(With enough edits to get smoke coming out of the computer screen, here is my little effort for  #BlogBattle Stories: Dusk  – for March.) 

River Magic at Dusk

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A Watcher on the River

Wisps of white clouds contrast with the stark blue sky and the air holds motionless between intervals of light breezes occasionally rippling the water. The kayak moves steadily, gaily reflecting my mood, as the long paddle flashes brightly in a slanting winter sun, reminding me that dusk is approaching. It comes in fast on the river. 

From the relative safety of perches high in denuded cottonwoods, eagles eye my passage with interest, occasionally uttering their peculiar shrill giggles at my efforts against an intensifying current as I prepare to “jump” into the main river, its stream tumbling and churning in the shallow tributary I am following. Along a bank, willow twigs merrily bob up and down in the current and I am awed by the bright red-green brilliance of a branch of red osier dogwood below the surface of the water where the slanting light of the sun hits it. At that point the water gives out to force a short portage. Picking the light craft with one hand I cross to the next channel and look around before dropping in the water again.

About an eighth of a mile upstream I notice a human-like silhouette. It has the appearance of an old fisherman standing on the open gravelly bank, hunched over, staring at the water. That isn’t a fisherman, I tell myself: no boat, no line, no movement. The bulk, height, broad shoulders, cocked head and long limbs rising out of the rounded stones tell me this is a Watcher.

A Watcher, you may question? Yes, indeed! Watchers still stand guard along shores, on edges of alpine meadows, in deep gorges and in burnt-out woods I am sure you’ve seen them though you may have other names for them.  They appear more often in the moonlight, of course. I cannot claim to fully understand their purpose but they never seem to intend harm. After all to the Watcher a passer-by is but another life form.

Well, I thought, since I must continue that way, why fear this apparition? I intend no harm either. In some ways, I am much like a Watcher though my humanity would prevent me from being as dispassionately non-judgmental and patient.

I walk across the wide gravel bar and re-enter the water for another stretch of paddling, keeping a wary eye on my friend.  In a moment of inattention on my part he has changed and I’m staring at a gargoyle, much more frightening than the original Watcher as the sun keeps throwing longer shadows over gravel and water.

Did I just witness a transformation? I think I forget to mention that Watchers can also shape-shift and do so regularly? How could I ignore such a well-known fact! I can plainly see the grotesque features silhouetted against the dusky daylight; the head thrust forward, winged shoulders pushed up and out as if readying for flight. It’s staring into the stream I am in, as if intending to challenge my passage here. Do I continue or turn tail and paddle downstream to the safety of the larger body of water? What if when my back is turned it comes at me on those broad, dangerous looking wings? I can distinctly make out that beak arching down menacingly.

I don’t have the energy to turn back and I reason that gargoyles are not generally known to attack people in daylight, or at dusk and they are not usually found on river banks, are they? I take a deep breath and resume paddling. Something along the shore on my left jumps up, startling me. It’s a ruffed grouse running towards the cover of the brush. I return my gaze to the gargoyle but in its stead stands a placid, medium-sized dinosaur head thrust forward and at right angle to the body, small beady eyes scanning the area. Though not as intimidating as the gargoyle, it inspires less confidence than the original shape of the Watcher. Is it flesh or plant eating? I don’t know much about dinosaurs; all I can tell is, it’s no Tyrannosaurus, small comfort! It occurs to me that if this creature, whatever it is, keeps changing form like that, perhaps it’s perfectly safe to go right on past.  By the time I reach it, might it not change into something more in keeping with the natural fauna, like, say, a bear, coyote, seal or even a great blue heron? Best to proceed and watch for developments; time is of the essence now as darkness approaches.

Once that decision made, it affords a sense of aloofness, of distance from the actual drama, a fleeting moment of safety and even well-being. In the midst of danger, real or imagined, how often has such a feeling brought one’s situation into sharper focus? I struggle against the current, muscles tensing, feeling the blades scrape the shallow bottom, pushing gravel under the water, inching my progress against the passing bank. I make it to deeper water and the current slacks off allowing me to push on with more confidence.

Time to look once more at the creature and there it is, the trunk of a great tree that had floated many miles downstream in the last storm to get embedded in the gravel, its shattered main root sticking up like a large, shaggy head.

I approach this woody chameleon to look into its “face” and I swear it winks at me. I’ve just been regally entertained by nature’s river dusk magic.

Judging U.S. War Crimes – a reblog

Judging U.S. War Crimes

Chelsea Manning, who bravely exposed atrocities committed by the U.S. military, is again imprisoned in a U.S. jail. On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019, she was incarcerated in the Alexandria, VA federal detention center for refusing to testify in front of a secretive Grand Jury. Her imprisonment can extend through the term of the Grand Jury, possibly 18 months, and the U.S. courts could allow formation of future Grand Juries, potentially jailing her again.

Chelsea Manning has already paid an extraordinarily high price for educating the U.S. public about atrocities committed in the wars of choice the U.S. waged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chelsea Manning was a U.S. Army soldier and former U.S. intelligence analyst. She already testified, in court, how she downloaded and disseminated government documents revealing classified information she believed represented possible war crimes. In 2013, she was convicted by court martial and sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking government documents to Wikileaks. On January 17, 2017, President Obama commuted her sentence. In May of 2017, she was released from military prison having served seven years.

“Where you stand determines what you see.” Chelsea Manning, by virtue of her past work as an analyst with the U.S. military, carefully studied footage of what could only be described as atrocities against human beings. She saw civilians killed, on her screen, and conscience didn’t allow her to ignore what she witnessed, to more or less change the channel. One scene of carnage occurred on July 12, 2007, in Iraq. Chelsea Manning made available to the world the black and white grainy footage and audio content which depicted a U.S. helicopter gunship indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians. Twelve people were killed, including two Reuters journalists.

What follows is part of the dialogue from the classified US military video footage from July 12th:

US SOLDIER 1: Alright, firing.

US SOLDIER 4: Let me know when you’ve got them.

US SOLDIER 2: Let’s shoot. Light ’em all up.

US SOLDIER 1: Come on, fire!

US SOLDIER 2: Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’.

US SOLDIER 2: Alright, we just engaged all eight individuals.

Amy Goodman described the next portion of the video:

AMY GOODMAN: Minutes later, the video shows US forces watching as a van pulls up to evacuate the wounded. They again open fire, killing several more people, wounding two children inside the van.

US SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse. We have individuals going to the scene, looks like possibly picking up bodies and weapons.

US SOLDIER 1: Let me engage. Can I shoot?

US SOLDIER 2: Roger. Break. Crazy Horse one-eight, request permission to engage.

US SOLDIER 3: Picking up the wounded?

US SOLDIER 1: Yeah, we’re trying to get permission to engage. Come on, let us shoot!

US SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse one-eight.

US SOLDIER 1: They’re taking him.

US SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse one-eight.

US SOLDIER 4: This is Bushmaster seven, go ahead.

US SOLDIER 2: Roger. We have a black SUV —- or Bongo truck picking up the bodies. Request permission to engage.

US SOLDIER 4: Bushmaster seven, roger. This is Bushmaster seven, roger. Engage.

US SOLDIER 2: One-eight, engage. Clear.

US SOLDIER 1: Come on!

US SOLDIER 2: Clear. Clear.

US SOLDIER 1: We’re engaging.

US SOLDIER 3: I got ’em.

US SOLDIER 2: Should have a van in the middle of the road with about twelve to fifteen bodies.

US SOLDIER 1: Oh yeah, look at that. Right through the windshield! Ha!

Democracy Now, in the same segment, asked former U.S. whistleblower Dan Ellsberg for comments about releasing the video. “What were the criteria,” Ellsberg asked, “that led to denying this to the public? And how do they stand up when we actually see the results? Is anybody going to be held accountable for wrongly withholding evidence of war crimes in this case…?”

Chelsea Manning’s disclosures also led to public awareness of the Granai massacrein Afghanistan. On May 4, 2009, Taliban forces attacked U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan’s Farah province. The U.S. military called for U.S. airstrikes on buildings in the village of Granai. A U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber was used to drop 2,000 lb. and 500 lb. bombs, killing an estimated 86 to 147 women and children. The U.S. Air Force has videotape of the Granai massacre. Ellsberg called for President Obama to post the videotape rather than wait to see if Wikileaks would release it. To this day, the video hasn’t been released. Apparently, a disgruntled Wikileaks employee destroyed the footage.

Were it not for Chelsea Manning’s courageous disclosures, certain U.S. military atrocities might have been kept secret. Her revelations were also key to exposing U.S. approval of the 2009 coup against the elected government in Honduras and U.S. dealings with dictators and oligarchs across the Middle East, which helped spark the Arab Spring rebellions.

Prior to her arrest in 2010, Chelsea Manning wrote: “I want people to see the truth, regardless of who they are. Because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

Chelsea Manning’s principled and courageous actions provide guidance for us to control our fears. We must seek an end to war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas where the U.S. terrifies and kills civilians.

More articles by:

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org 

March 11, 2019
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Antierra Manifesto – blog post #35

[begin blog post #3

Chapter 15 – Royal Politics – a Princely Challenge

Several fights were scheduled for that one week and there was an aura of unusual excitement among handlers and trainers.  Two “fancies” in a decorated carriage come to watch me fight a trainer, and another female gladiator.  They sit on folding chairs they had brought in their “carriage” and their driver waits, standing patiently by the vehicle.  From clear bottles they pull out of a sack on their shoulder, they drink a dark liquid that smells like strong liquor.  When I topple the trainer, one of them holds his bottle to me, laughing. 

Momentarily confused, I freeze and wait for the trainer to regain his feet, all the while staring at the man with the bottle.

“A gift.  You must take.” says the trainer.  So I walk two steps to this stranger and reach for the bottle.  I expect him to do something ignorant, like pulling it away and maybe pulling me off balance, so I stay with my legs apart.  Or he may decide to throw it at me, or hit me with it, but instead he just holds it until I take it.  Not knowing what kind of drink it is, I put it carefully to my lips and taste it.  He smiles thinly at my hesitation, the smile becoming broader when he sees I definitely enjoy the taste of it.  It’s at least as good tasting as the best liquors I have ever had.  I drink slowly, swallowing once and offer it back.  He motions for me to have another swallow.  Then he takes it back.

He stands up then, comes close and touches me on the shoulders, feeling my muscles.  He lifts my arms and raises them over my head then runs his hands over my neck, sides and thighs, feeling here and there.  He bends down and examines my legs and even my feet.  Then he stands up once more to look me in the face.  He put his fingers through my short hair, lifting it and examines my head.

“It’s well made,” he says, addressing the four trainers who had gathered to prevent me from doing anything dumb, like reacting to the prodding.  They had not expected me to remain docile during that examination.  “It’s strong and dangerous.  I’m going to enjoy this one.  Maybe it will give me the satisfaction of lasting longer than the others, eh, Torlat?”  He looks at his dark-faced partner who frowns and sips thoughtfully from his bottle.  “What do you say I fight it with that new axe design, the double-sided one?  Seems like just the thing to cut down a wild beast doesn’t it?” 

Looking at the trainers and throwing them some flashy metallic coins that bounce on the flagstones, he disparagingly adds, “Don’t tire it out.  I want it in the best of shape and fresh tomorrow.  I’ll be the first one on – and my dear brother the King will be there to watch me kill his favourite animal.”

As soon as they hear this is one of the Royal Tassards the trainers all get down on one knee and bow to the fancy.  I just lower my head, not knowing what is expected of me this time.  He grabs my hair and pulls me down.  I could have resisted and gotten flogged.  I go down under his pull and drop to my knees, lowering my head.  He releases my hair and backs away, then flicks a whip from his coat and lashes me viciously across the back, but only once.  I bite my lips to stifle an involuntary cry.  Their boots crunch in the sand, they mount their vehicle and it whooshes off with a powerful whine, describing a sharp banked lift and from the corner of my eye I watch it disappear over the high walls to the east, not towards the King’s castle.  The trainers order me to stand and order me to raise my arms, adding four more lashes to my back to ensure I get the message. 

So, gentlemen, what happened to the Royal’s injunction to not tire me out?  Even such a ‘mild’ flogging will affect my performance.  I shed tears, from pain, from anger close to the edge of rage; from despair.  How can I ever win here?  Bastards.  But there is tomorrow.

Punished for failing in protocol when confronted with royalty.  Now I have bloody welts and will carry new scars as reminders that you unquestioningly and instantly kneel in full obeisance when “royalty” announces itself.  I should have known who he was by the shoes – that he was no ordinary challenger – stupid!  But how would I have known I was supposed to kneel?  How can they expect a “wild beast” to know how to behave before royal men?  Well, this one certainly will from now on.  And that explains the excitement: the King himself, the Royal Tassard, is going to attend the festivities.  And his brother is challenging the most dangerous fighter in Hyrete. 

What did that one mean when he said, ‘my dear brother the King will be there to watch me kill his favourite animal.’  That the king has invested money on the outcome of this fight – against his own brother? 

Deirdre takes care of my cut back with her usual skills, washing the blood with clean cold water.  The water bites into the cuts and I wince with the pain, as does Deirdre.  She manages to “beg” a salve from the medics and for the rest of the day I feel fine but once in the cage when I try to lie down, straw sticks poke the wounds and that hurts more than the actual flogging.  But over the years of experiencing so much physical pain within my body and so much mental torment from the suffering all around me, this is a small thing.  I offer this small additional pain as a gift to myself, using this reminder as a means of scanning the sleeping women’s compound and drawing into myself as much of their pain as I can.  Sorrow is my companion this night.

The biggest problem is my clumsy attempts to hide my pain from the Cholradil.  I should know by now it cannot be done and I have to let her share it, distracting her with loving and with my stories from Old Earth, gentle Altaria and my experiences as a fighter pilot in the Melkiar wars which is not so painful to her because I explain we were fighting machines with no feelings, we were not killing sentient creatures.  She accepts it, but still with great distaste.  I change the subject to a past life when I had my own child, a daughter, whom I raised while living on the banks of a beautiful river of green waters that reflected banks covered in trees.  I tell her of the birds and animals that called from the forests, and of the seals that came to the shore to sun themselves.  I can feel her mood changing and a lifting of her heart.  She falls asleep finally and I hope she is dreaming of a better life than this.   

Too early the next morning three handlers I have not seen before, these wearing blue body-fitting uniforms with gold piping at the shoulders, also never seen in this compound, come for me and order me out of the cage wordlessly, with only hand gestures.  I have a moment of panic when Deirdre is ordered to stay in the cage and about to be locked in but she rapidly opens her hand and there is a stim cube in it.  I quickly palm it and the gate slides shut and locks.  She stands near the gate shivering and biting her hand, her eyes wider than usual, a picture of abject misery.  Quickly using the hand language we have developed to use between ourselves and some of the other fighters in the cages, I motion her to desist and lie down quietly and obediently; that her concern is hurting me and distracting me.  She obeys and I feel better. 

Outside I get the usual cold water treatment, food at the cold, wet table and my first opportunity I get to put the stim cube in my mouth.  A member of the blacksmith group brings my new double-bladed axe and as the light increases I inspect it carefully, swinging it as much to test its balance as to try to warm up and stop shaking.  I roll it in my hands, hold it up and gingerly balance the tip of the spike in my calloused hand to truly gauge its weight.  It is a marvel of engineering and design.  The handle becomes a part of me and I can tell without having to look exactly where the cutting edges are. 

A trumpet sounds and I’m led, still drenched and shivering with the cold, through the tunnel.  There is no sexual advance this time, probably out of fear that the fancy would smell it and feel ripped off.  Such would result in certain punishment.  Or perhaps these new handlers have other, more exotic ways of satisfying their desires; a sex-slave hidden in their barracks, likely. 

Once in the arena, amidst the traditional booing and catcalls I pick up my armour and put it on, involuntarily wincing as it rubs against my fresh welts.  Two trainers adjust my straps and help me with the helmet.  The Royal is already wearing his and I can see it’s of much higher quality than mine – and in violation of their own laws, he wears more protection overall.  My armour consists of a short sleeveless coat (without shoulder protectors) of the super strong and light material they call “cheelth” (pronounced “sheel”) that covers me halfway down my thighs with open side slits for leg movement, an innovation I had to insist upon at great risk of “punishment,” and a helmet with no neck mail protection. 

His armour covers from shoulders all the way past his knees and he wears shoulder, arm and shin protectors as well as boots!  His helmet is equipped with the neck chain mail protector also.

My heart sinks within as I watch him move and easily cover the few exposed parts where I could land a killing blow.  I feel totally exposed and again I experience that edge of wild rage rising within my breast.  I subdue it with a closed eye mantra.  The trainer hands me my own designed “fighter sandals” which I eagerly inspect for the requested retractable blades. I’m thrilled to find them mounted and functioning properly. I slip them on, lacing them up, criss-crossing the thongs all the way up my calves.  Then I notice the top of the sandals and thongs or wide laces, are cleverly made to disguise the very same cheelth material used in the coat.  My confidence returns just as I bite through the stim I’d been casually just sucking on.  Its effects are instantaneous and for a brief moment I feel as if I could take on the entire arena.

As I prepare to meet the Royal Tassard brother, I wonder what happens to the female gladiator who has the mischance to kill a Royal?  Will they ignore her and let her live to fight another day, or will they hound her to death the rest of the day?  Who are the other fighters in the arena that day, I wonder?  I haven’t seen any other gladiator being prepared but me.  Me?  All day?  Best to concentrate on this encounter.  One battle at a time.

The trumpet blares the call to “center” and we walk to center ring to stand opposite each other.  Gone is the pretend camaraderie of sharing a drink yesterday.  He looks me over and says in a low voice – another violation: we are not allowed to speak to one-another –  “You’re as good as dead, pess.  Don’t disappoint me by dying too soon.  I want to have some fun and entertain my dear brother.  Fight well, it will do you no good, krosspeeg.”  The term is used commonly by the women in the compound and I recognize a deformed term from Old Earth English: ‘gross pig.’  A new idea has just been planted in my mind, something to work on later.  There is no doubt in my mind I will have a “later” following this encounter.  I am not so easy to kill as they should all know by now.  There is a depth of strength and resilience in this old girl’s body, especially when the old girl remembers to keep her mind on the work at hand.

I think of Deirdre.  I think of her as if she were the one who was going to be killed and I was the one who could defend her.  So this is for her, not for me.  I have to return to her, no matter what I must do for it – I must live through this fight and through this day. 

We raise our weapons.  The next trumpet announces the start of the match and we are at each other.  He knows how to fight and is expert at handling the long handled axe, but then I knew as much.  We circle each other warily, feinting, jumping and slashing.  The axes ring against each other and I notice that his is heavier than mine, of a different design and make.  The handle is longer by several thumbs, another violation of strict arena rules.  Why not, I think bitterly, you don’t become a member of the elites by obeying rules and laws – that is for the despised sheep.

The discrepancies in weaponry and armour do not matter that much.  To a professional fighter a difference is often an advantage if noticed in time.  Now I can evaluate him and gage his abilities. He is not much stronger than me, so we are even there.  I’m much faster, as well as taller and longer-limbed, so I have the advantage there.  The weight of his axe will help him only if he strikes when I’m off-balance or tiring but it will slow him down.  I weigh my options as we perform our death dance.  I have to bring him down quickly, before he tires me out.  I will bring him down, I have given myself no other choice: I do not die today.  And that, psychologically, is a powerful place to be: to have no choice but to perform to the uttermost of all your skills and abilities.  To strip yourself of everything else in the moment and become all that your “cornered beast” self must do to overcome: total focus of energy, not an iota of waste.

‘Sorry guy,’ I say to myself, ‘but I may have to lessen some of your fun here.  After all, this is my place, not yours, you know, home turf advantage and all that.  These idiots in the stands, they don’t know it, but they are cheering for me, not you.  You are Royals and deep down they hate you and your effete, inbred ways which they support through endless thievery and oppression.’  I decide to rile him by smiling at him as we come close enough to be face to face for a fleeting moment.  His face turns into a snarl and he lunges.  I parry and slash.  The blade does its work and cuts between the slit in his coat.  Blood gushes from his thigh and he winces, jumps back and prepares for another assault.  He’ll be more careful and more dangerous now.

[end blog post #35]

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #34

[begin blog post #34]

They eagerly listen and seek to incorporate many of the innovations I propose.   We turn to the design of the axe blade itself. 

“Too heavy for any woman, even I” I say.  “Try leaving just the outline of the blade and remove all the metal inside.  Think of it as a sword blade cut in three sections, the longest cutting edge curved, the other two used as braces.  Weld them here… and here.  See?  Then try a new design – one with two blades opposite each other.  That will cause excitement, guaranteed.  Look, if I roll the handle with a powerful wrist action the blade spins around its axis, thus, and anything it contacts is sheared off as if it had contacted a milling blade…”

“A milling blade?”  The look of intense interest is almost comical, like leading a class of first graders on a field trip.

“Don’t they teach engineering to men here?”  I ask, being deliberately provocative.  The smith’s face darkens momentarily and I know I’ve walked in dangerous waters.

“Begging your pardon sir, but how do you know about blending metals?  Is there teaching for this?”

“This of no matter to gora.  We not speak of teachings here.”  The subject is closed.  I keep my mouth shut and await developments. 

“Tell what you need to fight, we make.”  He raises his finger at me in a warning gesture.

I bow my head and lower my arms, then speak in a much lower, subservient  voice, “Please, light and deadly, always, when designing weapons for females.  Survive on skill and speed we do, not strength.  Longer we last, more money owners make.  They see results from good weapons, smiths get credit, as you say, yes?  Good arithmetic?”  The two I’m addressing look at me quizzically.  No ‘arithmetic’ for these guys. 

Then I show them my relatively larger feet than those of a typical T’Sing Tarleyn female.

“Where I from there be people train to use no weapon to kill – just body.  Feet be good killing weapon in hand to hand combat.  You hear I kill trainer by using sweeping side kick many years ago when first I here, yes?”  Some nod knowingly as I demonstrate by knocking down a bundle of what could have been potatoes, from a ceiling hook, raising my foot higher than the tallest of them.  I pick up the bundle and swing it back into place, hiding the fact it was almost beyond my strength.

There is one thing you learn in these kinds of worlds, not very different from Earth: that those who think themselves stronger are easily impressed to observe those they consider weaker do something they cannot do.  It’s up to the “weaker one” to immediately change the subject, let it go.  Never rub it in that you can out-do a man at anything.  If they see you beat them at something they will accept it, once or temporarily, but if you make it look that you are gloating in the least they will find some justification for nailing you when you do not expect it and they will never miss their chance. 

The only safe place to gloat over a man is in the arena when you know you have beaten him and he still does not realize he is a walking dead man.  If he is a particularly vicious type who has raped or tortured other females, now is the time to let him know that you are taking revenge for their pain and death.  Let him face and feel the terror he has been inflicting on others.  In any other situation, when under an authority that has power of life and death over you, remain subservient even when it is obvious you are superior.  You cannot reject them but they can reject you.  Here subservience is best expressed by always reverting to pidgin talk when addressing men.

“Please, I would like foot weapon is call ‘sandal’ that straps to foot and has blades mounted on it.  Make retractable if that be possible?”

I had to describe what a sandal is.  Except for the richest among them who do so strictly as an affectation, no one wears shoes, having no need of them.  But they catch on quickly especially the head smith after he decides to ease his now huge erection in me.  He takes me as casually as if he were taking a drink of water.  The others watch and smirk.  I have difficulty getting used to that, even after all the years I’ve experienced the casualness of it.  Perhaps it’s because they are also raping you when they do it, stealing your power if you let them by not being prepared for it.  Almost every act of fornication here is an attack upon the woman.  As an act of love it would be a violation of their laws on sex.  But breaking their law on casual sex seems much less of an offence, probably because it is rape, the socially acceptable humiliation of a female.  

“I see head trainer,” he belatedly answers after rubbing his dirty hands on my breasts and feeling my hardened nipples. “Maybe I convince.  He approve, yes, we make for you.  I credit young apprentice here,” – points to a young boy working with a hammer on a piece of what I take to be white-hot steel – “for new ideas.  He be about gora size so he be one to think of thing like that.” 

It was a definite insult, not just a slip of the tongue, a serious goading for whatever reason.  Maybe the head smith does not like the boy and would like to be rid of him.  The boy fires his master a look of pure hatred that could mean trouble down the road.  To be compared to a female is the lowest of insults.  To say to a man, “You’re a gora!” is to guarantee a fight, often to the death.  I suspect this boy has yet to pass his puberty rite and has not killed his first female.  His eyes sweep over me with utter contempt.  I know he’d attack me if he did not already know that would be the most foolhardy, and terminal, thing he could do.  He knows that if he did kill me he could claim I was the cause of the insult he had to avenge.  Probably he would only receive a mild reprimand and have to pay back some of my value by winning a fight in the arena sometime in the future.  Of course, that also depends on who it is owns me and my fighting skills and how much they are worth…  He’s not so stupid that he does not realize to attack me gains him two ways to die: at my hands instantly, or in the arena by and by.

But the white bearded, broad shouldered smith laughs loudly – the first hearty laugh I’ve heard on Malefactus.  And I start to wonder… the smith could be useful if I could somehow draw him into a conspiracy to get Deirdre out of this place, away from Hyrete and off Elbre.  I too have that female ectohormonal power men so dread here.  The power to seduce just by being what nature has endowed me with.  My “rebuilt” body is still very attractive despite its scars.  And he’s had a taste of it and what I chose to express with it.  How much more of it does he want?  He would know many traders I warrant, but how could I trust them not to sell her back into the same situation?  I shake my head to free myself of these mindless thoughts.  Always I comeback to worrying about ‘my’ Deirdre.

Dreams are one thing.  Reality too often plays out differently.  And in this place, reality has a way of hitting you on the side of the head.  Not literally this time, but in my heart. 

The days continue to slip into weeks, the weeks stretch into more months.  Since my healing and interview with the doctor – I still don’t know his name – I have heard nothing.  Deirdre has had many “interviews” with all the men in the compound but she seems not to mind, or care.  She had expected her life to have been as a provider of erotic pleasures and has been thoroughly trained for it.  It doesn’t make it any easier for me though, because I seem to worry about her every waking moment.

In all of that, I am a fighter.  I had anticipated that sooner or later I would be forced to use the axe in a fight and that day has come. 

[end blog post #34]

Dreaming and Past Life Remembrances

[thoughts from    ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

When I first started on the path of awakening to self-empowerment I began to dream strange new dreams. I filled pages of records of dreams I made it my task to interpret for myself. I had been dreaming before, of course, since as far back as I could remember but these new dreams were teaching dreams, many having nothing to do with Earth or this life.

From these strange dreams I became aware of memories from past lives. As I worked at developing my new nature and a topsy-turvy different understanding of life and a possible purpose in having become a participant in it, those dreams began to subside in proportion to how much I entered into past life remembrances and adapted what I remembered to my current and ever-changing circumstances.

Was there a connection between increased past life awareness and the negative effect on my dreaming? Being the curious type I wanted to know why past life remembrances should negatively affect quantity and quality of dreaming.

Obviously the first question was, why do we dream anyway? What’s the point?

The point, I realized, is that dreams are the mind’s safety valve. The mind cannot be contained within a strictly material, single life event, nor even within a religious context which amounts to the same thing, what I’d call, based on personal experience, a state of mindlessness. (I’m talking about religion, not spirituality.) Dreams I realized, serve as pressure reliefs for an enslaved mind. They remind the mind being that no matter what is believed, there is more that the Matrix mind prison cannot contain, deny or explain.

Once we break out of the “thou shalt not” programming and allow our mind to develop cosmically, outside the totalitarian bounds of the Matrix and accept that we are more than we are allowed to know, dreams have served their purpose. Now we can contemplate our own remembrances of past/future lives without listening to the very loud societal voice that says, “You’re crazy!” We know that crazy is refusal to look in photo albums and the old diaries because the System says they don’t exist. The Voice of Reason that says there are no such things as past lives, never mind future ones. We are not supposed to have other lives than this one. Only two possibilities officially allowed: annihilation at death for the materialist or the permanently removed zombie state of heaven or hell for the religionist. That’s all she wrote, says the priest-psychiatrist, now go shopping.

What are dreams then? Until we awaken they are the safety valve that prevents us from complete mind death. They cannot enlighten, however, just prevent, keeping the mind on life-support until the Eureka moment that changes everything and from which there is no turning back. Until we dare trust ourselves rather than the System as we learn to explore ourselves through our past/future lives, deliberately and purposefully choosing to remember who we really are, remembering hidden lives we have experienced however brutal or insignificant they may have been.

It’s not what we did that matters, as psychics like to emphasize, it’s that we dare give the System the finger by remembering ourselves though we were never given space to appear in any official history book; we dare rise from the common grave of the ignorant, forgotten, enslaved, trod under and murdered unwashed masses.

Because I have worked hard at penetrating the wall of lies erected by the System to separate this me from all other “me’s” of past/future lives – the process is not a linear or chronological progression – I have achieved something that has taken me beyond the need to vent my mind through dreams that needed interpretation. I have shattered the time mirror to see myself in myriads of dimensions and shapes without having to feel foolish about it, or the need to hide. My mind is no longer on life support. I no longer have to to choose between religion and materialism.  Best of all I no longer need to be an Amazombie Googleite Facebookian!!!

I grew up from the ground as a slender shoot, extended leaves through my dreams, then shot up a seed head through past life remembrances that is now ready to scatter its seeds over time and space when the wind of death blows over me. Within my own seeds I will take flight and go on and on and nothing can ever stop me again.

That is what I call freedom.

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #33

(Another excerpt, this one gives some insight into Antierra’s not so subtle exhortation to the women fighters, but also into the background of weapons design and construction. Words are fine but what will speak the loudest to the fighters is “new and improved” weaponry, and this is Antierra’s discovered forte.)

[begin blog post #33]

Chapter 14 – The Forge

On the surface life resumes its pace in cages, compound and arena.  The auto-medic has done a great job of repairing my body while leaving all the obvious scars received previously.  With renewed hope that I will be able to work out a scheme to rescue Deirdre from the arena, I work out with increased strength and vigour.  I am able to continue my unofficial training of new fighters while Deirdre is left to attend kitchens and tables, as well as the cleaning of the stalls.  Although she must still take her turn in the line-ups for training, all of it takes place with me and I know not to press her.  She does her amazing moves, to the continuing delight of the male watchers and I pretend they are part of the weapons handling.  No doubt the male trainers and handlers would not mind if all the young trainees performed as does Deirdre the trained entertainer.  She is very popular with the men, naturally and certainly doesn’t mind it.  She is also happier than I’ve ever seen her.

Long ago I had wondered why these nubile young women did not get pregnant from constant sexual intercourse.  I was told we are given contraceptives in our food, it is that simple.  Only rarely does this not work and a woman becomes pregnant.  If she cannot quickly abort in the cages and is discovered, it means death.  She cannot report her condition to a medic to be given a proper abortifact.  Any female who has the constitution to overcome the effect of the contraceptives is considered a danger to the system and must be disposed of.

A gora cannot, by statute, give birth.  This is the sole preserve of the birthers.  No ‘wild’ children legally permitted on any part of Malefactus, so I’m told.  Again you see how legalism is twisted to fit the needs or wants of those in power.  A woman who gives birth to a wild child is killed along with her child.  She has no recourse in this matter.  However if the child survives and is captured at an age where it can be sold into some sort of usefulness it is automatically entered in the system in some capacity as a slave.  As on Túat Har, it appears some stack worlds are also infected by the power of money to control ruling forces, even when such control makes absolutely no sense.  Money is here exposed for the destructive and corrosive virus that it is and if people made the effort to see this, it would lose its power to destroy. But greed causes spiritual blindness and none are so blind as those who will not see but by their faith in the system convince themselves they have the greater sight by simply purchasing their claim to the greater right.

Whether training or fighting, I find it ever more difficult to keep my mind from Deirdre.  Part of it is pure carnal “love” and it’s easy to recognize that weakness, but there is more.  A part of me is with her all the time.  My work; my long-time process towards becoming a compassionate being, though severely curtailed here, has somehow attached itself to her empathic nature and we’ve become a “one” of sorts.  This pleases me, yet annoys me also.  She has too much power over me, made the worse because she is neither aware of it, nor would she want it if she knew of it. Despite the pain of loss I will feel, I will only become whole again when (not ‘if’ – I never allow myself to think ‘if’) she leaves this planet.

More weeks pass.  I’ve decided it is in my best interest, and Deirdre’s, to add some entertaining aspects into my fighting.  I need to prolong the days I am considered a good bet in the arena.  Now would be a bad time to be earmarked for termination in a killing orgy.  I know I can outlast any contender since I have access to the stim which I get from Deirdre and which she procures by whatever means.  I suspect she has seen the doctor and has made arrangements that are seen to by the Cydroids.  Likely the stuff comes from some channel through the court.  There is an understanding between us that we do not speak of certain things.  Quite naturally I do not dwell on the fights in the arena and she does not tell me what she must do to procure the drug I need.  Nor do we touch on our sexual encounters with men, hers being on the increase, mine, well, quite obviously going the other way!

My body feels like its old self without the pain and the stiffness.  I can couple the speed and suppleness of youth with nine years of grueling experience in arena fighting.  I feel more confident also in the fact I’ve been given more autonomy in weapons maintenance and re-design.  Nothing major but enough to upset contenders.  And I’ve trained on that horrible axe with the knowledge that myself, or one of us, would be forced to use it in a fight.  I push the women to become more proficient in handling their weapons.  Become one with your weapon, I continually remind them; love your weapon.  I wait for the doubts to be expressed by trainees and fighters alike and demonstrate while teaching this ancient art. 

“As you would not normally drop your arm, or your leg, in a fight, so you cannot drop the weapon that is a part of your body, an extension of the physical you.  To accomplish this feat you have to learn that you, the fighter, are not a physical being.  You, the fighter, cannot be killed since you are an immortal mind.  Once you accept this, you will know the truth of it and be forever aware that your whole body and whatever appendages it possesses, is a weapon. 

“Your brain extends to the end of your sword blade, or the pike on the end of your staff.  You can feel the life of it throughout every part of you.  Now your ego self, your energy interpreter, is able to tell your extended body exactly what your mind is directing it to do.  You, the etheric, the shadow fighter, the immortal mind, directs the fighting from a place that is totally inaccessible to the challenger.  He, or they, cannot see you at all.  They can only see your weapons.  The same is true for those spectators in the arena.  Ignore them all, they have nothing to do with the purpose for which you fight. 

“I assure you that if you cannot reach this state of mind you are not a fighter, just another arena victim to be overcome, wounded and gloated over; to be raped and finally tortured to death for the gratuitous entertainment of the spectators. It is time, fighters of Hyrete, that we move beyond this lowly animal status and reclaimed our true selves.  We are not goras, we are ahyas! If we do not move ourselves forward, we are dead.” 

Thus do I continuously exhort them to excel, and to reach beyond anything they believe themselves able to accomplish.     

We have our own “blacksmith” in the compound; not so much in an individual as in a crew committed to producing the highest quality hand to hand combat weapons as well as experimenting with new ideas.  They keep their forge in a far corner of the training compound where some highly combustible odourless, colourless gas is piped in to fuel the forge fires; another interesting piece of technology in this otherwise backward and medieval world.

I am permitted to go there without asking permission now, and can enter the enclosure of the forge itself if one of the men inside escorts me in, reporting to the handlers’ office that he’s got me in hand.  Yes, they have voice communicators they use over short distances, but they do not have datacoms.  Those seem reserved for the elites and security forces.

The blacksmith group enjoys the challenges I give them, always eager to learn more about weaponry.  Even I wonder sometimes where my exotic tastes and natural skills in such a barbaric art form come from.  If I did not have a good working knowledge of information drawn from past lives I’d be confused.  For now, I credit my creativity in weaponry to my many incarnations on Túat Har; Old Earth, the center of the greatest “generic” and mindless violence I’ve ever experienced as a wandering Avatari.  Take pride in that, Earthians! You remain unchallenged masters of gratuitous violence expressed as psychopathy!  

I begin my work with the blacksmiths by trying to describe a proper axe handle.  They even allow me to draw an outline of one in the sand – after I query the danger of breaking the taboo on drawing or writing.  They look at one-another and smile.  The one I take to be the chief smith, a barrel-chested older man with a chest as woolly as a sheep, says:

“We follow somewhat different rules here, slave.  We be not as brain dead as your trainers and we not be slaves to dead gods and dead laws.  There be no danger for you here, you try no tricks.  You do, we beat you, maybe make you taste the red hot steel on pretty lips.  You savvy?” 

I understand their language is not motivated by hate or even a sense of superiority.  It’s just the way of it.  Cover your ass by explaining what goes, what does not.  For them what else could I be but a nameless gora?

As to my axe handle design, it’s a no go.  It leaves them utterly perplexed and perhaps just as well.  I have thought of a better idea. 

“Forget it,” I say.  “Here, put a hand stopper on the handle, like about here.”  I hold it three quarters of the way back from the blade end.  “Make  that longer,” I demonstrate by holding the straight handle vertically against my body, holding it to my elbow with my arm down.  “Now can you affix a short, sharp pike with a cutting edge on the end?” 

“That we can do, and a pleasure that is.  You truly have the Beast in you.  With our weapons you kill – we get credit.  More money for good steel and fuel for the forge, that is good.  What more you need?” 

[end blog post #33]

 

I’ll Forgive you, Eddie

(I do have a short story for the March Blog Battle “Dusk” but this isn’t it!  I was in a mood so I wrote this out tonight… go figure.)

Short Story – by Sha’Tara

I’ll forgive you Eddie, just as soon as you give me time to work this one out. I mean, the lying, the cheating, the way you’ve made me feel cheap in the eyes of our friends while boosting your bottomless pit of an ego and sucking the life out of me.

First, I have to go back over time and find that place, not in the photo album but in my memory, where I found myself truly “in love” with you; that place where I said “yes” when you asked me to marry you. But there is no such place, is there, Eddie. I said “yes” because I was pregnant and I’d call that duress, wouldn’t you?

How did you make me pregnant, Eddie? Do you remember your little trick at the Christmas party? Sammy told me how you put the date rape drug in my drink while I went to the ladies’ but years only later, Eddie. I remember the shock of discovering that bit of truth about you. Why did you stick around after that? Did you feel guilty, or was it the fear of being exposed by your own friends who knew what you’d done? Fear, wasn’t it. You felt obligated to marry me because it’s how we did things in those days.

Why did you stick around after our baby boy died of crib death Eddie? Was it because I brought in good money from my legal secretary job while also providing the house wife bit? So you had a comfortable place to live when your contruction jobs went soft? A safe base from which you could go out to bars, bowling alleys, race tracks and clubs to have fun, screw and gamble our money away? So you’d have someone to beat up when something pissed you off?

Hey, don’t make that face. Did you think I didn’t know about the affairs? You fucked my best friend Vivian and she finally admitted it because she felt guilty she said. But you Eddie, did you ever feel guilty? Does a rat ever feel guilt? No. It’s not in its nature, nor yours. You’re not just a rat Eddie, you’re a cockroach and I’ve been thinking that it’s time I did something serious about my pest problem. Time I returned the favour for that date rape drug thing, the beatings and my suspicion that little Alfred had help in his crib death.

You’re lying there on the floor beside the couch and wondering why you can hear what I’m saying to you but you can’t get up. It’s really quite simple: you’re having a heart attack. OK I’ll admit to having helped it along by playing with your prescriptions but you won’t be blabbing to anyone about that. That’s why I became a pharmacist after quitting the legal profession; this is so much more fun. There was no point seeking redress through legal channels, you’d eaten us out of house and home back when and even if you went to jail you’re the type that would just ooze through the bars to walk the streets again.

I’m sure you wondered why I invited you back into my life after all these years but you couldn’t resist a free B&B and you’d always considered me stupid, all evidence to the contrary. I have to thank you for accepting my invitation to come in out of the cold for old times sake. A softy, me, right? An easy mark, that’s me again. Oh you ignorant, vile, murderous imbecile, Eddie. I made it my life’s goal, after I got rid of you, to get even with you. No, not exactly even, just one step further. I felt I owed you that much.

What’s that you’re saying? You want me to call an ambulance? Oh but I will, I promise. That’s all part of the plan. I just want to watch you die in pain and agony first, is that too much to ask? What? I didn’t get that but I’ll assume you said that you understand completely. Thanks Eddie for agreeing to help me fulfill my lifelong ambition. I’m going to sit by the fireplace, have a glass of our favorite wine and watch you die.

Here’s to us, Eddie. I’ll forgive you when I see you in hell you bastard.