Category Archives: Visions

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #39

The second fight has lasted over three hours.  Later the doctor tells me it was the longest one-on-one combat fights ever recorded.  Even as Torlat still twitches on the ground the King rises, ends the tournament and dismisses the unruly crowd with a show of force from several hundred black-clad uniformed and armoured Hyrete police held in readiness.  As the police units file down the aisles in the stands all outbursts cease.  The fans file out to consider their staggering losses and a few to rejoice over their winnings.  Despite the mounting evidence that female fighters will overcome their male challengers on an average of three to one, these sick men cannot believe the evidence, going with their feelings of revulsion and hate; believing women are weaker than men and continuing to place their bets on the male challengers.   

I live another day, and to what end?  For the moment, there is but one end: to save Deirdre.

[end blog post #38]
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[begin blog post #39]

Chapter 17 – If One Woman Escapes

In the weeks following the fight I am employed, or better said, occupied, strictly as trainer of new recruits.  It is a time of reflection and observation.  I think about my performance, not in the physical realm – there is not much I could change or improve on that – but in my heart and in my mind.  I think about what I thought I would do here, and what I have done instead.  In deep and constant retrospection, I analyze my feelings.  The killings are now beginning to haunt my thoughts.  I feel like a murderer of innocents.  Innocents because I realize they are pushed to be what they are.  Something drives them, something they have no defence against.  I encounter that same feeling of helplessness and frustration I knew so well on Túat Har when I encountered injustice and the various levels of oppression constant in all her societies.

Balomo Echinoza, medical doctor and anthropologist, citizen of the world of Koron, intelligent, educated, aware; an interstellar traveler renowned for his research and writings, after fifteen years on this world is succumbing to the same misogynist force that controls all the men of T’Sing Tarleyn.  He falls into moods of uncontrollable rage against a woman if he feels she has slighted him in some way and strikes her without any qualms until the madness recedes and he realizes his act.  Then he plunges into deep despair.

How much longer before I too become like other gladiator females and fight simply because I want to live and I have no other choice, or worse, because I want to kill men?  I realize now that both the men and women of this world are victims of some Power beyond their will to overcome.  Even the rare Cholradil, the natural born empaths, do not see the problem of Malefactus.  They see themselves as the problem for being unable to become normal members of their society.

I thought at first the problem was in the local natural stimulant drug made from the chakr root.  A simplistic conclusion that was quickly proved wrong.  Neither Bal nor I use it and the few times I did, it only made me sick.  And why do the Cholradil – both female and male – remain immune to the sickness? 

Yes, I did learn that there are male Cholradil on this world.  The males never live past the rite of puberty.  When confronted by the female he must kill, she invariably kills him, end of story.  So, according to Deirdre, Cholradil males absorb large quantities of chakr in desperate attempts to overcome their dreaded affliction – all to no avail.  They cannot hurt another, no matter what is done to them and no matter what they do to themselves.

So, does one have to be born a natural empath to be immune to misogyny or can one develop that sense somehow?  I have no answer.  The only side issue I find from this line of questioning is that I would never want to become a natural empath.  To be driven to whatever end by a feeling you have absolutely no control over is a terrible thing.  It’s too much like an addiction.  On Altaria we are empaths by choice.  We choose how we respond to our feelings. 

I remember a time when I was going through particular angst over my visions of this world.  I entered into an extended fast without food or water.  To do this I walked up the green hills of my Altarian home near the valley of the Great Rift we call Shaliant.  I got to the top after three days of steady walking, not stopping of day or night – there is seldom any real darkness there because of our binary sun system.   I remember my feet being guided to my destination by the very soil and stone of the planet herself during my ascent, for she too is an empath. 

At the highest point I sat on a smooth red mound of sun-baked clay, now abandoned, made by travelling swarms of long reddish coloured architect beetles.  These creatures build their mounds over long years of endless work, going through a full cycle, then suddenly swarming and taking flight to the very last, travelling hundreds of miles before they must descend again, lay their eggs in the ground and die.  The emerging larva then begin their task of building a new mound.

Long I stayed awake through the days and the nights, sitting motionless, thus becoming more aware of life’s movements all around.  I knew the fundamental impressions I was taking from my world would keep me sane enough to know when it was time to return, whatever happened to me as a result of my choices.  They were the trigger I would use to cause the remembrance of my true self, whatever the dangers, the temptations or seductions put before me.

Allow me to describe this small aspect of Altaria.  Mists filled Shaliant in the mornings and gently lift, or fade throughout the day as one of our two suns fill the deep canyons to reveal the sinewy bed of the river Fallouin, longest water course on Altaria.  I could hear the dragged-out cries from the majestic osoleys, or sea birds, below the promontory outcropping where I sat and sometimes could see them soaring slowly and gracefully on the thermals far below my vantage point, their grey-blue wingspans up to five times the length of my body.  They come in from the sea during their breeding periods that last approximately two years.  Their time at sea we measure at seventeen to twenty-one years depending on the species.  There are tales on our world of the old sea people (still known as the Mer-people on Túat Har) talking to the osoleys and of their children riding them.  I believe these tales have more than a little truth to them.

But I hadn’t climbed to the top of Shaliant to enjoy the beauty of this totally unspoiled natural space, nor to guarantee my return in some future.  I had come to rediscover another aspect of myself… and to cry alone.  There is an odd flow of intelligent “mind” energy over Shaliant that has the power to block all telepathic connections.  It is so strong that you cannot take any flying object over it, but must circumnavigate it.  It blocks all flow of information from artificial computers.  Only natural life can penetrate the mystery of Shaliant, or survive in it unscathed. 

I wanted to block out the protective, empathic love of Altaria that flows naturally through all of us.  I wanted to re-experience loneliness, as I had known it on Earth and knew I’d know even more on Malefactus.  I remained on Shaliant for over a month.  I relearned how to cry within a brokenness of heart.  I relearned to allow all my feelings to jumble in and out of mind and heart and throw me in utter confusion.  I relearned how to live within the mad cacophony considered normal on non-empath worlds.

It was from these heights that I chose to fade out of my Altarian body, allowing myself to fall over the edge of the Great Rift, plummeting into the maze to re-awaken and manifest physically transformed, on Malefactus. 

Speaking of Malefactus, there is more to this world that makes me wonder.  I cannot see much of it from the confines of our sleeping and training compound, but in this micro environment some things are obvious.  You never hear anyone sing.  It is prohibited.  Why?  There are no visible birds except for the vultures that appear without fail at every killing.  There are no animals, wild or domesticated, except for whatever makes that lugubrious call on our walls in the night.  You rarely see a blade of grass growing along the base of the great stone walls or in fissures and cracks, though there should be.  If one does grow and is found, we are supposed to pull it out and bring it to a trainer to be disposed of… as if a freely growing thing was a sign of disease, or weakness.  Of course no one does that.  Any green thing we find, that being rare enough, we eat!

No flowers, wild or domestic, are ever seen.  No leaf ever blows in from outside, so my guess is there are no tall trees, at least in this part of the world.  Tiegli mentioned trees that made tents in the deep south.

Where do the vegetables we eat come from?  And the straw we put in our cages?  No answer.

I’ve been here several years now and the only thing that has changed is in the amount of sand blowing in and spreading in the yards, in the washing troughs and on the tables and seats.  We have to clean it out and sweep constantly.  I notice less rain also and on rare occasions our water has been rationed.  When I first came here I was aware of a salty sea smell on certain days when the winds blew strong and steady from the north-east, bringing in clouds and rain.  Now the smell is brackish and of rotting sea vegetation as on hot days when the tide goes way out in a collector bay.  I’m guessing the level of the water is dropping.  Is this a natural cycle or an environmental anomaly?  Is the entire planet experiencing desertification?  I have no answer.

Well no, that is not quite exact.  I do have the beginning of vision dreams now.  For years I wondered why my ability to dream was gone.  I think the same force that causes the misogynist imbalance is also responsible for preventing people from dreaming.  I know the women don’t dream, though some have reported seeing things at night akin to nightmares but they “see” their dreams as something happening outside of themselves.  They see ghosts wandering around the cages and walking through the walls.  They have little sense of creativity and most dismiss “brain images” as nonsense that will get you killed in the arena.

On recurrent dream is an image of the planet imploding, with all of her natural life force simply flowing out of her, leaving her, as if she were dying and sending off seeds of herself to re-grow herself somewhere else.  If this is the case, it may come to pass that the sun will also die and all that will remain to light this doomed place will be the cursed Albaral, assuming of course that it is indeed self-powered and its light isn’t just a reflection of the natural sun.

Each time I verbalize the name of Albaral I find myself entering a psychic trance and “seeing” ideas as well as images connected to this artificial sun.  This time I see the image of “Melkiar,” not as invading AI’s in spaceships, but as a gigantic artificial life form frozen within an ancient shiny black metallic carapace housing some kind of mind once an ISSA life, now drained of every aspect of its original self.  A monstrous entity capable of programming AI’s to destroy all that it once was, as if doing so could erase the memory of what it had been before greed for longevity corrupted it. 

Where do you exist now, in space/time, Melkiar?  Where are you?  What are your plans?  Is Albaral one of your observation posts? 

Could there be some connection between this world and the invaders of the United Treaty Worlds?  For example the doctor’s old auto-medic cannibalized from one of the UTW jump scout ships that was sunk beneath the massive stone walls of Hyrete: how was that embedded under a fifty meter thick foundation supporting a twenty metre stone wall without being damaged?  Melkiars could morph from thousands of small armed robots to giant inorganic brains encased in elephantine carapaces that could withstand the most powerful fusion weaponry.  The only way we learned to destroy these monstrosities were with tripleheaded singularity grenades which create multi-level fusion bursts that “ate” their intended target then “died” before they could expand into an uncontrolled melt-down.  

These Melkiar constructs could travel unaided through short distances in deep vacuum space.  They could hack their way through the hardest stone, causing havoc in mining communities of asteroid fields.  Certainly, if they did penetrate the Malefactus stack world dimension along with the jump scouts, they could have easily taken an auto-medic and placed it here.  The question foremost in my mind remains, ‘Why?’  What use would they have for an auto-medic designed to repair biological life forms, namely human bodies when their entire drive was to destroy all biologicals?

What else could they do we know nothing about?  Much research into their particular type of life ended with the wars.  No one wanted more to do with them.  Probably another big mistake.  But logically, if there is any logic to this place, why would they hide an auto-medic here in Hyrete?  Is it possible there are AI rebels even among the Melkiar who sought to save human lives?  Is there a relationship between the Melkiar, perhaps in some of their early penetrations in this Galaxy and the black metal men who defeated the green Desert Beast by blowing her ship out of the sky and subsequently enslaving the women and children of T’Sing Tarleyn?  What about the chronology of these events?  What happens to “linear time” when crossing dimensions?  Could the Melkiars have wandered in this dimension thousands of years ago while at the same non-linear “time” invading our dimension of the Galaxy?

Obviously I’m not yet asking the right questions but I’ll get there.

[end blog post #39]

O Beauty, thou art Relentless

[a sensuous meditation from ~burning woman~ ]

I drop my hands slowly to my bare thighs and gently pass them over my skin. I realize, mind fully engaged, that both, my hands’ skin and my thighs’ skin is my skin. The pleasure that arises from the touch is my pleasure, not someone else’s hand-me-down. Mine. I pleasure myself thus, as my hands, of my own free will, continue to feel me, down to my knees, then around the back, over my round buttocks, up and around my slim waist, up more, to my armpits, hairless and lightly tanned. I continue to explore this marvel of my body, moving to my throat, down, extending my fingertips lightly between my breasts, then outwardly, cupping, then gently rubbing my nipples to make them stand out, throb, hunger for a baby’s lips, adding to the effect of this beauty that is all mine.

I am not done exploring. My hands, of their own volition, move down, caressing, caressing, so gently, my fingers eagerly exploring between my legs which, as I stand on wet grass, spread out. I feel my heat there, my desire for that ‘more’ that drives ‘normal’ people to seek out another to complete the cycle.

But for me, the transgender, the androgynous, there is no need of another: I complete myself and with a loud moan of utter satisfaction, let myself fall to my knees in the grass, bending back to stare into an intense blue sky, my auburn, waist-length hair spread out under the back of my head, a living pillow of lavender scent. Up there stars without number play hide and seek and as they have all my life, invite me out to them to let them taste me.

An image of a nature creature appears in my mind, rolling over towards my knees spread in subconscious invitation. It murmurs, ‘Earth girl… earth girl… O Beauty, thou art, relentless.’ I lock the feeling in a smile so it can never be taken from me.

 

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All rights reserved. counterpunch@counterpunch.org

After the “victory” of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and the “settlement” of the civil war in El Salvador, and due to other pressing situations, our support group here in Chilliwack, B.C., Canada, called “The Central America Friendship Committee” was disbanded with a huge sigh of relief. Little did we know that the whole “settlement” thing was, as usual, a two-faced negotiation on the part of Washington and the CIA. Unless they are clearly beaten, as in Vietnam, it doesn’t end, it escalates. Nothing was “settled” and things are not only continuing, but getting worse. As you read the following, if you read the following, note the names of the American presidents who presided over the massacres, tortures and killings of children in Central America. Then in the “killing fields” of refugee seekers in the deserts north of the Mexican border. Then take a few moments to ponder why “Nut’n’Yahoo’s” Zionists can slaughter Palestinian children with such impunity. Washington has always been, remains, and will continue to be the face of racism and genocide worldwide until it is destroyed, or it collapses from its own internal corruption. Those who still believe there is a fix are sadly deluded or they haven’t taken a serious look at the latest presidential face stamped on the latest genocides.

Sha’Tara, July 10, 2018
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July 10, 2018

The Discovery of Central American Suffering

by Nick Alexandrov

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U.S. pundits and politicians just discovered, it seems, that Washington’s decisions harm Central American families. For the New York Times, “separating families…is something new and malicious,” reflecting Trump’s “heartlessness” and violating “fundamental American values.” “This, apparently, is how you turn off the idea of America,” Alex Wagner (The Atlantic) added. The Los Angeles Times thinks “the administration’s cold-hearted approach to enforcement has crossed the line into abject inhumanity,” departing– so we’re to believe– from past practice.

These are half-accurate charges: Trump’s policy is malicious, heartless, cold-hearted. But it isn’t new. Both in Central America and along its Mexican border, Washington has helped rip apart families for decades, forcing children to endure a world without their parents, mothers to cope with their children’s sickening ends. Abject inhumanity, in other words, is a U.S. foreign policy hallmark.

Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras– review their histories. You’ll be crushed by evidence revealing which values shape Washington’s conduct, which norms govern its behavior in a region where it enjoys immense influence. And you’ll begin to understand why many had to flee these countries. Start with Guatemala. Ríos Montt, the dictator the U.S. funded, armed, and encouraged, oversaw the Mayan genocide there. In one episode, on April 3, 1982, the Guatemalan army overran the village of Chel, slaughtering its residents and orphaning Pedro Pacheco Bop, whose great-grandfather, parents, and five siblings (aged two to 14) were all murdered, their blood draining into the Chel River where the troops hurled the dead. Tomas Chávez Brito was two years old when the army fell upon his village, Sajsibán, seven months later, torching his home with his mother, sisters, and other family members inside. In the mountains, where Tomas hid for the following year eating plants to survive, one can only imagine how the idea of orphanhood, his new reality, settled in his mind. Margarita Rivera Ceto de Guzmán’s family separation was quicker. Soldiers knifed her in the stomach, killing her unborn child.

Egla Martínez Salazar, addressing this genocide, explains that assaults on Maya households conveyed “the message that Mayas did not live in ‘real’ families, but rather in ‘living arrangements’ that constituted breeding spaces for ‘international communist indoctrination.’” Erasing these spaces required “the mass murder of children,” plus “the forced transfer of surviving Maya children to military and paramilitary families,” tactics Salvadoran forces also adopted in the 1980s. Apart from killing most of the 75,000 slain there from 1980-1992– the stretch when Carter, Reagan, and Bush I funneled $6 billion into the country– “soldiers [also] abducted children in what an international court says was a ‘systematic pattern of forced disappearances.’”

Similar violence-patterns afflicted Nicaragua and Honduras. The Contras flaunted their family-destroying talents in the former, as when some 1,000 of them, on April 3, 1984, assaulted the village of Waslala. A father there, desperate to save his wife and children, sheltered with them in a ditch. The Contras found him, hauled him out. He was “tortured by having his fingertips and then his right hand cut off, and then killed with bayonets,” and then decapitated, Reed Brody recounts. As a final gesture to their mission’s purity, the Contras, into the dead man’s back, cut intersecting gashes– the shape of the cross. Brody tells another story: in “El Achote a band of contras dragged an agrarian reform worker from his home, and in front of his wife, 11 month old son, and three year old son, cut him into pieces with their bayonets. The man’s wife was then shot, but she lived to watch them behead her 11 month old baby.”

It was Battalion 316 that targeted Honduran families. The Baltimore Sun reported that the unit, “trained and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency,” “kidnapped, tortured and killed” hundreds in the 1980s. One example: Nelson Mackay Chavarría “was 37 years old and the father of five” when the Battalion found him. When searchers later discovered his corpse, “his hands and feet were tied with rope” and “black liquid spilled from his mouth”– criolina, “rubbed on cattle to kill ticks and mites.”

In more recent decades, the U.S. government has forged the Mexican border into a family-wrecking zone. President Clinton’s Operation Gatekeeper, for instance, “only made it harder for people to cross the border at relatively safe places and forced them to cross in more dangerous places, such as the Arizona desert,” writes Carolina Bank Muñoz. She stresses that “the policy broke up families, as few families were willing to take such risks by crossing a dangerous border together.” Maggie Morgan and Deborah Anker, citing ACLU work, note that “the risk of dying while crossing in Arizona was 17 times greater in 2009 than only a decade earlier”– and that “the mortality rate almost doubled” from 2009-2012, on Obama’s watch, “with children constituting roughly 10 per cent of fatalities each year.” Todd Miller estimates these “Southwest ‘killing fields’” have taken some 21,000 lives since the early 1990s.

There’s no question Trump’s migrant policies warrant outrage. But his are only the latest from Washington rattling– if not terminating– Central American lives. If we delude ourselves, if we choose to believe his actions depart from some moral norm, we risk satisfaction with superficial policy shifts. A deeper overhaul is needed to ensure Central American suffering ceases.

More articles by:Nick Alexandrov

Nick Alexandrov lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He can be reached at: nicholas.alexandrov@gmail.com

It begins but it doesn’t End

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~]

I’ve begun wondering if I’m finally getting old. I don’t mean physically, of course I’m getting old but that doesn’t seem to matter a lot; just wondering about in my head. Asking myself, am I mentally getting old?

For quite some time now I’ve begun writing these “gems” of thoughts, only to realize that not one of them was ever brought to any conclusion. That being a new thing for me, I’ve started wondering what causes that unfinished business.

Am I losing track of things, or is it that I don’t care anymore; that is, I don’t care enough to bring it to a conclusion? It’s not a pregnancy anymore, just a flirtation, or so it seems. I like the idea, but not enough to push it out completely. Dumb, right?

Here’s another thought, another possible reason. Yes, I am getting old. Suddenly very fast. I’m feeling it, everywhere, even as I go on pretending to myself that nothing is changing. Everything is changing. Climate change? The end of civilization? No, it’s more than that on a personal basis, though it may be related. What is happening is, I’ve grown up enough to consider having a serious date with death.

You know what happens when you start getting serious with death: he’s a very serious character and doesn’t take fooling around lightly. ‘If you want to date me’ says the handsome and thoroughly desirable character, ‘you will have to marry me and I don’t care how easy it is in your world to get a divorce, in mine that is not an option. Date me now and you are mine, for eternity.’

Is that it? Have I fallen in love with my own very last lover? Is that why nothing gets finished anymore? How romantically sick that idea is! It’s fine in a movie, like “Meet Joe Black” but it’s not reality, is it.

No. I think the problem, if it is a problem, is the picture has grown so big in my mind that I don’t have the language to encompass it all anymore. As soon as I sit down to write it, it inflates like the craziest balloon imaginable until all I can do is let it go and just watch it rise into the night sky and disappear.

Some years ago as I sat alone in the dark pondering “stuff” and crying, for no reason but that it made me feel better to cry, I said to myself, “I know too much and it’s killing me.”

I didn’t die from an overdose of knowing, but it got me staring into that infinity telescope and the more I looked, the farther I saw and the more confused I got. It may be that there are limits to what we should dare look into. Limits to how much future we should try to absorb. It may be that wisdom calls to say, “Enough now, just go out and play with what you already know. Stop stuffing yourself or you will make yourself sick.”

I understand that death is that last door into my chosen slice of future. What I have yet to learn is that my chosen slice of future is all that I am designed to handle. It’s all I can be. It is my future, not yours, not anyone else’s. It’s my dowry and I need to own it.

Well, I got this one done. A good movie, a glass of wine and some ‘nasty’ salty chips… and it’s thundering outside. That’s a bonus: we don’t get much in terms of thunder storms down here. It’s a rather placid kind of a place, this Lower Mainland. When it comes to weather, we get the left-overs.

Ciao, everyone. Thanks for reading; thanks for the likes; thanks for being who you are, wish I could meet and get to know all of you personally. That would be so wonderful…

~me… Sha’Tara as    ~burning woman~

 

The Shared Mind

a vision, by Sha’Tara]

It is difficult at times to determine if a vision is good or bad. I suppose it can be argued that it’s all on how it makes you feel, or the effect the memory of it has. In any case you may find the following entertaining, interesting, perhaps even intriguing. Perhaps you even know what this is all about.  Perhaps this is also a part of your reality.

There was a girl on the street. A quite ordinary looking girl in scuffed runners, faded jeans and an oversized blue sweat shirt. Her dark hair was tied in a loose pony tail. How old was she? You don’t ask a woman her age.

She was kneeling by a broken vase someone had heaved out of an open window.  It’s possible it had simply fallen. There were stems of dried, long dead flowers scattered all around, and some spots of rust coloured liquid spattered the cement under the broken pieces.   Water or blood?

I watched this girl very carefully, though she could not see me. I was using a wide power pole to hide behind so I could observe the scene without disturbing anything, neither her thoughts nor her movements.

She picked up the broken vase, and carefully held it as she arranged the pieces so it would look as if it was still in one piece. It had been painted over with a cheap imitation of mother-of-pearl. So, rule out the possibility that it had been either a fancy or expensive item.  She picked up the dried flower stems and put them in the vase. Then she stared at it, unmoving for several minutes.

I waited and wondered. What was the girl thinking?  Doing?

You know those balloon things you see over the heads of people in cartoons?  I saw one of those over her head.  I saw what she was thinking.  She wasn’t thinking in words, or perhaps I didn’t know her language, but what I saw did surprise me.

There was an image in the balloon.  It was of the vase she had so carefully reassembled.  A man in an outlandish uniform was holding the vase, and it was filled with the most beautiful bunch of red roses.  He was handing it to a woman.  The woman was veiled, her face hidden behind a white lace and her hands, as she reached for the vase, were covered by white lace gloves. In contrast, she wore a floor-length black dress with a high collar. They were standing in a large room and I could tell from the man’s uniform, the woman’s dress, the curtains and pictures on the walls, that this was of another time, and of another part of the world.

What kind of past life memory had I come upon?  What old love story was being brought forth from the nether worlds by this strange and unexpected vision?

The girl on the sidewalk slowly let the broken vase slip from her hands and its pieces spread out as before.  The balloon image vanished.  She got up, holding her right hand over her eyes, found her balance and looked around.  I had stepped out from behind my hiding place and when our eyes met, I saw her eyes welling with tears, and more running down her face.

Her lips made a surprised “O” and she turned abruptly, running away from me down the street.  I looked down and there was nothing on the sidewalk, just the dirty, old, cracked cement. No broken vase, no dried up flower stems, no rust-coloured stains. Down the street, no woman running.

I knew instinctively that I had no need to go running after her and try to glean the story from her.  In my mind I knew I had seen her thoughts because I was one of her “partials” as my people explain it.  A piece of her mind linked to mine.

I will find her again and I will get the story (if I want it), whether in a restaurant, in a dream, in a vision, in a walk by a lake, in a memory, even in another life, in a lovers’ embrace, none of those particulars matters.  We are linked in a shared mind, that’s what matters. It’s what I needed corroboration for: the shared mind theory.

The Times After (conclusion)

   [Short story, by Sha’Tara]

For some time, Lon watched Reuben as he disappeared, then a cry from the orphanage made him turn and run to the ramshackle building.  Two of the adults were already there, calming the children and bending over one three year old lying on the ground, the little body thrashing, if feebly.  Sweet little Amri.

“What’s wrong with her, does anyone know?”

“Maybe something she ate.  The children are chewing on anything they can eat.  They’re all in terrible pain, Lon.

“I know, Maggie.  I agree, we need to move, no more delays.  We’ll get started right now, pack what we can, hide what we can’t carry and go.”

“Where?”

“Ruben said he’d go north if he was free to do so.  He walked west when he left, but you know Ruben – he’d do that automatically just to confuse anyone wanted to follow or track him.  I know he’d turn as soon as he was out of sight, but which way?  I wish now we’d gone with him.  We’ll have a quick meeting in about an hour and decide our direction, then we’ll just go.  We cannot stay here, there’s nothing left to eat, and the water is no longer safe to drink.”

Soon the miserable camp was stripped and obliterated of recent human habitation as much as was possible.  The children were lined up and given a rope to hang on to.  The meeting was short: they would go east; no reason why except a secret vote turned up a majority of two for an eastern direction. 

Lon was bitterly disappointed, he’d hoped they would try to follow Ruben, though he well knew that was impossible.  He left his message for Ruben and they began their danger-fraught quest for food and water.  Already Lon had violated one of Ruben’s warnings, to only travel at night.  Adults took turns carrying little Amri and the weaker children.  The rest of the children began to lose some of their listlessness as they noticed changes along the route.

Evening saw the group drop down into a small gully, to hide and for protection.  Kamal, one of the strongest adults, went off in search of water which against so many odds, he did find.  Everybody searched for edible plants and roots and some of the hunger was assuaged for a time.  Night came and the small fire was doused so it wouldn’t create a glow.  The people slept on the ground, in their old rags.  Dried grasses had been stacked to lay little Amri and two other sickly children upon and each had an adult companion to keep them cuddled and reassured.  The stars came out, harsh and bright, flickering like cold, unseeing eyes.  Unable to help himself, Lon who was one of the sentry detail, walked a short distance away from the fitful and fretting sleepers and looked into the sky, turning slowly as he did so. 

“Where are you Ana?” he thought to himself.  “You promised and you must know we are in dire straights now.  We need your help; I need you here.  Don’t let Ruben be right about this.  I’m desperately counting on you.  You know I’m a terrible leader and here I am, leader by default.  This is too much responsibility…”

Morning came early, gray and cold before the sun could rise.  The hungry troop stood up, drank some water, and took to the land again, walking in the general direction of the sunrise.  Everybody, even the children, walked slower, looking for plants and roots to eat.  Hopelessness more than sadness pervaded the group.  Who could blame them? 

Finally the sun was high enough to beam down some energy into their wasted bodies.  Laughter even erupted from some children as they noticed a butterfly.

“Follow it,” said one of the women, “it may lead us to some edible flowers, or even berries.”  There was a bit of a chase, but the children were cautioned not to interfere with the insect’s path.  Suddenly it rose up and they thought they’d lost it but it came down again to disappear behind a dip in the flat ground.  They came to the edge and looked down upon a miracle, a regular feast.  An entire embankment was covered in blackberries, more or less ripe. 

Lon cautioned his charges: “I know you are very hungry but these plants will hurt you terribly if you wander in them carelessly.  We have nothing to bind rips and tears in skin.  Please use extreme caution.  Do not be in any hurry, we will camp here.  There are many green things here, there must be water also.”

Kamal went out on water detail again, he seemed to have a knack for finding it, and he did find potable water – warm but quenching nevertheless.  The blackberries did not give up their bounty without bloodshed but they proved adequate to ease the group’s hunger.  That was a good ending to what had started as a very dismal day.

That night Lon had a dream.

It wasn’t Ana who came to him in the dream, but his older sister whom he had watched being gang-raped and die in one of the hunters’ camps.  She stood on the open ground, away from the camp.  He walked over to her. 

“Hello Lon, it’s nice to see you again.  I’ve missed you terribly.  I’m sorry I abandoned you in the camp but my body wouldn’t hold on any longer.  I knew you had survived and escaped.  How are you?” 

“I’m so glad to see you Nan, you have no idea.  I’m OK, but we’re in a very precarious situation here, the people I mean.  We need help.  The children are weakening; some are sick.”

“I know that, but things must take their course, Lon.  In a way it’s your own fault that things are this bad.”

“How can you say that, Nan?  How dare you!  I’ve done everything I could to help here…”

“From your point of view, yes, but did you listen to those who may have known more?  Did you listen to Ruben, or were you so worried about his wild streak, his atavism, that you refused to trust his better survivalist judgment?  Didn’t he counsel to take the group away several months ago when the drought started?  Didn’t you think he’d know where to take you all if you followed him?  Did you think that he was trying to gain control of the group and were jealous of him?  Weren’t you afraid he would break your rules when he deemed necessary to save lives?   I know you Lon.  You mean well, but you have never really mined those deeper aspects of your nature: the fearful, the coward and the user – those aspects of one’s personality that become the controller; which reside in your subconscious.  It’s those things that killed Ana, and have brought you to these straights.”

“What do you know of Ruben, or Ana?  How can you possibly know what’s in my subconscious?  How can you know anything if you accuse me of killing Ana?  I loved her!”

“Of course you did.  You never realized you loved her too much under the circumstances, and you strangled her.  She didn’t know because in her own way she loved you too, but you choked her those many times when you insisted she come away from her duties to be with you.  She was conflicted; didn’t know where to stand between your demands, and the needs of the people.  Oh yes, you killed her.  She was an empath, Lon.  If you had allowed her full freedom to live her nature she’d still be here, with all of you, and she’d be laughing with you tonight.”

“It’s a dream, just a dream,” said Lon in the dream, “isn’t it?”

“If you want, but it is much more than a dream.  I’m here to help, Lon, but you must do as I tell you – exactly as I tell you – when you wake up into your real world.  You will abandon any idea of leading this little group.  Someone much more suitable is going to appear during the coming day.  Your hopes for the group will be fulfilled, but not the way you hoped they would be.  When help arrives, this is what you must do: walk away north, into the wilderness, by yourself.  Do not turn back, do not come back.  Your own redemption or your death, await in the young re-grown northern forests.  You will meet some people there and they will teach you about real love which is compassion.  I will see you again, Lon.  Goodbye.”

He watched her fade in the pale moonlight and woke up drenched in sweat.  Immediately he began to shake violently.  He got up, stretched and went on a short run to warm up, all the while thinking about his dream.

“That’s not a dream, that’s a nightmare!”  he thought.  Then he saw the possibility that it had been a vision.  “Morning will tell, tomorrow will tell.  I’ll wait until help arrives, I’ll see.”

Strange times call for strange events.  By the middle of the next day, as most of the people were busy gathering berries, eating, hauling water or keeping the children in line, the very first event of Lon’s dream came to pass: Ruben returned from his quest.  He approved of the stopping place with a few nods.  Always somewhat taciturn, he was even quieter than usual.  Lon queried him.

“What brings you back so soon, and how did you find us?”  Ruben frowned, then started talking:

“A blind man could have tracked your group Lon.  Haven’t I taught you anything at all about being circumspect?  What’s all around you, any idea?  What lurks out there?  What’s watching?  What’s scenting the air?  What’s listening?  Anyway, I saw your sign, and read your message at the old camp.  Also, I smelled your smoke – it travels a long way in this light breeze.  But that’s no longer your concern.  I’m taking over guiding this little group, for however long it takes before we get the help we were promised.”

“Say that again?  The help we were promised?  What do you mean by that?”

“I had a vision.  Saw a woman who claimed she was your sister.  She said that Ana had sent her.  She explained about your, well, character defects.  I already knew that, it’s partly why I had to leave, see?  Anyway the vision woman asked me to return to the group and be the guide until Ana and her people are ready and able to rescue and relocate those of the group who want it.  She said they’d all been waiting for you but you wouldn’t see it, so they decided to violate a bit of “prime directive” by contacting me.

You know me Lon.  You know I would not make this up – I don’t believe in any of this.  Somehow though, that woman, your sister, was very convincing. 

“Now you have to go.  Sorry, but it’s got to be short goodbyes.  Take whatever you want, or think you might need and head north.  She said Ana will meet with you when you’ve been gone long enough.  North, Lon, north.  It’s all waiting for your there.   Once my stint here is done, I’ll be tracking up myself – I won’t be going with Ana’s people, even if they’re only relocating the people to another part of this earth.  This, this land, this continent, is my world.  I belong here.

“I still don’t believe this, but irrational as it all is, I understand.  It’s not about belief, it’s the flow, just as in the wild.  All anyone needs to do is walk in the great flow of things.  The only time we must struggle is in opposition to those who do not walk in the flow of life.  That’s what gives rise to endless conflict.  I sensed your need to impose change and values.  You can’t wish, desire or impose non-violence anymore than you can stop a meat grinder by sticking your fingers in it, Lon. 

“I know this is harsh for you at the moment; you’re hurt and angry, but  you’ll learn.  The loneliness and the wild will teach you; the north, with its cold and its pristine snows will cleanse you and change you.  If you’re worried about food or shelter, observe the animals and the birds and learn: they’re the best teachers in the wild.  I’ll see you again, in the spring.”    

     

The Gift of a Life Changed

                                        [a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Oh, he knew her so well.  He remembered how she came and hovered over his crib when he was a tiny baby; how she fretted over him, and kept his rattle or soother at hand.  She was his “other” mom, and the older sister he never had.

Over the years she had come to him at different junctures of his life.  He remembered the glow of her presence at his first communion and later, his confirmation.  She encouraged him, and gently taught him to notice how other people, especially his elders, teachers and parents, lived their lives.  Don’t judge them too harshly, she’d whisper, but notice the hypocrisy, always notice that.  Don’t confront them, just note and remember.  Especially remember. 

Then he grew up and he didn’t see her during his time of rebellion, anger, chaos and confusion.  He saw girls instead and he lusted after them.  He did stupid things, boastful, ignorant, hurtful; things that endangered the lives of others.  It was as if he was possessed to do evil.  The girl he dated became pregnant.  He still had a sense of the old chivalry he’d learned from his childhood fairy tales and fantasies.  He asked her to marry him and she accepted.  Not the best start, but on their wedding day, she was there again.  He saw the glow and suddenly his heart opened and guilt filled his mind to overflowing. 

The moment passed.  Life was tough enough.  Wife, kids, a mortgage, car payments, responsibilities he was trained to handle, but nevertheless, stress.  There were other things to impede the good life: a growing awareness that the world was not a great place to be.  There was “the war” that needed protesting – he’d become a conscientious objector and tried to live by some personal code of non-violence.  There were draft dodgers from across the border to help find shelter and jobs.  Then environmental issues took priority and his life grew very complex and a darkness grew in his heart. 

The marriage failed.  He found himself, thanks to his losses, freed of a commitment he felt was complete.  But the darkness held him down.  He re-discovered religion and attended church.  It provided little.  He saw more of the old hypocrisy.  He saw how the claims failed to match the lifestyle.  Disappointed and discouraged he struck out alone looking for something, not finding. 

Lost in mid-life, he was walking along the river shore one cloudy day and sat on a fallen log on the bank.  Staring at the shining waters flowing past him, he formulated a prayer, or rather a request.  He addressed her and said, “You know, I’ve made a complete mess of things.  I wanted to do right, and did wrong.  I wanted to change the world and couldn’t even change myself.  The things I’ve done are horrible to me.  I’m sorry for my ignorance and stupidity, but most of all, I’m sorry for my pride. 

I need you to help me now, though I don’t deserve it.  I’m going to ask your for the greatest gift of all, knowing full well that it cannot be bestowed on anyone, that it can only be earned through experience.  I am asking you to grant me the gift of humility.  Only with that can I re-learn to live with myself.  I don’t expect to suddenly become humble, but I need you to guide my heart into this new and alien territory I intend to walk across until I reach the other side.  I’m going to proceed knowing that you are here, guiding me, and reminding me.  Thank you.

And so it was that he gradually changed.  He did not feel any more humble, rather the opposite, but others noticed.  Always he’d be shocked when they said something, or praised him for his kindness or gentleness.  That can’t be me, he thought.  Then he’d know she was there, calming his heart, softening his hands, making him choose his words with care, showing him how to proceed in all situations.  Over time he understood what it meant to be blessed.  He thought, I find it so amazing that the less I possess and the more I give away, the more I have; the more filled I feel.  And he learned to laugh. 

He lived long past his chosen time.  Those who knew him believed he’d discovered the secret of immortality but that was only their hope he’d always be around.  One day he left.  He walked away with only a small overnight pack on his back.  She walk silently beside him, then she touched him.  He was never seen again.  

A friend of his, having understood, said, we held on to him much too long.  We made him feel guilty about leaving but finally he allowed himself to hurt us a bit so he could claim his own freedom.  He’ll never be completely gone for he lives in each of us.  What he showed us, the wisdom he taught and the changes he wrought: those are the pieces of his heart we hold within ourselves.  He’s still here, giving us of himself when we emulate his burning joy.

Quote: Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place… Nothing outside you can give you any place… In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.” ― Flannery O’Connor