by Wes Hansen

“So, you have these two events involving people jumping from tall structures and bouncing off of the pavement, that does seem significant. And the time between these events?”

“Approximately thirty years, thirty-three years to be exact.”

“Have you experienced any other events related to suicide that you would like to tell me about?”

“Well, what I would like doesn’t seem to have anything much to do with it. But yes, I do have; two other experiences, but I’ll tell you of one. Several years after hearing the Deadhead’s story, and walking through the most innocent-looking doorway – answering a help-wanted ad in the paper, I unwittingly end up ensnarled in a cult. This cult was supposedly based on an interpretation of Native American ritual generated by a few wealthy, white psychologists. I was pressured to join the cult but I refused. Things went south and I was experiencing a period of semi-self-imposed exile – a type of solitary confinement almost. I was teaching myself yoga and meditation, but I had these entities in my mind? I called them the Demons and the Jesters and I somehow knew that they were there because of this cult, due to pressure from the members of this cult. I could probably explain the physics, but most would consider it pathological. But it was real as real can be to me.

The Jesters were not so bad, because they had a sense of humor, even though I was always the butt of their jokes. But the Demons, man, they would just invade my mind and take me to the darkest depths of depression. Sometimes I would just lay on my bed, rocking myself back and forth, back and forth; it was all I could do. But then I discovered that I could quiet the Demons if I sat in a tub filled with water and cut my arms and legs open, if I bled until the water became soupy with blood. I developed these ropy scars, three on each forearm and three on each thigh. Like I was some kind of Warrior! Then I started cutting under my eyes, which is really an amazing thing to do.

I get locked up. I’m in and out of cages, homeless under bridges, back in the cage, homeless. I finally find myself living in a small patch of woods, north side of Houston, Texas. I have a truck that doesn’t run, its bed full of tools, a home office, shit I didn’t really need, and a little bit of money. When I ran out of money, feeling sorry for myself, I resolved to not eat until something happened, societally, to rectify the situation I was in, or else I died. I had fasted for 14 days, back when I was dealing with the Demons, but that was a juice fast. This was a difficult fast! Every day I would just sit under a bridge by this small bayou and watch the turtles and fish swim by. The bayou expanded out to a small swamp/pond under this bridge and there was a huge, HUGE, bullfrog living there. This bullfrog was so huge, whenever it would jump it sounded like a brick – a cinder block, hitting the water! So here I am just sitting and fasting.

After 14 days of sitting and fasting my mind became quite agitated and I knew that I was going to be cutting. So I took my blades and went and sat under the bridge. I started cutting, my eyes first, then my arms, and last my legs. I was cutting really good – I mean deep, and I was laughing the whole time and I just knew that I was going to just keep cutting until there was no return. All of a sudden, a little girls voice enters my head and says, “Mommy help!” As soon as I heard that little girls voice that big bullfrog started to croak! If you’ve ever heard a bison bull during rut, that’s what that frog sounded like! I zoned in on that bullfrog’s croak like a mantra without even really being consciously aware of it and my mind just immediately began to fill with images – visions.

I grew up in the Midwest, along the Medicine Creek and there was a piece of property along the Medicine my father used to farm and run cattle on; I really loved that property. Anyway, I saw that property in my mind and it was covered with bison; then I saw the birth of a white bison calf; then I saw that same property covered with people from all walks of life and from all the tribes – white, yellow, black, and red. There was a Wiwanyag Wacipi, the gazing-at-the-sun dance, and a Kalachakra ceremony taking place both at the same time. I was a dancer in the Wiwanyag Wacipi. I know it sounds crazy, but it was just my own vision. And, really, it’s not so crazy. Both the Wiwanyag Wacipi and the Kalachakra are micro-representations of the macrocosm; the dancing leaf tree, which provides the sun dance pole, sends out prayers with its rustling leaves, just as prayer flags do, half way around the world. So, it’s not so crazy. I was tethered to the pole, and as I pulled on the eagle talon and tether connecting my heart to the pole, an actual eagle appeared in the sky above, and it dove down at me. Just before it slammed into me, it started to flap its wings really hard, it grabbed the talon in my flesh with its own, and it ripped it from my flesh! The feeling was just indescribable! As that eagle flew away from me, I collapsed on the ground, and the sun dance chief knelt down beside me and whispered my name, my Medicine name – Walks with Turtle.

Turtle is not only the progenitor of all living creatures, but the entirety of creation rests on Turtle. In Buddhism circles, Turtle represents a high spiritual state, retraction into its shell representing a turning inward. But the shell, the Turtle shell, in that it protects, is really a metaphor for Mantrayana. And, perhaps, more superficially, Turtle represents the long view, the long view of bodhicitta.

At any rate, I came out of that vision hungry! It was late at night and I felt as if I were being directed to a filling station not far away, the only such establishment for miles around. They had recently installed a small Subway counter within. I looked in the dumpster and there was a tuna-salad sandwich, still wrapped up and lying on top of the trash, like it had been placed there intentionally. Turtles like tuna; so do crows and ravens. I broke my fast with that sandwich and it was one of the best tasting sandwiches I have ever experienced.”

“Okay, fine, but how does this relate to the suicides bouncing off of the pavement?”

“Well, I don’t really know for certain, other than they all occupied the same mindstream at various points in time. Perhaps it’s just contrast, compare and contrast? But the story is not through; it leads directly back to Kukkuripa, the Mahasidda who must have lived with numerous dogs.”

“Kukkuripa, the mad yogin who consorted with a bitch? He was a zoophiliac, was he not?”

“No, that’s the ordinary, mistaken view. In the Secret Mantrayana practice it is said that the result of tantra is like a snake in a hollow bamboo: you either exit out the top – omniscient Buddhahood, or out the bottom – the hell realms. To think that Kukkuripa literally took a bitch as a tantric consort is ludicrous; he became an omniscient Buddha, a dynamic display of the Trikaya.

Shortly after I broke my fast, I was gifted a small bitch! I was living in the woods at the end of a dead-end street, not far from a city dump. People would be heading to the dump, see that dead-end street, and save $40 by dumping their trash at the end of the street. They would also quite often drop unwanted pets – dogs invariably. I woke up one morning and there was a female puppy, a beautiful little mutt, crying and whining, trying to get in to my sleeping quarters. Like Kukkuripa, I started feeding her. In Kukkuripa’s time, there were no free spay and neuter clinics, so clearly he must of ended up feeding an entire pack; this is what happened to me.

I named that female pup Moon, and I tried to get her spayed but I needed proof of financial difficulty, i.e. government aid such as SNAP or Medicaid, which I didn’t have. I was pulling my food out of dumpsters behind a grocery and didn’t think to collect scrap, so that I could pay to have her spayed. She invariably became pregnant due to a beautiful feral male I called Billy the Kidd. She had 13 pups, 11 of which survived. I fed the dogs by collecting dog and cat food from dumpsters behind pet stores and meat from grocery stores, which I cooked on an Old Smoky.

One of the pups was a tiny little, all white female I called Purity, and she was The Moon Cult Priestess. These hounds started a moon worshiping ritual, during which, at every full moon they would go into a clearing, the females off to one side, the two males and Purity in the middle; Purity would give a yap, yap, yap and the males would start howling at the moon and the females would just get all excited – jumping, biting, playing, the kind of things that dogs do.

At first, I was irritated and would get up and tell them to shut up, which had no effect whatsoever. On the third occasion, I got up and went and joined in with the males and Purity, howling at the moon after Purity did the yap, yap, yap. The hounds were just ecstatic at that and that single event earned me their complete trust. Purity and my big male Nadua started to communicate with me telepathically!

I first became aware that Nadua was capable when he was about nine months old. I used to bring treats home from the grocery dumpsters to the dogs quite regularly, sometimes stew bones and sometimes silly stuff like candy bars. My telepathic male could care less about candy bars but the girls loved them.

One day I was working on a project, sitting in a chair, and my telepathic male came up, sat down on his haunches next to me, and looked at me intently. I looked over at him, patted his head and scratched his ears, said, “what’s up buddy,” took a drink of coffee, and went back to painting. He just kept sitting there, looking at me intently, so I completely stopped what I was doing and looked back at him – intently.

I immediately felt this conscious and aware presence enter my mind; it was a presence that was clearly distinct from all of my multiple personalities and I could tell it was searching my memory. I knew this intuitively but it was taking place in my own head. When it found the memory it was looking for, that memory became my awareness and it was a memory of me feeding candy bars to the dogs! My male was asking me if I had any candy bars for the girls. I got up, fed the girls some candy bars, and everyone was happy!

Dogs hide a lot from humans – can’t say that I blame them much since humans are oftentimes unpleasant! Their primary form of communication is telepathic and they have a very rich social fabric. Naturally, I couldn’t properly care for all of my dogs, I fed them and that was about it, but they seemed rather happy. Sometimes feral dogs would show up and my dogs would eat them, other times they get treated like old friends. I was never able to figure out what distinguished the friends from the dog-eat-dog meals. Eventually, through breeding and collecting feral dogs, I ended up feeding forty-two feral hounds, which is certainly what must have also happened to Kukkuripa. I was unaware of Kukkuripa at the time. But imagine my surprise when, several years later, I read about Kukkuripa in The Snow Lion’s Turquoise Mane. Even though I am Nyingmapa, I feel a karmic connection.”

“What, I am afraid to ask, happened to the dogs?”

“They were collected and euthanized by the county, Harris County. I was caring for twenty-seven at the time.”

“How did you feel about that?”

“Well, I walk with Turtle, but I still felt terrible. What bothers me more is folks like you, academics and medical professionals with numerous hours of formal education, standing around wondering if animals are conscious, if they are self-aware.”

 

 

by Wes Hansen

 

∃x(∀y, y↔x)

I’m just not mathematically inclined; quite the opposite, every equation is a war. I’m bleeding right now.

I have a small pair of vice-grips which I use to clamp down on my flesh. I pull the flesh taunt for piercing; the needles slide right through. The needles are six gauge, especially made for piercing, surgical stainless steel. The octopus hooks are six gauge and stainless steel also. The barbs have all been filed off and polished to a sheen; cold worked by a metals master – Black Sheep Suspension. The needles are hollow to accommodate the tapered hooks. When the hooks are inserted they form a natural handle which seats in the palm of one’s hand, ideal for thrusting.

Sometimes I jam through fast, inspired by angst or disgust, inducing a Super Nova mind blast thrill kill smash like freestyle hate mail delivered direct to the neo-cortex – maybe. Other times I jam through slow, inspired by Love, inducing thirty-three miles of road rash skin peel screamer like freestyle love poems delivered direct to the same module – onto, equivalence class, pain set, endure. When jamming through slow one encounters distinct layers of epidermis and distinct gradients of pain; it’s a scientific investigation – psychological semantica – of a pragmatic bent. Some say a relative, utilitarian truth but really they’re wrong. I’m bleeding right now.

After the hooks are set I start cutting, three fountains carved on each arm and each leg and under each eye. Cutting the face is the best and it bleeds the most – freely. By the time I’m finished I’m generally sweating profusely and feeling rather High, as in sensory enhanced mind bending to dissolution – no scientific concerns. It’s really quite elegant in simplicity; a simple form of free expression where audience and performer are one – circular. Yeah, hang out and bleed for as long as endurance allows. It’s a proof without an axiomatic system – true spirituality. Sometimes words just get in the way …

For instance, I haven’t had a meaningful conversation … well, hell, I didn’t have a conversation more than five minutes in duration, with another human, in almost fifteen years and I feel fine. But then I love to bleed; I love the pain; I love to breathe through the pain; I love to breathe consciously, with intent; I love to launch, to fly without a tether. Reality is not really what it seems. You see, I meditate on Death only to awaken the Mistress – Life.

The mysterious rhythm is a dance captured in awareness. I wish I could dance with such expression, with symbols and secret meanings, primitive and violent but violent without aggression – benign angst. Occasionally angst, diffused, catches the careless meanderer which will happen when fools try to convince those less foolish; try to teach and you may be taught … But then the insouciant horde society is naturally reposed in vicious circles

– the liar; don’t listen to the liar – 

anyway, reposed in vicious circles between being and not-being, that is becoming; it’s life blood a rhythm, music, raw, arrogant, yet somehow poetically refined in dissonant caves of reverberating feedback, loops returning to the antecedent from the consequent teaching those who teach how to teach that which has never before been taught.

You see, the teacher must remain the student or all is lost, a pointless discourse amongst fools. If you listen well and long enough, to the dissonant harmonies (sic), they begin to make sense, like flesh suspended and raining blood – Feed the Mistress (Life). As has been expounded upon before, deliverance from the thermodynamically induced nihilism demands extreme measures, measures without regard to the maximum principle, chaotic measures. These ill-founded measures generate incessant structure development where otherwise reigns bleached bone yards devoid of the ripe but putrid flesh necessary for continuance; you with your eyes staring vacantly off into who knows what hell, you know that empty kind of empty – not full empty but empty empty.

Yeah, well anyway, these structures, exquisite corpse on top of exquisite corpse, years of coagulated mind funk striated like psychedelic wafer crème cookies, sickenly sweet but brilliant, are perpetually dissolving into entropic tyranny

– the liar; don’t listen to the liar –

Damn the noise … Can anyone hear? The ghost of Russell …

Allow me to continue: the perpetual act of construction is all that drowns the existential claustrophobia induced by the imperturbable constance of the Lord (Death). But this construction takes root in fear, or desire, or, more aptly, some random convergence of both, some random convergence on some finite interval which can’t possibly be absolutely true. Do you see? Yes? Then feed what has been fed; teach what has been taught. You see, only through awareness can one transcend awareness because, obviously we know, without awareness there’s no-thing to transcend. I think only so that I can stop thinking.

So, I shall cease all thought; I shall dance expressively and communicate like a slayer screaming blood spittle hang endure … I shall feed the Mistress my exquisite corpse and the Mistress shall feed the insouciant horde – dreaming. We dream and the Cosm opens – flowers. We’re all bees chasing nectar and sometimes words are impotent. I have a small pair of vice-grips …

Yeah, you see, the pain, it takes the expression to the Universe, beyond the reach of mathematical symbolism. Out there, beyond the ether, there are no atomic decompositions; out there it’s a point particle, serene, expansive, justified, Singular. If one bleeds enough there is no in there/out there, it’s all fluid – condensate. Yeah, so, if you hear me screaming, know that I am good – as in, okay.

I’m just not mathematically inclined …

 

By Wes Hansen

“In every life there are these defining episodes, like chaotic attractors that suck you in and determine your entire trajectory. Due to consciousness, humans, and sometimes animals, can escape, but it requires a heroic act; some people call it Turning the Witches Wheel. You see, I am a curioso.”

“What does that mean, a curioso? Can you put this in psychological terms, terms that I can understand?”

“Probably not, at least not without convincing you that I am mad! If you’re not convinced already. A curioso is someone who has an actual and deep or subtle sense of the other than ordinary, where I use sense in the context of sensory. We see patterns, we sense patterns that normally go undetected. Scientists and medical professionals such as you, define pattern statistically; pattern is synonymous with repeatability. But Gregory Bateson described it better: pattern is a difference that makes a difference. It need not repeat; patterns can definitely be one-off. But to folks living in your world view, the scientific worldview, this is madness!”

“Okay, so give me some examples, examples related to why you and I are here in this interrogation room.”

“Well, we’re here in this interrogation room because the Beast doesn’t like curiosos! It really is that simple. Curiosos are impossible to control, simply BECAUSE we take the long view, the heroic view. People like you think I am the crazy one, but I refuse to serve the Black Emperor, while you do so willfully, if somewhat ignorantly. I refuse to serve the Black Emperor because doing so is truly crazy!”

“This Beast, or Black Emperor, that you speak of, this is our society?”

“No, the Beast is the ordinary, the illusion that refuses to acknowledge its own illusory nature. Society tends to serve the Beast, but it is not identical to, not even equivalent to; you serve society – and a very corrupt one at that, hence, you serve the Beast.”

“Hmm, science seeks objective knowledge, hence, our dependence on statistical convergence. But, assuming this is true for the moment, can you tell me about any of these “defining episodes” from your own life, maybe those that have resulted in us being here, in this situation, shall we say.”

“Certainly, I can tell you about two episodes that have seemingly become threads, they still course through my sensorium, wreaking havoc; I have not yet committed to the heroism necessary to thwart them. The first involves bestiality and the second suicide. These are patterns, but they are not necessarily statistical patterns, being correlated but not repetitions of the same. Objective knowledge, you see, is an illusion. Ignoring that for the moment, both of these threads were placed in my path by an entity called Dorje Shugden, but that would probably take us too far afield.”

“Dorje Shugden, you mean from Vajrayana Buddhism?”

“Oh, you have a familiarity with Dorje Shugden and Tibetan Buddhism?”

“Yes, well, strictly superficial, but yes, I am familiar. How did you manage to get on Dorje Shugden’s radar?”

“Well, by becoming a curioso, of course!?!”

“I see. Okay, back to these episodes which brought you here, shackled and seated across from me.”

“Okay, bestiality, how does it relate to zoophilia? Because the very first episode was bestial, but the continuity of the thread relies on zoophilia, perhaps. These are not the same, although they both involve sex acts between humans and animals. Bestiality is purely physical, but zoophilia involves actual affection; this is my unprofessional understanding.”

“Yes, this, too, is my professional understanding.”

“Have you seen the documentary, Zoo, then?”

“I haven’t seen it, but I have heard of it, read about it.”

“Yes, I am the same, I read about it, and this, reading about Zoo, technically a documentary about zoophilia, is an episode in the thread. The actual thread began when I was just a kid, nineteen years old. I grew up on a farm and ranch and had left home after high school. My father had employed a young, local boy, from a disadvantaged family, on a part-time basis, after school and week-ends primarily, this boy being a replacement for myself. My father raised hogs and, at the time, had a state-of-the-art farrowing barn, a barn filled with crates that tremendously restricted the movement of sows placed therein. Pregnant sows would be placed in these crates to give birth. In this manner, they were much less likely to lie on and, hence, kill their piglets. My father had set this boy up with a power-washer, spraying down the farrowing barn, this being necessary to prevent communicable disease. While the boy was so occupied, my father was hauling corn he had recently sold from the grain bin to the elevator some miles away. At one point, my father, having situated the truck under the auger and began the process of filling said truck with corn, decided to walk down and check on the boy, to see how he was coming on the power-wash. When he opened the door and walked in, he was immediately confronted with the sight of the boy engaged in sexual intercourse with a sow, the sow being trapped in one of these crates. He hollered at him, but I don’t really know what he did after that.”

“Your father told you about this?”

“Yes, one evening, right after I had arrived home for a visit. He told me and a couple of friends who had accompanied me. My mother had demanded the boy be exiled from the farm. But this, you must agree, was a rather extraordinary event, something you don’t immediately forget. It was a difference that makes a difference.”

“Yes, I can accept and understand that.”

“Good. So, several years later, after I was discharged from the military, I am in enrolled in an industrial arts program with a guy I knew while in the military. This guy has a wife and, hence, a somewhat normal apartment, which included a television. One day, he and I leave the school and go to his apartment for lunch, his wife being at work. This guy – not a friend, turns on the television and puts it on the Jerry Springer show, which is featuring formerly married couples and the pets who came in-between them. There was a woman on the show with a rather large Irish wolfhound, and this wolfhound had seemingly been the cause of her separation from her husband. Her husband was also on the show and they were going back and forth at one another, as guests on Jerry Springer’s show tended to do. At one point the woman, provoked by her former husband, retorts, “Well, at least he likes to cuddle after sex!” Everyone just kind of froze for a moment, including myself. It was quite clear that the lady had just admitted on national television to having sexual intercourse with her dog; now, knowing a bit more about the subject, I would consider this a clear case of zoophilia. I mean, they were cuddling after sex.”

“Yes, I would concur, and, having access to your record, I’m interested in where this is going?”

“You should already be able to connect the dots, truthfully?”

“Well, sure, but flesh it out for me if you would.”

“Okay, so, eventually I end up on the Beast’s radar, having refused to succumb once or twice too often, and I end up arrested for crimes that don’t even exist, a somewhat normal occurrence in the corrupted society you serve. I spend a copious amount of time locked up in jail, which is, in some ways, worse than prison. Of course, we all know about the snitch rings maintained in these jails, in spite of denials made by the Sheriffs and District Attorneys. At any rate, I make the mistake of telling a couple of people I’m locked up with about these episodes, the boy having sex with the sow and the lady having sex with her dog. This, of course, gets back to the people in charge of the snitch ring, because, as you must know, for reasons intimately related to the corruption you serve, these entities had me in their sights, so to speak. Being hell bent on destruction, they had to isolate me from any support structure I might be able to utilize. Of course, the only support structure I had available was my family, and they are even more corrupt than the Sheriffs and District Attorneys. At any rate, this thread had primed the propaganda machine, so these corrupt people concoct a story, and relay it to my family, about me having sex with my dog! Of course, my family believes it because they WANT to believe it, because IT IS CONVENIENT for them to believe it. But this is ultimately coming from Dorje Shugden, so it doesn’t stop there.

I get kicked completely out of society, out to the fringes; homeless, jobless, but not hopeless, because I am a curioso. I’m digging through the trash generated by others for a subsistence livelihood and one day I find a weekly magazine which covers art, music, and things of this nature. I am reading about a new album from some “noise” group and they reveal that they have dedicated this album to some engineer for Boeing who died while being anally penetrated by a stallion. When I read this, it made me sick to my stomach, because sex between a mare and a stallion is an extremely violent affair. I just could not fathom why someone would willingly involve themselves in such an act. The lead singer of the band says in the interview that they dedicated the album to the guy because he wanted something so badly that he was willing to die for it. Well, yeah, I mean, death was pretty certain, or so it seemed to me; more like suicide, right? I thought about it, and decided that it must be false, that no one would willingly submit to such  an act. So, I Google a few choice words and find the Wikipedia page for the documentary Zoo. And, naturally, I start to wonder, why is this thread in my sensorium?”

“Well, that’s something I can certainly understand; it is an interesting anomaly. Do you have any ideas?”

“Well, certainly so! I think it must be somehow related to the mahasiddha, Kukkuripa! Are you familiar with Kukkuripa?”

“No, please enlighten me.”

“Well, Kukkuripa was a tantric master, one of the original 84 Mahasiddhas of India, who consorted with a bitch he had found when she was near starved to death. He was escorted to the sensual heavens, but he had to leave the bitch behind, something he ultimately could not tolerate. He gave up the sensual heavens for the lowly bitch, but the bitch was, in actuality,  a sky-walker, the  Dakini, Niguma. And this always happens with Dorje Shugden, and petty tyrants in general. They throw these illusions at you in an attempt to make you suffer, but they don’t have the power to make anyone suffer. The only one who can make you suffer is you, where by “you” I mean the mindstream. The way through is to see through the illusion; to become a curioso.”

“Oh, goodness, I see, I do see how you could view this as either an element of the ordinary and, hence, suffer, or view this as other than ordinary and, hence, discover the profound! What is the other thread then? The one related to suicide.”

“Well, this is one I have yet to fully comprehend, although I imagine it has something to do with Amitabha, father of the Padma family whose element is fire, and self-immolation, but I am not yet certain. For sure there is a lesson, a profound lesson, here as well. Long ago, before I joined the military, I was on the Haight in San Francisco, near Golden Gate Park, while the Grateful Dead were in town; the Jerry Gracia Band was playing a small venue in Oakland, but I didn’t have money or a ticket. I had this pipe, an Italian pipe with ceramic bowl, silver bowl cap, and a curved, ebony stem. I was smoking a cherry tobacco with Mexican dirt weed mixed in. This Deadhead wanted that pipe really bad. He kept offering me better and better items for trade, but I was somewhat attached to the pipe. Finally, he offers me a beautiful polished amethyst, about the size of my thumb, and a quarter sheet – twenty-five hits, of LSD, and I accepted the trade. I dropped three hits  of the LSD myself, I gave three hits to another Deadhead – Caveman, that I had been traveling with, a hit to an Englishman I had also been traveling with, but who had never dropped acid before, and the rest of the LSD, Caveman and I handed out to random passerby; okay, hardly random. So, it turned into a small party, you might say, at least until the police showed up and started beating hell out of folks for no apparent reason.

One of the Deadheads I had just given a hit to had also just been given a really nice camouflage jacket, of the military issue type. He was all excited because prior to this all he had was a pair of trousers and shoes. I gave him a couple of extra shirts I happened to have and he was really ecstatic. He just started telling me his life story, which was rather spectacular. He was abandoned as a baby and had been raised in Catholic orphanages until age eight. At eight years of age, while in an orphanage near Beverly Hills, he was standing at a window, wishing he could go outside, when a woman jumped from a sky-scraper across the street. He told me that he wasn’t really aware of her until she hit the pavement in front of his window and bounced. That night he ran away from the orphanage and never went back. Of course, he was picked up by the Family and raised on the streets and in the woods.

Well, I had a hard time believing the woman bounced. I mean, humans, being more than ninety percent water, are like water balloons; they don’t bounce, rather, they go splat! But I didn’t say anything to contradict the guy, I just filed it away as improbable.

Over twenty years later, I’m living in the garbage, thanks to those who you serve. I had been doing this for close to 15 years and was rather tired of it. It was physically debilitating “work” and my body was becoming wreaked. I was walking down Eighth Street in Los Angeles with this large bag full of CRV slung over my shoulder, feeling sorry for myself, and as I approached Olive Street, with the Freehand Los Angeles Hotel there on the corner in the former Commercial Exchange Building, some dude jumped off the roof of the Hotel, landing in Eighth Street, just East of Olive and right in front of me. The dude bounced!?! I immediately dedicated all of the merit, if any, I had generated with 15 years of hauling recycling out of the garbage to the guy. And I apologized to the Deadhead, whose story I had doubted.

 

 

 

by Riman

A man with red hair broke into my house. He tried the back door first, as my father always leaves the garage open on summer days where the sun is scorching hot enough to turn it into an easy bake oven. I thought the man was there to kill me, so I begged my father to get one of his guns. My father owned 4 guns at the time. I saw him next to the gun safe juggling with shotgun shells. My father was a good person.

The man tried the front door second. My tiny hands fumbled with the lock but failed to latch it closed in time. The man walked into my house with no intention of murdering me. He came with a message.

He picked a tick oozing with blood off of my body. His eyes were swimming with malice.

“I am here to tell you that you are rotting. I can smell you from miles away. You smell like you have been raped a thousand times.” He told me.

The man with red hair, yellow teeth, and red skin grinned. My father stood speechless.

I felt sad and confused.

 

by Wes Hansen

 

   Drawing by Wes Hansen

 

The Beekeeper

 

 My true name – my Medicine name,

is Walks With Turtle.

And if, one day, someone were to inquire,

tell them I just came to see the garden,

but they told me there is no room here

for thorns.

It took them fifty years to tell me;

by then I knew the Beekeeper.

 

There was a painting, a large painting

which I started before I could finish

properly; I was dispossessed at the time.

In the painting there was a valley, a

broad valley, a very broad valley between

two streams of mesa such that a

Surrealist might enjoy. It was a

broad valley and the mesas all looked

edible in a chancy – perhaps psychedelic,

sort of way. They were evil like twinkies,

all fluff and syrupy goo, and there were black

knights on black horses serving the

Dark Lord of Disintegration

(I was dispossessed at the time) riding down

out of the fluff into the broad valley,

each carrying a long, lethal, black lance

and they were attacking the White Buffalo

and their intent was

to Kill.

 

The Buffalo, all White but for a redness

about here and there from lanced wounds,

was defending the Feminine Mound in the

Center ( the Center shall hold) of the broad valley,

destroying black knights and their steeds of evil

with compassionate fury and the mound,

the Feminine Mound, was surrounded by bones,

a bone yard, a charnel ground, and the

Lord and Lady were dancing there.

Of course they were

 

In the foreground of the painting, well within

the radius of the charnel ground, there was a warrior,

historical rather than mythical, a Marine

infantryman decked out for combat patrol.

But the Marine was disintegrating into a

self-organized cloud of polymorphic shapes

in all the bright colors. The cloud, an organized self,

was moving in a purposeful manner, tracing out

a global pattern in phase space which terminated

at/with the Oceanic realm, where myth becomes

mythologized.

As these polymorphic shapes embraced the Oceanic

they burst, they burst open at the forward end,

the purposeful end, and fully formed adult

butterflies emerged, colorful butterflies floating free.

 

There, just within the boundary of the Oceanic

was a black knight cowering on the ground

and towering above him a true Warrior, a

Spiritual Warrior, fully bearded and naked

but for a blood-red langouti, the sword of

death and discrimination drawn at his side

but his gaze and physical demeanor questioning

the Oceanic: Why? Why the death, the conflict, the

constant tension between brothers? Why the

Brother-Battle?

 

I was in the Marine Corps, a member of the Walking Dead, when it all began. I was intrigued

by the “Wall of Honor.” I had read the stories, each one several times, and was mesmerized

by the implied intensity, the brilliance of action thoroughly engaged without regard for

personal continuity. Many of those honored were mere boys, innocent fodder in a game

they couldn’t have possibly understood. But they cried berserkir and were carried to Val

Halla by their very own Valkyrie. I had dreams while browsing that hallway . . . boy did I have

dreams.

 

The girl drove an ice cream truck. She came through Camp Horno on a regular schedule and

every time she did the barracks would empty. The girl was beautiful; her features were

classically Nordic, framed by a velvety mane of black hair, and her eyes, a dark, penetrating,

blue, a blue of the cold northern sea. The Marines bought her ice cream, not because they

wanted ice cream, but because they wanted to believe she had come through just to see

them; they were capturing successive moments directed towards a hopeful future. I rarely

bought ice cream from the girl but I was certainly intrigued by her beauty.

 

The girl had an exquisite tattoo of a White Buffalo on her right shoulder; it was almost

psychedelic and clearly significant. One day, after purchasing an ice cream sandwich, I asked

the girl, “What does the White Buffalo mean?” She told me that, to her, it represented the

wisdom of innocence. I chuckled and replied, “It would seem to me those two words are

mutually exclusive.” “Do you think so,” she asked? I said, “Well yeah, but I’ll have to give it

some thought.”

 

We went to the field shortly after this discourse and I didn’t see the girl for a while. After we

returned from our field exercise, I went out to say hello the next time she came around. I

gave her a book, a collection of poems written by patients in a mental hospital. She told me

she couldn’t take the book, “I’m moving back to South Dakota,” she said. “Take it anyway,” I

replied, “perhaps you’ll find some innocent wisdom among the passages.” She laughed and

took the book. I never thought I’d see her again.

 

The civil war started with a bunch of riots. A young man was beat to death by overzealous

law enforcement and the law officers were acquitted of any wrong doing. The unrest spread

across the whole country, like wildfire. A good number of my fellow Marines deserted to the

civil side; they said, to them, it was a matter of loyalty, loyalty to the hood and the larger

community represented by the hood ideal. I really didn’t know what to do in the beginning.

I had joined the Marine Corps searching for the experience, the experience represented by

the “Wall of Honor,” Stephen Cranes “Red Badge of Courage.” It seems foolish when I reflect

back but I had never considered the experience could involve the intended destruction of

my own people, as if it is somehow justified otherwise. In the end I stayed with the Marine

Corps and tried not to think too deeply about the justification for my own actions and the

actions of those around me.

 

The rebel forces were surprisingly well put together and the war lasted for a considerable

duration; some would say it’s still on-going. My own experience culminated with a hard

fought battle in the Heartland, South Dakota’s badlands of all places. It was a brutal skirmish

reminiscent of Custer’s last. The Marine force and the rebel force were both thoroughly

decimated; there were only two survivors, myself and the girl. The girl had fought with the

rebels and she was covered in blood, mud, smoke, and grit but still thoroughly beautiful. We

approached one another and met on the top of a small rise. She looked at me, laughed, and

said, “I guess the people who wrote the poems in that book weren’t so crazy after all.” I

chuckled and replied, “No, I guess not.” The girl asked, “What do you suppose we should do

now?” “I don’t know,” I replied, “I guess we should call somebody.”

 

I took the girl’s hand and together we walked off the hill and to the highway; we headed

west towards the crossroads and a place called “Momma’s Diner.” When we got to the Diner

all seemed surprisingly normal, like there wasn’t even a war going on. The place was empty

except for a large, grandmotherly, black lady; she introduced herself as Momma and said all

she had available was coffee and grits. The girl and I told her that sounded delicious and I

asked if I could use her phone. Momma pointed to a corner and told me to go ahead, if I

could get a dial tone. The phone was working fine so I called 911 and told them about the

skirmish; they said they’d send somebody out. The girl and I finished our coffee and grits

but still no one had shown up so we took off. We headed north up the highway.

 

For several days we traveled along the highway without seeing anyone. Finally we came to a

small shanty town. On the very edge of town was a large, pieced together, shanty which

advertised itself as the “Last American Outpost.” As we approached the “Last American

Outpost” a small, twin engine, prop plane appeared in the sky; it was towing a wingless

wagon and having a hard time staying in the air. The girl and I stopped and watched with

utter dismay. The pilot was giving her all she had but all she had wasn’t quite enough and

the plane crashed into the side of a hill and burst into flame. The girl and I agreed it was a

bad omen but we went into the “Outpost” anyway.

 

The “Outpost” was pieced together from sea containers, shipping crates, and pieces of

corrugated metal. Inside was a long bar made from wooden planks situated on top of

wooden crates and empty wire spools. Behind the bar was an ancient woman; she was

topless and her old weathered skin was covered in faded tattoos. Beside her was a large

young man – a relative perhaps. He was shirtless as well and his entire upper body, head

included, was tattooed with an American flag motif. Beside and slightly behind him was a

younger girl – his sister perhaps – also topless and covered in tattoos, but her tattoos were

fresh, abstract, almost alien yet tribal, and all in Day-Glo or neon colors. None of them were

talkative at all. All they had to offer was homemade beer full of yeast and headaches but the

girl and I were happy to have that.

While the girl and I were drinking our beer, three young, gothic looking, individuals came

 

into the “Outpost.” They were all extremely pale in complexion but flushed with what

seemed excitement or anticipation. The girl and I immediately sensed a pending blood-

letting and were instantly aroused, suspicious, on-guard. I paid for the beer and asked the

bartender if there was a back way out. He took my money and pointed to a dark hallway.

 

The hallway was formed by add-ons to the shanty; each add-on had its own door, like a

hotel. The girl and I warily inched our way down the hallway and about halfway down, as we

were passing a door, the door flew open. There was a young girl standing in the doorway,

naked and covered in bruises; she looked at the girl and I, almost pleading with her

young/old eyes. I immediately knew that her reality was harsh but that helping her was

futile. A little piece of my soul shriveled up and died right there; I reached out to touch her

face and an old man, also naked, came running to the door. He grabbed the girl and pulled

her back into the room. Closing the door but for a crack he said, “Things here are none of

your business; you’re best just to move on.” And with heavy hearts the girl and I did just

that.

 

When we got outside it was dark and we could see the fire from the burning plane wreck.

We ducked between two shanties and headed in that direction; we knew we were being

followed. We ran a convoluted course to the edge of town, into some woods, and along a

broad, slow moving, river. We could hear our pursuers and see their search lights probing

the woods. When they got too close we jumped into the river and the water was cold . . .

boy, was it cold. We ducked under the surface and swam downstream as far as our breath

would allow. We continued to float downstream long after we lost sight of the burning

plane wreckage. We emerged from the river at an old, abandoned, gravel pit. I gathered

some dry wood, built a fire, and the girl and I, shivering, took our wet clothes off and laid

them out by the fire to dry. The girl and I looked at one another, each admiring the other’s

naked beauty. We laughed with comfortable familiarity and fell into it; we lost ourselves in

one another; we made love for the first time.

 

At daybreak things were irrevocably changed between the two of us. We were now

consummated lovers, a beserkir and Valkyrie, a continuum of love manifest in a world of

madness. The whole world was changed, brighter, more colorful, distinct and hopeful. We

left the gravel pit and headed west on an old river road. We came to a highway and

shadowed it, heading southwest, away from the shanty town. We traveled for a long time

without incident; it was an all too brief period of gladness.

After a while we came to an abandoned Arboretum. We were out of water so the girl and I

 

split up and went in search of a fresh water source. I found water and hollered at the girl but

didn’t receive an answering response. I filled up all of my containers and headed back to the

Arboretum entrance, our agreed upon rendezvous. When I walked out of the Arboretum I

was greeted with horror; a half dozen goths from the shanty town had the girl spread out in

the back of an old Ford truck and they were raping her; in a second I recognized them as

members of my own family. They were engaging in this violent act with obvious glee and

they were looking at me with evil contempt, gloating, apparently thinking I was too

cowardly. They hadn’t really known me for awhile, perhaps never had. The beserkir, the bear,

the destroyer, and in short order the goths, my family members, lay scattered, bloody, and

dead. I grabbed the girl and pulled her to me and she wept like a soul possessed. I stroked

her beautiful mane and did what I could to comfort her but there was no comfort; the world

was dark, gray, smeared, and futile.

 

After a while the girl looked at me with infinite sadness and said, “It’s no good; our fairy tale

is over. I can’t be with you any longer, from here into the indeterminate my journey is alone,

a cleansing.” I knew the girl’s soul and admired her heart so I could only smile in sad

resignation. “If ever you need me,” I said, “think of me with all the force of your beauty and

perhaps . . .” She gave me a last, tearful, smile before walking away and said, “Thanks, thanks

for that.”

 

Echoes of time in a brow furrowed

by insistent memories of ugliness

surrounded by misery infused with

suffering, an ache in a forgotten soul

caressed by a cradle of renewal promised

but never delivered, intrude on

thoughts indifferent as life.

 

The race to death transpires

in slow, drawn out, increments

inspiring hatred and revulsion

for the indifferent beast.

 

Nothing but a dog chained short

by unseen manipulations, can you

blame a man for hatred?

 

Fury harnessed and directed

to the gravest damage –

indifference . . .

smothered by indifference.

 

War takes its toll

in spite of hearts

hardened by indifference,

fortuitous indifference;

Fury, Rage, a beastly

deliverance,

Fury, Rage . . .

and blood.

 

I could write a Manifesto

but no one who read it

would survive.

Stare into the black heat

of indifference

and die like the rest.

 

Can I offer you a crumb?

 

Flowers sprout from the rotting corpse;

beauty, indifferent to the

feast of death, is a

momentary respite in the

dark pool of

indifference.

 

Ideas, once brilliant,

crystalline, apparently magic,

transform under stress induced by

indifference.

The vision, a pointless panacea,

swallowed by a black hole of

indifference.

 

So cry foul and feed the Dark Heat;

I will pursue thee to the

pits of Hell, my home within,

and I will feed you to the

Grief.

Dog eat dog I do entertain,

feral, surreal, destitute,

a starving parasite and you,

a snack before the feast . . .

the feast of indifference.

 

I am a monster.

Kill me before I eaten another!

 

Cry executioner and rape the

killing field; feed the gaping mouth of hunger –

indifference.

Attack with brutal fury

and lethal rage or leave me

to my indifference,

savage, brutal, all consuming

indifference . . .

 

nothing is as it appears;

all is folly, pointless folly.

 

I no longer dream . . .

 

After the girl left I went to the desert and I stayed in the desert. It was my own cleansing, the

sickness bleached and dried by the incessant heat, a purge by flame. I wandered aimlessly

for what seemed an eternity. I experienced many adventures and came to know myself well

but it just wasn’t the same. One day, several years after losing the girl, I felt a tingling in the

depths of my mind, a presence. I rotated slowly until discovering the direction in which the

presence was most pronounced and then I started running.

 

I saw the carrion eaters from a long way off and I knew I was too late. I kept running anyway

and my precognition was rewarded with a gruesome sight. The girl lay dead and the carrion

eaters had already stolen her beautiful blue eyes. I collapsed and wept; I stroked her

beautiful hair and told her for the first time that I loved her. I was lost in grief for hours

which seemed eternal. I sat with her for days.

 

Finally, I became composed enough that I realized I needed to take care of the girl’s

decomposing body. I looked around, found a suitable location, and started to dig with my

knife. Barely had I begun when an ancient man, a grandfather among the First Peoples,

appeared and spoke to me in a strange language I somehow understood. “Stop your

digging,” he said, “The girl chose her manner of life and her manner of death. Her name was

Alluvia the Allmerciful and she was wise in her innocence. She deserves to be honored in

death by the traditions of old.” With the grandfather’s instruction, I prepared the girl’s body

in the ancient way; I surrendered her to the desert, closing the cycle.

 

After we were through with the last ceremony, after the last chant had been sung, I looked

at the grandfather and asked, “Where did you come from?” He looked at me rather

quizzically and replied, “I didn’t come from anywhere; I’ve always been here.” “Ah, yes,” I

replied, “I’m no longer dispossessed either.” At that the grandfather laughed until he started

to wheeze. When he recovered, he placed his hand on my shoulder and told me, “Keep

following the Shadow, as you have been, and you will be fine . . . you will be okay.” And then

he started to walk off, chanting in that same strange language, “On a visible breath I am

walking . . .” And as he walked away he transitioned into an infinite stream of multi-colored,

dancing, photons of energy, like a hooked light ray.

###

by Leo Rivers

One night the fog rolled in and drew a curtain across the Stars. And as I continued my meditation at the Attic Window the cyclops Moon, as if covered by a cataract, looked balefully back through the fog at me, sitting at my chair at my desk with my pen laid down beside the pad. My cat touched my leg with its paw and, looking down at my friend, my heart was warmed and I was prevented from being drawn in my spirit up into space and the Stars unseen beyond the fog spread out upon the crumpled silhouette of the ancient port and antiquty of the verdant hills and dark valleys of Pilgrim Bay.

Pilgrim Bay

Like Empires to the desert sands of the Nile came to Pilgrim Bay by land and by sea Humanity’s Wild Variety. Witches and Pirates and Tyrants and Priests, (of both of Heaven and Hell), they came to the spires and came to the cobbles and came to gamble with their souls and then in time with Generations the generations that once were giants diminished into dwarves and then the Seasons of Pilgrim Bay came more seldom. Until came at last that last season as all the last years of an old man come to be seen – one long season of dwindling and darkness, so too, one long last season of fog and darkness came to Pilgrim Bay.

The life force of Pilgrim Bay grew poor in spirit like the grapes of a field whose substance has gone. Life in Pilgrim Bay became a bellows whose breath was gone. And all of these once noble but now weedy old houses, but the old bookstore at the top of the hill and the grand old Inn down at the Docks, were now a closed hand to all but the residents recluse within. And all of the World Outside who passed through this town on the way North or South would spend their night and go on without knowing what became of the town or where if they were there they were hidden.

Or what secrets were hidden with them.

One out of 100 or maybe one out of a dozen I have no way to know which way to choose. But once in a moon perhaps a blue moon a man who comes to rent a room at the Grand Old Inn overlooking the docks and the ships that to have been parked for centuries at them. One out of 100 or one out of a dozen I don’t know out of which of these I was chosen. But I know I had no beard when I first roomed here. AND I know I had not grown long-haired and gray when I first came to this grand old Inn overlooking the bay. But there came the day in my continued stay I had opened the window looking out on the sea and invited the cat – and now I am not without a companion, (perhaps an angel), to speak his howl and call beside me.

But He who was still a kitten when first I came to Pilgrim Bay and then came to rent this room was now old and gray-tipped black fur covered the bulk of him. My bones my bones groan with his and we both mew as we move about the room. I take the tray with my evening supper and wine to the door and groaning set it down. And I turn around and the cat has lept upon the desk and stationed at the pad and pressed the pen upon the paper with an arthretic paw and looked at me as if I finally after all these years spent with him knew what to do when sitting at the table at the window like a prisoner with a view.

“Aye, old friend”, I said “old friend I think it’s now the time to bend to fate and finally bring this business to an end.”

And so I went and sat again, and at the window beheld the fog thin at the zenith a portal to enter in. One star shown there, a purple star hard to see within. The star I knew to be the star of the Dark Man, and the sigil and portal at my wanderings end.

Kneeding my fingers in the old cats fur, his purr soothing the anger in my joints, I bend my knees to stand. Then trembling and frieghtened I stand.

“Will you go with me old friend? I asked of Him.

Said he, said he “Am I not your Companion?”

And as the seas groaned out on Witch’s Reef and the race that was a scaly Beast made their Mardi Gras of celebration dancing and drinking to the Dragon, my cat lept over the Moon and this old man flew too to follow him!

by MyKA Mckinney

When he revealed himself to be a billionaire, I was certainly impressed but otherwise unintimidated, as most of my patrons are of substantial means. My wealth of artistic talent has always given me the feeling of being equal, if not superior in most ways. Having proven my worth with the work I did in his home on the Mandalay Bay in Southern California, I was invited to accompany him, along with his third wife, and if I remember correctly—fifth baby to their 300 acre estate on the Puget Sound in Washington.

I won’t elaborate our adventurous caravan up the west coast other than to mention—he drove the Cornish Rolls with wife and child while I followed in his customized Land Rover unwittingly carrying 600 pounds of silver bouillon hidden beneath the floor.

After traveling three and a half days on Highway1, staying in the best hotels and eating at the finest restaurants along the way, we stop to load-up on groceries and liquor, just before arriving at our destination. It was a brisk day in June, the blue sky felt more crisp than I was used to and I was eager to explore this strange and curious place. He casually mentions—he owns all the land visible to the eye, from the forested mountains high above… to the steep cliffs of the Puget Sound below.

The first thing anyone would notice is a public easement traversing his property lined with 40 ft tall trolls, each carved from a single massive tree trunk, each bearing a hideous expression, seeming to imply bitter resentment toward anyone daring to use the road.

It’s hard to miss the purple, castle-styled gatehouse adjacent to fierce-looking copper dragon gates finished in patina green. Across from the would-be castle stands the reproduction of a 17th century grange, flanked by torrented towers on each of the four corners. Opposite the gates, stands the main house; an adjacent pair of steep A-frame homes painted an Indian-red replete with native northwest totem poles. Behind it, manicured gardens lead to a classic New Hampshire style covered bridge, and beyond—an open-air hay barn featuring a pyramidal roof supported at each corner on the shoulders of a sturdy troll, each masterfully carved from a solid block of wood. Standing in the field, casually munching on mowed-meadow grass—a single white horse, posing as to inspire mystic childhood fantasies.

We spend several weeks together viewing various houses, deer paddocks, barns and out-buildings. He expresses extreme confidence in my ability and authorizes me to have my way with the entire estate, to build, design, decorate, or demolish at my discretion. To symbolize my high-status, he presents me with a sterling, jewel-encrusted scepter. It was obvious to all we got along quite well, certainly better than he did with his young bride. At times, he would even tell me—I loves you, though I never took it in a way he didn’t mean.

I ask—why a purple castle? He explains—the towns-people filed suit against his construction of an ostentatious castle in their otherwise modest neighborhood but were unsuccessful in court. Out of pure spite, he says, he painted the castle purple just to make it all the more obnoxious, in the same way the aggressive-looking trolls manning it’s towers were intended to aggravate them all the more.

He relates the story of his one-time good friend who lives a short distance down the street in his generations-old family cottage, the one with the big picture-window gazing-out through the forest to the sunset-sea beyond. Something went awry in their relationship, he doesn’t say what, but apparently it was sufficient justification for him to purchase and consolidate the two lots directly across the street from the cottage and build the biggest, boxiest 10,000 sq ft house the code would allow, for no other reason that to forever block this man’s view of the ocean.

Retuning to the main house, he pauses at the gates and points-out the barred windows atop the turrets on the corners of the grange. Behind the bars…..portraits of his previous wives. He chuckles with self-satisfaction. I couldn’t help but wonder how his current wife felt about the remaining empty windows.

June is an especially beautiful time to be in Washington. Clear, sunny days are less frequent and more greatly appreciated than in souther California. One pristine morning, I venture alone, barefoot through the garden, across the covered bridge, under the hay-barn and tip-toe through clods of turned-soil to the white horse standing solemnly in the field. He exhibits no reaction to my stroking it’s long mane, and seems to appreciate my kind words.

Not athletic by nature, nor particularly familiar with horses, with the naiveté of a six-year old and all the strength I can muster, and I grab a fist-full of the horses mane and hoist myself in a single leap onto its broad, muscular back.

Unfortunately, my client, confident as he may have been, has one problem I am unable to fix. I could have done anything with his properties, mansions are second nature to me, but his relationship with alcohol ignites a brooding, oft-threatening monster, not unlike like the dragons on his gate. By now, his wife feels much the same as I. One day, in a fit of anger and frustration, she grabs her baby, a bag, and abandons him once and for all. This leaves me to wipe the drool from his sloppy chin whilst spot-cleaning his silk shirt in a vain effort to maintain appearances at any cost.

I manage the situation as well as anyone could but I too begin to feel under-appreciated. Ensuing days of drunken madness is certainly more than I was bargaining-for, so despite a ten-year, ten-million dollar contract, despite receiving checks every week that I never needed to cash because I never had a need that wasn’t met, I felt it was time to reassess my value. I demanded he double my salary.

Having calmed-down after a few days of reassessing her own situation, the wife surprisingly returns through a side-door just as I’m putting my demands forward. One of her painted eyebrows with the sternness of a schoolmarm rises higher than the other. She pulls me aside and asks—is my husband gay?

Meaning only to dissuade her apprehension with simple open-mindedness, never intending to arm her with fonder, I say—all men are a little gay. It was one of those peculiar occasions when I may have said more than needed to be heard.

That’s all she needs.

It’s decided we should all go into Seattle to sober-up and cool our nerves. We get rooms in a nice hotel. This gives me time to shop for fall clothes, but for them…time to make-up, as apparently this behavioral pattern is not new to either of them. Only I was sucked-in. Only I must now be spit-out. Only my breathing stands between him and public humiliation, not to mention inevitable charges of marital fraud.

The ride back to the haven is conducted in total silence. He offers me no eye contact, no reassuring smile. Upon returning, I discover my office has been ransacked, my stack of uncashed checks is missing. The page in my address book with his name and number has been torn-out. The film in my camera has been removed. My symbolic scepter has disappeared. Any trace of my having been at this place has been systematically removed.

It doesn’t take a prophet of God to read the writing on the wall. I quickly pack what clothes I can carry and head-out on foot hoping to escape his inevitable rage. I knock on the door of the first neighbor. I beg— can I use your phone?! I should have known—they fear him too. Next thing I knew—one of his groundsman is pounding at their door, demanding I return with him.

That night, the longest in my life, I lie sleepless beneath the fussy moon veiled in thick ocean air wondering…. will he drop my body from his private plane over the ocean, or from the yacht he has moored in the harbor, or possibly buried beneath the thousand feet of his deer trampling the paddocks.

The white horse reared-up, bolted, then stoped-short, casting my body javelin-like over its head, recklessly crashing me onto mine; fantasy instantly dispelled. Though seriously disappointed, I was able to gather my wits about me, stand, and dust myself off, fully aware I was lucky to be alive to tell the story. I eventually escaped with the helpful intervention of wealthy friends.

Later I would learn, the horse had never been ridden, nor would it ever be. Indeed, one day it would come to represent the inherent dangers of mistaking illusion for reality.

As for the billionaire, repeated run-ins with police and charges of spousal abuse would eventually end in multiple court appearances, complete lose of public-image, the dissolution of another marriage, a huge settlement, child-support payments, and one more portrait behind-bars in a grange turret’s window.

by DeBobby Ross

It is a cool Oregon morning and for Hailey, war is about to begin. She is skilled. Her father, a former Sheriff, taught her how to hit a mark.

The event — first of the new season — is a get-to-know-you, team building exercise for the Cheerleading squad of the university.

“Okay ladies!”, shouts the Cheer Team Instructor. “You have your paintball guns and 300 rounds of ammo. The men have green ammo. You have orange. You want your team to win by being the last one standing. So defend yourself and protect your teammates.”

On the other side, an instructor talks to the men.

“Ohhh god, we are going to get smashed”, says Natalie, the star junior on the squad.

Hailey — the freshman — looks over, catches Natalie’s gaze, and smiles.

Natalie sees, raises an eyebrow.

Hailey looks across to the competition, 60 yards away. It is 10-on-10. All guys verses all girls. Hailey smiles again, whispers “bring it on”.

The Cheer Team Instructor begins her pregame speech, “Ladies, this is the challenge. Work together to overcome. We have three minutes and counting to the starting gun. Now what I want you to do is talk among yourselves, claim your immediate cover spots…”

Hailey lets the instructor’s words fade into the background. She has an idea. She will take one out immediately. Scanning the group, she wonders to herself, “Who is not paying attention? It’s Sunday morning… one of them has to still be drunk. One of them has to be high. Who? Him? No. He looks fresh. Him? No. She focuses intensely. Him! Oh, and he’s big. He’s going to be slow. Yes, and she can see he is zoning off. He is a dead duck.”

While the other girls crouch a bit, into running position, Hailey gets into firing position. She is right handed, so she rotates slightly and puts her left foot forward a half step. No clues, so she keeps the gun down, in draw position.

11 seconds on the clock.

The Team Instructor: “Avoid shooting each other. Friendly fire counts as a kill.”

“Oh, okay, now her goose looks to be a bit ready. Which way is he going to run?”, Hailey anticipates.

3 seconds.

The starting gun rises in the air.

by Sara Blakey

Many years have gone by, but I remember my seven-year-old self waking up mad thinking Dill had kicked me. But Dill was nowhere around. A branch jabbed into my bare bug-bitten leg. My worn shorts were no protection against the night air and an awful fear overwhelmed my simmering pique. The fire we had cobbled together in late afternoon was ash. I hugged my cold hands in my armpits while hunger gnawed into my hollow gut. My head swiveled, searching for signs of Dill as the dark listening forest crept around me in silence. All I could think was Oh no! Please…not again.

Dill stood at the edge of the clearing, head tilted up to the evening sky. His thin, underfed body was small for ten and he shivered in threadbare clothes. He wasn’t just my big brother, he was my world. Some brothers were mean, never let their little sisters tag along, teased and tormented them to tears. Dill didn’t hold to that; he was born a compassionate old soul. It was his clever thinking with the quartz pebbles last time that saved us from the first “Big Adventure” in the woods.

He turned to face me and a look flashed across his sensitive features. I recognize now what I glimpsed in that fleeting instant.

The look of a child scared in his very being.

That look unnerved me and something primal — I hardly knew what — shrank a little. I realize now his child’s mind must have already figured out something I hadn’t caught onto yet. The plague had eventually swept over our part of the country and Mama was one of the first to go. After her passing the father brought home the new mother and said she’d make things better. He was wrong. Dill cautioned me to keep out of the new mother’s way. She didn’t like little kids. Money was always tight and food scarce; it just got worse after she came. The new mother can’t be blamed entirely… store after store eventually emptied and shut down and the whole world was hungry and dying.

Dill and I thought all had returned to usual after our last outing, but it appeared we’d been ditched again. The father had led us into the unfamiliar dark heart of the forest on the pretext of gathering wood. Past noon, we made a fire in a small clearing and settled in for a rest. When Dill and I woke it was night, the father gone. Vast trees pressed close and crowded around us. The cold air pricked our frail, famished bodies. Trembling and desolate, we watched as a finger of wind lifted a single leaf, looked at it, and laid it softly down before going on its way. We stood like wee white shells facing an ocean of infinite forest.

Dill was too quiet. I pulled my peanut butter sandwich from my pocket and unfolded it from the napkin.

“So, he’s left us again,” I said after a bite. It wasn’t a question. Dill’s belly rumbled in
response.

“Where’s yours?” I asked as I took another bite.

After a long pause, he mumbled, “I used little pieces of it to mark the trail.”

“What…why?” I couldn’t believe he’d waste food like that.

Another long silence. “It was the only thing I could think of. You don’t know, but they’ve been lockin’ our door at night. I couldn’t sneak out to get any quartz this time.”

His voice caught and I had an awful feeling he was about to cry. I tore my remaining peanut butter and stale bread in half and handed it to Dill.

“Thanks, Boo.” He took a nibble, pretended to rally.

With contrived enthusiasm I knew he hardly felt, he said, “I’m thinkin’ in a little when the moon comes up, we’ll be able to see the pieces of bread better. Just wait, you’ll see.” The reasoning, in that it was only partly true, was a lie, and Dill knew perfectly well that I was not deceived.

We were lost.

“Why do ya think he did it? He never loved us like Mama did, did he?”

Dill shrugged. “It’s been tough on him too.”

Draughts of night air murmured through the tops of big trees and a deep silence fell on the clearing.

“I’m so cold,” I whispered through chattering teeth.

Dill stood. “Let’s start back. We’ll warm up soon as we start walkin.”

With the persistence of true pluck, Dill pulled me to standing and we moved off into the shadows. It was soon apparent birds or other forest creatures had made quick work of the bread and nothing remained. We followed tracks the best we could. Wandered hopefully down one trail after another only to return in despair to a spot we had passed hours ago. All was unfamiliar, utterly unknown. I remember stumbling after Dill to a stream and drinking till our bellies stretched tight. I brought some shiny red berries to him and he slapped them out of my hands. Those will kill you, he said.

No wind stirred and birdcalls sounded strangely thin and wailing. After a day of weary futility, Dill plucked some mushrooms from the bottom of a gnarled oak. We dropped to the forest floor and nibbled the meaty caps. We could not see the sky for the million trees crowding and pressing. Sleep overtook us.

I stirred in a drowsy haze to something familiar, like a half-remembered dream. It was a smell, a scent of cinnamon, only heavier and animal-like; something you’d smell in any place infested with mice. It frightened yet excited me. Curious, I followed the strange disquieting scent to light filtering down on a little clearing.

I stopped in wonder, my mouth agape. How had Dill not seen this?

Elated, I cried out to my sleeping brother, “Dill, Wake up, wake up, you! We’re saved…I
see a house!”