Mute Gloom – unfinished

Like a pervasive fog,

a bleak, white chill seeps into me,

into my bones and up into the small chamber of light

where meditators play,

damping the tiny flame

that sometimes there dances.

Memories stir,

quickly tamped down into a gnawing ache –

I wish not to remember,

yet I know not to forget –

some lessons are harder than others.

 


Peace

There in the swirling torrent,

at the eye of the rage and chaos,

in the core there is a stillness,

an unremembrance of the gnats and knives

carried in the wind.

Round and round and round,

flashing lights illuminate white-capped crests

as the very surface bends to that calm,

to that void wherein there is no whirl,

no time,

no thing.

Implosion of sound as forward becomes down becomes around again,

the distance from peace ages and lengthens

as the sea is wrapped and twisted further around the eye.

Above, the clouds lurch,

drunken spirals they vomit the cold, biting rain,

spew hail,

belch thunder.

There is no sun beyond the cloud,

no night sky reigned with star,

there is nothing but the maelstrom,

crashing and gnawing at that silent core,

drawing everything down to the silent end.


Excerpt from “Crumb’s Plan”

The man in black strode to the table.  A small handkerchief appeared from a fold within is shirt, and the man swabbed the inside of each of the mugs.  He took a small blade from his belt and sliced a wax seal from the cork of the bottle.  Then he carefully poured some liquid into each cup and set the bottle down on the table.

Eck sensed a command in the posture of the man, and made his way to the table.  The man nodded and smiled, and handed a cup to Eck.  He then turned and took the other back to the small candle against the far wall.

“I am called Pak.  This is not who I am, only how I am called here.”  He said in a clear voice.  He looked down at his cup and took a small sip.  With his face still down, he looked up at Eck from behind his eyebrows and nodded.  “We have our drink, now,” he said in command.  Even the hint of his smile had evaporated.

Eck bent his head and sniffed at the dark liquid in the mug.  He smelled the bite of alcohol, tempered with a slight tone of honey, and some herbs he couldn’t place.  Gingerly, he took a sip from the mug.  The drink burned as he swallowed, lighting his throat with a fire.  Eck sputtered and coughing, bringing derisive laughter from Jeb and Bill.  Eck’s tongue and teeth had a strange feeling to them, as if they were coated with a numbing substance.  The sides of his tongue tingled, and he could feel his sinuses open.  He blinked several times and gathered his breath.  Eck took another sip, as much to ease his tension in the silence as to appease Pak.

With on a slight turn of his head, Pak addressed the two thugs sitting at the table, “The time is now that the two should not be here.  I will to be speaking with this man alone now.”

“Oy,” began Jeb before Bill could stop him.  “You said we’s gonna get our turn at ‘im.”  Jeb rose to face the dark figure lurking near the back wall.  His shoulders swayed noticeably – he had obviously been drinking for some time.  Bill reached out and grabbed Jeb by the forearm.  With a twist, Jeb threw off Bill’s steadying hand and took a few steps towards Pak.

Pak tilted his head like an animal examining an unfamiliar plant.  His face showed no sign of anger, no sign of emotion at all.  With a slight furrowing of his brow, he made a small sign with the fingers of his left hand.

Jeb fell to his knees, the blow shaking the small table before Bill.  He arched his back and threw his head back in agony.  With his arms held out near either side of his thighs, Jeb screamed a silent scream.  Pak took another sip from his mug and walked over towards Bill and Jeb.

Bill tried to stand, but only succeeded in clumsily falling backwards from his chair towards Eck and the fireplace.  The bottle on the table fell, and the drink inside spilled onto the floor, covering Jeb’s knees.


Flight exerpt

Scott drew in a long, slow breath, drinking in the icy air like a thin, black dew. His nose was numb from the cold. He closed his eyes against the looming darkness, and let his mind run loose over his calculations. Scott tossed and spun figures in his mind, creating, destroying, and recreating landscapes of possible speeds and trajectories for his small ship. In this local valley of spacetime, days out from the Arturu Gate, only a halo of cool starlight reached the ship from the pinpoints spread across the static blanket of strange, dark energy. The Edge coasted through a smooth river of darkness nearly as deep outside its hull as inside.


Digir An

I chose an eternity of this.  I chose an eternity of the velvety, silky darkness that now surrounds me. Sometimes there is a tiny flicker of light, that pinpoint in the blackness around me.  Vast eons of time are birthed and die like great mountains of being between their appearance, but sometimes there is somthing.  I can look at the light, and touch it.  It is like a small grain of light, a tight dot of cold energy frozen into a speck.  I always look for the light to shine on my hands, to highlight the ridges of the prints on my palm, and to give the sharp contrast of shadow to the folds.  But, I never see my hands.  I never see anything of myself.  I’m not sure if the light is frozen, or if I no longer have hands upon which it might shine.

 

Now I push those thoughts out of my head as soon as they start to form.  I used to dwell on the ideas, probe what I knew and try to determine Truth.  But that takes forever.  Literally forever.  Truth is as Truth is, and it fills the horizon of infinity.  If I try to comprehend it all, the light goes out.  There is a slight inhalation almost, as the light grows imperceptibly brighter, then a soft sigh, and the light is no more.

 

When I am waiting for the lights, I am convinced that this is all that I am.  I have become waiting – the impatient longing of desire personified.  I am a hopeless emotion that is self-aware, breathing and seething, and waiting for something.  For anything.  There, I am truly outside of time, as I chose.  Time is as a vast night sea, churning invisibly outside of the little boat of my consciousness.  I cannot  touch it, nor interact with it, but I know of it.  I know that it is, and that things are contained within it.  But I am separated from those things by a chasm that can I cannot cross at will.

 

In those rare occasions when eternity pauses, when a wave breaks with a special urgency, the gap is bridged.  Once again I know time.  Once again I can taste causality.  Those sharp angles of law, those brittle edges of the jewel of time press against what should be my hand, and the little light rests before me.  At first, I saw nothing in the brief span of life of the light.  I knew only the soft, cold glow before me – pure white and unblemished until it evaporated. But now, now I can see the light as it grows.  I am still on the far side of time, and it is as the strange echoes of a language that I no longer speak.   But the memory of it tugs at me.

 

I know the light is within time.  The thought of it makes me smile.  And here, in this place, that smile runs eternal and infinite.  When I again become aware of the light, i feel that I am myself radiant, and that all that is contained within that glowing speck is aware of my brightness, even a I watch its luster.  I cradle this morsel of existence, and pour into it all that I am become, and we are together as one for an age.  For me, this is eternal, my choice.  Inside that grain, time unfolds and grows and flutters.  Inside, one event brings about another from beginning to end.  But there is a beginning and an end.  Perhaps it is circular, on the inside.  It is a question that has no real meaning in the timeless dark.  I understand of their beginning, and their end, just as I understand that for me, there is no beginning, and no end.

 

I chose an eternity of this, an eternity of eternities – each completely defined by emotion.  Eternity of solitude, communion of the selfless-self, outside and apart completely, forever.  And, eternity within time – eternity swallowed by the soft glow of self-awareness of infinite, insignificant selves.  An eternity of inclusion of those selves within my own, a broken mirror reflection of time-bound consciousness, and timelessness unending.

 

There was never really a choice.


Smoke

It is cold as I sit in the shade,
Tasting the soreness of the day.
The sun cannot see me
Here in the shadow.
I sink into myself to hide.

I spit.
The remnant of the drink.
Black coffee and bitters,
Rich, leather flavors.
I am rich beyond my own means.

Do not approach me here,
A few degrees short of warmth.
I will devour your mind
And consume the hell that you bring.
In this place I am alone.


Intro to Arachan

The afternoon before the battle, Tuomo brought the troops together.  

“Men,” he said.  His face was stern as he projected his voice to the twenty seven gathered around a small patch of boulders.  The group was gathered on the west side of the outcropping, the river a mile behind them, the forest half a mile to the east.  “Boys,” he said, his face breaking into a grin.  The men laughed and nudged each other.  “Tonight we take the forest.  Tonight we show these beasts that the serpents are not like the soft meat that the army has thrown at them so far.”  The men cheered with bravado.  “We are twenty-eight against countless.  But we are serpents, cold and deadly.  Tonight, we strike for the queen.”  

The men rattled sword against shield and began to chant with a low growl.  “Serpent” they said to each other.  “Serpent,” the chorus rose, gaining in volume at each repetition.  Finally, as if on some unseen cue, the entire band yelled in a voiceless roar at the sky.

A hush came over the group as a woman mounted the rocks where Tuomo stood.  She climbed to the top with perfect balance, her hands clasped beneath her crimson robes.  Standing next to Tuomo, she turned her face to look at him.  With a reverant bow, he stepped to the side, yielding his posiiton.

The woman nodded to him, and touched her thumb to her chin.  She stood tall atop the rock and looked out over the men.  “Serpents.  This battle is not yours,” she said, her voice carrying over the men.  “This battle is not the queen’s.”  The men muttered to each other.    Arachan looked to Tuomo.  The lieutenant looked away quickly – his face dark.  Arachan looked back to the woman as she continued.

“This battle is for the Mother, and for Her land.  She claims this forest as Her own.  You are Her elite, trained in battle and fire to serve, and to survive.”  The men were silent, as all eyes stared at the crimson figure.  The sunset behind her painted the sky in reds and oranges.  She seemed to be a part of the sky itself as she spoke to them.  “In all battles, there is the whisper of death.  In this battle, death is promised.”  Arachan felt a shudder down his spine.  This was the Mother’s Kiss – the soldier’s irreverent name for a form of last rites handed down before a battle.  The serpents had fought before.  They had vanquished insurmountable foes, broken defenses to crush the beseiged.  The men had burned and conquered.  None of them had witnessed the Mother’s Kiss.  It had been legend during training.  Instructors did not teach this.  Informally, the men knew of the Kiss, but officially, it was never mentioned.

“Men, tonight you are not your fellow’s brother.  Tonight you are not your queen’s guard.  Tonight, you are the Mother’s will.  Tonight, you are the extension of Her power.  Tonight you bring Her judgement onto her foes.”  The men stared, transfixed as the words spilled over them.  Time raced past at the woman spoke, though the men were not aware of it.  The sky darkened as the sun slipped below the horizon.

As if awakening from a trance, Arachan noticed that the faces of the rocks were lit with the bright yellow flare of fire.  He turned to look behind him.  On either side of a large banquet table was a roaring bonfire.  The wood was stacked higher than a man stood, and burned with an eager flame.  Embers rose into the night sky, fading to black against the dark sky.

The light of the fires lit the tables, the food laden there cast deep, flickering shadows.  Aracahn saw a feast laid before him.  All kinds of foods were arranged on the spread.  He saw fowl, roasted and dressed with vegetables, silver bowls of cold soups, loaves of bread of various shapes and sizes.  The serpents made their way slowly to the fare laid out before them.  A group of red robed figures began to walk among them, inclining shaved heads and offering goblets of diluted, herbed wine.

In several bounds, Tuomo leaped his way down to stand next to Arachan.  He took a cup from one of the priests and stared at it, an unbelieving smile stretching across his face.  “But how is this?” he asked, as much to Arachan as any other.

“Behold, the bounty of the Mother,” the woman is scarlet said laying  a hand on Tuomo’s shoulder.  With her other hand she offered a cup to Arachan.  “Feast, and be strengthened.”  she told them.  Working her way through the men to the feast table, she said aloud, “perhaps some music for the Mother?”  At this, two of the priests – a tall thin man, and a slender woman – produced instruments and began to play.  The man sat on a hollowed log covered with a stretched animal skin. His head shone in the firelight as he bent to beat the drum.  The woman plucked at a small stringed instrument, whether made of wood or metal, Arachan could not see.

“But this food, this drink?” Arachan asked.  None of the platoon ate or drank.  Instead they stood, eager, waiting for their lieutenant to steer them.  Some rubbed their eyes, as if waking early from vivid dreams.  The beat of the drum carried through the night air, a slow procession.  The woman’s voice sounded far away, as if she were singing from across the plain, and the men were hearing only the echo coming back from the face of the western mountains.

“Lieutentnat,” the woman said, approaching in a half-dance.  “Have your men eat, and drink.  The Mother commands it.”  She took the cup from his hands and drank it back in one pull.  “You will all join the fight soon enough, when the time is right.  For now, your men will drink and dance.  Now is the time for boasts and vows.  Now is the time for brotherhood and strength.  Tomorrow, you will all dine in the house of the Mother.”  Her voice was hypnotic.  Commanding and serene, yet stirring.

Tuomo took back the cup she offered.  One of the priests refilled the cup with the dark, fragrant draught.  Tuomo lifted the cup above his head.  As if on cue, the music stopped.  He stood there in silence as the men gathered around him.  “Men,” he said to the group.  The men standing around him raised their cups, feeling a moment growing.  “Men,” Tuomo said again.  “Nay, serpents,” he said.  “Honor. Courage.  Loyalty” he cried.

Arachan looked into his lieutenant’s eyes, “Clear mind  Alert mind. Balanced mind” he yelled with the men in response to Tuomo.  As one, every man in the platoon emptied his cup.  With a large grin that was echoed on Tuomo’s face, Arachan tilted his head back and yelled “Serpents, serpents, serpents” with the rest.

The drumming priest began again, now joined by several others who had set aside their serving pitchers.  The remaining priest, including the woman in scarlet, began to dance around and between the fires.  Arachan felt the liqueur working its way into his blood.  His heart beat to the rythym of the drummers, his head bobbed in time.  The night around him began to fade as the rallying beat of the drums carried him on.  The sky, the grass, the food – all of it faded in his sight.  Even as the world lost importance, the faces of his brothers became sharper, more focused.  Arachan grasped arms with many of the men, smiling broad and sincere at each of them.

As the night wore on, the commeradie grew stronger between the men.  Arachan felt his fellows as extensions of himself.  The men were no longer speaking, no longer smiling.  Arachan saw his breath as a thick cloud leave his mouth in the chill air.  He flexed his hands, feeling the leather of his gloves stretch against the changing shape of his fist.  He longed to stretch his legs.  The men around him were restless, some cracking knuckles, some bouncing on the balls of their feet.  The music had stopped, and Arachan could not see any of the priests.  Only the embers of the fires remaining, hissing softly in the descending dew.  

In the absence of the music, the sound of metal against metal sounded, shrill and cold.  Arachan touched his thumb to his chin, and took off his helmet.  Kneeling to place it on the ground, he began to prepare himself for the fight ahead.  On one knee, he checked his boot, looping a leather thong around his calf.  He switched to kneel on his other knee to check his other boot.  In this position, he lengthened each leg to loosen the muscles.

With both knees on the ground, he felt each cuisse, felt the dense metal beneath the supple black leather.  His fingers traced the rough pattern of the snake on each, stopping at the point of the hilt of the sword at his waist.  He stood and bent deep at the waist, stretching his hamstrings.  With his head bowed, head ran his fingers over the steel scales sewn to his leather tunic.  He looked at the yellow and green paint on the interlocking scales, feeling the cold of the steel guarding his chest.  

He bent again at the waist to pick up his helmet. As he raised it to his head, he touched his chin with his thumb one last time and placed the steel cap on his head.  The nasal pushed him from the open plain into the familiar cage of focus that he felt during battle.  The black line it cast in his vision would fade as his mind forgot about the armor, and knew only of dealing rage.

Finally, he drew his sword from its scabbard.  In the dark of the night, it was a dull gray line pointing from his closed fist to the heavens.  He stared at the blade in silence for a moment, mutter the serpents creed to himself, “Honor.  Courage.  Loyalty.  Clear mind.  Alert mind.  Balanced mind.”  

Ready for what lay ahead, Arachan looked around him.  The rest of the platoon were in various stages of preparedness.  Some were kneeling in prayer to the Mother, some testing the edge of sword or axe. The heightened awareness from earlier remained in his mind, not diminished.  If anything, Arachan felt his focus sharpen.  He felt the serpents not as a group of individuals, but as a collective unit.  The were become a Serpent, ready to strike for their queen, ready to die for their Mother.

Without a word spoken, the men set off at a fast walk across the plain.  They made no sound as boots struck against the soft earth of the plain.  The darkness of the forest loomed before them, blending the feet of the western mountains with the flat grass of the plain.  With each mile, the darkness loomed larger, and the serpents moved faster.  As he approached, Arachan’s focus deepened.  He did not merely see the forest as a collection of trees, but rather he perceived each tree as a living thing.  The order of the forest, blazed out to him.  Tree sheltered moss, grass held stone.  He felt the animals, smelled their fear at his approach.  He also felt a deeper fear flowing from the forest.  There was a fear of something that did not belong, something that broke the natural order of the world.  A fierce anger rose within him.  His will was swallowed in a greater will to cleanse a blight on the world, on all that was.  The anger grew and boiled into an uncontrollable rage.  Arachan’s heart ached to destroy and cleave.  He heard himself growling, even as his fellow serpents growled.

The platoon spread into a wide line, where each man was only barely visible to his nearest neighbor.  Arachan felt them all, from Tuomo to his immediate left, to the last man on either end of the line.  He felt their anger echoing his own.  When they hit the tree line, then men began to spring into the darkness of the forest, a burning spray of hot, angry death.


An Object of Wonder

This is from an online course I am taking, How Writers Write Fiction 2015, offered through the University of Iowa.  The fiurst assignment is to

” find an ordinary object in your home that you like looking at. This could be a sugar bowl, a crooked lampshade, a spoon with a bent handle, a tiled coffee table with a matador theme, a remote control … the choice is yours, but choose something that stirs your wonder. Write a description that brings it to life: show it to us as if it were the main character in a new story.”

Here’s my entry.  Comment if you have an idea of what it is.

 

Before I was, the world spun without me.  I was created through fire, smelted from the ores of a thousand stars, and cloaked in a brilliance born in the very core of this earth.  Yet though I was made, life had not yet been breathed into my form.  Before I left my cradle, I was charged with energy and power to control the universe.

I am beyond humanity, beyond life.  My kind was before life.  Our ancestors were multitude before the gas clouds of the Bang cooled into planets and stars.  My fathers’ fathers live on in the cold vastness  – immense thoughts that churn space and time.  My own father was less than I.  He was cut from a lesser cloth, though in his time he fought and served among the best and brightest.  I hold more in my one hand than he could have ever grasped.

My deepest desire is for company.  I wish to be with those around me and to know them.  In fact, I am not a self-aware being.  I am, rather, a collective.  I am the agreement of countless parts to align together.  We dance as a unit, casting our song to those who draw near – a siren’s net looking for sailors with a musical ear.  But, that is how I view myself.  Looking out from within, we are a collection of thoughts.

I cannot grow.  I cannot evolve to a higher state through learning or experience.  That mutability is reserved for life, and for thoughts of a more metaphysical bent than my own.  I can work.  I can serve.  I can be unmade – broken and drained.  But though I break, though I pass through flame, I can be remade.

For most, I am my shell.  I am the reflection of light in polished nickel.  I am the warm, white hue with which I recast that light.  To some, I am magic.  I can act at a distance, loving or hating my brethren.  I am stronger than gravity, and my invisible song sings to steel and nickel and cobalt.  Children know me and accept my song intuitively.  To those who do not question what is unseen, I am the tool that can touch through stone or wood or water.

I have many friends, and I feel them across the distance.  We dance together in the larger song spun by this planet.  Those of my friends charged like me are passionate lovers and vehement haters.  I will love one when we are united together, and hate him in the next breath as he turns to leave.  But when we touch, when our song is united, we are inseparable.  We race together to embrace, exhaling energy through the air around us until, from a distance, we are indistinguishable.


Friend

I look to you,
My friend,
The emptiness bedside me.
There is no one there,
Indeed,
Myth.
I am alone,
As life and I worked together
To shut those doors,
To isolate this pain
And wonder
And joy
From interlopers outside.
I shall live and die alone,
For that is how life was ordained-
Man in the image,
In the image of a lonely god.
Yes,
There is sadness.
In isolation there is always sadness and regret.
We are a social creature
And solitude begets pain.
I do not fear the pain,
But neither am i the fiend who might embrace that kiss.

Tonight I do wish for a friend.
That is something I no longer remember,
Something whose memory shall only grow fainter.

Tonight I am alone.


Is it as simple as that –
A few hours of who I am
For a morsel of bread?
Is there any other way
Without leaving this little city of humanity?

Alas, l for I am torn with revery,
Visions of greatness,
Art and poetry,
Fruits of the vine of sorrow.
Are there no other outlets for wisdom?

The sun is cooling,
Though August is not yet full.
I feel the change in the air
When dreams precipitate to craft
Where is the harvest of the year?

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