Tag Archives: fear

How does a Thing Become “a” Precious?

            [thoughts from  ~burning woman~  ]

…  and the closed bud shrugs off
its special mystery
in order to break into blossom:
as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious
—Lisel Mueller, from “In Passing,” Alive Together: New and Selected Poems. (LSU Press; First Edition edition October 1, 1996)

          A thing can be longed for, can be thought of as precious, but until it is lived for; deeply sacrificed for; even bled for (or killed for) and finally apparently hopelessly lost, that thing can never be accurately described as truly precious: it remains an illusion, a story in a book of fiction.  However good the fiction is, it is still fiction.  The book isn’t purchased, it isn’t owned, it is merely borrowed from a library. It hasn’t cost anything that is irreplaceable: I think that’s the key here.  

          In J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and continuing in “The Lord of the Ring” there appears a character called Gollum.  Gollum possesses a ring which he calls his “Precious” and is driven mad by it.  Gollum’s ring was indeed his precious because he had paid a great and terrible price to attain it.  Back in the ancient days when he was still a normal being he was called Smeagol and he had an inseparable friend, Deagol.  It was Deagol who found the ring at the bottom of the river Anduin, but when Smeagol saw the ring his desire to possess it exceeded all bounds.  Deagol wouldn’t give up the ring, so Smeagol killed him for it.  Many long years later, the outcast Smeagol, now known as Gollum, lost his “Precious” to Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit.  Then did the ring truly become Gollum’s precious – he dedicated his life to finding the ring and getting his revenge on “the nasty Hobbit Baggins.”  In the end as we know, Gollum died with the ring: they both fell in the fire of Mount Doom. 

    How many of life’s offerings can we call precious?  Of all the obvious: air, water and land from which we draw our sustenance and cannot live without: precious?  Not according to my observations of how man treats his natural environment – definitely not his “Precious” is it. What about people relationships?  I suppose for the few, some relationships become precious as they are engaged, then irretrievably and inconsolably lost.  But for most?  Generally speaking relationships come and go, most easily replaceable.  The gregarious Earthian prefers its creature comforts of body and mind to the pining and the dying for, that puts the meaning of precious in a relationship. This is especially true of today’s consumer “throw away” society.  Most relationships are cheap and easily replaced. 

    I’m obviously fishing in deep waters here: what comes up from the deep?  I’ll tell you: the unexpected; the frightening; the dreadful and also the ineffable that literally takes our breath away so that when it disappears we long for its return to the point that we are willing to die to find it again.  I’m talking about the things that lurk in the depths of the Cosmos; that sing and dance and call beyond our memories, our experiences, our survival instincts and all our paraphernalia of security or ecstatic expectation.  Beyond the symbolism of religion, the greatest works of the mystics and even the best efforts of the poets.

    Nothing can keep us safe from what shows up to become something truly precious.  For to be precious it must be of a nature capable of taking over both mind and heart, all of one’s life, and can never be owned or controlled.  Once one has engaged one’s Precious, one’s life is forfeit.  It belongs to its Precious. 

    According to ancient wisdom, there can only be one Precious in one’s life. “No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”  After many long years of thinking it was irretrievably lost to me, I found my Precious, or rather it found me.  Well, perhaps to be fair to both, we met half-way and recognized each other.  Following that meeting, there was a test of my commitment: it called for my life and I in a gesture of genuine forfeiture, gave it.  That it gave me my life back, if for a time, only lengthened the period of testing – it did not conclude it.  It will be my “master” until I die, and beyond, for my Precious is of a nature that does not die and it is now as much a part of me as I am of it. We are inseparable.  Just to make sure I am not misunderstood here, I am not talking about another human being, or other “being” such as a god or “saviour” in a romantic or agape-love type of relationship.  Nothing so common: this isn’t about love.  Repeat: this has nothing to do with love.

    As I was writing this and thinking about the truth of it, I was wondering how many people have a working relationship with their Precious; how many are even aware that such a state of mind is desirable for life to make sense; how many are aware that without a commitment to one’s Precious, one is left helplessly open to being consumed by some force or other with which it has the relationship of a slave; of a believer in wizardry. 

    The force or forces one responds to when not committed to one life-linked “Master” or “Precious” would say in so many words, “The purpose of our relationship is on a need to know basis, and you don’t need to know.  Just follow any of the approved paths the rest are on.  Believe and don’t step out of those paths.  The outcome isn’t for you to know, just to worry about.” 

    And that worry becomes fear, fear becomes anger, anger becomes hate and the rest is history, or as some like to say, His story.

{Your head’s like mine, like all our heads; big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there! But what do we choose to keep in this miraculous cabinet? Little broken things, sad trinkets that we play with over and over. The world turns our key and we play the same little tune again and again and we think that tune’s all we are.” — Grant Morrison, The Invisibles, Vol. 1: Say You Want a Revolution. (Vertigo June 1, 1996) }

 

Walking Barefoot and going Naked

[thoughts from  ~burning woman~  ]

There’s been quite a bit of talk out here in blog planet about walking barefoot.  It is even said that walking barefoot on the earth is healing to the body.  A dangerously revolutionary concept in re-awakening awareness and consciousness of what it means to have a physical body that is meant to be connected to the earth, not to a rising megalith of technology.  So let’s look at man the civilized technocrat as he proudly stands today, master of his earth domain, and let’s look at an alternative lifestyle, a what-if when man encountered a fork in the road of his evolution and chose the path of civilization and technology over the path offered by nature.  At the start of man’s right-hand path choice he didn’t realize that his civilization could only proceed to the degree that he conquered, denigrated and systematically destroyed all vestiges of his natural roots.  Man’s new world would be an artificial one which in the end would enslave him completely.

Technology has made man less and less sensitive to the natural environment.  It’s given rise to several generations of whiners, bitchers and complainers about “the weather” even from those whose sole contact with the great bane of “the weather” consists of a dozen or so steps from a centrally heated or air-conditioned building to a heated or air-conditioned vehicle.  But it’s not just modern technology that has made man into an unnatural borg-like creature: it’s all of man’s civilization right from the beginning.

Archaeology demonstrates that man’s civilizations arise spontaneously as if out of nowhere and from nothing, without natural or rational explanation for their sudden appearance only to fall prey to destruction and decay over and over again.  Our great global capitalistic-technocratic civilization today is poised on the edge of its own irrevocable downfall, the “sword of Damocles” hanging over its raison d’être.  And here we go again, and this going is being accompanied by horrendous loss of human life, of indigenous species and this time may well result in a planetary eco-environmental disaster making current non-mutated biological life as we know it impossible.  I’m not saying anything new here and it’s all available to anyone who still doesn’t get it. 

So let’s go back to that famous fork in the road; the great bifurcation.  At the time, most Earthians chose to ignore the lure of civilization and quietly took the left hand path leading to the fair, sweet, unspoiled empty lands and wilderness for which man and his fellow earth wanderers, were made.  They walked away in their innocence, naked and unafraid, to pluck juicy fruits dangling from healthy trees and vines, roots and herbs growing along the path for the digging and the picking. 

Oh, and here’s a tidbit of information most, if not all, “civilized” Earthians are blissfully unaware of, and deliberately so: on that left hand path into the untamed frolicky wilderness of earth there were then no predators.  That’s right, and I can just hear the intake of breath, see the snide smile and the shaking of the head: nuts!  Yes, there were lots of nuts, also for the picking, and free as everything else.  But seriously, those terrible predators that get so much mileage in Disney movies and corny virtual reality shows, and so much bad press from children’s tales… they lived side by side with man and his children and everybody was… vegetarian.  There was no killing; no bloodshed and very little pain.  Death came about naturally, was accepted, and nature continued to offer her bounty as that which died returned to the soil to become part of that which lived on. 

For those who think they really know the “Bible”… here’s a quote to make anyone think:

Genesis 1:29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

Genesis 1:30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

I imagine a world where the choice of paths had not materialized; where “normal” was not interfered with.  What would earth look like today if man had not become civilized and had not “discovered” technology?  Let’s look at the obvious and let’s try to determine if man made the correct choice in not only making an idol of civilization and technology, but forcing those who had not, into it’s polluting, deadly melting pot, and if they would not, enslaving them and killing them outright. 

What happens if you don’t wear shoes, but must walk barefoot?  You are basically guided by your feet: you cannot go where the terrain would destroy, burn or freeze your feet, so you remain in foot-friendly zones.  The rest remains for the livelihood and safety of “others.”

What happens if you don’t learn to wear clothing?  Again, your body dictates where you may live.  Any area too cold, too wet or otherwise too harsh for “the naked ape” body would be naturally eschewed.  So those areas would remain the domain of others who could live there and man would never become a threat to them. 

What happens if you don’t learn to make heated shelters?  Again, your species is limited to those temperate zones where sheltering or sleeping comfortably on freshly strewn grasses and leaves can be done.  You stay within zones nature says are suitable for you and you leave the rest alone.  And again, the “others” can find their own life in non-threatened areas of the planet.  

What happens if you don’t learn to make and wear armour in battle?  You remain much more vulnerable to sticks and stones and choose to avoid pitched battles with strangers, instead making attempts to live in relative peace with them.  You don’t become “warriors” in any case because you really have nothing to defend.  You can always move on.

One can see by the above that “overpopulation” and the Earthian species overrunning space naturally reserved for others would not have happened without civilization.  Also man would not have developed the incredibly stupid hubris of inventing weapons of mass destruction to threaten not only his own civilization, but all others and perhaps the living biosphere.    

And here’s one more: what happens if day in, day out, everybody around you, from baby to oldest remains naked?  Well surprise, surprise but you don’t notice such a thing as unusual.  So you don’t become a misogynist male; you don’t rape your women or young boys.  You don’t need books of laws of sexual taboos with attached punishments for violating those laws.  When you need sex, which in non-civilized societies isn’t the driving sickness it is in crowded, controlled, stifled city-type living, it is easily and simply satisfied for both sexes. 

In conclusion I want to repeat a teaching I got from one of the Teachers, Phaelon.  In his list of attributes that define a true human being, was this one:  “When you find you can walk naked among others of your own species and feel no shame, know that you are a human being.”

Which closes this essay:  Why do Earthians feel ashamed to be seen naked by each other?  Why do they experience the need to measure themselves by how their bodies look to others through pride or shame?  Why do they associate nudity with sexuality?  And why does this shame persists even among those who have deliberately rejected organized Religions and the gods who purportedly made those arbitrary and unnatural rules regarding sex, gender identity, and the type of clothing a male and a female may wear?

I am completing this sitting at my back yard computer “desk” under a bright, clear autumn sun… totally naked and feeling wonderful.   Want to join me? 

 

 

Thanya of Norda

While Roger at Woebegone but Hopeful (https://heroicallybadwriters.com/2016/09/05/a-true-history-of-the-isles-part-12-the-vikings-arrive-a-aaa-a-ha-a-eeya-a-ha/#respond)

is entertaining us with his hilarious history of the British Isles, his 12th part with the arrival of the Vikings reminded me of this story I wrote some time back, based on a past life remembrance.  Unlike Roger’s stories however, this one is not humorous.
____________________________________________

Thanya of Norda
          a short story – by Sha’Tara

My name is Thanya.  I live on the coast of Norda, in a poorly fortified village.  My people are woodsmen, fisherfolk and farmers.  We constitute one of the main centers on the coast and my father and mother are considered to be the Chiefs.  I have an older brother who is a great hunter and whom I admire.

This part of my story begins when I am fourteen years, according to the Christian calendar.  In the late Summer the feared and hated Norsemen raid our village.  Our men are overwhelmed and put to the sword.  I see by father and brother die.  I pick up a sword to defend myself but I cannot handle the weight of it.  I’m quickly disarmed and brought to the leader of the raiders.  I can hear the cries of the women and the children, some being raped and killed, others rounded up, tied and put aboard the boats to be sold as slaves down the coast.  I can see and smell the smoke as our homes are systematically destroyed and burned.

A tall, red-haired and red-faced man stands in front of me.  He tears my clothes off and has me put to my knees, my wrists pulled back and tied to my ankles.  He straddles me and lifts his sword.  Laughing, he brings it down as if to cut me in half but swings it aside.  I curse him for letting me live.  He rapes me.  I scream a “prophecy” at him:  “I will have your son and when you return here he will kill you!”  He laughs again, has me untied and held away from him.  He says to me: “For that I will let you live and go free.  If indeed you have my son and if indeed he lives to defeat me in battle, I shall freely confer my title and properties to him.  I am King Garthul.  If you survive, remember that name, wench.”

They rowed off the shore, then sailed away with their spoils.  I found some rags to cover myself and tried to cover the bodies of the dead.  I covered my father and brother.  I found no trace of my mother so assumed she had been taken prisoner.   I did not have the strength to drag them onto a pyre and burn them, so I left and entered the forest.  I found shelter in a cave made from a hollow windfall and survived my first winter on nuts, roots and dried husks of fruit hanging from branches or lying in clumps of grass.  I gave birth to a healthy son in the Spring and took him deep into the forest, not knowing what to do.  I found other survivors and eventually convinced most of them to return to the coast, to my village.  We gathered the bones of the dead and burned them, then performed the ritual of cleansing for the land.  Then began the task of re-building.

Throughout the years I directed the re-construction based on villages and strongholds I studied during inland wanderings.  First an inner fort made of stone, not of material that could burn.  Then an outer palisade made of strong timbers and deadly stakes.  Finally, near the beach another fence made of non-burnable materials, whatever we could find.  I trained the people, young and old, male and female, to bear and use arms of all kinds.  I designed new weapons, especially for the females.  Shoes were basic wooden sandals equipped with a sharp spearhead at the front and sometimes at the back.  Armbands made of wood were equipped with a deadly dagger that could be flipped and locked in a forward position, the tip of the blade extending past the hand.  We made bows that were longer than hunting bows and much more accurate, using longer arrows.  I made them leave crenellations in the walls, and holes that looked natural but through which arrows could be shot.  And I trained the tallest men to use long spears that could be thrust through cracks deliberately left in the walls but concealed from anyone looking from the outside.

As more and more survivors and disgruntled serfs from other parts joined us our village grew and surpassed the numbers and strength of the past.  My son became a fearsome warrior, I made sure of that.  He was tall and had red hair.  There was no doubt who his father was.

Among those who joined us came two Christian monks.  They claimed they had special knowledge they wished to impart to certain chosen people among the village.  I asked them to share their knowledge with all of us, offered to give them a special place at our regular meeting day, but they insisted their knowledge was only for the chosen.  They also insisted that we give up worshipping our gods and learned of their one god and accept him as our only god.  This I refused to do.  I gave them a hut and made the people aware of their offer.  Anyone who chose the Christian god over the land’s gods was free to do so.  Some did but it did not matter.  Christians made good warriors too, there was no conflict among us.

In time my prophecy was fulfilled.  The raiders returned and an older Garthul still led them.  As soon as the alarm was given all the people who could not fight and all the younger children with as many goats and fowl as could be taken, were sent deep into the woods in preselected hiding places.  Then we waited.  My son was then eighteen years of the Christian calendar, and eager to fight this Garthul.  I had not told him this was his father, just what he had done to his family.

Yelling their taunts, the raiders rushed our first slender defenses.  We killed several of them before we retreated to the next defensive position.  The raiders crashed through our first wall only to encounter a much more effective defense.  They had no place to hide and we defeated them there.  Garthul gave the signal for surrender and my son jumped forward to put a sword to his throat.  I ran behind him and stopped him:  “Well Garthul, we meet again.  Remember the prophecy of the young girl whose parents and brother you killed.  Remember her taunt, “I will have your son and he will kill you!”  Well here I am, and here is he, your son, Garth.”

He remembered, and believing he was about to die, he called his second and swore that his title and lands were now the property of his son, this son, my son, Garth of Norda.

And this is where my life turned.  For Garth said, “He is my father, and I cannot kill him.  Therefore, since he has so grievously harmed you, mother, here is my sword.  You must avenge your parents and your village.  This is not for me to do.”

I took the sword and held it aloft unflinchingly.  I could have easily cut his head off, but instead I laid the sword on his shoulder and said, “Life has taught me this, Garthul: That there comes a point where it becomes necessary to let go of the past and to forgive.  For as heavy as the burden of loss is, the burden of vengeance is twice as heavy.  I have reached that point.  Today I have redeemed what was lost.  I have defeated you and I am your master, I, a mere woman.  Furthermore, I have something of yours that I know is more precious to you than your own life: your son.  So here’s my proposal – listen to me well.  I wish that you should take Garth with you.  Make him into a sailor and take him back to your own land and train him in the arts of being a King there, as you are.  When the time comes, I wish for you to pass your power on to him.  Further, I wish that your country should enter into a  permanent peace with us.  We have much to trade with you, especially of hardwoods.

And it came to pass.  Garth became ruler of both Norda and his father’s land.  There were no more raids on our coasts.  We remained at peace until a new trouble began to brew from the hinterlands.  But that is a story attached to a future that is not mine nor Garth’s.

 

Where Hope Fails Despair will Serve

[a poem by   ~burning woman~   ]

There, I’ve shown you:
No hope, no hope left
Not for you, not for them.
Your children are dying
Don’t you see?
Are you blind?
I’ve taken away every strand
Of your pitifully weak hope
And what can you do now
But admit my power,
And bow to the inevitable,
To me?

She looks upon her foe
As he gloats over her,
She turns and stares ahead
At a land stretching before her tired eyes
Dark, menacing, parched, dead.
She hears the incomprehensible,
The language of the damned
As tortured screams
Rise from places she cannot name.

She looks down at the children
Cowering at her bloody feet
Whimpering, hungry, frightened,
Shivering in their bits of rags;
Her own clothes in no better shape.
She feels the hollowness
Of her own body and tired mind
Dragging her down to yield,
To sleep and to forget.

This must be the end
She reasons once again,
And I’ve been misled,
Lied to, to take this way
Try to lead the children
And find a way of escape:
I cannot go further.
I have nothing left.

Her enemy laughs again.
You’re done then, hey?
Say yes, give up, give up!

“No!” she says to his face,
Her cracked lips bleeding:
This isn’t our end,
This is our beginning.
Hope there may no longer be;
No comfort may be waiting
When we walk from here
But know this:
Where hope fails, as it must,
There is always despair.

Rousing the children
She leads them into the darkness:
We shall not be his slaves
She tells them,
Let death take us then
If that’s how it must be.
But it wasn’t death that waited there,
It was freedom earned
From courage to say “No,”
Taking that last resolute step
Where he could never follow.

 

In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

                [a short story by   ~burning woman~   ]

“Don’t mince words: come right out and tell us!”  There is much anger in those voices, but more, it is a challenge, a challenge to back up my words; to prove myself.  Funny part is, that’s the very last thing I want to be able to do, but “they” don’t get it.  How many times do I have to say it: “I don’t want to be right.  But you have to prove me wrong!”

But instead, they shuffle back onto the porch of the old honky-tonk  – well, so to speak – and with hands in pockets, slouch forward, looking down at me standing in the mud of the partially thawed parking lot.  The garish red neon sign casts its bloody glow upon the surface between pickup trucks; bits of frozen soil reflect the light like rubies.  Thousands of fake rubies on top of ruts, a dozen rubes glaring from the porch.  Angry, upset, confused – dangerous in their abject destitution, desperate to strike out at anything that creates an unaccustomed chafing.

Of course the “argument” had been political.  Did I start it?  I don’t know, I may have mentioned the fact that international treaties were responsible for over half of these people being unemployed and having to supplement their welfare stamps with illegal activities, selling pot and hooch and their women, while those who work garner such pitiable wages from the mining corporations they can never, ever hope to make any of the endless ends meet. 

The sad thing is, there’s a tradition of this sort of thing here, long before the great depression of the 1930’s even.  Beating the “revenuers” and their women and children, is more than tradition or a way of life, it’s how these people measure their independence and freedom, even if on the long run the law wins and all of them have served, or will serve, long prison sentences.  The sad thing is, the women and the children play this game too, having no idea how to change the system of abject oppression they have to survive within and struggle under; having no idea there could even be a different kind of way. 

So there they stand, promoters of drugs, booze, prostitution, managing a prison designed by their elites, a self-serving dystopia maintained through a totally dysfunctional society feeding upon itself in an ever-shrinking loop.  Observe with me: through the open doors of the metal-clad rickety building, behind the bar is the country’s flag.  Of course.  And the money enriching the tills says, “In God we Trust.”  And every time a cash register rings its bell an angel gets its wings, isn’t that right?  

I see these things as a matter of course ‘cause in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is a visionary.  I see these people, staring at me, daring me, itching for a fight out here, in the mud of the parking lot.  And these men are proud!  Tell them their pride is the final nail in their dying world’s coffin and they will tear you to shreds.

So, friend, do as I do.  I lift up both arms, open my hands wide and wish them all a good night, walking slowly backward to my truck.  But when I finally get in the cab, lock the door and put my hands on the steering wheel, I notice they’re shaking.  I won’t deny it, I’m scared half to death as I drive away slowly, carefully and as quietly as the beast will let me, expecting headlights to flare up behind me and start following.  The parking lot remains dark.

You, sitting here in the bouncing cab, secure in your seat belt and staring at the winding road bordered by snaggy, leafless bushes, after witnessing the above, remember this: if you think you have some wisdom to impart to this world, be very circumspect because sharing wisdom to the average Earthian is casting pearls before swine.  Do not think that teaching wisdom is worth the price of martyrdom.  A society such as this cannot raise martyrs, your death would only serve as bloody entertainment to supplement its meager fare of pleasures and feed its desperate lusts.    

 

The Cursed Year, the Year of Bliss

  short story by Sha’Tara – part 7   
         “What happens then”

I was led to a quiet little office in a corner of the massive penthouse.  There I assembled my notes, numbered the pages and stapled the small stack.  Barely enough material to make a small article that would completely get lost in ads for perma-press pants, blenders and ice skates.   Whatever I fancied myself to be, I wasn’t, at least not yet.  I felt again that painful realization of being inadequate, of falling short of expectations.  Damn!  Thanks mom for working so hard at making me always feel inadequate to any task.

Nevertheless and determinedly, I crossed the shiny floor and knocked on Joe’s door.  “Come in Helen.”  I handed him my tiny collection of “facts” and winced as he took it and looked it over.  “Give me a few minutes to go over this, then we’ll go out somewhere and talk.  I’ll bring your notes after I have Lana make two extra sets of copies.  Go wander around, or there’s a library to your right – big gray door.  Why don’t you wait for me in there?”  I gave him a slight bow and exited to enter the library.

The library, an extensive labyrinth of bookshelves loaded with research material and legal tomes, all expensively bound.  And fax machines.  I counted five machines, all sitting side by side, silent.  But as I looked around one of them began transmitting and printing.  Curious, I checked the printout as it spooled.  It was in Arabic.  Then I noticed each machine was labelled.  A printed out Arabic.  So I guessed that’s why it had an “A” on it.  The next machine had a “C” so I assumed it was used for Russian, C standing for Cyrillic or it could be for Chinese.  “J” obviously Japanese, “F” for French… and “G” for German?  I found a pad of paper on a low table and using a pen from my purse I took notes.

“I’d rather you didn’t make notes about this library, Helen.”  The voice startled me.  There was no one in the room: it came from a hidden speaker and obviously there was a surveillance camera in the room also.  Clever!  That reminded me that he’d known who was at his door earlier when I knocked.  Surveillance, not something I was used to.  “What did you make of the message on Fax “A”?  You can speak, there are microphones too.”

“Nothing.  I’m bilingual, French and English, nothing else.” 

“That’s too bad.  By the way, I need a Cyrillic interpreter, but not just someone who can translate verbatim, I need someone who is familiar with the local jargons and uses of the language.  Know anyone?”

“Perhaps the old gentleman in my apartment complex.  His name is Dimitri and I’ve heard him speak some language that does sound Russian.”

“Bring him over if you can persuade him, I’d like to hear him speak with one of my assistants who speaks passable Russian.  Tell him there’s money in it, that usually brings them around.”

“What about the cold war and all the spy stuff, Joe?”

“Leave it for the pulp media, it’s all a game Helen.  Nothing real in it except massive piles of laundered money for war profiteers.  The American long term goal is to economically strangle the Soviet Union and gain control of the world after it collapses.”

“Is it likely to happen?”

“Yes, very likely, but not right away.  The USSR is a big and rich empire greatly underexploited which the Moscow based communist Mafia is preventing.  I want to see Russia free and independent again, an economic, rather than military, force to contend with the Washington capitalist plutocracy.  Believe it or not, your inner-city assignment – which is open-ended by the way – enters into my plans to formulate economic change that takes into consideration the fact that technology is going to implode possibly before the next 75, 100 years and billions of people whose lives are bound to city living and totally dependent upon a ubiquitous technology supporting the power grids will die in that collapse.  Society itself may well be thrown back to a Dark Ages dystopia riddled with internecine warfare and genocide, disease and superstition.  Excuse me, it’s ridiculous to converse this way.  Come back to my office, get your brief case and let’s go out for some drinks and dinner later.  I want to listen to you; I’m tired of hearing myself saying the same things over and over.” 

When I entered the office he flipped a switch on a black box on his desk and said, “Lana, can you find a coat for miss Kristofson?”  “Right away sir.”  came the reply, as if on cue.

I took the paper with the notes I’d begun writing and gave them to Joe.  He fed the sheet into a shredder, smiled and winked at me, “Cloak and dagger, Helen.  A bit of James Bond stuff, the real side of it; the part you’ll never see in a movie, or in a book.  No information arriving in the “library” leaves it until it’s been decoded and it says what I want it to say.”

“I’m intrigued.”

“Try not to be too intrigued.  In fact, forget what we talked about – don’t make notes on it.  Just get me a damn Russian speaking dude who has no idea who I am or what I want from him.  Anonymity is the name of this game.  You’re a reporter, I can trust you, right?”  I just nodded affirmatively and besides, I actually didn’t know who he was, who he really was. 

He was smoother than I was with the Mercedes.  I caught a faint wisp of diesel exhaust.  “They’re diesel aren’t they Joe?”  Diesel engines in cars were a novelty to me. 

“What, the cars?  The Mercedes?  Yes, well this one is.  I don’t know if they all are.  Why?”

“Curious Joe, I need facts in my head.  I need to know what makes things tick, like the digital clock for example.”  He made no comments on that.  

“The Ferryman” in the English sector was quite a class act bar.  Live but unobtrusive music, adjustable lighting at each table, privacy and the darker shades of turquoise made for a mellow ambiance.  Suddenly I felt my guard drop and realized how lonely I was – how hollow my life.  Joe was studying me as I sipped on my white wine, slowly.  If he’d known I was under-aged and little used to alcohol, I wonder what he’d say, or do. 

I studied him in turn, provocatively, and met his eyes.  They were a darker blue here than in the daylight and he was quite a handsome, if older, man.  I wanted to sit beside him and put my head on his shoulder and feel him holding me.  I thought I could trust him; I wanted to trust him.  I felt so tired of the defensive position, and the aggressive moods that swept through me, tired of being the avenging angel.  Then I remembered Joe’s words, “I’ll let you know when thinking about your body” and I stiffened. 

“Penny for your thoughts, Helen?” 

I lied.  “I’m such a long way from home and suddenly I have a weakness for a touch of home, homey comfort, even if it’s just made up fiction to match my emotions.”

“It’s the wine, Helen, and no food.  We need to eat.”  He gestured and almost yelled, “Garçon!” 

“Please explain why you use the French title in an obviously English establishment?”

“Tradition, Helen, just tradition, and they like the French title over the English “waiter!”  Sounds more romantic.”

We, or rather he, ordered and I finished my second glass of wine when the first course appeared.  I was famished and my head was buzzing.  The food helped, and I can’t remember what it was, just that it was excellent and made me ask for another glass of wine. 

We ate, we talked, we drank, laughed, enjoyed moments of thoughtful silence, ate some fancy dessert; talked some more and he drove me home, came into my apartment and commented on it.

“It’s cosy Helen.  And it’s in just the right place from which to observe and write your story.  Suddenly he grabbed me and held me against himself, just one arm around my waist, his head bent over mine.  He turned me around to face me. 

“You’re shaking.  Are you afraid of me?” 

“Yes I am Joe.  It’s been a rough time for me and I feel safer alone for now.  I’m sorry I can’t get into the mood, whatever that means.  Some day, if we leave this where it is and I don’t start running again I will try to explain.  Or perhaps I will weave my own story into the story of the slums.  Oh, I’m so, so tired I’m going to fall to the floor and sleep there.”

“Give me a minute to tell you something, girl, can you?”  I nodded, then sat on a kitchen table chair, waiting for the shoe to drop.  What now?  Why do I always attract these people?

“I told you earlier that I’d let you know when my interest had moved to your body, remember?”  I nodded, yes, again, with my eyes closed and my heart beating loudly in my chest, too tired to muster any anger.

“Well, here’s the deal.  I’m not in lust with you, rather my feelings for you go in a different direction.  A very different direction.  I am going now.  Lock the door behind me and go to bed.  I’ll send Raymond, my chauffeur, to pick you up tomorrow, after lunch, say around  1 PM.  Come up to the office and we’ll discuss some serious matters.  Good night… Helen.”

[end of part 7 – What happens after]

 

The Cursed Year, the Year of Bliss


[short story, by Sha’Tara –  part 5]

“The very large story”

5:30 AM.  I’ve just returned “home” and without even bothering to lock my door, I’m at the typewriter.  I need to unload all the information that has stacked up in my head during my night’s ramble. 

You want to know where I really was?  I entered the labyrinth; the lower intestines of the City.  My fingers type: there are no flowers here, no angelic music or happy songs around the family table.  There are no lovers walking hand in hand whispering sweet nothings to each-other.  Nobody is standing in front of some girl’s apartment and singing, “On the street where you live!” under a full moon; no emotional balcony scene.  It’s not that kind of place where people meet and greet before entering the muted sanctuary of a church for a service.  And it’s not the kind of place where people rush in a pub from the cold and order drinks for themselves and their friends. 

It’s the kind of place where the well known writers of 19th Century Europe found and collated the material they used to write their dystopian novels.

I’m not going to emulate or plagiarize Victor Hugo or Charles Dickens.  This is some hundred and fifty years later after all and you would expect things to be very different now.  So I’m going to write what I saw.  What I heard.  What I smelled.  What I felt.  You will fill in the blanks with your “what if’s” and I will not care how, or why, you question it.  You will pen letters to the editor and pompously write: “It’s their fault!  We all make choices in life.” Fine, it’s their fault.  Have it your way.  And now that you’ve passed on the blame, does it feel better?  Yes?  And how long will that last before you have to tell yourself more lies so you can justify spending a hundred dollars on a hockey game while children are raped and babies die of neglect and old people die in their unheated apartments just a few blocks from your well-lit arena with the heat flowing from hundreds of radiant heaters to ensure your temporary comfort?   Oh, Canada!  You think you’re a cut above, don’t you.  But you’re not.  

I continue writing:  I had penetrated into that murky world of the City far enough to have to step around a dead dog.  Even his ghost was silent and didn’t bark: let sleeping dogs lie. Even in the cold the smell was unbearable and I moved away quickly.  Then I heard some crashing in an alley.  Out of the mist a couple of people of impossible age or gender staggered out into the street.  They stared or glared at me and after imprinting that image in my head I turned away as casually as I could and walked on.  I wasn’t followed. 

And I realized then that here, I was just another ghost going about her business and nobody would care as long as I stayed out of their way.  Those who could care, or pay attention to my presence were either sleeping, or taking care of some other business – for the time being. 

I heard a scream in the night, a woman’s scream, and swearing, cursing, a threatening male voice.  More screaming, more banging around.  Then a child’s scream joined that of the woman and a man came out of a front door silhouetted by the light in a hallway behind the door.  He had a pair of torn jeans on, nothing else.  He stared at me and I stared back at him. 

“What the fuck you lookin’ at bitch?” He practically growled his words.

“Not much.  Why do you care?”  Says a voice that came from my mouth, but it wasn’t me talking.  Couldn’t be me, or could it?

“Fuck off, mind you own business.”

I feel cocky now.  I want to engage him on his own turf, see where this is going to go.  “I am minding my own business.  I’m standing on a public street, not on private property.  That means I’m minding my own business.  No law against looking, listening or smelling from any public place.  Check it out.”

“Smart ass cunt.  I outta step down there and teach you a lesson.”

“Why don’t you then?”  That anger rising again.  “Any lesson you could teach me I already know, make no mistake.  Maybe I can teach you a lesson, and any lesson I teach you, you’re going to wish you hadn’t asked for it.”

“Oh yeah?  Like what?”

“Ever wondered what it’d feel like to get castrated?  Just asking.”

“What?  What did you say?”

“I think you heard me loud and clear.  What’s your answer?”

“Fuck you!”  He turned back and re-entered the place, slamming the door.  End of that conversation.  And I ask myself, would I have castrated him if he’d tried to “teach me a lesson”?  An overriding part of me says, absolutely.  Give ‘em what they ask for.  And perhaps I should have forced the issue, made him come down to the street and disabled him.  Then I could have gone up and checked on the woman and her baby.  Is there a line drawn somewhere in the darkness that tells you if your are moving in the right or the wrong direction?

A car approaches, radio blaring, moving slowly as if the driver is looking for something.  I back off into the shadows, just in case, but not fast enough.  A car can hold a lot of people.  I’ve never done more than the one-on-one.  I hear someone call,

“Hey, I saw you, bitch, where’d you go?  I got a twenty here for a blow job…”

Loud, drunken laughter from inside the car.  I back up surreptitiously behind a garbage bin that smells of decomposing meat.  Because of the cold the smell is bearable.  I wait until the car resumes its predatory roll and walk carefully out of the shadows.  A cat meows sadly.  No door opens; there is no reply.  Is it mourning a dead mate?  Perhaps.  I walk on, death on my mind.  And experience some creeping sadness which I discount as a sign of weakness at the moment ‘cause I can’t afford that luxury.

Car wrecks along the streets, smell of rotting garbage and smoke from burning oil and rubber – probably a car torched somewhere.  I see a glow, too far to investigate.  I hear footsteps ahead of me and this time I hear conversation.  Into the shadows again, listening to an argument.  

“I saw the money first, it’s mine.” 

“I killed him for it – makes me partner.  I want half.”

“I’ll give you a quarter of the take.  I could’a got it without having to kill the rube.  You’re a jerk-off.” 

“Who you callin’ jerk-off, dickhead?” 

“Take the hundred and get lost or get nothin’.  I’m sick of you hanging on to me.”

“And I’m sick of you, tight-wad.  Half.  Now or I cut you.” 

A blade flashes in the pale light. 

“With that toy?  Gimme a break.  You threaten me, you get nuttin.”  I hear a tussle, some grunting and a muffled cry. 

“Aw shit, you stabbed me.  I’m bleedin’.  Where you goin?  Don’t leave me like this!”  Footsteps fade out in the rising fog. 

I step out of the shadows and perhaps at the moment I’m a guardian angel, if not a terribly effective one.  I check on the victim sprawled half on, half off the broken sidewalk.  I can see blood as black oil oozing from under the victim’s side.  He’s doubled over, panting feebly.

“What’s happened here?”

“Need an ambulance, I got stabbed, mugged.”

“You’re the guy who killed the other guy your partner robbed.  Tell the truth and I call the ambulance.”

“Yeah, it’s me.  I did.  Now call, please call, I’m dying here.”

Please, I thought?  They can say “please” when they really need your help and are helpless.  I found a half decent looking place, pounded on the door until it was opened and I was looking down the barrel of a shotgun.  I put my hands up.

“Look”  I said, “I’m sorry for disturbing you but there’s been a mugging and stabbing just down the street and I need for someone to call an ambulance.  Give them your address and I’ll wait in the street for it.  Try to find out how long before they can get here, please?  Tell ‘em the victim’s dying.”  And I slipped him my card from the newspaper for added weight.

“OK, wait in the street, I gotta lock the door first.”

“Call and let me know, will you?  Please?”  I heard the deadbolt lock snick shut.

And he did, and I did and the now dead body was carted away by the ambulance and I got a ride to the cop shop, free hot coffee and met some talkative and curious cops.  There were two questions on their minds.  One, what was I doing on the street in that part of town at that time of night?  Two, could I be persuaded to go on a date?   

One, a veteran on the force, took me to an all-night café and we talked – a lot.  Maybe you won’t believe this but this guy didn’t come on to me.  In fact he talked a lot about his family, and his wife of 15 years and some of the stuff she put up with because, he said, “She loves me.”   I didn’t know what to say to that.  Love?  What’s love got to do with any of it? … I thought.  I kept that to myself.

He asked me about my job, and I told him I was a freelance reporter and after eyeballing me carefully again, he said, “Hm, really!  Well I really, really would like to know what you think you’re doing walking around that particular neighbourhood in the middle of the night.”  He looked at me intensely and said, “You’re just a girl.  You should be home with your family.  You don’t even look old enough to hold a real job.”

So, in a rare moment of trust, like talking to an old priest I confessed to all the years, I told him my whole sordid adventure, except for my real identity and age and I saw tears in his eyes.  I apologized for making him sad.  He wiped his eyes and smiled.  “I’m a cop, Helen, I don’t get sad, but I can get emotional.  Want to know what I think?  You should have killed those two bastards – except of course there’s the guilt after, and they’re not worth it.  You did good, girl.  Take good care o’ you, Wonder Woman.  See ya around.”  I felt warm inside, like having a shot of brandy.   

[end of part 5: the very large story]