I am …
The rustling of the autumn leaves
which hang tight for now amongst the maple and oak
The borderland at the far edge
A small stack of stone piled up along the imaginary lines of a map
Even the rill filled trickling down between root and rock
Sparking gentle reflection beneath half shadows of this wilderness before seeping down
Disappearing into the land
No one cosmopolitan will understand this simple satisfaction of a season
And the acceptance of the passage of life
Before we go our way
My beard is scruffy
Growing it longer on the chin while cutting back the rest to stubble
Thread worn clothes
Constant use has kept shirts permanently stained
Unwashed jeans carry damage from friction, time, and thorns
Like some art nouveau palette
Many vibrant colors of oil, acrylic, and grass, harshly dye the denim
Weathered canvas and leather finish the form
Twisted shoelaces holding together boot
The hard rubber tread walked down to slick smoothness
Odd cuts through the edges giving a unique pattern in the mud and grime of the city
It could be the sleepless nights or just constant sickness reddening the eyes
The slightest breeze bringing out a tear
Blurred vision of advancing age
The fingernails are clean
Every opportunity taken to maintain that air of godliness
One other thing shows through the layers of unkept rubble
An even, straight smile
Without gap, bend, or chip
White tea stained teeth
Another glimmer of some other existence
Who would ever know or care to guess
The judgemental quick to label
Uncaring for their own commandments
Incompetent in a lackluster religion
They would unknowingly look down upon Jesus, John, and a host of martyrs
Confused as to those burdened beneath the cross
The snow that falls
Lays down its beauty at my feet
Hiding imperfections beneath a frozen cloak
Giving silence to any city scene
Innocence to the tormenting storm
And still the rain do I notice more
With the chilling damp that wets the soul
Leaving colors blurred to gray
Like troubled thoughts on a furrowed brow
Errant drops go rolling down
Pooling into panes of glass
Reflecting back the world above
Before my days grew cold
Naked and unafraid
I walked the wilderness
The coarse earth bore my presence
Silent footfalls beneath the endless sky of blue
Golden light filtered through green seas of leaf
Undulating waves back and forth moved with the soft breath of God
Floating feathered squadrons in an endless circle
Farther each moment
The sharpest blade tarnish and dull without the touch of decay
The strongest bull and fastest horse stumble upon the rock
Youthful vigor drains away evaporated with disuse
In old age wisdom flounders where truth has lost its worth
I am forgotten upon those places where once I traced my name
No sacred tree carries remembrance of me
All time worn stone and fire scarred wood have long dissolved with bone
And yet I hunger for tomorrow
Though I never see the day
Words had become unwelcome aliens to him. During the long, lonesome days of summer verbal expression was of little importance. Even the occasional jotting of notes and poetry had all but disappeared from the watcher’s daily habit.
The absence of human company had begun to void all progress socially made in the early spring months. The warming heat and longer days allowed the once tight knit group of vagabonds to expand out into newer territories. Though beneficial for the group it only drew Pat deeper into isolation mentally and physically. Soon the weak feelings of trust, compassion, and fellowship would all be forgotten. Replaced by an insane anger and hate for the world as a whole.
Change was what the watcher hated most. Wether it was the sun, the season, a simple object out of place, any altering to the system was to be avoided. Only hunger and the need of shelter could drive him back into society, and force a change to the routine.
If only they knew or understood the danger. The thing they felt most at ease with had died a very long time ago. That person had laid buried in some shallow grave for more than two decades, a victim of some forgotten war. The only protection he could give to them and himself was a wall of apathy. Any attempt to break through would almost certainly unleashing the daemons within.
Enoch knew first hand what now walked the earth. The thin cloak of flesh and bone did little to conceal the seething hate and rage boiling within. It is to Enoch that the watcher often thought of. Not since the desecration of Babel, the rise of the Sumer and Olmec ziggurat, and the cataclysmic drift of landmasses had the host of legions been at peace with what he was.
Ah the good old days. Before Moses and his big ten, and the writing of the lesser others, “Pat” had beta tested every one of them with a few still in need of repeating.
How had the worm turned. Robbed of the freedom of the æther. Imprisoned to never touch the quintessence. Left to lay dormant beneath the ever increasing weight of invisible chains. The punishment was fair enough. The watcher knew he was given a very lenient sentence. After all eternity and infinity were going to be a very long wait anywhere he could be placed. This bit of community service on Ki wasn’t without it’s pleasures. The irony was because of those pleasures he was being chastised…
Pat sat waiting.
The clock on the wall had long since died, and now forever marked it’s death at one twenty-three.
It was post meridiem. The watcher knew because he had watched that last hesitant movement on August 5th as he had witnessed the first energetic second back on June 3rd one and two-thirds year ago. The time then was five seventeen post meridiem.
The uselessness of keeping “time” was as pointless as having two heads attached to one heart. When the “time” came both would get there at the same moment.
(Somewhere a small chuckle could be heard. Though the sage only wrote the story as it unfolded a turn of a phrase by his own hand could make him still giggle.)
(Old men often laugh at their own jokes while the rest of the world looks puzzled. – editor note by the author)
Left undisturbed the clock on the wall would never grow old, never change. Though the dust of ages piles up upon it face, and the corrosion of the batteries spreads to eat away within. The clock would never know or feel the changing hour
Pat was very much the same. Forever stuck at one twenty-three p.m. Physically corrupted, mentally deranged, but for the spirit always the same. Time had stopped. The movie that he saw was forever set on a loop. The actors in it always moving along, developing their character, then when the plot line needed a twist a new star would appear as the older one faded from scene.
It mattered little. The movie was set upon a continuous loop. The stage would reset, the actors would take their marks, and somewhere stage right a voice would be heard saying “Action”.
As many loops and layers of film and tape were to be used, a good actor could always improve his skill. In that one hope both the author and watcher had learned to count upon. They both had witnessed enough footage left behind in the cutting room floor.
Even now Pat knew it was time to splice, exit stage left, and in the following drop of the curtains listen to the sounds from behind the props.
Echoing footsteps upon a wooden stage.
The mountain folk were a completely different nation unto themselves. They were proof that a drawn line wasn’t what made a mixed group of people into a country. They were proof that it would make them enemies…
The forest underbrush had nearly completely obscured the trail. If not for the occasional bent reed or bare patch amongst the bracken a traveller could easily become lost in the half light of the bottom canopy.
Other than the man made tracks he was leaving behind there appeared no other sign that any other human had passed this way in generations. That was something very disheartening and troubling. The traveller had more than a lifetime of training in tracking and survival. He had even more memories of the countries landscape. Images of before and after floated across his vision, each step made on the internal magnet that could guide a homing pigeon or smart bomb to their final destination without error.
The only problem came with the now. The now could throw a wrench into any plan. The now could be raining or blazing dry, a flooded landscape or a burning forest fire. Only the Author knew for sure what the now would be. It was in that way He made sure the traveller would stay true to the story. At least that’s how everything usually went.
Alice nether knew where she was or when she had been there. The whole tumble from the one next into the other had left her a bit addled and confused. If it wasn’t for the sugary scent of strawberry glaze frosting that was currently drifting about the place Alice probably would have stayed in that kaleidoscope frame of mind for quite some time.
Hunger… Alice was very hungry. The first sounds to reach her ears was the growling of her own stomach. Soon after that conscious thought came the pain of the tight cramping knot of her guts slowly churning. The need to separate reality from delusion was to take second seat for now.
With a quick scan of the room Alice saw that presently no one was there. The rows of shelving and stacks of literature were present. The large ancient writing desk stocked with and ink well and piles of parchment paper was located just how she had seen it. The only thing absent was the box of pastry, the old man, and the ever increasing mess of sprinkles and jam about the floor.
“Damn”, Alice thought. “Missed out and stuck here, where ever here is.”
A almost unheard voice spoke from the dimness of the library. Alice almost mistook it as one of her own thoughts spoken out loud, then as the return of the insanity from the night before. “From where does the strawberry grow? From what does the hunger know?”
“Through what path have you vaulted? For what reasoning has time yet not come?”
Alice felt as if a door had opened and with the fresh in flux of air slammed yet another doorway closed. The sudden shift of pressure bringing a bit of nausea and the threatening kaleidoscope of confusion she had already overcome.
When the room returned to normal Alice noticed a few more lit candles burning, the box of pastry opened and set within arms reach from where she stood. The strange old man was busying himself with an even stranger white container with blue labeling. Without a single gaze back over his shoulder the sage asked,”Glass of lactaid free milk, Honey? I mean Alice… I fear we haven’t any honey at this moment.”
Pat sat once again in his garden. The summer heat had came earlier than expected but not so early that it would ruin the plantings. He’d have to run the drip hose more than usual until everything had set down good root.
The sky was filled with white cotton candy clouds; Each set drifting on a sea of pastel blue.
Many years ago Pat had hung many small wind chimes about the wood that surrounded his home. He had set so many so long ago that the watcher couldn’t remember where they were exactly. All Pat knew was on beautiful days like today the effort had been worth it. The native songbirds with a musical accompaniment by the wind softly off set the rustle of the trees in the cool summer breeze. “I know that reads as a horrible sentence, each word exactly accurate and the moment perfect.”
Pat was for the moment at peace with the world.
The traveller gazed up at the midday sky. Overhead two blazing suns burned down to earth. This was the first time he had ever seen such an event in his lengthy lifetime. For the traveller to acknowledge that fact was a scary thing. He had thought he’d seen it all. Now here he was stranded in a reality of time that quite honestly looked to be the end for his career and the rest of creation.
The only intelligent voice in his head was uttering the word fuck, fuck, fuck. At the moment all the other voices seemed in agreement.
After an eternity of quietly contemplating the situation one of the voices pointed out that as the earth rotated only the larger of the two orbs seemed to move in the arc. The other seemed to become more of an oddly formed orb which reflected more than it seemed to be burning. A few other voices began to chime in with agreement, and after a lengthy discussion it was agreed that fact was true.
“So we’re good then?”asked the traveller.
“No.”said the leading authoritative voice. “It’s probably a massive meteoroid. Even the fact that there still isn’t a visible smoke trail may mean it’s further above the stratosphere than it looks. We are screwed.”
The sound of sneakers running away on smooth concrete and then the loud slamming of a metal door was what Pat heard first.
It was a familiar but funny sound to hear over the speaker system. It reminded him of his high school days and the loud racket one could hear over the public announcement system will the principal was going over the days events. Those were the glory years for sure.
On this occasion though, Pat was a good twenty years older, and working in a tower miles away from the originator of the sound. As a joke Pat was buzzed up on the speaker. A familiar voice on the other end began a rant that unless privy to the joke itself would sound very offensive to the receiving party. The joke would have been hilarious to Pat, but as fate often intervenes it was not Pat that first answered the call… It was Pat’s boss
After a three sentence rant of blasphemy and expletives Pat’s boss began shouting expletives back and yelling “Who is this!” back over the speaker.
The only reply was “If you don’t know mother-fucker”, and the sounds of tennis shoes running on concrete right before the slamming of a door.
Pat tried not to laugh. He knew that the anger would soon enough be turned towards him.
“Do you know who that asshole was?” the boss asked.
With the straightest face Pat could muster, “No sir. I’ve never heard that voice before.”
Alice slowly slide through the small sized opening. At first what she thought to be only a thin gap she had discovered to be a hinged door. With a little coaxing the portal could easily be made to open out wider.
Alice thought how odd to have a door hidden inside a tree. Even odder was the fact she knew it couldn’t have been there before. The door opened into an immense room with vaulted ceilings that the tree she had sheltered in could not have held.
Cautiously Alice looked out into the room. Fully aware of the funny old man that even at this moment was busy wolfing down strawberry treats and having some sort of discussion with the thin air about him. Perhaps if she kept in the shadows and used the massive stacks of books between the two of them as cover the old man wouldn’t realize she was in the room. By the way the food was being consumed Alice knew speed was going to be of the utter most importance.
The doorman was partially surprised. It wasn’t a frequent thing to see the sage away from his writing. It was even less frequent that the sage would share a tasty strawberry glazed donut. Later the gatekeeper would blame those events and the sudden sugar rush as the reason he was surprised for a third time.
Even as Alice stretched out into the room she realized something wasn’t right. Where shelves of books and piles of scrolls should have been there was suddenly nothing.
Nothing was actually not quite right. There was a brilliant white, a worn mat, and a strangely uniformed man eating a pink colored pastry that at the moment was shedding rainbow colored sprinkles about the area.
Both Alice and the doorman stared blankly at each other. Neither seemed to know exactly what to do at that moment.
Alice was the first to take action. In a dead run Alice leaped past the uniformed man and on into the doorway behind him.
As quickly as she had come the trespasser disappeared into the next. In all his lifetime the gatekeeper never had this happen to him. He was pretty positive the Author would already know. What that meant wouldn’t become clear for a great while.
“Oh well”, he thought.
The gatekeeper scarffed down the last of his donut. There was going to be a long wait until the next one…
noun: revenant; plural noun: revenants
a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.
Pat awoke into a word of skyscrapers and high-rise apartments. The new realities landscape was a random mix of Italian Renaissance and a modern art deco. Here and there Pat’s will could change some of the architecture into a more attractive Parisian nouveau but only the structures that felt sympathetic towards him.
The sidewalks were full of people out for a leisurely paseo before dinner and bar hopping.
Pat drifted back and forth through the crowd listening to the chatter. He could hear stories of how their day went, plans for after dinner, and on a few occasions the pleasant words of couples in love.
Nothing he heard helped him understand his current presence in such a peaceful setting. By default Pat was always a storm bringer, a gore crow, and the toxic side effect of a beneficial medication. Finding himself comfortablely walking the promenade was a bit unnerving. The only satisfying thing about it was the ability to redesign this world about him as he walked.
Pat did go out of his way not to make physical contact with the others strolling about. Practice had given him the delicate like a glimpse of shadow caught from the corner of the eye. By the time his movement was detected he made sure to be clear with their only view being of his back. When the path seemed too crowded everyone would become suddenly distracted by the amazing transformation of the surrounding buildings.
Pat slipped down the first side alley he found loosing himself into the comforting arms of darkness.
Amongst the discarded boxes and battered garbage cans Pat felt comfortable. Here was a place that served his purpose. Here was somewhere he belonged and from every dark corner draw out energy.
Without concern the dreamer sank back against old mortar and brick. Knees bent and elbows resting crossed upon his chest he listened quietly lost in thought. In all his travelling he had never had time to be at peace. It was not a good sign.
A large cat ran past his left leg. Seconds later Pat could make out the same cat with rat in mouth slowly tearing it apart. The soft crunching of bone chewing and a cats pur drifted out of the alley to mix amongst the sounds of laughter…
I’ve been here before…
Same tired chair, mildewed and stained…
The same ancient cobwebs drifting lazily in a draft.
Even the sounds creeping in beneath the crack of the door.
Everything is familiar, even you.
On the end table sits an empty glass, white chalk stained, with a half decayed bowl of something once edible but now rotten beyond recognition. The passage of time doing us all the favor of removing the stench.
It’s been awhile since the mold gnats and bottle flies maggots paid their visit to such a meal. By the way the dried remains peel and crack away from the glazing of the bowl a considerable amount of time has passed. Other than the ever increasing volumes of books and stories, one of the few signs that things here do change.
Infinity can be found between zero and one, and only understood by those that seem to never make sense.
The old sage sat silently in prayer. He often did. Head bowed, eyes closed, hands folded or left resting motionless upon his lap, palms together.
Unlike most people, the sage would often have his replies by the end of each sentence. If any curious onlookers were able to ease drop they would find the whole moment more of a discussion between a teacher and pupil. Which was which was easy enough to discern. The sage was ever the career student. To know is not enough; understanding is the true gift.
During his lifetime of service the only true peace he ever felt was when in talking to the Author. The serenity and calm making his responsibility to maintaining the library a worthwhile sacrifice.
A quiet voice spoke out from the nothingness of empty air,
“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Minds innocent and quiet take
As if in reply the sage spoke back, “These heavy walls to me had grown A hermitage—and all my own! And half I felt as they were come to tear me from a second home: With spiders I had friendship made and watch’d them in their sullen trade, had seen the mice by moonlight play, and why should I feel less than they?
Pat sat distracted. He often drifted off and got caught up in a daydream or remembrance of a conversation that happened hours to months ago. When that happened his face would fix into something near in description to an angry solemn look. Perhaps a person could confuse it for a resting bitch face but it was actually less intense than that look. People often left him alone because of that.
Either way, Pat was content with the solitude.
Today Pat found himself listening to the various chiming and ringing in his ears. Somewhere between a constant ring of a school bell to the vibration on the C string struck while depressing the pedal to make it more of a sharp. Today both ears were at war with the other.
It always amazed him how he could still pass a hearing test being so fucked up.
She had taken shelter from the raging storm inside one of the many large oaks in the wildering woods. The softer wood of the core having rotted away generations ago leaving space inside for perhaps six or more stout individuals and a pony. It only lacked a decent floor and a chimney to become liveable she thought.
“She!” a loud voice spoke out in the darkness of the tree hollow. “Our name is Alice, and not she! I’ve but one body, one life, and one voice.”
Surprisingly nothing replied back. It was the first time that there was not even an echo of sound from inside her brain or from outside in the world. Startled by the silence Alice sat quietly waiting for some invisible shoe to drop or a prophetic vision to sweep her mind clear.
Nothing happened. Perhaps all that was needed was a good night’s sleep. After a bit more listen to the dark Alice felt sure that the nights rest had cured her of whatever it was. Alice knew that the journey back home was going to be a difficult one. There were chores left undone, explanations to be made, and even the chance of some sort of witchhunt if no one accepted a less than honest account of sleepwalking or a lie about simply getting lost looking to empty the chamber pot. It was something she did not look forward to.
The soft sweet smell of strawberry slowly drifted in from outside her little den. Alice’s hungry stomach churned in it’s own juices as saliva began to form on a once dry tongue. Whatever it took, Alice knew in the end she was going to have some. With slow determination she edged her way across the tree to the opening the smell came trickling from. The brightness of the outside was near blinding but Alice could make out oddly uniform shapes lining what looked to be shelving. A vast room of books with a strange old man hobbling about what appeared to be a writing desk. He seemed extremely excited and fully energetic for being such an old individual. In his hands he held what appeared to be some baked goods frosted with a pinkish glaze, and dripping what looked like sprinkles and jam. Both the man’s beard, hands, and floor were covered in spots where he had been less than agile in devouring the food. The whole scene only deepened Alice’s hunger.
And that’s when it happened…
Slowly the outside noises of the world would intrude: the chirping of the birds, the repeated shouting of his name, the constant ringing of a cellphone, or the soul shattering alarm Pat set to remind him of important things to be done.
Today it was the single ring of a door bell. They were more like chimes but the hollow ding was close enough to the required tone to pass as a bell. Pat slowly walked around the house. He had found himself outside in the garden when his mind cleared. The garden was small, but pleasing to look at and enjoy.
At the front porch Pat found no one waiting. A package left by some errant delivery service sat snug against the door.
The name on the mailing sticker was addressed from Alice. Pat smiled at the name. Like so many things he had seen and learned in life, that name always rang a bell and a pleasant memory.
The old librarian paced excitedly about his writing desk. The days were few and far between that such a reward was ever granted. He had been given permission to buy some donuts. Not just any donuts though! Krispy Kreme donuts, strawberry glazed with sprinkles, and stuffed with jam if he wished. Though he had to use his own money, do all the leg work, and make up anytime he missed from doing his writing, the sage felt it called for celebrating. He was so jolly that he was positive in the fact he had forgotten something. Perhaps it was the change from the twenty, or the lactate free whole milk he loved to drink now that he was “old”. What the hell, he’d figure it out later.
The dreamer dreams in lingering thought of reality unending and stories yet untold. Painted visions of peopled cities of different make that rise and fall like the breath in sleep.
Here there is no ticking clock to arouse the slumbering Buddha. No changing season to cast alarm to those senses that watch the sky for rain.
The dreamer dreams of reality unending, and of stories yet untold…
Pat watched the passing traffic. All the drivers going by shared the same emotionless blank face and self absorbed gaze. It didn’t take a detective to see their minds were distracted by secret thoughts of what they wish to do to the other assholes driving. Occasionally one would act upon that emotion and swerve into another lane. A succession of honks and horns would immediately erupt from the offended then the offender. There was nothing entertaining about watching it.
Across the street a mother and daughter were just exiting a white SUV. The child looked to be six years of age, very short, and very thin. The mother was only two feet taller, slim waisted, with a half starved but fit build of a runner. The black yoga pants she wore left little for the imagination to guess at. Perhaps she was in her early thirties. Nowadays it was becoming more difficult to guess a woman’s age. Even the daughter, depending on the size of the father could have been twelve years old and malnourished.
Here too was nothing of interest to the watcher. Maybe if the woman had red hair or was a large busted blonde Pat would have given her a much more intensive observation. Instead his attention went more to the little girl and what was held tight in her left hand.
A long slender ribbon tethered a bright red balloon to her. Recently bought or gifted the elastic shine of it’s red bobbed back and forth under the tension of her pull. The nearness of the slow moving traffic sent it eddying this way and that above the girls head.
Pat watched as the two figures disappeared into a resale shop. The red balloon bobbing even as it faded from view in the store.
A silent prediction was made that upon returning the red balloon would be absent, and the little girl’s mother would be dragging her by that very same hand. The pleasant expression upon their exiting the white SUV would be gone as well…
A dark cloud lurked upon the distant horizon. It looked like more than just a small rain shower on the way. A stiff breeze blew past. The storm was going to be strong enough to carry a mix of dust and leaves with it.
The traveller looked impatiently over her shoulder then back to the approaching storm. The sun was already a soft rose colored orb drifting down behind the tree line. It looked to be a cold damp night with still more distance to make before she would feel comfortable enough to seek shelter.
The look of the path ahead was of one well tended and high trafficed. The chosen route would be an easy one to travel. Still the uncertainty of the present and her purpose here was an annoyance. It had been to many times that the traveller had been caught in the open that they would ever allow it to happen again.
“They”, she repeated out loud. The host was still attempting to override the situation she now existed in. This insanity had the tainted smell of witchcraft. Whatever daemons had possessed her during the night and coaxed her sleeping body into this unplanned pilgrimage was not going to continue without fighting it the whole way. At the moment she had to admit to the sensation of being thoroughly screwed and a bit out of control. The voices inside her brain, and constant hallucinations overlaying the real world were enough for now to keep her following the path “They” had chosen.
They continued further into the wildering darkness. Like the insanity of voices, and the deepening night, the enveloping woods soon swallowed her up from the world she once new.
Pat watched as the sun slowly sank behind the grey clouds of rain. Even now the rosey reds and brilliant rays of gold were becoming muted by the storm.
The once invisible homeless became active moving about. They shuffled by with cardboard tucked awkwardly beneath the arm, strips of plastic or confiscated garbage liners clinched tightly against the blowing wind.
Pat could see the same lines in their faces and hands as his; The same age worn stains upon clothes, tired odd sized boots and shoes worn brown with neglect.
“How many times has it been?”, the voices asked.
As if in reply one green eyed transient looked nervously back over his shoulder.
“To often” came the reply blown upon the wind.