Roll Call of the Lesser Devils: End of Book I

Quick preface: I'm having severe nerve problems in my right hand from pinched nerves in my right shoulder. I can't feel my hand, and so I'm not writing anything new right now. That helps my poetry restoration project, but doesn't take care of my desire to write. Such is life...

[Is An]
Advocate of implied insanity,
A Factory of covered truth.
The world's judges struggle blindly
To bind the psychic aloof,
The just are the just
Are reflections
In the water of someone's self
The judges are like syphilis
The organs no good anymore,
Of state but no, not stately
Common, vulgar and perfectly low,
The disconcerted attrition
Defies quick witted description
A war on drugs? What for?
So ad absurdum in an infinite way
Legal mistakes the worst kind to make,
Effective as of now:
They never happened,
I hid them all yesterday.

Is this a collapse of the happy state,
A dissolution of harmony?
Ask me again in an hour,
When I've forgotten the hegemony.

A Little Vengeance
Run up the alley,
Right turn.
Return the lie to the location of purchase,
Sly, run along,
Later turn key words
As a key witness
Nicks his finger on a pottery shard,
It's gonna be tough on the yard.

The End
The truth floats
Skimming over the waves.
The projector stops;
The end comes.
Show me.
Another page in the decade of imponderance,
Declareth the end
In trite triumph through quiet decay,
Trists but markings for the story
Full of the simplicity of animal grandeur.
The emotion is resonant,
Dashing the participants into blasphemy,
Ashes and pennies,
But of the spirit,
None for me thanks.
Throughout the decade of the sun
Disaster struck.
Hop on this, they say,
Hop on this for frantic mingling.
No fast one, they say,
Who the hell are they anyway?

Why can’t I hear
What people are saying?
Do they call out with guttural exhalations,
Or laugh, or over time quietly intimate?
Only a kind mind can recognize
The vow that has turned traitors away,
That, to never utter a single sound;
Others will see only a dangerous game.
Silent vacillation
Confounds the want.
Testimony will not be heard.
Of words also nothing should be said
Unless with a kind voice, never disturbing
The glassy serenity of social surfaces.
The thoughts of the silent
Are like tiny fish
Darting around above the floor
Of a shallow crystal bay.
Every bubble contains a person,
Every ripple a divine truth.
And words?
What use for them when vision holds on,
When beauty can be seen
Under bright lights or without.
It is easy to see impurities
In the character that carries tales.
Some men seek to trap with their sentences,
Sentences for convictions
Wrong accusations
of Greed or Violence
When fighting peacefully
Along political lines, in political times.
Some men rather than walk away
Seek to prey on innocents,
Scapegoating for their own
Sinister faults.
Violent men see nothing but
Night and day.

The secret to vision here?
My voice said nothing.

Something Blue

Sometimes sleep is the best solace. Consciousness returned slowly to Grief as the rays of the sun slowly crawled across his face. Cracks in the building’s elevated foundation allowed the light a way into his hiding place, revealing dirt and garbage, his prone figure and the outline of another just an arm length away from him.
With his senses flooding back into awareness there came an overwhelming emotion. Fear.
Sitting bolt upright, he yelled, “Lissa! Lissa, where are you!”
The figure stretched out nearby stirred quickly, and a female face became visible in the dusty morning light.
“Shh! Quiet, Grief,” she whispered harshly, “Are you trying to get us killed?”
Grief flung himself the short distance to his sister and threw his arms around her, stifling a sob. “I get so scared, Lissa.”
“I know Grief, but we are going to make it. We’re going to be okay. We just have to get out of Baudelaire. If we can make it to the coast no one will be looking for us.”
Lissa looked around at their bleak accommodations. Grief had made his way into the crawlspace easily, being the smaller of the two, but she had been hard pressed to squeeze certain parts through the small hole in the south wall. She did not relish having to do it again, and this time in broad daylight. It was just a chance they would have to take. The streets were all but deserted at night, making them easy targets for patrols. Not only that, a growing rumbling in her stomach convinced her that it was time to find something to eat.
“Get the pack, Grief. It’s time to jam.”

Just twenty four hours earlier their lives had been uncomplicated bliss. Lissa had been looking after Grief since the death of their parents. She had a job minding the laundry recyclers in the upper class neighborhood of Fleurs du Mal. Often she wondered how laundry could still be so tedious with the combined technology of thousands of years, technology enough to scorch half the planet. It was a hard job, but she and Grief enjoyed a measure of happiness.
Growing up she had always known that Grief was different. It wasn’t just his diminutive size. Sometimes Grief would get a far away look in his eyes, and then strange things would happen. Strange and wonderful things.
One time, before their parents died, she and Grief had come across an injured rabbit. It had been dragging it’s hind legs, and making a plaintive mewling sound barely audible to human ears. The look came over Grief. He walked slowly over to the rabbit and began to pet it’s head softly. The rabbit immediately became calm, and soon seemed to be lulled into a deep sleep. Grief leaned down and whispered into it’s ears for a couple of minutes before standing up and rejoining his sister. Behind him the rabbit opened it’s eyes, got to it’s feet and hopped away. Lissa never spoke of it, mainly because of the light she saw in Grief’s eyes.
That wasn’t even close to what happened after Grief had learned of their parents’ murder. Grief’s name had been Scott before that. When he heard about their deaths he was beyond communication. He kept rocking back and forth in the fetal position in a corner of his room. Lissa tried to comfort him.
After many rises and falls of her chest she went to him again. “Scott… Scott, everything is going to be fine. I’ll take care of you, I’ll…”
“Don’t ever call me Scott again, Lissa,” he said in a voice that was not of their world. “My name is Grief.”
He focused on her briefly, and then he asked her to leave, in that same unnatural voice. Lissa had been too frightened to refuse. She ran from the house with her hands over her face, totally overcome with terror. She fled into the small field behind their home and flung herself upon the grass. It was then that she heard, or rather felt it.
An invisible wave of pressure exploded outward from their home. Birds were flung from their flight. Even the clouds seemed to waver in the sky. After that there was only a deep, profound silence. At last her concern for Grief overcame her fears of the changes she had seen in him. She went back for him.
He was still sitting in a fetal position in a corner of his room, but he was just her brother again. The dangerous light had gone from his eyes, and his voice was his own again. Lissa went to him and threw her arms around him.
“I will always be here for you… Grief. I love you, Grief. It’s just you and me now.”
“Those people will never hurt anyone again,” Grief said sadly.
“What people, Grief?”
“The men who killed mommy and daddy,” he said simply. It was then that Lissa knew what the pressure had been.
Twenty-three pots of beans later the magistrate’s personal troopers came to their home. In their light bio-silicoid armor, reeking of the feeding banks where the equipment is grown, the looked and smelled like decaying scorpions. The bio-pulse rifles in their arms throbbed with malicious awareness, genetically enhanced to seek their targets by body heat and odor. Troopers needed their “fine” equipment to make up for their intelligence.
The one in charge displayed his finest trait. “You the one’s who’s parents murdered?”
“Yes, that’s us,” Lissa answered.
“We found them. Something ate their brains.”
Grief hung his head, and would not lift his eyes. Lissa responded gravely, “Why would you come to tell us this in the midst of our grief?”
“We just think funny. Parents dead, killers dead, you alive.”
“Not everyone has the fortune to die during hardship. My brother and I have a long, hard road ahead of us.”
“You know anything about this?”
“I know that my mother and father are dead, and I know what you have told me. Is there anything else?”
“Yeah. We be watching you.” The commander of the company stayed true to his eloquence as he ordered his men back to the magistrate’s compound, “We go back now.”
Lissa breathed a sigh of relief before she muttered under her breath, “Morons.”
After they had gone she called Grief back into the house. “We need to talk, Scott,” she said to him very kindly.
“I’m not Scott anymore, Lissa. I’m Grief. I’ll never be Scott again. I didn’t decide to be Grief. It just happened.”
“Okay, you’re Grief. But we still need to talk. Those men came because they suspected something about us – about you, from my perspective. They barely need an excuse to kill both of us. Are you listening to me?”
“I’m listening.”
“You can never do anything like that again. Never again. Do you understand?”
“I understand, Lissa.”
“Good. Then we have nothing to worry about.”
Life has a funny way of making mincemeat out of vows, promises and the phrase “never again”. Not far from that moment something happened that would change their lives forever, even though they didn’t know it at the time.
Lissa was walking home from her job at the laundry. She was musing about the extra water she had accrued that week. It had been unexpected, and very welcome. Evidently she wasn’t the only one who knew about her windfall. Someone in Fleurs du Mal had leaked the information to the neighborhood muscle. They followed her home from her job.
She was in sight of her home when they jumped her. There were three of them. They didn’t even give her the option of forfeiting her water marks. These men were sadistic. They wanted the water, but even more than that they wanted to hurt her, deeply. Without warning they rushed upon her and dragged her to the wayside. She let out one involuntary scream.
Up in his room Grief heard her call out. He flew down the stairs and out the front door. His feet pounded down the road. Fifty yards from the front door he saw the toughs holding her sister prone, one of them hunched between her legs, pounding. The whites of his eyes turned the color of blood.
“Leave her alone.” Grief said it very quietly, but as his words left his mouth the air turned to ice as the message made its way to the attackers. Too inflamed by their lust, the strong men failed to notice.
The tough raping Lissa looked around at him. He growled at one of the other men, “Take him, she’s mine now.”
The goon that responded was muscular to the point of obscenity. He wore a low cut tunic of purple, the colors of his clique, and simple blue jeans. He grinned as he released Lissa. “You want to join in, little man?” His words fell from his lips like worms from a ripe grave.
“Please don’t do this, to yourself,” Grief intoned.
“Oh, we’re gonna do it to you too. We’ll do it real good.”
Grief’s eyes lost rolled back in his head, but even so a light shined out of them. The rapist saw the light even as he reached out for him. The flesh of his arm began to melt away from the bone quickly. The rapist’s mouth screwed up to emit a scream, but no sound came out. His flesh continued to dissolve, first up one arm and then the other.
Finally the liquid plopping sounds of the tissue hitting the ground reached the ears of the other two rapists. Coitus interruptus. The man between Lissa’s legs barely had time to get off of her before blood began to pour from his crotch. He crawled across the ground in silent agony. The remaining rapist, the one holding her hands, simply imploded upon himself. Within seconds all of his tissue had turned to dust. The silence was deafening.
Grief walked over to the penetrator. “Are you having problems now? Do you feel me inside you? I’m so lost, so hungry. All I want to do is find a way out,” Grief spoke softly, and as he did so trails of blood erupted in diagonals across the man’s torso.
“I just want to find a way out of you,” Grief said with infinite morose.
The rapist’s eyes screwed up in one last moment of tortured understanding before his heart burst out of his chest. Even in death he did not look peaceful.
Grief went to Lissa. “It’s okay, sis. Everything’s okay.”
“Oh, Grief, what have you done?” Lissa would never call her brother Scott again. Grief was right. Scott no longer existed.

They made it into the house and began packing even before the magistrate got word of what had happened. There are always witnesses to such things in Baudelaire. It had only been a matter of heartbeats, and how many, before word got to the magistrate. It had not been many. Even as they scurried across fields and through alleys they heard the sirens sound.
Hope dwindled, and the sirens drew closer. Suddenly Lissa and Grief stumbled out onto the main road leading from Baudelaire to Asimov, the port city on the west coast. At that very instant a slow moving refuse convoy rumbled past. Lissa yelled at Grief to jump on. Despite the stench the siblings flung themselves into the yawning miasma of one of the convoy creepers.
By nightfall they were on the extreme outskirts of Baudelaire, in the suburb of Hashishin. Luck was on their side. They found the hole leading to the crawl space they awoke in at dawn.

Lissa scrambled out of the hole, looking furtively from side to side. It appeared there really were no witnesses, so she and Grief hurried out into the masses. Lissa always wondered where all the people could possibly be going. Hopelessness clouded her mind. Grief looked her in the eyes, and her mood seemed to lift.
“All we have to do is get to Asimov, Grief. We’ll be okay in Asimov.”
“No, Lissa, we’ll never be okay in these lands again. They know what I am. They will look for me everywhere, until they find me. And then they will kill you.”
“But they’re looking for you, Grief.”
“Yes, but they can’t kill me, Lissa.”
“Where else can we go?”
“The scorched lands.”
“Your crazy. Grief, there’s nothing but death in the scorched lands.”
“There’s nothing but death here, Lissa.”

After another extremely long day they found a place to sleep. Lissa stretched her aching legs. In the moments before Grief fell asleep he twitched and moaned. As he fell off into a deep sleep he was finally still. Lissa was glad when he finally breathed calmly again. Sometimes sleep is the best solace.

end of installment 1a. Next: technology notes, and installments 1b and 1c)


What Lull?

I like Alien Sex Fiend, especially "Maximum Security Twilight Home." I'm filing this under "Labeled Music." I did not listen to this. If that bothers you, purchase Happy Flowers and listen to "I Want to Watch Cartoons." I can promise my having failed to listen to this Alen Sex Fiend song will not bother you as much as that song.

Roll Call of the Lesser Devils 87, 88

Younger Minds

Unchain your mind.
Don't listen to the "teachers"
It's all lies.
Look somewhere else for learning,
Not here where hell sells,
And everyone has numerous selves.
Thinking back, lying back, rolling over
Picnic blankets killing clover
And a pretty girl named daffodil
Was sweet on me
We drank the swill
That makes puppies love
She looked cute to me,
And I knew her well,
But she just wouldn't do me
At least she didn't tell.
We stayed friends
The way I learned that word should be burned
And cast from the language forever,
And now it seems we never were a we?

Rethink it,
Must be some authority,
Someone who was there,
In real time
To teach us all the mistakes we made.
The answers were unknown.

There is no way,
There's nothing to see here
No way to understand,
Until that hard row has been hoed
Until you walk the difficult road
Until all the pain makes you whole.

This place, This America,
This was the promised land.
Divorced from the difficult,
It all just came naturally,
And if you didn’t get it,
Then the whole game was just too complex for you.
It's not like that anymore.
And you should just go home where you’ll be safe.

Here in paradise.
The only existence is one we made for ourselves,
Assume this can be, and is true,
Free form, get the hell out with the past,
Hey, hey, hey,
Don’t waste my day,
On top, on the bottom, or in between.

All things are unhappy
That are about him,
For to love when loved not is great folly,
Though ye be as fair a lady as any ever seen.

I am trapped by uncertainty,
Every move questioned
With a nod to the fate worse than death,
The injection of rejection
The banal mix that makes the face turn red,
That painful fix
Of things that shouldn't have been said.

When driven to the edge
To move is likely to bring a fall,
Not to move is to be stricken.
It's just like Hamlet's fatal flaw.

Not to praise her beauty so evidenced
To have been teased into existence,
Only to lower one's own resistance,
That's a sickness twice as dire,
The one that departs
Will feel the fire
With nothing at all to slake the thirst of it.

When asked what entangles so
Perhaps not a bad lie,
As far as lies go
Would be to blame the quickening of the heart.
This testimony bears witness
To the dangers of loving when loved not.
Now trapped by destiny
And infatuated through and through.

The lady be as fair as any ever seen.
I hope she will catch this kiss on the wind,
But if not,
Learn from these mistakes.

Note: I actually understand why I revised these two in 2001. They were fairly childlike. It doesn't matter what I do. Often people like things I have no stomach for.

Discordia: Installment Twelve [long overdue]

Chapter Ten:

The House in Ascension Parish

The timber that floated down the Mississippi River resembled monsters and water folk, as soft moonlight cast its glow down on the mighty current. The waves slapped at the shore in syncopated rhythm, setting an impossibly complex beat for a song that whispered on the breeze and slithered through the thickest thickets. The path that followed the riverbank crossed dimensional barriers, and was much like the path that followed the banks of every river everywhere. The seven people riding four horses on that path were unique to Discordia, however. No other place had ever witnessed such an occurrence.

Jesus rode first down the narrow game path, and then Dorothy, with Louis and Lena holding tightly to their backs. Lena couldn’t believe Jesus would rather have a man’s arms around him than hers. Jesus had thought about that very fact a few miles into their ride, but he didn’t want to stop so soon. The assassin had already decided to swap Louis for Lena. Jesus noticed the dirty looks she kept giving him.

Not far behind Dorothy, Michael held on to Elizabeth on the back of her horse. He dwarfed the attractive warrior, and the sight was slightly ridiculous. Rosie brought up the rear, except for one rider-less black and white stallion. The unencumbered horse looked content, but everybody else showed signs of increasingly poor temperament. They looked and felt stupid riding two to a horse, and Rosie felt totally alienated at the end of the line. Their frustrations were about to boil over.

“I can’t believe you had a totally tricked out 1964 gangster, and we’re riding freakin’ horses,” Louis’ griped.

“I can’t believe we’re partnered off with the same sex,” Lena grumbled.

“I can’t figure out why I haven’t thrown you from the back of my horse yet, princess,” Dorothy menaced Lena.

“Can you all keep it to yourselves until daylight?” Jesus beseeched, but he didn’t believe it would happen.

“I’m sick of riding back here with no one to talk to,” Rosie spoke up loud enough to be heard in Lafayette.

“I do have to use the bathroom,” Elizabeth offered on behalf of everyone who wanted to stop, “and I’m not peeing in the saddle, Jesus.”

“I’m glad you said something, Elizabeth. I’ve had to go for an hour,” Michael gushed. “The sooner we take care of this, the sooner I’ll quit worrying my bladder will explode.”

“Okay! I get it!” Jesus acquiesced rudely. “Let’s take a few minutes. Try not to get bitten by a snake, or fall in the river.” He was only half joking.

The riders reined in their horses, and everybody dismounted. Michael sprinted into the dark trees. Even though he was in a hell dimension, he still couldn’t bring himself to urinate in front of women. Elizabeth walked a few feet into the undergrowth, pulled up her skirt and squatted down. Lena made for the trees, but Rosie chose the undergrowth. Jesus thought he might be watching a nature show on the urination practices of the human animal. He noticed that Dorothy was watching him observe the other people. The two laughed simultaneously.

“Well, which are you, Dorothy? A bushes person or a trees person?” Jesus giggled. The sound was refreshing, because it rarely came out of him.

“I’m a woman who waits with the horses until everyone else is finished,” she answered with a smile, “and then goes in the trees.”

“Funny, I would have taken you for a bushes person,” Jesus disclosed honestly.

“What about you, Jesus? Are you so uptight that you sweat out all your urine?”

“I’m so dehydrated that I’m seriously beginning to consider drinking river water. I didn’t get anything to eat or drink back at the fortress, and I didn’t bring anything with me. There’s a canteen on the horse, but it’s empty. I know only a couple of basic transmutation spells, and the process takes me half an hour,” the assassin lamented.

“You are wound too tight. Why didn’t you say something? If you’re leading us, then you have to keep your strength up. Hunger is bad, but dehydration will take you right out of the game,” Dorothy lectured him.

“I’ve been through much, much worse. I wanted to put as much distance between ourselves and Baton Rouge as possible, but we’re stopped now. So, Dorothy, do you have anything to eat or drink?”
“I just fight. That’s Elizabeth’s department.” Dorothy turned and called out, “Elizabeth. We need clean water, and something to eat.”

“Coming right up,” Elizabeth answered as she stood up.

Everybody returned to the horses from out of the night. Elizabeth picked her way down to the river and filled up all the canteens. She wasn’t sure how they forgot to fill them up, but it didn’t matter. On the way back to the horses she said some words over the water. The canteens glowed briefly. She handed one to Jesus, who showed his trust by drinking long gulps of the river water. Elizabeth passed out the rest of the canteens, and everybody drank.

Elizabeth gathered some grass and soil into a straw bowl. She said some words over the bowl, and a soft glow obscured the contents. When the glow subsided there was a long loaf of bread poking out. She passed the loaf to Jesus, who broke off a piece and passed it on.

Jesus climbed into his saddle before a conversation could start. He was anxious to get underway. He didn’t think they could afford the time to stand around and talk. Once he was mounted, he addressed the issue of seating and riding order.

“Lena, I want you with me,” Jesus told the young woman. She beamed and took his hand. She snuggled up against him after she was in the saddle.

Rosie looked totally jealous, so Jesus addressed her next. “Rosie, I want you right behind us with Louis, so you three can talk quietly. Keep it very quiet, though. We have no idea where the hell we are.” Both Rosie and Louis looked appeased by the idea.

Michael volunteered, “I’m sure I can stay on a horse as long as we ride at this pace.” The group slowed down after they left the city. To prove his point Michael walked over to the black and white stallion and climbed into the saddle. The stallion liked the attention.

Dorothy put in, “I’m going to bring up the rear, in case of attack.”

“I’m with Dorothy at the rear,” Elizabeth sounded off.

“Michael, I want you between us and the veterans,” Jesus told the priest.

When everybody got situated the horses cantered down the path once more. Sunrise was still an hour away, and the only thing evident about the scenery was the river. The path followed the course of the river, which meant the party was riding below the level of the surrounding areas. They wouldn’t have been able too see the countryside even in broad daylight. That was partially a good thing, because nobody could see them. It was also a bad thing. They could be riding through a densely populated conclave of evil, and they wouldn’t know it. For that reason Jesus insisted they converse only in hushed voices.

“Your parents were murdered and you wound up here? That’s terrible, Louis,” Rosie whispered sympathetically after the young man spilled his sob story.

“I don’t feel sorry for you, Louis. So your parents were murdered. You can’t keep using that as an excuse to live in misery forever. Your parents would want you to move on. I think destroying your life insulted their memories. Let me ask you a question. If you went back home right now, would you pick up where you left off? Would you start using heroin again?” Lena grilled him at length.

“No, I definitely would not. I’ve been through too much, and I’ve seen too many things. Besides, I think the Order of True Love cured me of the addiction,” he answered. “If I were to go home right now, there’s a girl I would like to see. She won’t see me until I take care of a few things, so my goal would be to get my life straight. After that I would look her up.”

“That’s sweet, Louis. What’s her name?” Rosie inquired with a slight touch of jealousy in her tone. Louis was holding on to her, but talking about another girl.

“Her name is Paula. I only met her one time, but it was like I fell in love with her on the spot. The demon who sent me here said it was just lust, but what would he know about it,” Louis muttered.

Jesus listened to the conversation. He asked, “What was the name of the demon who opened the portal, Louis?”

“His name was Sirius.”

“Don’t worry about anything he said, Louis. I’ve met Sirius, and he’s a total loser. If you really felt love, then that’s what it was. Don’t let anything else change your mind about it,” Jesus reassured him.

“Fat lot of good it does me right now, though. I’m on my way to fight a major devil, and I’m almost as worried about winning as I am about losing. I can feel something waking up. Actually, it feels like someone is waking up inside of me. My thoughts keep rushing through my head, and I don’t understand them all. I’m afraid that whatever lives inside me will destroy me when it comes to the surface,” Louis revealed. “I don’t want to be swallowed up. I don’t want to lose my humanity.”

Michael had strained his ears to listen for quite a while. He kept his horse very close to Rosie’s. When Louis began to open up, Michael knew that it was time to join the conversation. He had found a new angle to approach Louis’ problem.

“I think your feelings of love are critical to your survival, Louis. You did nothing but deaden all your emotions after your parents were killed. You didn’t feel love for anyone, until you met Paula. Even though you only felt it for a short period of time, you experienced love again. I am positive it was very genuine. That’s why the demon Sirius belittled it, and that’s why Asmodeus attacked her in your dream. The devils wanted to extinguish the love inside of you. Love is the key to your survival, Louis. Love is the ingredient you need to overcome everything reality can throw at you,” Michael finished what he considered his most inspired sermon to date.

“That’s the first thing you’ve tried to convince me of that I found rational, Father Flannery,” Louis said quietly. “I believe that, but I’m not sure how it will help me. I felt love for Paula, but I didn’t have time to get to know her better.”

““It isn’t about Paula, Louis. She’s just a girl you met. Love is the answer; love in general. You were so junked out that your feeling of love for her may have constituted the last bit of love in your entire being. I am sure that you need to cultivate that feeling. Love and God are basically the same thing, Louis. Don’t tune me out just because I said God. You want to survive, and I want you to survive. To do that you’re going to have to let love into your heart,” the priest lectured.

“I could help you, Louis,” Rosie offered innocently. “I liked Michael’s solution. Love is a good thing, and I haven’t heard any better ideas. I could show you love, Louis. Maybe you could even love me back.”

“That’s very sweet, Rosie. It makes me feel nice that you care enough to offer,” Louis expressed his appreciation in a sincere tone, but he was very turned on by what she said.

Louis felt his manhood stir against Rosie’s back, and from the way she stiffened she felt it too. Louis yearned for sexual intimacy. The last time Louis had sex was before he got strung out. Rosie’s offer sounded better and better. Every step the horse took caused him to rub against his pants, and worsened his condition. Rosie arched her back and leaned back into him, to increase the contact between them. Nobody noticed what they were doing in the predawn darkness, but the sudden silence indicated something.

“Not right now, Rosie. You’ll drive me crazy. We have to wait until we get somewhere safe to bed down, whenever that may be,” Louis whispered into her ear softly.

The conversation about love drove Lena to once again obsess about the man she was holding. She wished it wasn’t the middle of the summer, because it was too hot to really enjoy the snuggling. After Jesus complained of the heat she peeled herself off of him. The idea of rubbing her sweaty body against his hadn’t fully left her mind since she climbed up on the horse. The constant bouncing in the saddle was making her horny as hell. It certainly wasn’t improving Jesus’ chances of getting away from her.

Jesus was not thinking about sex or love or Lena. He was focused on survival. His companions worried him deeply. They didn’t seem to grasp the seriousness of their situation. Jesus wanted to keep everyone safe, and he needed their help to do it. He considered advising Louis and the girls about the procedures they were to follow in the event of danger. Jesus listed survival priorities in his mind. He made it to number three, “Where to meet if separated.” That was when Lena’s hand found it’s way into his crotch.

“What are you doing, Lena?” he hissed as quietly as he could manage. He didn’t want the other members of the party to hear him.

Lena pulled in very close to him, like she was going to whisper a response into his ear. Instead she drew his earlobe into her mouth and sucked on it. He tried to pull away, but they were entwined on the back of the horse. He couldn’t get far. Lena wrapped her other arm tightly around his chest, and pressed her chest against his back. Every single hair on his body was standing on end, and her actions were having the effect she desired.

“I want you so bad, Jesus,” she breathed into his ear.

“Normally I would definitely take you up on that offer, Lena, but right now is not a particularly good time. Please don’t get upset. As soon as we find ourselves in a safer place, I promise you we can enjoy each other’s company as long as you like. But not right now,” he told her through gritted teeth.

Lena worked on the zipper of Jesus’ jeans while he feebly attempted to stop her. The problem was that he didn’t want her to stop. He was tired of having to remain on constant alert. He spent two thousand years on high alert, and he didn’t want to do it anymore. He wanted to get off of the horse and throw Lena to the ground, but that would not help their situation. He intended to get them out of Discordia. Until then they weren’t safe to play sexual games. Jesus found one last pocket of resolve inside himself, and pulled Lena’s hand off of his crotch.

“You really promise, Jesus?” she asked him. Fear of betrayal lingered in the sound of her voice.

“I promise, Lena. If we live through this, then we can have sex until neither one of us can walk.”

“I’m going to hold you to that,” Lena pledged.

As a show of trust she backed off of him slightly. She could feel the slight breeze cooling the sweat on her chest, but her stomach remained miserably hot. She reminded herself to find another top as soon as possible. The latex made her look fantastic, but it wasn’t the right fabric for a Louisiana summer. She bet Moonshadow, the girl who picked it out for her, had no idea what warm, sweaty latex felt like.

At the rear of the party Elizabeth and Dorothy were carrying on a quiet conversation of their own. Dorothy evinced the friendlier personality of the two, contrary to her forbidding appearance. Elizabeth constantly searched Dorothy’s expressions before speaking up about a subject, and she gave the larger, more masculine woman more than an average amount of attention. The two shared an obvious bond, which Elizabeth took very seriously.

“Do you think they know we love each other?” Elizabeth made almost no sound as she asked the question.

“I don’t think so. I know how uptight you are about us, but I get the feeling that we aren’t among the most judgmental people around. For heaven’s sake, you could cut the sexual tension with a knife. I don’t think it would be the end of the world if they found out,” Dorothy murmured in a subdued tone.

“I don’t trust easily. You know that. If they disapproved of us, then they might be slow to help us in a jam,” the fair woman whispered back.

“Nobody here would willingly allow us to come to harm, Beth. I’m sure of that. The priest might frown upon our relationship, but I wager he would lay his life down for any of us. We’re in good company.”

“That’s what I thought too, Dorothy. I wanted to make sure you agreed with me, in case I felt like touching you later.”

“I will never understand why you’re attracted to me, Beth. You could have anyone, man or woman. I’m probably the ugliest woman in Discordia. Why me?”

“No, Dorothy, you’re beautiful. And I love you.”

“I guess I should believe you. That’s what you always say.”

The priest in front of Elizabeth caught fragments of their conversation. He shrugged and smiled. Michael surmised early on that the two warrior women were lovers, but it wasn’t because he bought into any stereotype. He noticed the way they exchanged glances. The night wasn’t dark enough to conceal their relationship. He disagreed with their choices for personal and religious reasons, but as a Christian he withheld judgment. It was not his place to presume to know best for everyone.

Louis disturbed the hushed atmosphere by speaking loud enough for everyone to hear. “Discordia doesn’t exist anyway. I know I’m back in my house in Spanish Town, sleeping or heavily hallucinating. There’s no way this is real. I experience it through my five senses, but perceptions can be altered. An altered mental state would mean altered perception of sensory information.

“The problem is that none of this makes any sense. My parents get murdered for no reason. A demon crawls out of my brain and transports me into a Dungeons and Dragons reality, or wherever the hell it is. I kick heroin during an afternoon nap. I’m still in Louisiana, only it’s full of street gangs with names right out of Sesame Street. You know, the Sesame Street Samurai. How much of this bullshit am I supposed to believe? We’re riding horses in the middle of the night. Don’t forget we can turn bread into grass and drink straight from the Mississippi. I just need a break. Can I please catch a freakin’ break here?

“You’re all going to tell me that this is real, that this is Discordia. Mystical magical Discordia, where things are as normal as we need them to be, and scary enough to make a good campfire story. Well, I don’t believe it. Screw you guys, I’m going home,” Louis concluded. The horses continued to plod along.

“You don’t think I’m real, Louis?” Rosie sniffled, her feelings hurt.

“Weren’t your parents murdered in normal reality?” Lena expressed her confusion. Louis ignored that question.

“It’s not you, Rosie, it’s this place. Something isn’t right. It’s too much like home to be so different,” Louis muttered.

“And then Louis cracked up, unable to grasp the idea of alternate dimensions,” Jesus announced to nobody in particular. “It’s the same, yet different; real cutting edge stuff. Get a grip, Louis. Also, for your information, I can see in this light, and so can the horses. Riding horses by moonlight is no big feat.”

“I don’t think I explained myself too well, Jesus. I can’t find the words I want to use. Maybe the words don’t exist. I do not believe Discordia is a real place. I think it may be a dream state that we are all experiencing,” Louis groped for understanding.

“Until you figure it out, Louis, try to remember that death here is real. Pain here is real. If you don’t believe me, then ask Rosie about it. Ask Dorothy or Elizabeth,” Jesus admonished, weary of Louis’ melodramatic doubts.

“It looked pretty real to me,” Lena added.

Louis decided to shut up about it until he had a clearer idea of what he wanted to say. That was good, because he was wrong. Discordia existed as surely as Earth existed. They were two identical places with different characteristics.

Jesus knew more about dimensional travel than the other members of the party, having traveled back and forth between Earth and Discordia hundreds of times. He didn’t publicize that fact anymore. People always wanted him to send them home when they found out he could cross dimensions. His abilities were severely limited. The contract he made with Belial guaranteed his return to Discordia after every trip, and nobody was allowed to tag along. Jesus hated fine print.

The pale light of dawn spread out over the lush Louisiana undergrowth, and everybody relaxed somewhat. At least if trouble approached they would all see it coming. The path they followed looked tiny in the daylight, and it wound through a wildly overgrown bottom. Saw palmetto and Johnson grass dominated the floral species beside the track. A short distance away a stretch of forest followed the river as far as the eye could see in either direction. The green of the forest pleased the eye. Ancient cypress trees, live oaks and mimosas stood out in a jungle of sassafras. The area looked totally uninhabited.

The veterans in the party agreed on the absolute necessity of leaving the river. The Mississippi zigzagged back and forth like the track of a dying earthworm. Though they traveled close to forty miles along the course of the waterway, they were only twenty-five miles closer to New Orleans. Jesus volunteered to scout the surrounding area before they left the secluded game trail.

Everybody dismounted in the rays of the newly risen sun. Jesus set off without preamble, taking only the pistols on his belt for self-defense. Elizabeth refilled all the canteens and transmuted more bread, which everyone partook of greedily. Thousands of birds began their daily lives in the nearby forest, sending a cacophony of whistles and chatter into the sky. By daylight the driftwood in the river’s current floated lazily by, without provoking sinister introspection. It was exactly like a deserted stretch of the Mississippi River back on Earth, right down to the stifling temperature that rose by the second with the sun.

“One thing worries me, Dorothy. We rode out of that tunnel with five horses, and we’ve ridden on soft ground all night. I checked out the trail behind us, and I could follow it with my eyes closed. Won’t the bad guys have trackers?” Louis inquired uneasily.

Elizabeth answered, “I specialize in equestrian magic. One of the more difficult spells I mastered hides tracks. For the first few hours of our ride we left no tracks. I have limited power, like everyone else, so the Order boosted the strength of my spell. It still wore off, but only after many hours. It’s unlikely that anyone will follow the riverbed until they find our trail, but that’s a risk we have to take.”

Michael peered hopefully at the river. The long night of riding left him dirty and sore. The water looked cool and inviting. He knew the current in the deeper part of the river could drown even the strongest swimmer, but the slow moving shallows by the bank didn’t appear too dangerous.

“Does anyone want to go for a quick swim?” Michael asked cheerfully.

“I do!” Rosie was ebullient at the suggestion.

“Only two at a time,” Dorothy warned, “and don’t take more than a few minutes. No place on Discordia is ever truly safe.”

Rosie ran down to the water’s edge and shed her clothes, heedless of modesty. She waded into the water and splashed around happily. Michael took longer, and he shed only his outer garments. He entered the water still wearing an undershirt and underwear. The water cooled him off wonderfully, and eased some of the soreness of riding all night. Rosie obeyed Dorothy’s warning like a good girl. She exited the water after about five minutes, directly followed by the priest. They both looked refreshed.

Dorothy looked at Louis and Lena. The two shook their heads vigorously. Neither one of them trusted Mississippi River water, regardless of what dimension it might be. Lena didn’t like the brown color of the water, and she didn’t like the idea of shedding her clothes like an exhibitionist. Louis pondered the subject for a second, and concluded that the forces of evil probably didn’t treat their sewage. He wondered if Rosie and Michael were going to die after their swim. Louis didn’t know that there were almost no sewers on Discordia.

Jesus marched back into sight twenty minutes after Rosie was fully clothed. Michael stood beside his horse, dressed and ready to go. The two swimmers knew that Jesus would have nothing good to say about their excursion into the water, so both Michael and Rosie acted nonchalant. If Jesus noticed their wet hair and damp clothes, he said nothing about it. Louis weighed the amusement value of telling the assassin he had missed a wonderful show, but decided against it.

“I have often observed that people rarely reside in isolated areas on Discordia. Without alliances people become easy targets here, so almost everyone lives in the cities and towns. This part of Louisiana is no exception. I scouted a one-mile radius around our position, and I didn’t find any signs of recent human activity in the vicinity.

“I did find a place for us to rest. There’s an abandoned house about a mile inland from here. This area should provide us with relative safety. We are in the middle of nowhere, and nobody knows we are here. This would be a good time to gather our wits and make our plans,” Jesus announced to the group.

Jesus took the reins of his horse and set off through the dense undergrowth before entering the forest. Lena positively glowed, and followed close behind without saying a word. Dorothy and Elizabeth chattered quietly about something as they fell in line. Michael glanced suspiciously at Rosie and Louis, certain they were up to something, and then he set off after the group.

As soon as the priest turned his back, Louis took Rosie in his arms and kissed her playfully. She warmed to his embrace, and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. He pulled away from her and put his fingers to his lips, and then he hurried to catch up with Michael. Rosie hoped her bad luck was finally changing. She led her horse along with a bounce in her step.

The party picked their way through old growth woods that stood several feet below sea level in a state known for flooding. The low spots in the forest floor contained stagnant green pools, and snakes congregated in the tree branches that hung over the water. The sunlight couldn’t penetrate through the canopy of vegetation hundreds of feet overhead. The layer of secondary growth along the floor sometimes obscured the travelers’ feet. The earthy smell of rotting leaves drifted in the thick moist air, and the constant buzzing of mosquitoes surrounded the slow moving line of people.

The swampy woodland crawled with species of wildlife that no longer roamed on Earth. Neither Louis nor his friends had a full appreciation of what they were seeing. The wilderness areas of Discordia existed unchanged since the beginning of time. There was no industry on Discordia, because almost everything was created through magic. The environment had not suffered the devastation that was so evident on Earth. In a world of constant warfare and a zero birth rate, there was never a housing shortage or a pressing need to clear land. They were walking through a forest that had never faced the exponential population growth of the United States. It was like Louisiana at the time of Christ.

The forest gave way to a clearing that contained an abandoned house, right where Jesus said it would be. Somebody had spent a lot of time on the dwelling. It was two stories in the Acadian architectural style. A low sloping roof increased in grade towards the back as it climbed to a high peak. A wide front porch ran the width of the front of the house, and the low roof ran to the front edge of the porch. The house had glass windows, and not all of them were broken out. The dark windows stared down upon the travelers’ arrival impassively. No clues about the house’s original builders could be seen outside.

The horses spooked when they entered the clearing. Something about the house disturbed the animals. They became restless and anxious to move on, and even Elizabeth couldn’t calm them down completely. Everybody brought her the reins of their horses and she led them a short ways into the trees they had just come out of. Jesus watched her as she took the horses, and they both exchanged troubled expressions.

“There’s something wrong here,” Jesus said immediately. “Dorothy, would you mind helping me check the inside of the house?”
“Let’s do it,” Dorothy told him. She freed a long knife with her right hand, and a can of pepper spray with her left hand. Jesus arched his eyebrows at her, and she responded, “Bow’s no good in a house.”

They flanked both sides of the front door, and then Jesus carefully turned the knob. The door was unlocked, and it opened noisily on rusty hinges. The two resembled Starsky and Hutch in the way that they entered the house, except Jesus and Dorothy were bizarrely mismatched. Dorothy looked like an extra from The Road Warrior, and Jesus might have been a well-armed Latino pimp, with silk shirts and white dress shoes. They disappeared into the interior of the house, and returned a couple of minutes later without incident.

“There’s nothing here. Whatever spooked the horses is invisible to us, and that means it can’t hurt us,” Jesus announced.

“Are you sure about that?” Louis asked him doubtfully. “Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it can’t hurt us.”

“I think he’s right in this case. Horses can sense a lot of things we can’t. Maybe you should all follow us inside. You’ll have a better understanding if you witness it for yourself,” Dorothy said cryptically.

Louis went in first, simply because he was closer to the front door. Michael was close behind him. The girls waited outside. They didn’t like surprises. Elizabeth was busy with the horses. The ladies outside heard a holler from inside the house. Rosie almost jumped out of her skin. Louis ran out the front door and jumped off of the front porch cheering loudly.

“Yes! Yes!” he yelled and did a cartwheel across the clearing. “It’s furnished and air conditioned!”

Rosie ran over to him and pushed him. “Shut up!” she shouted at him, with a big smile on her face. She ran in the house, and a high pitched shriek emanated from within. Lena sprang into motion and entered the house like a blur. Another high pitched shriek echoed out of the house. Louis followed them both inside.

“Running water and soft beds!” Rosie exclaimed as she ran back out onto the front porch. She ran back inside immediately.

“Running water?” Jesus asked no one in particular.

“I don’t trust it,” Elizabeth called from the edge of the clearing. “And the horses don’t want any part of the clearing.”

“Could it be possible that this is a dimensional fold from Earth?” Dorothy wondered.

“Anything is possible, except for us to ever have answers to our questions,” Michael spoke up as he came back through the front door. “The house has a television set and video games, to go with the ice cold air conditioning. I’d call this place a mirage, but we aren’t in the desert. I’d call this place the devil’s temptation, but we haven’t heard from the devil, yet.”

“Maybe we just did,” Jesus voiced his reservations. “You have a point, padre. This place may be an attempt to make us complacent. I don’t think the house will hurt us, however, and I think we stick to the original plan. We stay here overnight and move on.”

“Good idea, Jesus,” Elizabeth agreed.

She tied the horses to a line she strung between two trees, and transmuted the grass and soil around them into high quality grain feed. She pulled the saddle off of her own horse, and Michael crossed the yard to help her. Jesus called into the house for assistance, and Louis popped out instantly. They soon had everyone’s gear inside, and Jesus called for everyone to gather in the living room.

“This house could be a trap, or it could be a gift. We just don’t know. I can’t see sleeping in the swamp with this air-conditioned house here, but we’re moving on after one night. Now, I know you are all tired, but we have a lot to do today. We can’t travel through South Louisiana swamps at night, either, so we need to be on a daytime schedule.

“I want everyone to conduct a concerted search of this house for anything that may be useful to us. Bring everything you find and put it on the floor here. Even if you only think it may be useful, bring it in here and put it on the floor. We’ll take inventory of all our assets after the search.

“Later I’m going to go over some practical points concerning our mission, such as chore assignments and emergency protocols. In the event of a crisis I want everyone to know exactly what to do, and to do that as if it were second nature. We’re always going to be outgunned and outnumbered, so we need to have planning and discipline on our side. Are there any questions?” Jesus had never led people into combat, but he took to the task like a natural.

“I want to know how to fight,” Lena submitted. “Can you teach me a few things?”

“After we have taken care of all our business, I’ll be glad to give you a crash course in self-defense. I don’t think it would be wise for you to go on the offensive only two days into your stay here on Discordia,” Jesus advised her.

“Yeah, I have a question. Are we still on our way to Asmodeus’ palace with no idea of what we’ll do when we get there?” Louis needled the Colombian.

“I had planned to drive an Impala through the front door, and then shoot a rocket into Asmodeus’ chest. We no longer have that option. I guess it would have been too easy. I’m open to suggestions. Are you still totally defenseless, Louis?” Jesus goaded the young man in return. Louis held back a dirty remark, thinking it foolish to argue.

“Which bedroom do I get?” Rosie asked, thinking ahead. She looked at Louis and smiled.

“Hell, I don’t know, Rosie. Pick one,” Jesus answered wearily.

Rosie yelped with joy and ran out of the room. Everyone else got to work searching the closets, cupboards and attic. A growing pile of items accumulated on the living room floor. The contents of the house gave every indication that the residence belonged to a large family, who enjoyed outdoor activities and sports. There were life preservers, backpacks, fishing rods and tackle boxes, baseball bats and football padding. The list of items grew.

Lena found camouflage hunting gear and guns, and claimed immediate ownership of the guns. Louis discovered topographical maps of Ascension, St. James and St. Charles Parishes, as well as detailed navigational maps of Lake Ponchartrain and Lake Manchac. Michael quit searching when he ran across the contents of the kitchen. Instead he set to work preparing a large feast for everyone. Rosie found bondage toys hidden under the bed, and figured they could use the shackles if they took a prisoner. She didn’t point out how much she liked the stuff, because everyone already knew. Elizabeth searched a closet in the laundry room, and found a large tent in a duffel bag. Dorothy pulled a six man inflatable raft from underneath it. They did a celebration dance and took their items into the living room.

While the party conducted a search inside the premises, outside Jesus found a power line. It started on one corner of the house, and disappeared into thin air. It seemed the electric line ran straight into the next dimension. Since the house had running water, he assumed that the water pipes did the same thing. None of the veterans had ever seen anything like it on Discordia, but everybody had learned to expect unusual phenomena. The group welcomed the phenomena that provided them with such comfortable accommodations.

After the search was over, the pile on the floor was much larger than anyone expected. When the search was finished, they lounged about on the couches and easy chairs in the living room. A wonderful smell floated in from the kitchen, and spirits were high. Jesus hated to spoil the festive mood, but their lives depended on it. He told Michael to put dinner on hold and join them.

“Rosie, what do you do if we get attacked?” Jesus quizzed the young woman.

She took a minute to think about it. “I’m not sure,” she shrugged. “Run?”

“You need to know for sure. Now, let’s get down to business,” Jesus told the assembled group.

They groaned, but everybody paid attention. It was a matter of life and death. After an hour the strategy session concluded. In the event of a battle, Rosie, Lena, Michael and Louis were officially instructed to flee. Dorothy, Elizabeth and Jesus would fight. Nobody was very satisfied with the strategy session.

“So I am supposed to run?” Rosie asked.

“That’s our strategy?” Louis expressed his frustration.

“You have to admit, Jesus, that plan won’t save us from being outgunned and outnumbered,” Michael pointed out. “The enemy can run too, and probably faster.”

“I still have a few details to iron out,” Jesus admitted.

“That’s it. We’re dead,” Louis threw out.

“Don’t worry, Louis. Let’s play video games,” Rosie suggested.

Jesus didn’t object, because Louis was right. They had no real strategy, and they were probably doomed. They might as well enjoy what little time they had left. Everybody left the room but Rosie and Louis, who sat side by side in front of the television and played Playstation games. Louis couldn’t remember the last time he had so much fun. They laughed and giggled together, and nothing in the world seemed wrong.

Roll Call of the Lesser Devils:

Cholers enraged hues,
Shifting anger's point of view,
Wielding only stolen holy thoughts
And thinking of heaven I just bought (for you).
A vicious regress could redress my hate,
For I never loved
And am now quite unsatisfied,
So above sanctimonious,
Prim, prissy kisses.
Blushes can not be faked.
My crush would trust your flushed face
To be affection through and through,
But you have never been that way.
Still I hunger, crave for much longer,
Though I'm getting no younger,
It's futile to stave off the inevitable,
Usable and yet the victim of no usury,
Capable hands all around,
And yet, none reaching me.
Only love’s sick thorns are not seizable,
What could be the excuse for not grasping at lust?
Capable only, not overly refined,
Hoarsely gasping for breath,
Sight of my figure pleasing to the terminally ill,
Disgust can easily be identified,
When such bias is evident,
As it almost always is.
But there is no illness in my
Simple exhaustion,
I have been hell bent,
Working hard and fiercely wheezing,
There’s no need to deny this seasonal affliction;
Words bring self treasons like a good stallion
Wins a victory wreath for his owner.
Why deny you can be innocent no longer,
But instead need experience and training,
And some serious filling out over time?
Choler reached me and covered my lust,
A sign of too little trust.
I will not compromise,
We must both be satisfied,
Perhaps I simply must improvise
So concede the quietly pleasing,
Vision of course seeks to impress,
And you, a lovely reader, no less,
What could it be
That needs must confess?


"You brink you ruse."

Roll Call 81-85

What did the words say
On the cross currents,
Out in the deeep stream?
Sleep and remember nothing
Of the home I left behind
A million years ago.
Our souls are flowing like water,
Drip drop drip,
Dripping away.
Nothing can stop the water
Dams burst and overflow,
Sorrow: The trickle
Are our days enumerated,
And age can no more be
Kept from our faces
Than the look of contempt
In a haughty girl’s eyes
As she turns and walks away.

You touch me lightly and I tremble,
Look away,
Hopefully not today...
No conversation,
But all my hopes are in vain.
And you whisper that you love me.
Outside the lightning flashes,
A quick flicker, a reminder,
Of abrogation, desire and one man’s denials.
When we embrace the lightning becomes ours,
And I am whole.
In the storm I shake with confrontation,
With the night,
With my self,
And with you come inside from the rain
Shivering and frail from the nothing.
The rain eases up and caresses the soil,
But the ground still wants more,
Drunk but ever thirsty.
The earth begs for more,
And I cannot look into your eyes
For all the storm has come inside,
Water ever trickling down,
I groan and give in with a frown.

The Murder
The candle melts away
A voice from nearby asks, dripping sweet,
“Should I kill you?”
Press the moment to a close,
Surely the violent fury knows.
“Should I?”
Look and burn at the sight so unclean.
Careening down corridors of hate and choice,
With a ritual slice the choice is made,
The ropes fall away,
Freedom lies within a breath.
The voice says,
The voice,
“Your self.”
Your blackened self.
“Wince little weakling,
The end is near,
Triumph would have been but to try.”
So slashes deep the slayer of memories,
The life pours forth,
A cackling release, a feast.
For the senses a stuck pig squeals,
The body soon to feed a beast.
The voice moans sickly
As the life once given
Is taken and returned to nothingness.

Today she came back from the emptiness,
The nothing of people who come and go.
For a while the sky was not so far away,
But far away is words, and far away is time.
Today I woke up alone.
The memories were close,
But not close enough,
Not as close (or far away?) as the stars
I saw in her eyes that night
When I asked her not to leave love again.

Unbalanced: A Murder Ballad

The ghouls last night
Took me away and dosed me with fright,
I’ve come back changed.

Why do you look
With those cold eyes,
The ones that shook my soul?

They burn like fires
beneath old corpses on funeral pyres,
And wrinkle up like fools long dead.

Don’t look at me,
You burn right through.
How could one so sweet
Be so impure?

I warned you once, my lover dear,
You had your chance to swear off my disease.
But did you hear?
Your body burns with your letters.

We wrote each other long ago,
Before sin rotted what was left of our minds.

I saw twas all rotten,
To waste they had gotten,
Alas they fluttered away.
I tried to catch them,
But heavy things do weigh.

Lover, hear me, listen closely.
Lover, where have you gone?
I will not call out again,
And watch your step
At the top of those stairs.

["What do you mean what happened?
She must have fell down these damned stairs."]

Like that fat, stupid critic,
I only asked him once not to mock me.
But did he hear?
No, and then, later on, just he and I,
Danced as flames seared his ears away.
His dance seemed more urgent than mine.

Why do you look at me that way?
Pretend you do not see the knife,
Pretend this is our reward,

[*Stairs and Flowers]
Note: I have always hated 85. I've revised it like a million times. I don't kno what's wrong with me. I burn good stuff and keep the crap. It's even worse now that I don't remember the accompanying tune on guitar.

Water [NeOPulP]

KZ2101. Jack Full-on thought Moonbeam was talking about a radio station the first time he heard her mention KZ2101. He was on the bridge of the Cyster Judy, the best pirate vessel from Mars outward. He and his crew were discussing exactly how they were going to get their WaterMarks back. A man named Rankor Shim stole them all. Jack very much wanted to speak with him about that. That was when First Mate Moonbeam had mentioned KZ2101, the asteroid.

“Come on, Jack, you’ve never heard of KZ? You’re a pirate, for criminy’s sake,” chided Violet from the comm console, “How am I ever going to live this down?”

“She’s right, Jack, that’s pretty lame. I’ve known about KZ since grade school. They have the finest brothel in the solar system,” said Schwag, looking up from his porno mag.

“Who asked you?” Jack retorted. “Don’t you have work to do?”

“I’m top gunner, Jack. Are we in a battle? No? All right, then,” Schwag said lazily before turning the page.

“It’s okay, Jack, a lot of us used to live sheltered lives,” Nigel said in an attempt to bolster the captain’s dwindling self-confidence. The slight edge of sarcasm hinted the comment wasn't entirely genuine.

“It’s not my fault my parents raised me Catholic. Blast! That’s why I became a pirate in the first place,” Jack lamented.

“We all have faith in you, Jack. You’re a real man’s man,” said Nigel soothingly.

“We all know about your sexual orientation, Nigel. Leave the captain out of it,” warned Moonbeam before she continued, “Seriously, Jack, from the last coordinates we have of Rankor’s ship he had to have been heading for KZ.”

“What can you tell me about KZ?”

“KZ2101 is the last place in the solar system a decent, honest, law abiding person would go. It’s home base for a wide assortment of outlaws and degenerates. You know the type. Drug runners, gun runners…”

“Pirates,” chimed in Schwag.

“Shut up, Schwag!” the entire crew shouted as one.

“… prostitutes, junkies. Basically people with no other place to run or hide,” Moonbeam finished.

Jack weighed the information before continuing, “That sounds like a good place to find him. We’re going to need a plan.”

“None of this would have happened if you hadn’t bought his story about the lost alien city in Candor Chasm,” Schwag whined.

No one told him to be quiet. Everyone knew it was true, Jack more so than anyone else. Rankor had contacted them wanting to make a deal. He had told them about a newly discovered alien city in Candor Chasm on Mars, supposedly filled with previously undreamed of technology. He claimed that he would have taken it all for himself. In truth Rankor needed their backup to overcome the token security team that had been stationed to guard the ruins until a larger force could arrive. Rankor piloted a one man Planet Hopper, so his explanation seemed plausible enough.

The best way to get past pirate defenses has always been to appeal to their greed. The whole crew fell for the story, hook, line and sinker. The two ships rendezvoused at Io, and proceeded to shuttle down to the moon’s surface, or so it had seemed. When the crew of Cyster Judy reached the coordinates they found nothing, and when Rankor’s tiny shuttle was opened he wasn’t in it.

They all hightailed it back to the ship, only to find Violet unconscious, slumped over the communications console. Because of the radio silence on the way up everyone was afraid she was dead. After the WaterMarks were found to be missing Schwag tried to kill her, screaming like a lunatic. Schwag understood the value of a WaterMark.

It took Jack, Nigel and Moonbeam to pry Schwag’s hands from Violet's throat. After that they all sank to the deck in a vast sea of melancholy. Rankor’s planet hopper had taken advantage of a window to use Phobos as a parabolic slingshot, and he was long gone before any pursuit could be mounted.

The stolen WaterMarks had come at a high price. Nigel had an old friend, Mannie, who worked at an underground casino in the Aphrodite Terran highlands on Venus. They kept in touch over the years. One day Mannie got in touch with Nigel about a business proposition. He claimed to have detailed plans for a big heist at a casino, but he could never act on them so he wanted to sell them. The plans cost a fortune, but the crew of Cyster Judy saw it as a worthy investment. The return would be in the area of one thousand percent.

The plans worked perfectly, except that their bottom gunner, Hoover, died of a heart attack before he could make it back to the ship. Nigel had sneezed, and Hoover thought the jig was up. Everyone missed the way he inhaled his chewing gum while they were making their escape, being as how he was the last in line. That didn’t make the crews current situation any easier to take. Hoover was gone, and the entire crew was flat broke.

It wasn’t until after Rankor ripped them off that they discovered he was Mannie’s cousin. No one bothered to mention the revenge they would exact on Mannie if they found him. He had set them up to do the dirty work of the heist, and then stolen the proceeds (making the payment for the plan a theft as well). They wanted to hurt Mannie so bad they could taste it, but first they had to find Rankor. Water doesn't grow on trees, at least not in that part of the galaxy.

“I take full responsibility for the events that led up to this disaster, Schwag, but I need you to back me up so we can make it right,” Jack said levelly.

“Oh, it’s not all your fault, Captain. I wanted to get my hands on those artifacts as bad as the rest of you. I’ll lay off,” Schwag offered as he tossed his magazine aside.

“Like I said, Jack, my best guess is that he’s headed for KZ,” Moonbeam insisted one more time.

“Nigel, set a course for KZ2101,” ordered Full-on.

“Aye-aye, Cap’n,” Nigel responded as he deftly directed the bat (3d pen) suspended from three wires in front of him, “Eugenia it is.” He drew a line from their current psition to Ceres in the holo astrogation chart hovering above his station.

“Ceres? You mean to tell me that KZ2101 is Eugenia?”


“You betcha.”

“The one and only.”

Jack shook his head slowly. “Why me, lord? A crew of astronomy snobs… we’re all doomed.”

“Don’t be so glum, Jack, we’re on our way, and we have plenty of time before we get there,” Moonbeam said with a wink.

“Oh, no, there they go again,” Violet teased.

“Have you considered having her spayed, Captain?” asked Schwag with a grin.

“That’s enough out of you people. I’ll have you know that Moonbeam and I are very much in love,” Full-on said seriously. The bridge erupted in laughter.

Red faced and fuming, Jack led Moonbeam to the pleasure cabin in the low grav section of the ship. He was always amazed at all of the original things two lovers could do in low gravity that could not be done at 1G. This session was no exception, that is to say, exceptional as usual. No matter whether Moonbeam loved him, after fifteen minutes he was certain he loved her, all of her.

Moonbeam whispered, “Is this where you got your name, Full-on?”

“Shh. Don’t talk,” he said, and then they no longer needed to use words.

It would be less than considerate at this point to neglect describing Jack’s ship, Cyster Judy. Cyster Judy was a four ring combat vessel designed by the MoonClipper Corporation. She was equipped with 16 sets of guns, 8 fore and 8 aft, 4 on the top and bottom of each end of her. The guns only required two people, but against numerous opponents having only two gunners would be a hindrance.

The Cyster Judy was equipped with a state of the art field resonance propulsion drive. Nobody thought of her drive that way, however. The crew all called it Judy’s Mojo. Jack had never met anyone who knew anything about her Mojo. All he knew was that she was sleek, fast and sexy, and she never got tired or complained. Cyster Judy had a fine Mojo.

Cyster Judy’s Mojo classed her as one of the fastest non-military combat ships in the solar system. Of course that speed rating only applied to her capabilities for straight-line velocity. In close quarters combat maneuvers she ranked in the top twenty fastest vessels, of all time.

Cyster Judy was designed for an obscenely wealthy client in the private sector. Not only was she made to be hell-on-wheels, she was like a pleasure yacht by combat vessel standards. Cyster Judy came equipped with both a bar and an elegantly decked out mess hall. The captain’s quarters were luxurious, but nothing compared to the owner's suite. Jack of course took the owner’s suite and gave Moonbeam the second best. The crew couldn’t complain, though. Every person had a private cabin with, of all things, a private shower. Despite the fact that the shower water was recycled thousands of times it was still an obscene luxury. And the privacy gave everyone enough space to be relaxed. Jack would never have to worry about a mutiny.

MoonClipper only produced one ship of Judy’s kind before the nukes destroyed their production facilities, their research and, indeed, every person in the corporation. Unless a large corporation could get their hands on her there would never be another like her, and Jack wasn’t about to let that happen. He had commandeered her fair and square, after all, but that is a story for another day.

Despite all of her amenities and features Cyster Judy still suffered from the same Achilles heel that all spacecraft had. Major portions of her had been constructed with inflatable polymers filled with water, because hauling the heavy metals into space to build spacecraft had long been abandoned as financially ludicrous. Any battle she engaged in would be dangerously like épée fencing. The first hit landed upon her could mean victory for the opponent. With that in mind the close quarters maneuverability seemed all the more important.

Cyster Judy glided on angel’s breath for the renegade outpost on KZ2101, the asteroid once known as Eugenia. As seductive as her Mojo was, it still took Judy five days to get the crew to the giant rock. By the time they arrived Jack and Moonbeam looked positively athletic and radiant, but the rest of the crew looked like they were ready to chew holes in the floor. Schwag was the first one out of the hatch when they air locked at Eugenia’s only spaceport.

Eugenia’s version of customs stopped all of them in their tracks. “Customs” was a giant black man with a full auto .45-caliber grease gun. He was wearing case hardened combat armor, but from the looks of him nothing could penetrate his muscle without the armor. Jack promptly strode forward to shake his hand. The man just looked at his outstretched palm and growled.

“Good day, sir. I am the captain of this vessel, and we have arrived here on beautiful Eugenia for a little r-and-r before we tackle the long trip home. Could you please direct us to the nearest pub?’

“If you want to live you need to start putting WaterMarks in my hand in the next three seconds. One…”

“Well, we don’t have any WaterMarks, as such --“


“Let me talk to him, Captain,” said Violet as she pushed her way to the front. “A big, strong man like you must need a little affection sometime. What do you think? Can we work something out?”

“Well, er, uh… You people can go through. The lady and I have a little business to tend to,” said the giant.

“Again? She does this at every port,” muttered Schwag.

“Be quiet, Schwag. She saves us a lot of money. Besides, she loves doing it,” Moonbeam put in.

Every member of Cyster Judy’s crew displayed more than their fair share of attractive traits, but in Violet those traits had more to do with physical beauty than anything else. Violet was a voluptuous, long legged creature with soft curves and sleek bone structure. Her waist length blonde hair turned heads everywhere she went, but the rest of her body caused men to gawk rudely. The incredible part is that she loved to share herself. Jack often wondered if that were because of something in her childhood.

Captain Jack appeared to be average in every way, at least every visible way. There actually was something to the rumors about his name, but he was far too good a pirate to allow his reputation to hinge solely on his crotch. What would never be visible in a physical inspection was that he displayed absolute calm and control in any combat situation. He just did not have it in him to become nervous or frazzled. Jack Full-on was a born space captain. He could accurately assess the odds of any situation, and he almost never lost those bets. Unfortunately, Rankor had been one of those few cases.

Moonbeam could probably best be described as an earth mother. She wasn’t stunningly beautiful, but there was that about her which seemed to speak of comfort and nurturing. She also maintained a level head in the tensest of situations. Moonbeam was the person who would most often offer up a diplomatic solution to difficult situations. That was why she was so good with the crew whenever Jack needed mediation. She had a small batch of bobbed black hair, and her small petal shaped lips always seemed to be in a half smile if she wasn’t angry. She rarely became angry, but if she did everyone would acquiesce to her demands. She was a woman who should not be trifled with.

Schwag went far to carrying on the tradition of the ancient pirates who rode the wind across the oceans of Earth. He had no respect for tradition, laws or morals. He was one hell of a melee fighter, and he armed himself accordingly. He never went anywhere without several throwing knives, a palm pistol, a full sized pistol and a katana strapped to his back. He always wore an olive drab trench coat to better conceal his arsenal, and military style clothes underneath. He walked with fluid grace. An experienced fighter would recognize his own in Schwag from a mile away. The only people he would ever defer to were people from his crew. They he respected, for he had seen many reasons to.

Nigel, the astrogation officer, had a brilliant mind. He also had boyish good looks. Nigel sometimes came across as extremely flamboyant. He went everywhere outrageously overdressed, and his entire wardrobe consisted of satins and silks with screaming bright colors. He cultivated the pretty boy image intentionally. Underneath the soft exterior he was a hardened veteran, and it lent him a distinct advantage to be underestimated before a fight. The rest of the crew knew all about this, and gave him his due respect.

In fact, for pirates they were some of the most principled people around. They just decided at some point that wealth was there for the taking. No one on the ship wanted to slave for a pittance, and because of their collective talents, and Jack’s ship, they didn’t have to.

“Does anyone have any idea what we are doing here?” Jack asked honestly.

“Relax, Captain, I came through here a number of times back in the bad old days before Cyster Judy. We’re going to Two-faced Charlie’s. Everyone who comes through here goes through there, “ Schwag told him.

“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” Nigel affirmed.

“If anyone says anything about Sunday school I’m leaving you here on this rock when Judy takes off,” Jack warned, and then he laughed along with his people.

Two-faced Charlie’s was the most violent place Jack had ever seen. Before the group could even get through the door someone was flung bodily out from the other side. Inside there were several fights going on simultaneously. In eerie contrast there were portions of the bar that were deathly still. One look at the people gathered around the tables in those areas supplied the answer. Scary people frequented Two-faced Charlie’s.

Two faced Charlie himself was called that because he got half his face cut off in a brawl twenty years earlier. He had recovered, killed the man who did it and had half of that man’s face attached to his. It didn’t take too well, and Charlie presented an unappetizing spectacle. Schwag headed directly for him.

“How ya doin’, Charlie? Long time no see,” Schwag drawled out.

“Schwag? That’s really you? I heard you was dead. They said Nueauxvo Kaine’s men got you for that thing you pulled over on Ceres,” Charlie said as he leaned over the bar and embraced Schwag.

“You know that numbskull couldn’t find his own ass with toilet paper,” Schwag explained.

“Ha! Same old Schwag as ever. What you doing back here on this rock?”

“The shoes on the other foot now. This is my captain,” he gestured to Jack, “And this is the rest of the crew. We feel a strong need to have a talk with somebody.”

“Well, I’ll do what I can to help you, Schwag. You always played it straight with me,” Charlie admitted. “Who is it?”

“Rankor Shim.”

“Yeah, he was here. I didn’t talk to him, but I heard about it. You might want to talk to Captain Morgan. He’s over there in the quiet part of the bar.”

“Thanks, Charlie. I owe you one,” Schwag told him.

“Then you best come back one day so’s I can collect,” Charlie insisted.

“I’ll do that, dad,” Schwag told him.

They both shook hands in mutual respect, and then Schwag led the crew over to Captain Morgan’s table. The looks they got as they approached weren’t the most welcoming. Captain Morgan looked like a very sinister businessman, but the men on either side of him were dressed like bikers. They just glared until Jack spoke.

“Captain Morgan, I’m Captain Jack Full-on. I believe we may have something, or someone, in common.”

“I’ve heard of you. What exactly are you talking about?” Morgan asked him.

“Rankor Shim,” replied Jack.

“If you’ve got something to do with him there’s about to be a killing in Charlie’s place,” Morgan said confidently.

“The only thing we have to do with him is a desire to have his hide,” Jack responded.

“Then perhaps we do have something in common,” Morgan conceded.

“Captain Morgan --“

“Call me Bruce,” said the other captain.

“Bruce, if you have any idea where to find Shim we would be forever grateful,” Jack explained.

“Find him? Hell, we’re going after him as soon as my ship is repaired. He promised me a share in a newly discovered alien city. I agreed to invest to hire a team of mercenaries. That night he snuck onto my ship, drugged Lenin here, and stole the money. On his way out he sabotaged my girl. Banshee is getting too old to be abused. She’s a hell of a honey, and she deserves to be treated with respect,” Bruce explained.

“You command the Banshee?” Jack asked. Suddenly the area around them was silent for a few seconds. Everyone knew about the Banshee. She was one of the few starships faster in close quarters than Cyster Judy.

Jack recovered quickly and went on, “Captain Bruce Morgan, I would be honored if you would allow us to accompany you on your quest for retribution. Shim pulled almost the same stunt on us, but he didn’t harm Cyster Judy. If he had, well, if he had…”

Bruce’s breath quickened for a moment. “Ah. The Cyster Judy is your ship? Now there’s a match made in hell. Aye! Banshee and Cyster Judy. I like the sound of that. Well, I’m for it,” Bruce agreed whole heartedly.

“Please allow me to introduce a couple of lads from my crew, Lenin and Marx, Bruce introduced his companions, and introductions were made all around.

Schwag couldn’t pass up the opportunity, “You know your aliases refer to leaders of a failed socio-political movement, don’t you?”

Marx eyed him before responding, “They failed, yes, but not before ten million people went to the grave.”

“Right, just checking,” Schwag threw out in retreat.

“Bruce, do you have any idea where Rankor is heading?” Jack asked.

“We know exactly where he is going. The scorched lands on Earth,” Bruce told them calmly.

Payable in Blood

I am very surprised I have not been sued over that book. Looking at it now, for the first time in about 7 years, I am appalled by how short it is. These days I could write something that long in a couple of weeks.

In my defense I wrote the book on state issued loose leaf paper with state issued pencils while I was cooling my heels in a North Louisiana satellite camp. If you think it was easy then put on your television full blast, invite over 50 very rowdy people who don't want to be there but can't leave, and then try to write something flawless. I really should write a better one though. At this point none of the material really touches any nerves. I've been so boring for so long I don't worry about the same things anymore.

Incidentally, I predicted failure for Operation Baylout. I was wrong. The attackers have swelled. There's several thousand people with cannons aimed at the industries. IFPI can't get up at all. It's dead.

I'm scared to check all the rest of the domains under attack. Somebody's going to get in trouble over this. If I went in with a proxy it's like saying I'm involved, and if I go in with my public IP it's like taking all my clothes off in a nest of badgers. I think I'll check it all out from the library. LOL- yes, I am a coward.

[The arguments over the name of OB: Like myself, many people think Baylout makes the PB people sound like louts. Who cares what they call it? Well, it would sell better if it sounded a little more well conceived.]

Zdzisław Beksiński‏

From Wikipedia:
Zdzisław Beksiński (24 February 1929 – 21 February 2005) was a renowned Polish painter {[...]} the best-known examples coming from his 'fantastic realism' period when he painted disturbing images of a surrealistic, post-apocalyptic environment. {[...]} Beksiński was murdered in 2005.

He portrayed the world not as it appears to the eye, but as it appeared to his mind. Wonder who murdered him? The Blog of Death:
Beksinski's body, which sustained multiple stab wounds, was found inside his Warsaw flat. Three days later, police charged two teenagers with the slaying. One suspect, the son of Beksinski's friend and aide, confessed to killing the painter.
No explanation could excuse such an act of depravity. When Beksinski was stabbed to death the world lost a visionary.

Sometimes It's Just Like That


April was born the third of five children. When she was growing up she always felt ignored by her parents. She constantly fought with her brothers and sisters over the smallest things. In many ways that was how she strove to get attention from her parents. More often than not when she fought it was also a demand for respect from her siblings. At least that’s how it was after she began to mature.

She had always been a pretty girl, but in a world full of pretty faces she wanted to find other ways to be distinguished. She flung herself into her studies at school, and devoured all the books she could get her hands on. By the time April was thirteen all of her brothers and sisters went to her when they needed help with schoolwork. Her parents always told her how lucky they were to still have school after half of the planet had been blown to hell. She took advantage of the privilege to its fullest.

When her parents took notice of how bright she was they began to talk to her differently. They knew she was mature beyond her age, so they spoke to her almost as an equal. Her father endeavored to teach her the dividends of a good work ethic, and her mother spent many long hours telling her about the joys of having a family. April appreciated the things they said, but she knew that she would be different than both of them.

April wanted to have a family, but from the time she started thinking about boys she knew that she would never be happy in the sort of relationship her parents had. She would never have a man who treated her as anything but her equal. If her parents had been able to read her young mind they would have been shocked by the thoughts they found there.

As April sexually matured her mind became a cauldron of steamy romantic fantasies, all of which were filled with the ideals of equality and independence. She longed for a Prince Charming to come, but when he came to her in her fantasies he bowed to her and her brilliance. Sometimes she even wrote down her dreams about the perfect relationship. She always burned those stories later, with color flooding her cheeks and an aching in other parts of her body. She never, ever told her family about such things. She would never have heard the end of it.

Now, in her new home in the scorched lands, she remembered those dreams with a smile. How easy it had been for her to believe that a gallant and noble prince would one day come for her. The man she had fallen in love with was no prince. He was terribly poor when they met, but he always said the most wonderful things to her. At times, when they first began to take long walks together, it would seem as though he had been reading her mind. He always knew the exact thing to say at the exact moment when it would make her feel the most pleasure in life.

Gamma was far from gallant. He was often very clumsy, a trait which she found particularly endearing. Often he would pretend to stumble and fall just to make her giggle. Gee was noble in many ways, however. He also had come from a good family, and so he treated her with supreme respect and devotion. Like the prince from her younger days, he always bowed to her brilliance.

At first April had felt guilty that often she knew the right answers to common problems when he did not, that often she had good ideas that he had not thought of. After she realized that he appreciated her all the more for intelligence she became less apprehensive of sharing her ideas with him. He always told her that it just wasn’t his destiny in the world to be one of the people who had all the right answers. Gamma reckoned that he made up for it with all his hard work.

April had been devastated as they fled Poe. She knew that none of her family would bow down to the blossoming dictatorship. She wondered how the agents of oppression managed to take so much power with so little effort, and she wondered if any of her family was still alive.

“I’ll miss you forever, daddy,” she thought to herself. Even if he wasn’t dead or imprisoned, she knew that she would never see him again, nor any of her family. She would never return to Poe. Whatever would happen to her would happen on the mainland, with Gamma.

As she finished cooking the squirrel she had killed that morning she thought about the baby inside of her. For just an instant panic flared up inside of her. Life would be very hard for her if Gamma didn’t come back from their expedition. She put the thought out of her mind.

“He’ll be okay,” she thought to herself, “My poor, dumb, hard working man will come back to me.”

As she was growing up she would never have suspected that she could feel joy at just being able to lead a normal life. It wasn’t until she found out how hard it was to live a normal life that she accepted it as an accomplishment. She always wanted to change the world. Finally she had found a way, though not in the way she had intended. She put her hands on her stomach and wondered for the millionth time if her baby would be a boy or a girl.
Subscribe by Email. . . RSS. . .
Creative Commons License
Symbols of Decay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License..
Related written works at Angelfire, Sex Symbols, Cymbals of Silence.Repent or Die