Collision

When I first started coming by the quarry, it was a pleasure to see the sun strike at the far corner. Catching man-made facets. It was a while before I realized that it was different every time. After all these years, I still have to tell myself not to go looking for the quarry, what is like our Eden. What bright things loom will surely follow me with stranger senses than sight, but I will not look. Not again.

The day I first mentioned it to Ada was also the first day I saw the rabbit proper. Strange rabbits were a common sight in the foothills. Sickly, lank, hollow eyes. Dad said the population might be sick. But that day, the looming maw of ears could be nothing so mundane. Coming around the bend, bag of firewood slung on my arm, I stopped to look a second. Lines of clouds bubbling on the horizon met what little land I could see beyond the cavern, they were tinged with green and dark. Tornadic. Funny how they boiled just past the blue.

My sight was drawn to movement in the basin. Straining my eyes, I could just make out a lumbering little silhouette. A rabbit, or… no, not any rabbit. It hobbled on three legs. Crooked arms dragging behind it. Mottled holes in lieu of ears. It turned and looked at me.

All at once, I was hyperventilating. Dark sound in my ears, so faint I didn’t notice until I turned away and the rush left me. When I looked back the rabbit had left me, too. I wiped my forehead, starting hurriedly on the path. I think the clouds had lost their tint.

Ada was listening to the radio when I came into the shop. Sitting cross-legged, humming along while she idly moved a stub of a pencil over the expanse of butcher paper. Hands smudged grey on the edges as she worked. The paper bore a dark field, dusted with white on the tips of its grasses, a half-finished mountain looming on the other side. I sat on the bench and turned the volume down. She frowned and started to protest, but I cut her off.

“Have you been by the quarry lately?”

She shook her head.

“Not since we’ve been on break. Why, should I have?”

 I looked down at my feet, feeling silly all at once.

“No, I just, um… I’ve just been going out by the school to hang out with Tom and them, and I’ve been going by there.”

“And?”

I shrugged. Why was it so hard to think?

“I just, uh, I just saw some weird stuff there lately.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“What, like an alien or something?”

“Maybe. I saw some weird rabbit sort of thing today. I didn’t get a good look, but… It looked like someone’d cut it’s ears off. And its arms were, like, sort of too long, y’know?”

She raised an eyebrow, expression of mingled concern and incredulity.

“No, I don’t. Are you okay?”

 I shrugged.

“I mean, yeah. I just can’t figure that place out. There was that rabbit thing, and the clouds are, um, they’re different colors than what you’d think. Like green and pink. And I think the rocks are a little different some days than others.”

She looked more worried than anything now.

“Are you okay, Silas?”

 I looked her in the eyes. I’d never seen her look like that.

“I just want you to see it with me.”

 She knit her eyebrows and stood, walked over to me.

“Fine, yeah. Just, do you need to talk to Dad or anything?”

 I shook my head.
              “Nah, I know he’s already worried about me. I don’t want him thinking I’m schizophrenic, too. Just, come out and see it.”

“Now?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty early still. We can make it back before dark.”

I could feel dread mounting as we walked out into the foothills, Ada leading. Familiar ground took sinister turn as it led to some perceived destruction. Of what, I couldn’t tell. Was this path always so winding, so unmarked?

“Does it seem different out here to you?”

“In what way?” Ada said without looking back. I didn’t know myself.

“Just darker or something. More turns.”

“Not that I can tell.” She stopped and turned to face me. “Look, if you’re not good with this, we can turn back.”

 I shook my head.

“No, I want you to see it. I’ll be fine.”

She nodded, kept going.

The clouds were dark brown overhead. Washed in the middle by wavering green sunlight. The basin, overgrown with massive overlapping trees, seemed to stretch farther than the eye could follow. I could see no other side.

“What the hell…” Ada said under her breath. She turned her wide eyes to me. “What’s up with this place?”

“I told you! I told you it was screwed up.” The panic started seeping in again, I swallowed it down in pieces.

“You okay?” She said.

 I nodded, but I couldn’t speak. Something was putting pressure where my stomach brushed spine.

All at once, it was there. Some not-a-rabbit, even stranger than before. On the path in front of us. Gaping holes of eyes moving under twitching ears. Ada shrieked. The feeling of passing out moved in my head but did not pull me down. It turned to me.

You are something new, it spoke. Words buzzing where my spine touched. You are something new. Ada grabbed my arm.

“Do you hear it?”, she whispered.

I didn’t answer. We stood with our eyes locked on the crooked thing, it’s face writhing like worm-ridden, its void of eyes passing us over. You are something new. It took a little step with one of its twisted feet.

Ada grabbed my arm, pulled at me. My eyes gaped, they struggled to take it in. Ada turned suddenly without a word and jumped down the cliffside.

“Silas, run!”, she called.

For a second, I was left alone with it. Its little nose folded further in, reduced to slits. It raised its foot for another step and I bolted after her, rushing over the ravine edge and trying to run down the slope. The crumbling ground shook as I ran, and my footing fled me almost instantly, I managed to pull my body into a roll as my back touched unstable earth. Ada was just getting her footing again when I hit the bottom. I tried to stand, but I fell sideways and slammed into a tree instead, the dark tangle turning circles around my vision. Ada put a hand to my bloodied arm.

“Silas, Silas! You okay? Silas?”

 I choked out a feeble yes, holding a hand to my head.

“What is going on?”, she said. She looked up the slope and her face drained.

“Oh my God, it just keeps going!”

I looked up, too. The slope kept upward, far and away, no sign of where we’d come from. Ada sat down heavily and leaned against a tree, cradling her knees.

“What the hell is this?”, she said without looking up.

 I shook my head.

“I-I don’t know.”

She looked up. Hollow eyes. I turned to the yawning forest. The trees, even taller than they’d seemed from the slope, grew into a forest that swallowed all light. Void like rabbit’s eyes. Dark sound growing. I looked back down and met eyes with Ada.

“We’ve got to go, Ada.”

She nodded. We stood there for a few seconds longer, noise sounding, before I helped her up.

The overgrowth blotted all but atom-thin needles of green sun. The lines coming down were spread through the forest, flickering like some great wings were passing the sun overhead. There was no clear path, but the trunks were spaced apart so we could push our way through.

Presently, even the green sun began to fade. Ada and I spoke very little in the passing hours, we just kept stumbling towards some unknown. Sometimes, we would pass a wall of low tone sounding somewhere in the dark, centered in patches of forest that weren’t lit by anything. As the light died, I could hear Ada crying softly. It set me off, too. And finally, with a last flickering moment, the forest faded away to void.

Somehow, neither of us fell in the total dark. I kept my sister’s hand in mine until the space between them dribbled sweat on the forest floor. My legs ached, my throat burned with thirst, and the tips of my feet were blistered raw from pecking away at the systems of roots. The moonlight, fading slowly from green to red, gave little guide.

After what felt like days of walking, I almost fell over on the edge of something hard.

“Ah, dammit!”

“Wh-what is it?” said Ada, trying to keep the shake from her voice.

I felt the ground. There was a shelf of rough stone where my hand touched.

“I think it’s a wall.” I kept running my hands over it and, finding no far edge, I stepped up onto it and tapped forward with the tip of my foot.

“It’s a slab, like a foundation.”, I said, helping Ada up onto it.

We walked a little farther, pulling together, feeling the even stone underfoot and a deep cold rising from it. I raised my free hand out to feel and, after a few steps, I brushed against brick again.

“Wall.”, I muttered, walking sideways. Soon, my fingers gave way to open air.

“There’s some kind of entryway here.” Silence. I sighed, I felt myself drain from my mouth.

“We have to go in, Ada.”

“I know.”, she said after a moment. The silence held a second longer before she spoke.

“O-o-okay, I’m good. Let’s go.”

The cold was deeper and the ground gave a bit as we walked. It felt like carpet the way it tugged the bottoms of my shoes, but in the moments my feet were planted I could feel it move. Outside the structure, there had been the tiniest glints of moonlight here and there, but inside it the darkness was absolute. After a while we came to the far wall, identical to the first, but something was different in the doorway. The faintest hint of red light defined the next room. I could make out the silhouette of something hunched in the middle.

Ada started babbling, her grip tightening around my hand so I thought she would break it. I felt the bottom go out of my stomach, the waves of nausea coming over me and the urge to pass out on the cold floor. I was aware that there were more in the room, blended with the dark, the tips of their rolling shoulders and heads just visible in the baptism of red. They started towards us. I felt myself relax as darkness took me and my hand went limp in Ada’s.

I came to with Ada’s bloodred face smiling over me.

“Silas! Silas! It’s okay! We’ll be okay!”

I sat up. The same room we were in but brighter lit. The figures gathered around were bathed in red and shadow, sat in a circle on the floor. Nearly the form of people, but joined by lines of flesh between them, they were draped in finery that glittered around their arms and flowing garments. The lead of them was taller than the rest, sat just in front of me, and I saw that the circle of them was compassed by objects. Statues grown from shrubbery, diamond-facet tubes lined with protrusions, liquid metal pooled about like affects in a pharaoh’s tomb. The tallest spoke to me in the same way as the rabbit, to the base of my spine.

Do not fear, child. You are witness now to something beyond you.

I blinked, opening my mouth to speak but finding nothing. Ada was grinning ear to ear.
              “I’ve been talking to her, Silas, they’re from somewhere else. Like another dimension or, or realm or something like that. There’s been like, sort of, um…”

A collision, the form said.

Ada nodded.

“A collision. Between our worlds. She says it will pass soon and we’ll be back in the quarry.”

 I shook my head.

“I-I don’t understand. Why… w-why us? Why this place?”

Ada shrugged.

“They don’t know either. They could see it coming, but they don’t know why.”

I turned to the form.

It will be a span of time before you are returned. I cannot say what that span will be in your terms, but it will be short. Until that time, join us here. Our ritual will commence.

“Ritual?” I turned to Ada. She shrugged.

The lighting grew brighter. The forms did what seemed like standing. I could see the jewelry around them faze in and out of their bodies like liquid. All at once, a noise was building. Not like the rabbit’s noise, but something otherworldly. Beautiful beyond words. The cleanest of all tones, the raw screaming of pleasure and time. They danced, and their dance bid us join them.

Thirst gone, I was swept in them. They turned as individuals, twisting limb in their circle and stretching to fractal bodies. I look up and saw, hanging, the vibrant red sun radiating down on us and I felt them, I felt the fractal grow without me and warm me. Senses man would not be given for a trillion years more were open to me. I saw Ada inside-out, her beating heart, her leaping muscles going as she danced. We moved like in honey. We turned form in the crimson sway. The building fell away, the forest, I saw grand palaces and cities beyond them. Every form of this place moving in unison, and me and Ada to.

We danced for years there, danced and sang and put our voices to the swell of many for an instant of eternity. Time blended, I wanted to feel them around forever and ever, but it passed abruptly. In the last moment, I felt the tallest form smile in every fold of me, and I smiled back even as the layers dissipated.

We were left in the clearing, the edges of the quarry standing resolute and the clear yellow sun hanging distant. Laughing, crying in joy, Ada and I laid in the basin and waited for the warmth to pass us.

“Ada, oh man, Ada, I feel a million years old!”

Ada laughed.

“I think we are! I think we’ve been there that long.”

I smiled, fighting laughter, tears flowing down as I looked around. The quarry was the same as when we’d first moved out, a little wash of man-made valley.

“We’ve got to go back to school. See Dad again, listen to the radio, draw, read… Silas, how are we going to go back?”, she said, still smiling.

 I shrugged.

“I dunno. We just will.”

Walking along the ridge, I turned back when we reached the top. The sun struck at the far corner, catching the facets it always had. Ada and I looked out at the valley somberly for a long while before we glanced at each other. She nodded and I nodded back, and we started down the path home.

The trail didn’t look overgrown for all our time in that other place. We found out later that not a lot of time had passed for our world, only a few weeks. Certainly not the eons we’d seen. The way back was short, but it felt like forever before we crested the hill and saw the shop door standing open. Ada looked back at me with eyebrows raised. I shrugged. We kept walking, down into the yard and up to the doorway. With bated breath, we pushed the door the rest of the way open and stepped in.

Dad sat hunched in the shop chair, looking over the landscape Ada had been working on when we left, his back to us. His head raised up, and he jerked around. Took a long breath in. Tears streaming on his quivering jaw.

“Dad, I-“, Ada started, but he stood so quickly that the chair tipped over and rushed to us, pulling us into an embrace. It was the first time in a while I’d seen Dad cry. When he finally pulled away to look at us, I saw his eyes pass from hollowed husk to brimming with life. It filled his face like it had us in that other wilderness.

We acclimated to normal life easier than you’d think. I felt so much older, happier, like every burden was drained away. Ada and I talked about it for hours where we could. As time went on, the memory never faded, but life rose to meet it. As I said, I have to fight the urge to go back down to the quarry. I know that it is dead to that place now. That we are sealed here in life until we pass on.  

dripping old angel thing in the woods

Hah! Well, mother might well have gone mad towards the end, even without the angel’s help. There were walls to every inquiry, a bleak infinity of shut downs from, how about this, a wrinkled up shut-in! Oh, I guess she was just agitated. You remember those meetings, don’t you? She had a thing about those meetings; well, I mean to say that she had a thing about everything, you understand, but… this bit of the picture was painted real deep. I went to the meetings like always, like… since I was a kid. I ate of their food and drank of their drink, in exchange for the only smiles I remembered.

Now, speaking of, these meeting people had a thing about plastic. Yeah, I guess I never told you about what we did at them… Just sort of a meet-and-greet. All the utensils and things were plastic. They loved it, and when you were done you stacked it up in the corner with the other plates and forks and things, and the solo cups. And old “Uncle Boris”(I never learned his real name) would come with a ramshackle old flamethrower and torch it down into a smoldering brick. Then he’d take it back somewhere and… well, who knew. Mother loved that kind of theatrics. “Just like my soaps”, she’d prattle, haha. And she’d give this cold-glowing smile as the warmth of the blaze cast shivers over me.

When we got home, and the keys were on the table and our shoes were placed neatly in the hall, she’d wait around a bit with a worried look. Never failed, the smile would fade and fade until she was the cold statue I knew, slumped spinelessly on the love seat smacking her lemon-lozenge lips at the soaps and fretting her jaw and brow about until I thought her face would collapse in. She was always so worried, thinking of the cars outside, y’know. And she’d turn her quivering eyes onto me, they were raw and watering, generally, and she’d ask to see Pop’s spirit spot again.

And I’d always protest, and she’d always threaten to kick me out of the house that I PAYED for, and that argument would go on in circles a while and then we’d go. I mean, like, as late as one o’clock some nights. Whole big thing, getting on the shoes and coat again, pulling the car out into the pitch black nothing void, all to see the place Pop died at “just one more time”. Once a week, disturbing my night. Along with that of the innocent fauna, mind you. Haha, right.

It, um, it was a little brick structure that lined the shoulder of highway 16. Little red flag fluttering, pale pink and rot-ridden. His shirt sleeve, I’ve realized since. She’d kneel sometimes, or walk a circle around it, whispering a prayer to all plastic souls. The car’s headlights would shine out on a sea of outstretched shadowlines pulled away from the base of every pebble and putrid item of litter. I hate litter like it’s the devil, because it is. Oh, shut up, you know how bad it gets towards the city! Not too irrational if you ask me. But, anyhow. She knew, too, she knew how it hurt me to get churned and passed around and consumed whole by the filthy seeping detail of it. She bided her time there, and I could do nothing but wait.

It agitated me at first, to see the dripping old angel thing come out of the woods. It never failed, that the first hairline stripes of dusk would streak my dark-accustomed eyes. Mother always told me, she always INSISTED that we’d be home before, but we both knew that she was there to embrace her guardian angel. The bulk of it that hung off the sides was some gooey intestine mess of grey matter wrappings. Pinkish tint and dripping with red like some strange and blood-looking sap. Or maybe dew, perhaps that’s more apt to describe it’s feel of a new, uh, self shattering morning.

I admit that I loved it, too. The suspended head was this perfect, round little brain, and it’s intertwining wings blowing in the wind. It walked on the trash where I could not, like the figure of Christ on calming waters. And it’s great, drooping feet taking the plastic up and digesting it. My mother would go to it. And it’s funny, not a single car would ever pass by when it was there. Right by the road, and I never saw another soul. I mean, granted, I was transfixed by it, but I never heard a single car’s roaring in the grey space betwixt night and morning.

I got the feeling that It didn’t want me to touch it. It would have let me kiss it’s intestine form if I had pressed, but I didn’t. There was peace in the look of it for me, but Mother needed more. She rubbed her head in it, held it tighter that she’d even held Pop. She thought it was partially Pop, a Pop transformed or at the very least altered. I can’t say I disagree, to be honest. It’s a funny thought, but strange business like that benefits from funny thinking, I guess.

Anyway, there’s not a lot more to it than that. You asked me how we got through those days, and that’s how. Pretty much just one day at a time. We’d go down maybe once or twice a month. Sometimes once a week, when she started getting really bothered at night. That, and, um, the trips to the grocery. That really kept us both grounded. You have to go out and find your own little comforts, I guess, when things are all coming down like that. Yeah, It was. Really nice catching up. Guess I’ll let you go now, I’ve got work, uh, y’know, like always. Heh. Uh-huh, bye-bye.

Woolly

Woolly’s steps were large enough to cover more ground than me, but how I worked my little legs to keep with him. He passed by my house on my tenth birthday, as gramps said he would, and I followed him as was prophesied. Now, the gold had not appeared then, mind you. I was doing it to make my mark as the good son.
At first, it was only little bits of tin, and the occasional nugget of shapeless nickel, that came from Woolly’s fur as he walked. It took a few months for Woolly to get used to me enough that he would really try and impress. It started off with him pushing copper coins out, and that’s how he’d talk with me. The little pictures on the coins told me all about my gramps, and about the years he’d followed Woolly through the homeland in his youth. I gathered that Woolly missed him terribly and, reading between the carved lines, that Woolly wished he would return.
I tried to be like gramps, in that I would tell Woolly meandering stories through all hours of the night as we walked through the trees. I did my best to wade the streams and leap the ditches without Woolly’s help, but I needed him to pull me along often early on. He never said a word, I don’t think he could, but he had the most expressive face I’d ever seen. I could tell if he was cross with me, and he would stop making precious stones and metals as well.
Come spring, though, I was doing alright. The ache had gone from my feet, and I could even walk backwards in front of him and chatter as we went. He had really grown to enjoy showing off. There were hand-carved and polished watches glazed in diamonds and rubies and pearls, statues of Woolly himself and me and gramps, and ornate little boxes carved with faces in profile.
All of it was pushed from the depths of his fur. Some days it was sparse, or even nothing at all, but other days it was like water. I kept all I could, but the bulk of it I left in the dirt. I always admired Woolly’s creativity, and consistency, too. Every carved little stroke was so beautifully finished and clean when it left his matted back, and the prints he would expel depicted scenes nearly too beautiful to describe. All hammered and carved into vibrant, glittering metal and stone.
At some point, though, the course of his communication took a darker tone. I think it was the season of rain, or the darkness during those hours in the north. His big brow would stay furrowed, and nothing I could say would raise it. My face began to blossom with stubble, and my hair to wrap around my feet as I walked, and I think we both could feel the coming of the end. I kept many treasures in my satchel and my pockets, but Woolly’s bounty began to grow heavier.
His materials of choice were mercury, solid gold, lead. The images were as vivid and compelling as ever but began to be warped into pictures of brutal bloodshed. Of broken men, the blood streaming on their face, amethyst bruises and deep red enamel blood, twisted bodies with open wounds. Woolly, I’d say, why do you seek to shock me so? But he’d keep his eyes ahead and staring. The little boys in the images began to resemble me.
I was seventeen by my count, but my count was likely wrong. I caught Woolly glancing at me out of the corner of my eye, and he would jerk away if I tried to look at him. The sky began to stay darker in those days. The ground rougher and rougher upon my feet. It is not right, I think, for a child to be so consumed by one thing. You could see it in my gaunt eyes, in Woolly’s jittery gait, the closing on this chapter was coming to claim us.
And just like that, I saw it. The sun had risen on a longsword protruding from Woolly’s hide. For the first time in seven years, I stopped. Woolly stopped as well and turned to me. The sword freed itself from between his massive shoulders and stuck in the dirt with a muffled clang. Prophecy buzzed in my ears in the forest’s stillness. The nakedness brought by the absence of footstep noise. When the sword came, I was to take it in my hands and slay him.
We waited in the green light. As our gazes met, Woolly’s old face took a pleading form. Coins began to pour from his eminence, began to click on the dirt and the roots surrounding, and the cadence of their thumps was like the footstep sounds had been. Copper, rough-carved, like the beginning of our wandering.
It is a trap, I said to him. I said it aloud for my own sake. You will not lure me with nostalgia. I feel anguish inside me when I think of killing you, my old friend. But it must be done to protect the lot of man.
Woolly shook his head. He did not speak, could not, but tears welled in his yellow eyes. You are the bringer of death, I tried to say. I tried, but the words did not come. I was crying, sobbing, pleading to gramps and to God and to myself, do not let me raise my hands to take him away. I turned to face the wilderness I had crossed, the infinity of time I had pushed through like a pit of mud. And I walked.
It was only a few steps before I reached my home again. There was the dog, running in the yard, grayer and fatter and unaware of my voice. A headstone for gramps, lined about in a little wall of rock, stood resolute by the treeline. I turned to Woolly again, but he was still the many miles away. So easy to return, but it would cost my soul to reach him again.
When I went to my mother and my father, they embraced me, tearful. Did you do it, they said, did you destroy death? And, the pit growing inside me, I could only shake my head. No. I have failed to put it down, as those before me.
Seven years have passed again. I think often of that time, and am grateful now for comfortable feet. I have grown content with my lot, as all do of my lineage, as gramps had said I would before I set out. I have grown beyond the fear of Woolly, even longing to see him again. When I am old and tired, when I am sick of the world and it’s ways, when my descendant knows of the prophecy, he will come for me. Woolly will come by my home again, and I will greet him with open arms.

The Ape is Quicker than Man

The ape is quicker than man and sure-footed.

Pattern-feet in basins of land and washed in soot,

And his feet do hold on the sand and don’t fold,

At the ankle brushed with rivers of fur, for the cold.

The belly of the orient’s sovereign is quite filled

With the skin of ripe fruits and little creatures he’s killed.

And the turn of his brain is a mysterious thing,

As he wades in snow oceans on the footprinted plain.

Waiting patient for the passing of slink-shape things,

The ape is witness to daydreams of glorious wings.

And his envy has grown to the roots of his home

For the birds in command of a different throne.

He stands on his hands with a struck-stone blade,

Swayed swift to the violence he was keeping at bay.

And he hefts the great point to the sky with his might

And engages the vibrant sky thing in a fight, and-

The bird’s cleaved down the chest by the heave,

And it crashes out past where the ape can see

In the bleach-place, white like bones is the scorched face,

Miles-long craters where the water once laid.

The old ape pauses there, sways on his hands

On the precipice of stepping on the sand of the dead lands.

The cracked earth glows white in the sunlight,

And sweat beads down into pools in the ape’s eyes.

The ape takes another step in the rock shapes,

his foot-flesh spreads on the face of the landscape.

He has travelled some infinite lands

Grunting echoing calls of his kingly commands.

But something else is creeping in the view of his mind’s eye,

Panic spreading fast as he wanders in the hot-dry.

Some siren-call sings in his head,

And draws him to the shallow-cut path of the riverbed.

Over miles every muscle will quiver,

But still he will cling to the path of the river and

Two days, in the night and the sun,

The ape won’t walk but for some strange compulsion.

The river sides grow to a cavernous height,

Weak plant-things withered by the blight of the sunlight.

Some strange cold visions and illusory things

He sees the desert path washed by a false rain.

The ape, struck dumb, keeps his parched mouth hung

To capture the drops of the mind on his cracked tongue.

But after waterless miles of sick shivering,

And seeing false hope mirage pool shapes glimmering,

He sinks to the ground with a short croak.

And closes his eyes with the loss of his last hope.

But that compulsion, that pull he can’t see,

Once again brings him up, fatigued, to his knees.

A great vegetable lays before the ape lord,

With his last strength, he desperately rips at the gourd.

Green juice cascades on his face,

And catches in the thick black fur that it traces.

He drinks heavily, and eats of the gourd meat

And soon he is flooded with the strength to stand on his feet.

Looking ‘round, in the cavern he’s found

There’s a glittering color patch there on the ground.

Still weak, with a hunk of gourd meat,

He stumbles up and prods the cold thing with his feet.

There it lies, in the heat as it dries,

The bird in the cracked pool of blood it has died in.

And the life of it’s eyes is a vapor-shape

Going on the clouds in a final escape.

Something there that wasn’t is moved greatly,

Some change in the ape’s brain chemistry.

Death’s arm grabs the only live being he can find

To grant understanding to the depths of his mind.

The ape pushes up with his back to the wall,

As a glittering movement of smoke goes crawling.

And a cracked-dry corn husk skin thing,

Appears, prostrate, with the sound of a bell’s ring.

The great being, draped in a blood-red cape,

Is as tall as a twenty-high tower of apes.

The husk-corpse looks up with its hollow eyes,

In the center of its forehead a great, dark ruby shines.

The wind draws to its cavernous throat,

To speak from its void the old words it invokes.

“Ye childe of the wilderness, bound

In the Id’s dark clutches and the path you have found.

I am the figure of humanity’s death,

And the boil of sheol doth turn in my breast.

There are no souls left here to feed me,

No ghosts in the plains walk, far as I see.

Lo, my body, and shriveled up skin,

My teeth and my lips hunger endlessly for them.

I, a shadow creeping, am trapped in the rock bowl,

Shaking for the long-lost flesh of a human soul.

The tenderness of it doth cause my wretched mouth to drip

And blubber for the spiritous texture as it slips in.

I have grown tired of the pain that I feel,

And the hate that congeals in my want for a lost meal.”

Death pushes himself from the dirt

And the voids of his eyes glow with power, inert.

His form quivers as he raises on his thin bones,

The red cloak falling o’er his body as he moans.

The ape breathes heavy and deep, but is silent,

Kept in his place by the power of the giant.

His fuzzy head tips back into the wall,

As the flooding of consciousness begins from the husk maw.

“I am spent as the vessel of death,

And I will give you a power with my final breath.

You will roam through the lands of the others

To devour the nectar-tasting souls of your brothers.

I will give you the power of thought,

To be cunning, to know of the death you have wrought.”

And the ape is flooded with the thinking of a man

And beyond, he is brought to his knees on the cold sand.

The giant raises his hands to the light

And the shining of the ruby shifts strait to the ape’s eyes.

The new death’s black forehead is split,

And from out of it’s depths, another stone pierces it.

Another ruby, as deep as a blood pool,

Draws the stale air from the corners of the room.

Death falls to the ground in a pile,

And the haggard old leather lips hint at a smile.

“I am released from the power I have wielded.

You, now, determine to curse or to heal.”

And he fades with a flash, to the winds of the earth.

And the ape is left panting, the ruby’s wound hurting.

The old wanderer, silverback king

Goes walking from deadlands, dark ears ringing.

Something in the air is sweet, calling him towards

Another body dying in the distance of the world,

A soul to take away, to claim, devour to the astral plain.

The great expanse lies open, and the ape is gone again.

Hide Away Your Seams

My pop was a ponytail rider on the outskirts of decency. Not given to fits of rage as his father was, as I am, but certainly given to other unpleasantness in his own way. He would smoke on his pipes, he built them himself from copper tubing, and tell stories to me. They were dark, brooding, bloody tales. They twisted and turned with his mind, meandered about pillars of his experience but never brushed them, took me away to places so beyond the human experience that I was set to reeling in my thoughts at the close of every one. He told them at night as bedtime stories. I never could sleep well in the time he was with us.

Still, it interested me beyond belief. I’d heard from mom and my various extended family that he had gone to school for it, for storytelling I mean. He did so love the written word, reading was all I saw him do when he was inside, which was irregular for him. He preferred the universe of his head and he entered it past the tree line.

Those were dark times, don’t let them tell you they were lighter than these. I play-acted like I’d not heard the rumors, that the earth was going to open again. Everyone’d learned about those slick, amber things, the elders which had opened the hairline cracks in the earth to chasms. Had swallowed up our oil, our magma, left the earth as cold and dead as it was. My pop believed in it like nobody did, he even said he’d had his heart taken out by them and had the scar to prove it.

There had been machines before, that ran on oil. Not like in sardines, the oil we’ve got left, it was a black sort of oil. The amber fathers had come for it, they drank it, and it bubbled up in their olden guts. So my pop said in his stories. He told me that their powers lied in their ability to find the seams in things. In a person, you couldn’t see them, but they could. They knew how to touch you with no implements of war, with their hands, to break you apart.

They broke apart the earth. They pried apart the atoms with their fingernails. They were so, so loud, it made the ears of the children run with blood. So he always told me. He said, if you feel that pain and the rushing down your cheeks, pray to God to take you. Find any way you can to cover your seams. Run in circles, they can’t find seams in a blur. For years, I ran back and forth in the house when thunder sounded outside.

Well, they came, as you know. They slipped between the seams of the border, great blobs they were. In school, we’d learned that they were shapeshifters in their place, that what we saw was an infinitely thin bit of them poking through, that they could make into something like the form of a man.

We were in the woods when they came. I felt that deep pain, the screaming needles pushed into my ears, the sides of my face painted like the doorways of the Passover. The compass went wild, pointing at the wall of erupting sound. My pop pushed his hat back to tug at his hair with one hand and grabbed my shoulder with the other. His bulbous eyes skipped off the trees and back to me.

Mallo, get back, he told me. Run in circles, like I said. I did, I waved my arms. No seams, I kept thinking. My pop yelled, I couldn’t hear it now, he tossed his rucksack and I caught it awkwardly. The compass was swirling around, I could feel the vibrations of the sound in my bones but I could not hear it. Then, they were all around. Breaking apart the trees into mist along their seams. My pop was tugging his hair, face wretched, he hadn’t tugged it so since mom had gone. He screamed, mouthed my name, stopped his stamping to push me away as they came to him.

Their fingers came up like cracks in the wall, broken, twisted fingers with many joints. They touched all over him. It looked gentle, almost, like a loving caress. I ran, as he bid me to do, and when I turned they had found the hairlines. His body was torn to reddish mist. It’s very-most basic pieces. His seams spilled open, I could see the heartless, wet chasm of his chest yawn as they tore him away. Insides flopping on the dirt and misting to nothing.

They were here for eleven minutes, so they say. Taking some, and leaving others at random. They took our wood away as they had taken our oil, to power themselves up I suppose. I miss the wood. God, I miss the wooden handles of axes and the paper dolls. I miss the books, I miss the trees, I hate the grass-grown abyssal plains where there is no shade from the boiling sun. I do as my pop said. I pray to God to take me.

Hi, Going to Hell, I’m Dad

Me boy’s feet slipped on the rock in the third circle, bless’em. Not as far as the ancestor. The ancestor came to him with great, fleshly, extended hand. Did beg him to take a-hold. And laughed when me boy’s embrace passed straight through. Sinner in the hams of a lanky cod, som’ like that.
Dead grinner, big spender he was, my boy. ‘Is mouth was always open. He said to me, he says, pop, I’m concerned with TRUTH. I said, says, hey kid, ye oughta should be concerned with reality. This is kid stuff, to dream. To dream is to be taken off Lord knows where, one o’ th’ circles. And ‘e says “aye”.
When a boy says “aye” y’ shouldn’t take it as th’ god’s honest. And he said it as much as he drank. He said, too, he said that the ancestor t’was an old broken lantern no’ so fit to show th’ way. Tha’s the way, exactly, swear it. I says to him, I said, I said he needed to get a bit of clarity. See Th’ Ring, live in Kerry a’bit. He wouldn’t hear of it, never would, an’ he ended up in that third circle.
So the ancestor comes to ‘im, in the night, wingspan out an’ bellowing an’ all that, an’ this lad believes him to be me, dressed so!
Aye, aye, wha-ah waste! Wha-ah matriarchal pattern-cut! Aye, aye. Landed ‘im in the fires, it did, jus like I’m been sayin’. But my boy, shore as ‘e keeps a length o’ rope ’round his gut-hangin’ waist, ‘e ‘ad a merry ol’ thinking in the pit.
He say-said to the ancestor, he said “Say, mac, say me elder pop, I’m pleased by your eminence and such. Much so. Maybe, say, maybe, we depart ta’ th’ wilderland ‘tween hev’n and ‘ell and gulp the beasties which roam such.”
I cannae’ get this point ‘cross well enough. My Boy Bespoke Wisdom. Bold as the sun goes slippin’. He loves meat, does the ancestor, mor’n he loves th’ all-father. An’ he slipped away with th’ boy, me boy, t’was the last straw y’ see, thinkin’ of that juice gone running.
They sit there now, love, me love, are y’ listenin’ t’ me? Aye, love, they’re sippin’ the saltless streams an’ growin’ heavy with elk. Don’ cry, ‘is body’s th’ only bit o’ him what’s left here. All-father, lord, we love ya, we do, please leave ‘im in his wilder places. God, lord, don’ cry so, love. Lord God does it break me t’ see ya.
I’ve seen ’em in the pit of me dreamin’, love, congregation. Aye, aye. Ye all must believe it, plain as ye believe me to be standing here.

Child of Beating

Warm little kid and sharp as a bird beak, born right there on the carpet when his step father won’t let his mother out to the hospital. He’s raised by himself and away from watchful eyes, creeps ’round the woods in quiet hours gathering blackberries in his shirt. Always cutting his legs up with the thorns. Beaten savagely like his mother before him.
Any such child of beating has his leanings, to fear or darker musing. Even as he wanders in the branches some hell rises inside him. Clenching his fists and gritting his teeth and pressing his red face into the creek long as he can while his breath poisons slow in his lungs.
Looking up with just his eyes, a strand of water-soaked hair shaking in the corner of his vision. A squirrel is passing by just in front of him. Twitching and blinking, one eye just slightly after the other and it moves it’s little paws over the dirt. The hate is welling. He feels like yelling but keeps obediently quiet, not disturbing the peace of the forest. But he can feel it fighting to the surface, gutting him from the inside and rising to the top like impurities from boiled gold.
The creature looks up at him, transfixed by creeping realization. They lock eyes, and a single muscle twitching under the squirrels nose gives warning and just at the moment when the whip will crack, something stops it. The boy can feel it pouring out from him in waves into the mind of the creature until it overflows. The squirrel falls down sideways to the ground, consumed wordlessly by vast pain both physical and mental. Ten long, sick years of it. It can’t understand a second.
The boy stands. By the green-filtered light he watches, feeling the pain leaking out from somewhere. Concentration on the writhing little form, he pushes it. More and more, the pains of his ten years flowing into the body. He can feel it ebbing away, his cuts and bruises bubbling off it’s skin. He smiles, blinking. And looks up at the forest’s ceiling, tears of joy on his face.
From then on it gets a little better. When he can, the boy slips out into the forest to release his pain on the unaware forest. He finds that letting it out provides a semblance of relief, temporarily. But the more he lets bleed the more takes it’s place, of thrown insults and bottles and rough hands moving over him. Of words from schoolmates breaking over his shoulders. Every tortured night vomited up into the mind of a passing animal. They writhe on the forest floor when he does it. He used to not watch.
The switch is flipped proper on an unassuming winter day. The irritation causing it is so minor as to be nothing. He’s pushed to the ground by a schoolmate and kicked in the sides by two others. His scabs can attest to the frequency of these things.
He begins by redirecting the pain they cause him. Bruising their sides, making them grow paranoid in the hallways for the scraps of money in their pockets. Making them taste sweaty hands in their mouths and down their throats and vomit on their teeth. When they won’t stop it escalates. A broken rib. Bottle glass in their neck, the sharp corner of a table to the side. Lonely, sleepless depression driving them deeper into the wilds. Hate screaming inside them pushing free.
The air about him is always awash in these and many more such torments. It is an ever-present stench about him. His pains fill every space, his paranoia and fear. Even the innocent children are burdened by a fresh cascade of pain as he passes them in the halls. No one dare raise a hand, not when he can call such pain and guilt as to cripple their body and mind. Hit me, he’ll say. Hit me you old bastard, right across the mouth. Just to feed the pit.
He turns to drinking.
He’s in from a night out in the woods again. The bottle hangs limp in his clammy hands. He fumbles with the keys. Anger rises so easy now it flows ever present, thick in the air he exhales. It brings people to their knees. The porch light overhead flickers violently, and little clicks sound as moths hit it. The key turns.
The flickering light extends out into the house and stretches black impressions over it’s surfaces. Immediately the stink of blood fills his nose. His eyes dart nervously over every nook. A TV is going in the bedroom like always, the light it casts moves to the cadence of sport but no sound. He can see the back room, and now a faint banging and swearing. He enters the bedroom.
Her head is broken open at the top, cracked lines of blood stain her eyes and mouth. Strands of hair are gathered up in it, in the wound cut across her brow. It soaks the carpet, congealed among it’s fibers. Her tongue is swollen and seems to fill her gaping mouth, and blood is crusted on her two front teeth. She’s sitting up against the bed eyes open as if contemplating the wall. And over her the bringer of death, stood ready with his gaze locked on the boy.
Don’t do nothin’ you’d regret, He says slowly. A pause, the boy is drinking it in. I had to do it like this, she was comin’ at me. She would’ve hit me, sweartogod. The boy looks up at him in disbelief. His step dad looks away at the wall, lip quivering, and turns back to him. All I had was a bottle, I was just gonna do a… a practice swing. W-warning swing. But the damned thing didn’t break. He looked down at it, lying there. Wasn’t my fault it happened, but I know you’ll blame me.
Seconds lapse in the little stand off. And then it begins. Silently, he lets every last drop of it hard into his step father’s fat body. Waves of hurt filling the old man up to the very brim. Tears run down both their cheeks in unison. He’s dredging up the darkest thoughts from so far down he’s hardly aware of them. His anger and sorrow are filling faster than he can unload them. His step father is on the floor, leaning against the bed and weeping hard.
The guilt of secret sins, of standing over the weeping bodies of classmates. Of arguments screamed out while he cowers. Of many pulls from the bottle by the light of an overcast moon. Filling up the animals with his hate and pain. Every bit of it emptied into his father’s writhing form, but it’s not enough. Nothing could be enough.
He leans down close, right by his father’s ear, clutching at his grubby shirt. There’s comin’ a day, he says, when I come back. Hate gathered in his voice. I’m gonna go out and find the pain of the world, he says. I’m gonna find pain like you never felt before. He pushes his step father back into the bed frame and stands up in the same motion. The last reserves flow out into the broken form.
Morning breaks out over the dashboard. He’s been driving all night and his eyes are tired. He rubs the hair from out of his eyes, pulls the sunshade down. The sun’s rising diagonally in the corner of his eyes. Arriving at a diner, he sits down on a bench outside and looks over the town. He’s never been this far.
Three years. He wanders in and out through American dreamscapes, guided by a compass rambling where is hidden to man. Getting into squabbles in bars, by choice walking barefoot and coat-less. Collecting pain. He kills a man with the strength of his hands in an alleyway for looking at him. He tells himself he’s nothing, worthless. Guilt is welling, sorrow, and tangible pain. Pain in his joints and muscles. In his blow-rattled jaw. Old pains from times past, and new ones. Chaffing against him.
How quick can three years enter the old man? Should it be compressed into a moment, or drawn out as long as it has taken to gather? Will such poison kill, or will it merely bleed him? He pounds his body against the steering wheel on the road at night. Screaming raw. He is violent, the younger image of his step father. Paranoid, his instinct is away from prying eyes. His spirit lies in puddles and rain sumps. In stains and mud and cracked blood tied up in bandages, American soil.
He returns. On the back of the bus way, cold and tired. Broken up. At last, he has gathered all he can stand. He sits down next to an old man swallowed up in a leather coat. The man looks sideways at him.
Young man? The old man says. He doesn’t look.
Young man, the old man says louder. He turns. What?
You’re shivering. Would you like to borrow my coat? He shakes his head.
Naw, old man. It’s been a long time coming to stop now. Silence. The old man wipes the scruff of his face.
You young ones, now I don’t understand y’all sometimes. You… you feel there’s debt you’re to pay, for better or worse.
The man laughs under his breath. Yeah, I got a debt to pay somebody. The old man shakes his head again, still looking out the window.
You carry it all with you. And act like you’ve got to do it. Like it’s a man’s lot to do it.
The younger turns to the old man. It is, old man. This whole damn country’s created from suffering. The old man turns back to him, eyes severe.
That’s true. It runs in a man’s veins. The old man leans in close so their shoulders are touching. The younger recoils, but listens intently.
But even if we’re made of suffering, it’s decency keeping us together. It’s God’s breath moving in the clay.
He breathes quickly, glaring wildly at the old man. The old man settles back into his seat, looking out the window again. The younger leans back, staring up at the ceiling.
The bus pulls up to the stop and he gets off. It’s cold and snow moves in the clouds. His feet are bare on the sidewalk as he walks. Coming to the old house, it’s unruly and unkempt as he left it. He pulls the old key from his pocket, holds it down by his side. The breath clouds in front of him. He looks up at the cloudy sky, gathering all the years up that he’s saved, bursting to be free.
He steps up onto the porch, his jaw tight and his fists clenched, coaxing the tide. Steadying the key with both hands, he slides it slowly into the lock, putting pressure on it.
It doesn’t turn.
He pushes it again, harder. Breathing heavier, he shakes at the door knob, swearing under his breath. He hits the door, slamming into it with his body. The flimsy old key snaps off in the lock. He calls dying rabbit screams out into the air as he forces his aching body into the door. He looks around, the hair falling in his face, and sees the window. Smashing it, he steps into the house, wanders through every room. Weeping his eyes raw. The stain is still in the carpet in the bedroom, but cobwebs are gathered in the corners. Life is long since left from this place.
He sinks weeping to the living room floor. Moaning, feeling the years ache in his legs. He pushes himself up and out of the house, sprinting back further into the woods beyond and stopping at the creek. Pushing his head into the mud of the creek, he unleashes the tide.
Something is different. The pain doesn’t spread to the ground, to the animals there. It rises like helium, up over the tree canopy and into the atmosphere. It pours from him like smoke off an iron, off his back and clothes, bleeding out from every pour. He sobs deeply into the ground.
But he finds it doesn’t fill him again. It just flows and flows, until he is empty of it and he rolls over onto his back. The snow is falling, floating down softly over the wood. The tears streaking his ruddy face are freezing, and they stop entirely. His burden is gone, taken up. There is nothing left to feel.