thoughts regarding me; not only the ones you make an effort to project.” Well, that was news. He would have to more carefully monitor his thoughts. How did one control their own thoughts, anyways? “Don’t be mistaken, I am as real as you, not just a figment of your imagination.”
“You--you sent that monster after me. Why? You don't want me dead, do you?” Shibi thought-said, eyes still attempting to track the beast in question.
Again, there were a few beats of silence before the Voice spoke. “You won’t die if you are what I think you are. If you are who I think you are. If you can use the sword, you’ll be strong enough. If you can’t, or won’t. . .well then, I don’t believe I have any connection to you.”
How is it that with just a sentence, the Voice could make his knees shake and his blood boil? “I don’t need my sword, I don’t even need to fight! I’ll just stay quiet ’till it goes away. I’m not gonna be some pawn!” Shibi thought-said to The Voice.
“I will tell it where you’re hiding. Your only choice will be combat. And you won’t even make a dent with that twig.”
Shibi practically bristled, grip tightening on his branch. “Oh yeah? You don’t know me! I told: you I’m not your plaything!”
Then, something threw him off his game. He heard… nothing. The birds had stopped chirping, the bugs had stopped buzzing. It was like even the wind had halted.
He had lost focus. Where had the creature gone?
Shibi twitched. That noise had come from behind the tree. He took a deep breath in, and then exhaled carefully. “Ok Shibi,” he thought to himself, “take it slow. You got this. Just turn around and….” He froze.
The beast’s head was wider than the trunk of the tree, and it was staring right. at. him. How did it get there so quickly? So silently? Then it dawned on him. The Voice had been distracting him; waiting for him to get so absorbed in their conversation he would drop his guard. Now that he was focusing, Shibi could feel the warmth of its breath on his body. His hair being blown back by the creature’s exhales. Its tongue flickered in and out, scenting the air.
“Don’t show fear. If it thinks you are afraid, it’ll attack,” Shibi told himself; not that it did much good. His instincts screamed at him to run, hide, anything! He was shaking like a leaf, and the taste of bile was strong in his mouth. He crouched into a defensive position, legs wide and eyes forward. The beast opened its mouth; revealing razor sharp teeth. Shibi screamed as it pounced, pinning him to the ground. A glob of saliva the size of his face dribbled out of the creature's mouth, and the Voice’s words twisted about in his head, “you won’t die…if you use the sword.”
Against his better judgment, and though his body yelled at him not to, he drew his sword from its sheath.
Carter Hall pipe tobacco sits in a metal tin. It's like a paint can; the lid has to be pried off. The manufacturer included a little attached tab for that purpose.
I open it every now and then. Inside, a treasure of North Carolina soil and sunshine rests in a foil pouch.
The foil pouch was bought within the last two years. The can itself was new when "Just Say No" was the catchphrase of the day, and the moonwalk was all the craze. Better days?
Or just older days?
This metal can was found on a trip Back Home. When it found me, I was a time-traveller. Once opened, the faintest hint of tobacco was riding barely beneath the surface of consciousness and memory.
I brought it back with me. I purchased new tobacco to keep in it, but not to smoke. I sometimes simply open the can and inhale.
He was a stevedore, but that was just a job. He was more, and he was less. He was an alcoholic, but he was more, and he was less.
He was born before the Great Depression. When Uncle Sam demanded his help in the Philippines, he didn't shy away. He didn't volunteer, but he didn't run when he was called to do his job.
He spent his days in the jungle, hiding from the Japanese and laying railroad track. When I asked him what he did in the War, his rheumy blue eyes looked past me, through me, into me. He saw people forty-years dead, he heard whispers in the dark from half a globe away.
"I was an engineer," he said, half-coughing in his rusty voice. That gray tobacco smoke billowed as he sought distraction from the nosy boy surrounded by the ghosts of yesterday.
He explained that the railroad was important. He had to build it, he had to guard it, but then he had to destroy it. Thoughts of army movies played in my mind where recruits are made to dig a hole, then fill it in, then dig it again as some sort of punishment. I asked him if it was like that.
"It was like that, but with people dying."
I didn't ask him again.
After he passed away, I inherited his home. As I was cleaning up and packing things for donation, I stumbled across a shoebox.
He always wore ankle boots, brown leather, with a zipper. A creature of habit, every two years like clockwork he went to the same place near where he worked on the docks. There, he bought two pair of boots after riding the elevator to the third floor of the old-school department store.
That store is a bar now. Trendy loft apartments fill the third floor.
Inside that shoebox, I found a small cardboard box, the kind that would have held earrings or maybe a necklace. Underneath that box, a few black and white photographs of jungle canopy and destroyed buildings. Written in his award-winning hand writing (I found the Penmanship Award from his elementary school days) was a note that read, "This is what war does."
I took the small box in hand, and I pulled off the top. My heart skipped a beat.
Five silver teeth gleamed in the dim lamp light.
He was a fireman. He was a soldier. He was a smoker, a drinker, a hard man with a calloused softness. He was generous and unkind, he was gentle and he was not.
He was my grandfather, the best one I ever had.
He was less, and he was more.
In the darkness of the night, I lay in my bed, my mind racing, a million things in my head, flashing back to moments of regret, wishing I could turn back time and forget. But I know deep down, it's too late now, I'm about to die. The memories flood my mind, a torrential wave, of laughter and tears, of hope and of grave, of moments that defined me, good and bad, as I lay here, alone and terribly sad. I wish I could go back, and make things right, to say the things I left unsaid, but it's too late now, the end is near, I can feel it, death is almost here. And as I take my final breath, I know, that the memories will stay with me, and grow, forever etched in my mind, my heart, and my whole. I wish I could say that I have grown, but deep down inside, I'm all alone, there's something about it, maybe it's just all I've ever known, it doesn't matter, I'm about to turn the stone. So let this be a lesson to all, young and old, to live life to the fullest, to take chances, and never fear, because life is short, and death is near.
Adventurous Spirit 8
Adventurous Spirit 8
Back at Nicks place for sale Ari and Essie looked over the backyard garden and came to the conclusion that if it were cleared and raised beds with a sitting bench built in it could be very well
managed by anyone of any age.
There would be room for cutting flowers, herbs and small daily vegetables. With suitable paths and patches of easy to groom lawns it would be an easy maintenance chore.
"I think that shade tree is a beautiful old olive. The trunk looks like an olive. I'll have a landscape friend of mine come look at and make sure it can be pruned a bit and saved." said Ari.
"Yes, back in the states the older homes always had a picnic table in the back seating 8 to 12. We all loved gathering out there under the trees in the summer.
Such fun memories with my real family. They are mostly all gone. Now it's the selfish ones I do not know or trust." replied Essie.
Ari squeezed Essie's hand saying gently "Now you have Maria and I and other new and true friends. You will not forget your old friends Remember;
“Old friends, like old shoes, are comfortable.
But old shoes, unlike old friends, tend not to be supportive:
it is easier to stumble and sprain an ankle while wearing a pair of old shoes than it is in new shoes, with their less yielding leather.”
"That was from Alexander McCall Smith."
"Yes clapped Ari"
The two of them heard a gruff voice saying:
Yiasou Ari and Maria. Happy to see you. Come see all the fish I caught."
Nicks Papa was back. His friends helped him with the fish catch.
He thought Essie was Maria at first then he asked who the good looking lady with Ari was.
By the time the fish was cleaned and packed away in ice and Essie introduced to Zeus, Nicks father Rasmussen,
Sophia and Omega drove up to the house.
Ari and Essie proceed to show them the house and their plans to renovate. They were so excited at the possibility of living in a 4 bedroom house and a garden for Mama there were tears of joy streaming down Sophia and Omegas faces.
Essie excused herself and asked Nick if it would be OK to bring the ladies over to sit in his backyard under the shade tree.
Zeus heard them and knowing his son would say yes hurried into the house to make coffee and bring out some sweets he had just purchased at a local market.
When Nick came into the kitchen to see what his Dad was up to he laughed when he said:
“ If Ari wants to buy let him.
Did you see her Mama? What a sweet lady she must be.
I'll even help with clean up.”
“Oh, Papa let me help with the tray and coffee pot. You bring the cups.”
Outside Maria and Essie tended to the ladies making them comfortable. All the backyard cats that belonged to Zeus gathered around hoping for their treats.
“Oh what lovely cats said Omega. I do hope if we move here I can have a kitty to keep me company. Are they all yours?”
Zeus stammered out their names: Pepper, Crackers Bella, and Duffy. What about the little white one over there?
Under the woodpile. Kind of hidden under that big salt lick.
Oh, that's a new one to me. I never saw it at all.
Let's name her Salty.
Yes you have a Pepper so why not a Salty?
Ari looked at Nick who looked at Rasmussen the three men all put their hands out touching and said: Deal.
Essie went over to Ari and the two took hands and danced around in circles.
Mari was totally confused. She was happy for the Taverna owners to find suitable lodging. Especially right next to her good friend Nick.
She was also happy Zeus and Omega, who were close I age would become friends.
Maybe Essie was happy because she would have some employment.
She still had a perplexed look on her face when Ari hugged her saying:
Sissy we don't like frowns on your cute face. Come here Essie let's let Sissy in on our secret.”
Essie came over saying: Remember when I said I liked I at your house so much I never wanted to leave.
You said you wished I would stay as long as I wanted?
Well dear new friend I'm going to stay. I'm going to help Ari with the repairs that I know how to do with this rental of his. I will live upstairs rent free. In exchange for that I will be caretaker here.
We are going to make a lift with a sturdy and safe seat for you to visit. There are four bedrooms downstairs and four upstairs. You can even stay over if you wish. The smallest bedroom will be my tiny office. I am so happy I can't wait to get to work.
© Julia A Knaake
Loneliness had disfigured him. That was what he concluded, when he failed to recognise the skeletal face as his own. They had warned him that the night shift was deeply unhealthy, that the strange hours would meddle with his circadian rhythm. But that didn’t quite explain it. He wasn’t tired. If anything, he felt too alert. It was the world that had become catatonic.
When he first began, he could not recognise this. For months, he tried his best to rouse some life back into the world. But it would not be woken. At this time of night, people would not meet his eye, much less be coaxed into small talk. Now, the old world felt far away, a memory of a memory, and he no longer recalled how to return.
This deep into the evening, the ferry was empty except for the dregs of the night that had at last been turned out from the bars. The air hung heavy with cold and all was silent, aside from the creak of corrugated metal as the craft drifted toward the jetty.
There was no one there to moor the boat, and he had long ago given up. So, taking his motionlessness as cue, the passengers got up, crossed the threshold, and staggered off into the night.
Now came the wait. For forty-five minutes, he was compelled to sit until it was time for the next crossing. Rarely would even a single passenger alight. The wait made him uneasy. He feared that one day, the night would finally take the opportunity to swallow him completely. But, it was his job to ferry anyone needing to cross, and so he would wait in the dark.
It was as the engine began sputtering back to life, that a lone figure came over the hill. The ferryman watched the man pick his way down, the long grass rustling with each step.
“Are you still taking people across?”
Coins clinked as they exchanged hands, the propeller began to stir, and before a full minute had passed, the craft had pushed off from shore.
Despite the gentle rocking of the water, the ferryman kept his eyes fixed ahead. The river had a nasty habit of guiding the boat into the shallows and the jagged stones protruding from its bed.
“Do you like your work?” The question took a moment to register; he wasn’t accustomed to the passengers speaking.
“Must be nice. Freeing. Out here in the night, just you and your boat,” the words came out in a sigh.
The ferryman glanced at the man: thinning hair, crumpled white shirt, a grave look on his pallid face. “Its got its perks... but sometimes a little too much freedom,” he added.
“Nothing to keep me anchored.”
“Oh. That’s disappointing,” the man said with a pained sincerity. “I would have thought…”
“As did I. But now? Well, the nights drift by.” The remark hung heavy for a while and neither man made an effort to resurrect it.
“Y’know,” a squeak from the bench revealed the man had stood up, “I shouldn’t even be out this late. I’ve got work tomorrow, things to do. HR’s told me, if they don’t see an improvement, they’re going to let me go.”
“So, why are you?”
“I don’t know,” the man rubbed his eyes. “It makes me feel alive, I guess. I need something that feels different. Everything beyond this, it just doesn’t feel real anymore.”
At this, the ferryman looked away, and from the corner of his eye, watched his passenger approach the railing. He stood there gazing at the water, slackened neck-tie flailing in the wind, its tongue flapping against the sullen red marks that encircled his neck.
“It's this or go to sleep I guess,” the man confessed. Never married, I don’t have kids, it’s just me and the flat.”
The ferryman felt a pang of pity. “We all have to sleep eventually,” he offered.
The man looked back at him hard, the greys of his eyes shimmering in the scant moonlight. “And you?”
“What about me?”
“Family, kids, anyone waiting for you?”
The ferryman shook his head, ignoring the vague lapping feeling within, “None of that matters past a certain point.”
The already faint light of the shore had, by now, long ago receded into the distance. Without it, the chill became apparent. His passenger broke out into bouts of shivering. From deep within, the ferryman felt the lapping rise to a dull ache, yet he said nothing. There wasn’t much point at this rate.
Having shuttled thousands across, the ferryman knew where they were from instinct.
“We’re here.” A moment later, a small bump brought the boat to a standstill.
The darkness was so thick, neither man could make out the land that lay before them. Together, they waited, alone except for the ever stretching silence. The passenger’s teeth were no longer chattering.
He turned to the ferryman, “I don’t want to get off.”
The ferryman did not meet his eye. “I know,” he said, “but, this is the end of the line.”
Lady Prose and the Flame Lord Go To the Poconos Part 2
aka the Party Mix
Lady Prose stepped into the tent as the Flame Lord continued his typing with the Clickety Clack. Clickety Clack. Clickety Clack. His eyes took on a mad gleam and his white teeth shone in an insanely evil grin.
”What’s he typing?” The Wolf Den asked.
putski looked over his shoulder to see the bizarre phrase repeated ad nauseam. “All work and no play makes the Flame Lord want to burn things. All work and no play makes the Flame Lord want to burn things.”
The tent flap lifted and MeeJong stepped out, but her body was covered with green scales, her eyes had become golden, her teeth sharp, and two massive wings extended from her back. She’d become a dragon.
The Wolf Den and her companions took several steps back as the Flame Lord stood beside MeeJong. His skin had also become scaly green and he also had huge dragon wings. Flames shot out of his eyes and mouth as he and MeeJong said in unison. “Come play with us. Come play with us. Forever and ever and ever…”
”Oh shit” Shells muttered.
The Wolf Den started to convulse. Long gray hair grew out of every inch of her body as her snout extended and sharp teeth grew. She howled at the moon as putski, the Pearl, and Shells also became werewolves. They showed their claws and prepared to pounce. “Oh we’d love to play with you” the Wolf Den said.
”Wait” MeeJong said. “I don’t think you understand what I meant when I said come play with us.” She produced two bottles of bourbon with a grin as the Flame Lord pulled out a huge joint and a lighter.
The Wolf Den smiled. “Now we’re talkin’”
And a black snake slithered towards them and in a puff of smoke, took the form of a beautiful woman. “Am I late to the party?” Mamba asked.
And the seven of them sat around the camp fire, drank and smoked, and talked about women with three nipples, midget clown porn, creative ways to commit suicide, and which arch villains they wanted to fuck. And the only things that were killed were six bottles of bourbon and an ounce of weed.
Or is it?
You're driving and I'm beside you, my bare right foot propped up on the dash. I hike up my sundress, the sun feels good on my skin.
You look over and smile at me, your eyes bright. I don't even know where we're going today. I'm just in a blissful state knowing we're together, finally.
You reach over and slide your hand over my knee, along my upper thigh, pushing the hem of my dress out of the way. Stopping there and squeezing for a few moments. I love the feel of your firm grip.
It occurs to me that other drivers may see us. Maybe even truckers with their elevated view. Good for them, I think. To think we may be seen just makes me more horny.
Your finger starts tracing my lips, exploring each curve enticingly. I recline my seat just a little bit to allow you better access.
I can hardly believe all the delicious feelings you're creating with just one fingertip. You gently press on my hardened button, swollen with sweet anticipation. I'm powerless against the firm, tight circles you start making there.
I shudder with a small orgasm and feel slightly self-conscious as your fingertip encounters my quick wetness. You laugh and raise your fingertip to your mouth, lick it thoughtfully, and then return to me, plunging in.
You are enjoying my silky smooth, wet folds as you slide in two fingers and leave them there briefly for me to enjoy. I squirm and squeeze against them tightly, savoring the feel of each knuckle as I eagerly envelop them with my wet heat.
You soon begin to work me rhythmically. Little sounds escape me and my back arches involuntarily as I can't hold it back much longer. I need more. I need you.
I beg you to pull over so I can feel your face in my lap, your mouth covering my lips, and so I can grind my swollen clit against your tongue. I can’t handle another second of your fingers teasing me. I'm sitting up now, quivering on your fingers, soaking wet, hotly pulsating, holding your hand tightly to me, squirming, squeezing, trying to bounce, begging you as my leg shaking orgasm builds—
My own noises wake me up. I'm naked and sweaty. Writhing against a body pillow, wet fingers working furiously, panting, reaching for invisible you.
Nostalgic bygone days
Formative years whiled away within once bucolic hamlet of Arcola. I feel grateful reelin in the growing up years living within picturesque Arcola. Half a century ago, then said rural enclave comprising about half dozen farms dotted the landscape. Boyhood decades idly lapsed, where yours truly crossed the bridge guarded by trolls. They asked for sweet proceeds purchased a short jaunt to reach penny (once upon time dime a dozen) candy store. Said mecca ideally suited local kids to congregate. Primary usage constituting repurposed old house mainly functioned as sectioned off portion quasi country post office, whereby hubbub older folks met up to chit chat plus satisfactorily, singularly, and adequately stoking, kickstarting, buzzfeeding... gossip monger. Nowadays former generations of Ashenfelter's, Elliot's, and Troutman's of family farms long since industrialized housing headquarters for Glaxosmithkline, Pfizer, and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, while suburban sprawl (think vinyl city) practically sprouted up like mushrooms overnight. Though long since kicked out nesting coup (lack of wings found yours truly an anomaly among other healthy member viz birth family), I rarely visited picture postcard (think Currier and Ives) boyhood happy non hunting grounds. No matter nary a shred reminiscent of idyllic landscape intact, I treasure precious memories that figuratively swell mine heart and soul with peaceful easy feeling. Prepubescent phase of mine luxuriated wildlands, that witnessed Canadian geese, (I could distinguish their honk that's how) made temporary layover flocking to well secluded pond withal, veritable garden of Eden marsh/wetland. Both parents grew up within urban jungle. Father loathed the city (Brooklyn), but mother throve while reaching maturity, (albeit physical) bound within Coney Island, methinks Canarsie a bedroom community. Both favored raising future (pluperfect) family where more open space offered markedly greater breathing, living and playing room. Thus veritable, impressionable, and formative days of yore steeped within pastoral (reed critical) environment even Ludwig Van Beethoven would approve. Distress (witnessing yours truly teetering on cusp of puberty) arose in part toward radical transformation, viz home turf. Outward change, vis a vis industrialization overlaid charming near pristine woodland plus anatomical metamorphosis ushered whooping psychological hiccups. Once again, a belated appreciation toward parents woke during decades into adulthood. They willfully, proactively, and instinctively, intervened to prevent their sole son withering away to nothing courtesy anorexia nervosa.
These latter days (unsaintly) reflect more self anger at depriving me to experience healthy development of body, mind and spirit. Despite gripped with suicidal pretentions mine corporeal essence remained robust. Never did I suffer the scare of severe medical illness. Nope, not even the flu infected thy susceptible fragile shrinking vulnerable being, which generally fit as a fiddle constitution prompts me to declare such unequivocal assertion. Another reason (aye sup prose) to count my blessings. Nsync with vibrant immunologic system, I managed to avoid any broken bones. As a rather tentative, reserved, hesitant cute little boy averse against risk, et cetera child, no litany of childhood battle scars punctuates a rather unexciting, safe ploy limiting braving gung ho demeanor. Many an emotional debility more than made up (adequately compensated) for common mishaps associated with fancy free and footloose (blistering) innocent early existence. These mental health issues (biochemical, hence congenital) quarks did wreak havoc within academic and interpersonal aspects. Public education (no matter classed as non crowded) presented torturous endeavor. Though mom and dad gravely concerned at nearly failing one after another grade, they raised raised a ruckus regarding abysmal low marks. Yes, their leniency toward my apathy certainly acknowledged now, though fashionably late within thine three score years since birth. These belated kudos also extend to being pleasantly surprised when birthday rolled around. Even when either sibling of mine, (an elder and younger sister) got feted asper notching another orbit around sun, mother also gave the other two progeny, whose special day an approaching or months in the future happening. She once explained, (perhaps even more than one occasion) her reasoning such, that she did not want one or the other kid (essentially both) to feel left out. Yea, I could tout her compassion as feeling thankful for doting (maybe even mollycoddling) this reserved, shy and during adolescence severely withdrawn male offspring. The bounteous trappings lathered lightly all three of us in stark contrast to dirt poor economic household molding predilections ill fate dealt mommy dearest. Disposition evinced toward yours truly (namely myself) would be less pleasant (rather abominable) once chronological arbitrary age of eighteen attained. Rather than adulation, there manifested abomination regarding my lack of motivation, integration, ambition, et cetera. Such unacceptable behavior intolerant, particularly toward mother. She vicariously recounted (and subsequently re-lived) her dismal girlhood, she being the youngest of four children. Morris Kuritsky (maternal grandfather), though learned as a tailor rarely earned adequate income to feed and clothe his hungry and poorly clad brood.
Rectitude with absent filial obligation does haunt me, especially since the two darling daughters I helped beget deeply affected by unemployed parent. Unbeknownst the satisfactory explanation (if any can be found) detailing why grandpa Kuritsky (long since deceased), his idleness most likely differs why Matthew Scott skirted seeking gainful employment, even shoveling horse manure. Social anxiety, (i.e. marked panic attacks) ran rampant and rent asunder one agonizing psyche, who now accepts in utero and/or neurological maladies that plagued most every breathing day since first screaming above decibel of tolerance, yet gratitude afforded personal counseling available in tandem with prescription medication that allow, enabled, and provided peace of mind to cope with cares and concerns of an uncertain world wide web.
Hindsight (always 20/20 versus 20/200 without glasses – bifocals – revisit "Time Enough at Last" the eighth episode of American television anthology series The Twilight Zone) softens harsh edges weathering blistering vitriolic populated ultimatums courtesy those who chose to bring me forth, and bare weaknesses inherent within these lovely bones, no fault of mine iterating insufferable misery. Actually, quite the contrary relationship with father. A widower nonagenarian (livingsocial at retirement community nestled with in sprawling Blue Bell) seems more gentler toward his aging baby boomer heir to the porcelain throne (think glorified toilet), and even sends money. He never assisted this troubled troubadour, when I hermetically sealed myself within safe bedroom. Now without me asking, he provided moderate financial assistance to sustain ten year old 2009 Hyundai Sonata, which original parts conk out one after another. Thank you very much papa.
Something in the Eyes (Part 01)
My own stories bore me.
I've lived them, turned about in their seams, and it seems all the magic is let out on the Night like a fluff of lint from the dryer... our tumbler of passion, forlorn and worn now like a shapeless garment subverting youth's bravado.
I wear the dark sky, Moth eaten. Searchlights are pouring in or out, I cannot be sure, but I can see the dust in which weeds are growing... like it never even happened!
Where could he go, having had his fill, of Nothing...?
And so this silent plea, in search of some new tireless wings to peer into each opening and stave off that heartless tomorrow, upon which every thread and limb of creation is hanging... with hunger.
Am I destined to fall into the moon, and rise with some withheld breath, like in a hot air balloon? I am looking out for that flittering creature with its harmless bite, and fluttering beating, like leaves parting in the window of the evening. I want to watch the interplay of Light and Shadows, of dreams catching up with Life.
Writer’s block? Try a mental laxative!
What is writer's block? Isn't it, in it's most honest terms, a lack of confidence in our ability (at the moment) to produce a decent piece of literature? Maybe you don't believe in yourself... maybe you don't believe in the message. Maybe you're just not sure how to convey the message in a way that's entertaining/gripping/believable.
What we have here is a self esteem problem, and the best way to get past that is to prove yourself wrong. Pick the simplest topic you can find-- something that you know so well you can write about it without even being fully awake. It's commonplace, it's relatable, it's undeniable. I give you... human excrement.
I took a crap the other day the size of Sudan. It was of a phenomenal-- dare I say, biblical-- proportion. I've often considered, mid-crap, investing in some kind of respirator for occasions such as these, and this particular episode got me to break out my phone right there on the john.
I was playing Mozart. Don't be gross. I mean I had Mozart playing on the Bluetooth speaker that's part of the overhead fart fan. (Awesome invention.) Lots of times, I'll play something grandiose, like the theme to Superman the Movie, and pretend I'm crapping for the fate of the free world! That's going to help you get through those unripe banana movements. I'll play Primus if things get weird-- you know when it's going to be weird-- and the baseline in "My Name is Mud" will make those hot-curry/Tapatio/why-did-I-eat-the-whole-bunch-of-grapes situations seem actually kind of enjoyable.
But, as I was saying, I was playing Mozart-- not the Marriage of Figaro-- that wouldn't inspire a Tootsie Roll. I'm talking about Sonata number 17... in C. Now that's going to get things moving! Sometimes I wonder if Amadeus was thinking about times like these when he composed #17. Maybe. By the time I emerged from the old W.C., my pants fit better, my step was lighter, my future seemed brighter.
Ok, I've made my point. If you're experiencing blockage, try writing about... experiencing blockage. There are so many different euphemisms for poop! Revel in them! Write about them. You'll be surprised at how easily you can crap out a masterpiece without really even trying. Then, all you have to do is change topics.
... and wash your hands.