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Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

It was a pleasure to burn

That old book said

before its pages curled a black coal curl

brittle, and scattered with embers dancing like fireflies in an otherwise empty world

It speaks now more than it ever did

It was a pleasure to burn

 

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…shadow on shallow…

She felt the push and pull of the currents against her.

Weightless, her body shifted with the pull from the undertow. Serene, she flowed with its movement, twisting and turning. The currents caressed her young flesh, its sensual touch cradling every part. Not just her flesh, it went deeper. Inside of her, where nature could never penetrate, she felt a pulse in perfect harmony with the one that moved in her chest. As it pushed against her, her pulse pulled, and as her pulse pushed back, those currents lifted. She longed for nothing. She felt nothing. She knew nothing of…

…death…

Floating, senseless with nothing of suffering, some things still lingered, questions of things past, she struggled to find…

…life…

Was there life before this. Doesn’t really matter anyway. She had forgotten. There was something that she almost remembered, but she lost it again. She struggled for any thought, hazed and darkened, numbed and neglected. As quick as something came to her, it left. The only thing she could remember was that she yearned for whatever memory it was. She knew that she needed pain. She needed scars and the memory it would bring. The currents had carried her too far, and now she needed to try and find the lost pain that they had kept from her. Something else was kept from her, another sensation that had been long forgotten. Floating with those currents, she almost lost her thoughts again. Pleasure, she needed pain and pleasure. The currents had kept her from them both, suspended in their sway, pulsing with the current. They never left her.

She moved with them. As the currents moved, she ran her hand slowly across her body, feeling her firm flesh. As her palm grazed the peaks of her breasts, her blood warmed, and her muscles tensed slightly. The numb comfort of the pulsing currents held in contrast with the warmth of new blood moving through her flesh. Her fingers rose to her lips, caressing from one corner to the other. Her lips felt the slight heat from the tips. They gently parted, leaving way for one of her fingers to drop into the warmth of her mouth. Touching her tongue, she rolled it from side to side. The warmth swelled, spreading into her arms. She knew the currents felt it too and tried to keep their hold on her, trying to keep her numb. Pushing again against her body, the currents rolled her over.

She didn’t fight against them. She let them move her. Once again, the thoughts of her sensual touch were leaving her, and she struggled to bring them back. She kissed her fingertips, and, slowly, pulled them from her mouth and moved them down to her breasts. The heat from her fingertips had lost its subtlety and almost burned when touched her breasts. She moved the heat around her soft peaks, letting the warmth flow into her. She moved her hand farther down past her belly where she felt her greatest warmth.

Her other hand moved to her breasts, feeling more heat than had come with the former touch. The heat from her breasts moved down and met the heat that rose from between her thighs. Once they met, they flowed around each other and danced in her belly, flowing upward and outward, spreading through her entire body. She still moved with the current as she rolled over, head over foot and shoulder over shoulder, floating in the dark current and pulsing with it.

The hand between her thighs moved with the rhythm of the current, rubbing with its flowing movements. She caressed herself, breasts and belly, with one hand while she pushed the other harder and deeper inside. She pushed so hard that a sharp pain shook her from inside. She fell into herself as the pain shook her and took hold. More heat came with it. Her fingers warmed in her soft hot flesh that was swelling with blood. She threw her head back as the waves of heat moved up her body. She clutched tightly to her breast with one hand while the other moved deeper, feeling the pulse pushing strongly from inside. Still keeping with what was around her, she moved her hand in and out in a rhythm between the pulses of the currents. Somewhere between force and pulse, the heat came on strong again. Her fingers ground hard against the soft flesh inside of her, tearing it. Blood flowed from her and surrounded her with the warmth of life. It floated with her, bouncing from her skin and trying to return to the common body it once knew. As she moved, heat and pain flowed into each other in complement. She bit her lip until it bled, joining the rest of the blood in a dance of memory, sharing what was known and what was left behind. She pulled her legs together, still keeping the rhythm with her hand. In and out, soft flesh pulsated harder around her fingers. She pushed farther and harder, deeper and faster. She knew it was coming. It was almost there.

The heat reached its threshold and held her every. Push, feel the heat. Touch the warmth. Allow yourself to be engulfed by it, the pain, the catalyst, the heat, the means. It grew as her body turned and toppled out of control. The build was too much, and she couldn’t stop it.

Her hand clenched tightly around her breast as her fingers inside went rigid. Her legs pressed tightly against each other as her body erupted in a war of heat and power. She threw her head back and opened her green eyes. The…

…memory…

…returned to her in a sudden burst of thought, a pulse strong enough to allow the rivers of thought to flow through. With the pulse, the fear for her brother came to her.

She saw him. She saw him falling away from her, falling into the darkest pits of the earth, to be left there until the earth turn to stone.

She looked on his face as he fell away from her into the depths, his eyes glowing green.

His mouth moved as if to speak, but she couldn’t hear anything, nothing at all.

Her hand reached out but touched nothing, finding nothing kind. His body was disappearing into dark, and being consumed by it. His eyes were crying, crying for her. Those eyes that were a reflection of hers battled the same forces that sought to swallow all.

He fell too fast, too far

She pushed to him

To save him

To save her

He pushed to her

She fell too fast, too far

Wretched and scarred, he saw the sway of the water carry her deeper and deeper into oblivion. He could not stop her from falling away from him, her body going dark and deep as he reached for her, her flowing hair swimming around her lovely pale face, moving in long waves, brushing her gentle cheek.

Her mouth moved as if to speak, but he couldn’t hear anything, nothing at all.

Her pale skin faded too and all that was left were her glowing green eyes, and they too were fading. Her eyes faded gently into the dark depths, glowing darker and darker still with every passing moment. No. Not her. Leave her alone. He wanted it to be him instead. He would let his fate be the one of the fall and let hers be left to her. He would take it, one to take for the other. His end would be her deliverance.

…breathe…

The cold sway of the endless dark held him hard, holding him close to stone.

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I miss having real friends.

Well, not really. I never had any friends. But these Internet Intimates, Coded Companions, or Digi-Friends seem strange and unfamiliar by comparison even though I don’t have anything to compare them to. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to meet up with one of them. Not in any funky sexual kind of way. You sick pervs should wash your minds out with soap. No, wait. Bad idea. That will probably do some sort of irreparable damage. Just stop thinking dirty thoughts.

For the Digi-Friends that I have profound conversations with, would our conversations turn to mundane comments about the weather in the real world. Or would the insights into the depths of human understanding be retained and indeed expanded by our corporeal interaction. I fear that the most amazing conversations would quickly turn to silence. The quick wit and amazing wordplay would be lost to fumbling stutters or long breaks in-between trains of thought. Oh. Woe are those who converse through their fingers in 140 characters or less only to meet at another moment to find themselves still holding their breath but with no device through which to speak. Digi-Discourse? The clicks of keys replace the clicking of the tongue betwixt syllables. Radiant glow of liquid crystal replaces the visage of an interlocutor.

Digi-friends will never be bother by a stutter. True. But what is lost with the breath between friends. The crack of a smile that follows a sarcastic comment is left only to emoticons and the parenthetical. I can only show my excitement, anger, or frustration with CAPS LOCK AND EXCLAMATION!!!!!! Dialect is replaced with use of acronyms. Lol or lulz? Context is everything! LMAO, ITT, WIN, CTOP, PWNED, LEIK, OP. Why is OP always a fag? And if everyone is Anon, then I guess no one really knows anyone and therefore the “friends” in digi-friends is left with just digi. Which is somewhat of a relief if you ask me. Since I never had any friends, but remember  reading somewhere about what they’re supposed to be leik, the comparison between what could’ve been digi-friends and friends was  a country that I would’ve much rather left undiscovered for fear of what I could’ve missed out on.

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For fourteen days, the father, the child, and the companion all moved without rest. Food and water had all been spent, and although Marc and Reuel weren’t hungry, they knew to keep the child fed. Reuel collected berries, vegetables, nuts and water. It was better for the child. All of it could be easily boiled or ground to a paste that the child could take in.

Marc wanted meat. He always wanted meat. Reuel had shaped a spear from a branch with a rock, shaping it sharp. Taking care, he made sure the spear was straight. He held it in his hand, ready to throw, feeling its weight and its balance. It was a fine tool. Reuel looked to Marc sitting on the dirt playing with a piece of grass, smiling foolishly as he twisted it between his fingers. Reuel wished that he would take these things more seriously. Marc raised his head and looked at him. Reuel held his spear up high waiting for a nod of approval. He got none. Marc just chuckled, threw the piece of grass aside, and walked back to the camp, leaving Reuel on his own for the hunt. Fine. I’ll do it myself. He found a wild pig and speared the creature through the side. It came crashing to the earth in a lifeless heap.

He gutted the animal and prepared the meats. He kept some of the meat for cooking and hung the rest to dry in the sun. As Reuel cooked Marc tried to pull the meat out of the fire. Reuel angrily stopped him. “The meat’s not done yet!”

After their supply was refreshed, they continued their journey. At first, they let themselves sleep every two nights. Eventually, it became every three. Then, seven would pass by before they would need to rest. Moving day and night, through rain, through drought, they moved through all the elements until the cold times came.

Reuel was still trying to understand things, and he needed to speak about them. He showed Marc a game to play as they spoke. The game, which allotted sixteen pieces per person, involved each player’s attempt to block or trap a primary piece. Played on squares of black and white, each piece had its own movement. They fashioned the pieces from bone and black stone, and the board from wood. Reuel showed his friend how to shape the stones and what shapes to make. They worked bone and black stone hard, shaving the contours of each piece into its own ornate design. Reuel carved the board from wood and blackened squares with ash. Reuel kept the bone for himself and gave Marc the black stone. Reuel knew all of the rules, but he didn’t know the name of the game. He only knew how the pieces moved.

They played the game when they held camp. Marc picked up on it quickly and won often. Reuel didn’t mind and enjoyed watching his childish excitement when he did. Children love their games, I suppose. Reuel’s friend would chuckle when he knew his next move would win the game. One corner of his lip would rise while he bit the other. The first time he won, he threw his hands up in the air and jumped around in his newfound victory. Children love their games.

Marc spoke little, drifting in and out from time to time. Conversations would stay incomplete, and long would pass the times between broken speech. It was difficult to keep the conversation going. They would speak one night, and two nights later the topic would be brought up again without warning and in the middle of another conversation. “You have to learn to finish your conversations.” Reuel would remind him.

“But I need…”

“It doesn’t matter, you can’t just pick up whenever or wherever you feel like it. You have to keep order to these types of things.” Reuel saw his friend’s confused gaze.

He hung his head low. “Ok. I’ll try.”

Reuel was always the first to speak. “Do you have any memory?” he asked as he looked to his next move.

“Huh?”

“Memory, of things before this.”

“Nope. Just this. Don’t make that move!” Marc frantically pointed to the piece that Reuel was about to move one square forward and two over.

“You don’t have to help. It’s just that I believe things were different than they are now. I don‘t know how. I just know they were different.”

“I like to help you with your moves. Makes us better when we know what the other’s thinking.” He stretched his arms out and got lightheaded when he stretched too hard. “Besides, things are always changing, so they’re always different than they are now.” He pointed to one of his pieces that would attack Reuel’s strongest attacker if he made the move.

Reuel looked at Marc for a moment, ignoring the piece that he was pointing to. He doesn’t know what I’m talking about. He’s like a child. He never understands anything. “You frustrate me sometimes.”

“What do you mean, brother? Are we still talking of things? You should move that piece.” He smiled giddily when he pointed to the threatened piece.

Reuel threw his arm across the board and scattered the pieces. “I don’t need you to tell me what piece to move right now, I need you to tell me if you have any memory of other things!”

Marc looked into Reuel’s eyes with an innocent look of a boy unsure why he was being punished. “I’m sorry, didn’t mean…”

“Don’t you remember anything before this, before the shadow, before the child?” Reuel boomed. “I…I know there was something before the dark, but…but I can’t find what that was. Was there passion? Was there understanding? Was there thought that didn’t evoke fear? There must have been something before this.” He pointed to the sleeping child “I…where was I when I was like this? Where were you when you were a child, or did we skip that? So many fucking questions and no answers…no…where…none…are to be found anywhere with these bounds that the shadow has left. Semblance? Ha! Hardly. I’ve seen more than these past times. Must‘ve. I’m sure of it, and I’m sure of the same with you. Answer me! Is this in your head too, or am I…am I…searching, am I searching beyond boundaries that don’t exist to find answers that are only illusion?”

Marc lowered his eyes to a fallen game. “Those aren’t your words.” He paused and pulled his breath deep. “Don’t ask me these things. You’re asking for my memory to help find yours. There’s nothing for you there. I searched for it, and it’s here.” He lifted his eyes up. “It’s here for me to find. This is mine. I can tell you what I know. I know music. I know books. I know speech. I think of others. I know I was like Joseph. I think. Cared for, maybe, like I care for him, or not. Who knows? It’s the dark that clouds and plagues, but like everything else that’s ours, we control it. We can find these things, but, brother, they may or may not be real. The mind’s not so primitive that it lacks the ability to create. We could…can create these memories from the dark and that empty. Hell, we probably already have. But, I’ve found nothing in it. I’ve only found that I must have more than I am bounded to by this shadow. Not found by memory. That’s a lost thing. I know I must’ve been a child once since now I’m a man. I know that I must’ve had some contact with others who spoke like me, because I speak like this. I must’ve learned something somewhere. You probably learned these things too, but I’m sure that you know that, and you’re searching for more, other things. I’m sorry.” Marc bit his lip…I’m always with you brother…I won’t let you lose yourself in shadow…

“I…I’m…sorry.” Reuel couldn’t return Marc’s gaze.

They set the board back up and began a new game, speaking of other things.

They slept that night. They didn’t dream, but they didn’t sleep still. There was something there, something beyond the shadow. Something that reached with one hand and pushed away with the other. It stretched their bodies to where they might snap. They struggled to hold together with all might and strength, muscle and bone clenched tight as the bonds began to break. They held as those same bonds began to tear. They held as such bonds shattered, and still they held hard. Blood flowed through their fallen faith and carried them further from the light, drowning them in a sea of unknowing where they lie, dead in themselves, without bond, faith, or knowing, and still they would hold. Rely on your strength child, for when you wake you may have nothing else. Perhaps one day you will allow these things to return to you.

 

When the morning came, Marc was anxious and woke everyone else up. He nudged Reuel, and Reuel’s eyes opened wide with a start.

“We need to become better.” Marc whispered as if he was trying to keep something secret.

Reuel had felt the same thing. He knew that they had to become stronger and more powerful than they were if they were going to have a chance against the monsters that Marc had talked about. They both agreed to begin their training before they reached out to the west, to find their guides and their strengths and to ultimately push back to the east once more.

 

Reuel was surprised by how clumsily Marc fought. His movements seemed rigid and uncertain. “You can do better than that can’t you?”

Marc didn’t say anything as he awkwardly flung his leg towards Reuel’s head.

Blocking the kick with his left arm, grabbing the leg with his right, and parrying Marc’s blow, Reuel threw him to the dirt.

Marc rolled to the side and attempted to kick Reuel’s legs out from under him.

“C’mon!” Reuel jumped the kick.

Marc rolled again, got to his feet, and leapt toward Reuel.

Again Reuel dodged and put his elbow to the back of Marc’s head. His opponent’s face hit the earth. He kicked him twice in the ribs. “If you can’t stop the monsters… y…your child is…g…going to die. Joseph is going to die! Get up!” He kicked again and again. Every time Marc would try to push himself up, Reuel would kick him harder, laying him back down on the earth. He straddled Marc’s back and punched him in the back of the head. “Get the fuck up! Fight me!”

Another blow hit him, “Get up!”, and then another. “I’m going to kill your son! I am going to kill Joseph!” He struck him again. “I’ll eat his flesh and wash it down with his blood! Get the fuck up!” He kept punching, but Marc didn’t move. “Fine! Fuck you! Your child’s dead! I’ve torn him apart, peeled the skin from his bones, and bathed in his blood, and you’re just sitting there accepting it!” He pushed Marc’s face into the dirt, got up, and walked away, storming off into the surrounding trees.

Marc growled as he lifted his face from the dirt with his eyes swollen and muddy and his fists clenched tight. He didn’t wipe the clotted mud away from his eyes. He let it stick. He was afraid what might happen if he saw what had happened to him.

…I don’t know if I can stop it…

…I don’t think you can…

 

It was some time before Reuel came back, and more still before he spoke again. Finally, after a long time apart, they started training again. This time, Marc pushed his body to its limits and did so each time he fought. His muscles tore, his blood rushed, and, as his strength and speed augmented, he felt himself coming closer to a cadence. But he was afraid of where it might lead. Marc didn’t want to fight Reuel when he reached it. It would be too much. He knew that.

Sitting alone, his gaze found light crawling slowly across the blue above him, slow in its sway, keeping its silence while it watched its wandering children. Marc knew he would have to speak again, but just for now, until the light left him, he would stay silent. Just for now.

 

They traveled west until they hit water, then they moved north, finding ice and snow. Then, they moved south, through dust and sand, never finding what was drawing them, no semblance of anything that would help them prepare for what lie in the dark territory to which they so quickly abandoned. They did find some remnants of things civil. In the dark cities that they never entered, they found once great towers toppled to the earth and crumbled into dust. They were so tall when they were seen from a distance but greater still when seen up close. Outside the cities, they found places abandoned. They even found other beings, at least what used to be other beings. Their lives had ended long ago and nothing was left of them but bones and ash. They also found books, old and dusty with their covers torn and missing. Their broken bind barely held together with shredded cloth. Those old tales were spun so long ago but aged well in their handsome bind.

So many tales

So many tales

The father read to his son every night. First, he read a small book telling the tale of a man’s jealousy for the affections of his wife and how it darkened him. Next, he read a tale of another man, strange but familiar, lost without the end of things. So many were lost in those tales, but there was still so much left of them in brittle books. Even though their tales might still be there, the authors were long gone.

The child smiled at the tales, even the dark ones, and closed his eyes as they painted their pictures for him. Tender are the ears that hear those tales before sleep, for they always bring those tales with them.

It wasn’t long before the child could read the stories on his own with little or no help from his father. He would always ask questions though. He always wanted to know what his father would say.

The child read all the books. As they found places in abandon, while his brother searched for supplies and his father stood by idly, he searched for more books. There were chores to be done, and the child did them without question, dropping his books whenever his brother made him do things. Even without a chore, the child always asked his father for permission to read before he did. His father almost always said yes. Even when the father would train and build his strength, the child would not be far away with his nose buried between the pages. He read stories of man’s battle with nature. He read stories of war and salvation. He read all the stories.

Reuel, carrying supplies from the burnt remnants of an old home some distance back, came upon Joseph reading a rather thick book. “What are you reading, kid?”

The child was startled. He stuck his eyes over the top of the book. “Oh…h…hi, brother.” He lowered his head back to the page. “Um, it’s about a man who doesn’t work and wears a…a funny hat.”

“I wish you would stop calling me brother.” He bent his head down to find out the name. The spine was worn, and the name was gone. Reuel shrugged his shoulders. Must not be anything. “Doesn’t work, huh? Sounds like fun. Why do you read all those books anyway?”

“Huh, oh, th…they show me, uh, things.” Joseph still kept his eyes to the words.

“Really, what kind of things do they show you? You know, you should really look at people when they speak to you.” He adjusted his burden.

“Uh huh. Sorry. Uh, they…they show me things that you and…da…father don’t talk about.”

“Like what?” He sneered at the child

“Like…wha…what’s different be…between a man and a beast.” The child finally looked up from the page.

His sneer relaxed into a slightly twisted surprise. “Oh. Well, that’s not quite what I expected. Well, what is the difference between a man and a beast?”

“I’m not sure. I think one as…asks things. Yeah, that’s what they said. I think. I think that’s it.” Joseph didn’t seem satisfied with his answer, but returned to his reading anyway.

Reuel walked away from the youth, reminding him as he left, “Make sure that you don’t believe things just because you find them in a book. You figure out what’s true or not on your own.”

Joseph kept his eyes to the words.

Reuel passed Marc cooking by the fire and began sorting through the load. “I’m sure you heard our conversation.” The smirk on Marc’s face showed that he had. “Well, I am not sure if it’s healthy that he reads all of that stuff. Some of that stuff is absolute garbage.”

“How would you know? When’s the last time you read anything?” Marc snickered.

“Regardless, you can’t tell me that you approve of everything that he reads. Your fire’s getting low.” He split the load into piles.

“Thanks. I’ve read some, and you’re right. Some of them are garbage.” Marc reached for another log.

“Well, why don’t you stop him from reading them and have his time better spent?”

Marc shrugged as he threw the log onto the fire. Sparks flew upward and around the meat. “What should he do, sort clothes instead? Besides, Joseph can figure things out on his own. It’s like you said, ‘you figure out what’s true or not’”

“Yeah, well, I think it would save him a lot of time if you would just tell him not to read certain things.” He kept sorting his piles.

“It’s not what’s in the books. It’s that he’s looking.” He stirred the fire to bring up more flame.

“Yeah, whatever. I think he’s just reading garbage.”

“Reuel?” He tested the meat by pressing it with his finger. Marc liked to leave a lot of red in the meat. He liked the blood, but Reuel always complained. He would cook it a little longer.

“Yeah?”

“I want to train him.”

“Who?”

“Joseph.”

“Huh?”

“I want to train my son.”

Confused, Reuel regained himself and moved back to his work. “He’s too young.” He spoke fast, discarding a piece of clothing he grabbed by accident.

“Doesn‘t matter.” Marc sat down by the fire.

“What makes you think that you need to teach a boy how to fight? There’s no way that he could keep up with us at this point.” He stopped his sorting.

“He doesn’t need to keep up, brother. He only needs to learn.” He stretched out his legs and put his arms behind him, propping himself up.

“I don’t understand what we are training for anyway? Why do we have to train him too?” Reuel looked at one of the piles, lost himself for a moment, then took what was lying on top and threw it to Marc.

“I’m not sure either, but we have to keep going, and we need to find this place in the west, wherever it is. I think that means the child too. Uh, this’ll be a little warm don’t you think?” He held up the thick sweater that Reuel had thrown to him.

“For fuck’s sake Marc!” Reuel wrapped his hands around his head. “There’s nothing here in the west! We are in the west, and there’s nothing here! I don’t see anything. Do you? Because if you do, well, I think you should let us know. We have things to do, y’know. Shit! We’re wasting our time looking for this place. We should just find another place to settle for a while. Even better, lets go into the cities that we’ve been avoiding and look for others.” He took his hands and rubbed his eyes, pushing against his eyes with aggravation. He pulled them away and found Marc still holding the sweater staring at him questioningly. “Don’t be stupid. It’s getting cold.”

“What do you think we’ll find there?” He sniffed the shirt.

Reuel raised his eyebrow. “Why are you always sniffing things?” He went back to sifting through his bundle. “We will find something. That’s all that matters.”

 

With a movement to the south, they started training the child. It began with building speed, making him swift and strengthening his legs. The child was given lessons from his father. His father wouldn’t allow it any other way. Every time, he brought a new challenge for the child to complete before he was given rest. “Push a boulder up a hill. Do it again, faster this time. Not quick enough. Keep your back straight. Look up. Do you want someone to hit you while your not looking. See, it hurts, doesn’t it. Now run until I tell you to quit. Pull your weight.” Make yourself…

The child fought Reuel. Joseph threw his fist and barely missed his face, grazing the cheek. Then, he looked and found nothing but empty air. Out of the corner of his eye something moved. He turned to it, but it was already gone. His eyes shut hard with a sharp pain to the back of the leg, knocking his knee out from under him. He fell back. Lying on a twisted leg with a twisted look, the child opened his eyes to find the companion standing above him and shaking his head. “We’re done.”

The child was becoming strong. His arms and chest grew twice in size, and he became quickened by them. There were some times that he could evade Reuel’s attacks, but those times were still few and far between.

Even beaten and bruised, the child buried his face in those books until his eyes failed him, and he often fell asleep, drooling on the pages. He finished the book about the man with the funny hat long ago and started reading something that told of adventures through the stars, a tale told through the journey of a very ordinary man and his friend. His bursts of laughter would startle the others in the dark of night. The story wasn’t long, and he finished it quickly. Then he found another book, long, confused, and hard to understand. He lost himself easily and looked up from the pages bewildered. Start it again. It was more baffling than the first time he read it. This doesn’t make any sense. So many people, so many things, hard to tell them apart…what am I… Joseph asked his father about the book.

“F…father”

“Hmm?”

“I have been reading this…this book here, and…and I don’t know.” He offered the book to him, who took it into his hands and looked to the cover. Rubbing his fingers along the gilded letter, it stained the tips. He found the spine and found more of that gild, shiny and bold.

“One thing to remember about this book, it’s a book made by a man. These are the thoughts of men, their dreams, their…”

“…but it’s confusing.”

“These tales always are.”

“Is it real?”

“Well, sort of. Even the thoughts of men can be real, but the author can be confused.” The father held the book to the child, and the child took it.

“Well, if he’s confused…I mean, well…I knew that it was…was written by a man. All of them are, but what…ma…makes them real?” The child held his gaze to his father while holding the book tight against his chest.

“It doesn’t really matter, they just are.” He smiled to his child.

“What…what should I do?”

“Keep reading. At least, you might get a good laugh out of it.”

“I guess it is kind…of funny, huh?” The child smiled at his father and clutched his leg, wrapping his arms firmly around his thigh. His father put his hand to his son’s soft light hair. The boy looked up, smiled again, and turned away. Lying down on the earth, the child continued to read. Before long, the pages stopped turning, and he fell asleep.

 

With the disturbing of the waters, he moved between face and ghost. He pushed beneath the waters and found nothing but what he already knew to be there. The water spread, he submerged. He couldn’t breathe down here and knew that he never would again. He would try to say that he was pulled beneath the waters, told that his throat was dry and needed to drink. He would try to say that a man like himself told him that what was here would fill him and quench him. But to move beneath the water was his choice, and it was his choice when to breathe.

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Beyond the fire, among the wild things and shadow, he found the child, and the child was his, to be held with care and to be guided through dark places, strange and distorted, and through the world, twisted and contorted. He would provide, and the child would learn from him. The frightened man lies broken on broken earth. He kills the wild things. The distance to here is too much for him, so he seeks out others.

…best to finish him off…

…probably…

…but you’re not going to do it…

…no…

The wild man stayed silent with his child in his arms. He anticipated that he would push through and find whatever waits on the other side, if anything at all. It would tear at him, shred his skin, and leave him broken. He knew that. He would take those scars and make them his.

They traveled when there was light and rested when there wasn’t. No words were spoken by any of them. They just moved. The wild man had set the frightened man’s arm, and it healed completely. The frightened man’s side was still so sore, though, and he still had trouble keeping up with them. He couldn’t help but walk behind the two. He watched the wild man’s back, gazing at his long dangling locks, tangled and twisted, brushing against the black mud that stuck to his skin.

Reuel longed for a bath, to find a cool spring to wash away the sticky blood from his chest and arms. The slathered mess smothered and choked him. He really wanted to speak, but he didn’t. Most of Reuel’s kill was already eaten, but the rest spoiled quickly. The wild man didn’t cook it enough, too red and raw to keep, and now it stank sour. He watched as the wild man sniffed at it, flaring his nostrils and curling his lips, then sniffing it again like something would’ve changed from a moment before. He watched the wild man throw it into the brush without any care. It could’ve lasted them much longer if it was properly preserved. Reuel knew of better ways to keep the meat. He thought of freezing it, but he wasn’t sure when the cold times were coming. He thought of using salt from the shores surrounding water to cure it, but they only found salt on the coasts, and they had been inland for some time. Drying it would work. It would hold longer. He wanted to say something about it, but he didn’t.

He looked to the wild man and the child resting from the distance they had traveled. The fire bathed the wild man’s naked muddy body, emphasizing his muscles underneath. Reuel looked down on himself, adding more to the leaves and mud that hid him.

Eventually, he couldn’t stand to keep his silence anymore, and he spoke to the wild man. “I…I was thinking that we should dry our meat next time we…” The wild man wasn’t paying attention to him. He just lay there on his back, holding the child to his chest. “Ahem, I said that if we dry the meat….” The wild man’s eyes opened, raising his head to peer down his chest at him. He didn’t answer. At least he was looking at him, Reuel thought. Reuel waved his hand at the wild man, hoping to get him to speak. The wild man raised his hand from the child and waved back. Then, he put his hand back where it was, lowered his head, closed his eyes, and started snoring.

“Well, I guess we could talk about it later. Um, goodnight.” Reuel turned and walked closer to the fire. He wasn’t sure why he kept building these fires. It was still warm, and there wasn’t any meat to sear. He could use it to boil roots and vegetables, but the wild man seldom ate them. Reuel just couldn’t live without a saving light, a dancing flame. It held his gaze while the others slept. He watched its sway as it kept to some old rhythm, some old thing dancing an ancient dance that was lost to him. It was as foreign to him as all old things were.

Reuel tried to speak often, needing to speak to the wild man about things, but the wild man never showed any interest. He only kept to the child, only moving for him.  The child reached for the wild man’s long brown locks, unwashed and unkempt, like the rest of his body, darkened with dirt and sun. The wild man lowered his locks, swaying them back and forth, taunting the child until he could reach them. When the child grabbed a bit with his small hands, the wild man quickly pulled it away. He smiled as the child smiled, a smile of young things that still find things new. There was always time for play.

This is irritating. Why won’t he say anything. Reuel tried to keep his silence like the wild man, but he found his silence was impossible to keep. Finally, after a fifth turn, he spoke to the wild man again. “Wha…what’s the child’s name?”

The man looked at him with some surprise, his eyes held wide. That gaze held on him for so long without a word, holding still to someone who seeks to speak. Then, looking to the earth as if he had lost something, he answered. “My son’s name is Joseph.”

Reuel stumbled. “Oh. Where’s your, I mean his mother?”

The wild man didn’t answer. He looked to the child again. His green eyes found his child sleeping. He pushed his bearded face to him, touching the child’s nose, tickling him. Startled, the child moved his head with his eyes still closed, pulling away for a moment, only to return and bury his face deep against his father’s course cheek with a whimper.

Reuel didn’t speak for another three days, and, when he finally did, he did so with care. “What’s…your name?”

The wild man was watching the fire, flames dancing on his mane that hung so gangly on his forehead. Despite the flame, his face was still black, covered with soil, blood, and dirt. He had been kept from the touch of water for so long. “Marc,” he murmured as he scratched his beard. He moved his eyes from the flames and looked to the sleeping child at his side. He put his large hand on the child’s back.

“I’m Reuel.” He waited for a moment to see if Marc would respond, but he didn’t. He just gently rubbed the child’s back. When he didn’t speak, Reuel continued. “Where…are you from?”

He kept his gaze to his sleeping son but pushed up his brow at the strange question. “Um, here.”

“Where? No. I mean…” What the hell is he talking about. “I don’t think you understand. I want to know where you came from.”

The wild man took his gaze from the child, his brow furrowed and his face serious, and stared at Reuel. He seemed, to Reuel, like a man irritated by questions. He must’ve thought of those same questions. He couldn’t move without them. Impossible, I can’t be the only one with them. Still, this wild thing didn’t want to talk at all, much less about such things.

For the moment, Reuel had nothing else to say, so he left it alone.

As time passed, Reuel put more questions to the wild man, but no answers came, just more silence. There wasn’t even the recognition of conversation. It had been so long that when Reuel tried to remember what the wild man’s voice sounded like, he found he had already forgotten.

Although speech was lost, Reuel did find trust and was allowed to help care for the child, such a delicate thing. Always still and smiling in his father’s arms, the child never calmed for Reuel. He was almost always struggling, especially when he would try to bathe him. The only thing worse than when the child squirmed was when he was still. Reuel hated those times. Gaze would catch gaze as he found the eyes of the child, each a different shade. One was the color of green earth and the other the clear sky above it. Those eyes showed old things that pushed too deep, shaking Reuel unnaturally. He found fear in those things and the eyes that held them there. He soon learned to keep his eyes from the child, shuddering when he remembered those pushing things. He always remembered them. That he could never forget.

As they continued to travel Reuel tried to speak less and less, leaving whatever questions he had unanswered. Time passed without words and came out only in need. They hunted, they ate, and they kept moving. He followed the wild man’s lead, unsure to what end. At first, it bothered him not knowing where they were going but not anymore. He had a companion, and he felt safe.

After a long time had passed since their last words, Marc spoke. His eyes fixed on a piece of bark that he moved between his finders, tearing a piece from one corner and rubbing his thumb on another. “Monsters.” He turned the bark over and found its smooth belly. “We’ll find monsters.” He gently brushed the dirt free. “If I die, take the child and leave me be.”

Reuel’s eyes shimmered as they widened.

Marc continued to roll the piece of bark over in the palm of his hand, looking at all of its sides. “Leave death be.” He pulled a piece off of the corner and threw the rest of it into the fire. He stood up and walked away from the light of the fire, away from the companion, and away from his child.

Reuel found himself unable to speak. He was shocked at hearing Marc’s voice again, and it was different than he remembered. He had never heard so many words from him. They still bounced around in his head, trying to escape, but they were held there so tightly. He stood up and tried to follow him, but he stumbled. Look to where the wild man moves and you’ll find nothing but shadows, shadows that look to each other, still finding shadows themselves. His hand reached for something to touch, something flesh, something with breath and something with warmth to help him hold and to help him keep whole. His mimics reached out too but found no flesh, breath, or warmth. Like Reuel, they found nothing. But there was something he found. He found the wild man’s death.

He closed his eyes.

Overwhelmed by a towering beast, the man is beaten, and his companion is helpless, kept still by a bond, a simple word. He sees the man being pushed into the dirt, rising with a bloody face only to be pushed back down again. Blows come from every direction and tearing claws come with them. Flesh rips off from his bones. His blood wells and pools in the wounds left by a savage beast, blood and dirt, shred and tear.

He moves to aid him, but the man reminds him of the bond. He says to leave him be. The man is pushed farther and further into the earth, each time rising smaller and smaller. He fights every blow with one of his own, but his blows soon become weaker and weaker until they lose control completely and hit nothing but air. Still, though, he tries to fight, swinging his arms helplessly. The last moment comes, a time that he can move in and save him, but he does nothing because of those words. I can only watch while you die. The man looks to his eyes for the last time, and the last blow ends him, killed. It’s over, and I couldn’t do anything.

He opened his eyes.

The wild man was gone, and the father didn’t return for some time. Reuel feared being alone again. He stayed at the camp and cared for the child. The day’s light came and left, and still the man was gone. There, waiting by the fire, Reuel felt a sudden pressure in his chest that pushed the air out of him. He struggled to pull his breath back in, but the pressure wouldn’t allow it. It left him on the dirt. The pressure pushed harder, popping his ears, bleeding them and bleeding him. He thought the pressure was going to tear him apart. His stomach twisted, and his legs went taut. Involuntarily, they kicked, cracking sharply at the knees but hitting nothing but air. His fingers forced themselves deep into earth, dragging and tearing at it, finding only deeper dirt.

As suddenly as it had left him, his breath returned to him. He pulled it in hard, tearing at his lungs. He pulled his muddied hands from soil and pushed them to his ears, smearing them with blood and mud. He stood, stumbling and wiping the blood from the sides of his face. He smeared and shaded his skin with its crimson hue. He let his breath out and pulled it back again sharply, fearing he would lose it again. His ears heard a cry, and he ran to the child. The child’s face crinkled and winced. Reaching for him, he found the child untorn and unblemished, no blood, mark, or scar. It was a long while before the child finally calmed down.

Light came and left again, and still the father was gone.

The wind was moving, blowing through the tall and swaying green. He stumbled forward slightly, taking a step in the wind’s pushing direction. The child was still behind him. He couldn’t leave him here. He turned to grab the child, but lost his breath again. Pulling his breath too hard, he choked and coughed out everything that was in him. Nothing stayed inside, and he couldn’t pull anything back. Things swam and spun around him, twisting around his head in a taunting game, mocking and laughing at his spinning state. He couldn’t stay any longer. It was becoming too much for him. The child would have to wait here for him to return. He turned away from the child again, breathing so hard that his chest and belly were sore. Another gust pushed against his back, and his foot fell forward again. He tripped and fell. His face hit the dirt as the harsh winds rolled over his back, moving past him. He lay his head to the earth. He couldn’t leave. He would have to wait and endure. He pushed himself up from the dirt, weak and weary, and walked to the child, binding himself to him with words left unspoken.

…until the end child…

Light came and left again, and finally the father returned, his body covered with clothes and his nakedness gone. His tangled mane was pulled behind his head, and his beard was braided. The man carried with him more clothes for Reuel and Joseph. As he reached for the child, the child started to cry. He rubbed the tears from the child’s face and finished dressing him. When he was done, he looked toward the east. “We move west. Come back when we’re ready.” He turned his back to their path and took up the child. Reuel looked to the path and saw the dark things that waited there. The light had already left them, resting somewhere in the opposite direction. They followed that direction and chased the falling light.

…I wasn’t ready…

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The hero had come far with little difficulty.

He found a stream where he was able to replenish his water supply. While he was at it, he reached into his bag and pulled out some dried meat, put a hunk in his mouth, and ground it between his teeth.

Following the tree line, he figured he should reach the ocean shore soon and his destination soon after that. At least, that’s what he was told. It’s strange to know a path but not its end. He knew he needed to fight, but he had no idea what this evil really was. He wasn’t sure anybody did.

Out of nowhere, he felt something coming with a tingle on the back of his neck. He could tell that whatever it was, it was definitely a creature of flight. He could also tell that it was strong. He turned toward the setting sun and was blinded by it. He was being ambushed from the west. He ran for the cover of the tree line and entered the wood, keeping his sight on the clearing. The pulse in his chest quickened. He needed to slow it down to keep himself hidden. He concentrated hard on slowing it down. Keeping his gaze on the clearing, he waited for the thing coming for him. Its power was already immense and seemed to only swell as it flew closer. Its direction remained unchanged. Is this the evil that I’m supposed to fight. It can’t be. I’m nowhere near the end of the path, but it’s so strong. He never knew a creature with this much power, yet the twilight was nearing its end and such a creature was nearing. He waited for it, keeping his breath light. The creature came into view from an amber sky with wings that shadowed earth and man. It brought itself down to the earth, planting itself in the dirt in front of the tree line. The gaze of the hero found the creature, and he saw…

…dragon…

It was one of the seven dragons, overlords of the beasts. He was told that, of the seven, four would be of the earth and three of the sky. Three would be known evil, three would be left on the side of men, and the last would decide of its own accord. He fell in awe of such a creature. The wings spread at least three times its height. He could see the diminishing sun through the membrane, which clung tightly to the claws that moved its feature. As the wind left its wings and its clawed feet touched the dirt, it folded its wings and pulled them around its massive frame. Two talons met around the neck where they clasped and held the rest of the wings like a cape around the creature’s shoulders. The dragon stood tall in its royal robe.

The hero looked to its crown where three horns stood overwhelmed only by its ears forming two sharp points. He stood gazing into those red burning eyes. They were of fire, and they told of the ruin that demons had brought to man, the death, the destruction, and the fire that consumed all. “Hero!” The dragon’s voice boomed, forcing the hero’s pulse to quicken once more. Although he knew it futile, the hero waited. “Hero, I can smell you from here! You reek of man!” He clenched his fists and waited still. He knew he couldn’t beat such a creature. If he answered the call, he would die. “If you would rather, I can level the entire forest in flames.” The pulse of the hero couldn’t hold steady and almost caused his veins to burst. “Very well, hero, the inferno it…”

“Fine. Wait. I’m here.” The hero revealed himself from the wood, keeping his distance from the dragon. “What do you want?”

“Are you afraid of me, hero?” The dragon snorted. “What do they call you?”

“Mahavir, and I’m not afraid of anything.” The hero timidly kept his eyes to the earth below him.

The dragon’s eyes closed slightly, peering but still showing their fire. “I suppose. I sense something though. I think that it’s…Yes, that’s hate. Why do you hate…”

“You kill them.”

“…them so much?” The dragon’s voice softened but still shook the earth.

The hero moved his eyes up quickly, matching them to the eyes of the dragon. He kept his focus, making no moves and keeping himself still. He wouldn’t let the dragon stir him. “I don’t hate them.” His voice quivered barely louder than a whisper.

“How can you hate something that you are a part of?”

“I told you, I don’t hate them.” He raised his voice, but it still quivered. He knew the thoughts of the dragon. It wanted to taunt him and force him to fight. Then it would kill him when he was blinded by his own rage.

Mahavir had no choice. He couldn’t let this thing live. It was his task to kill creatures like this, so he moved to kill it. The hero lunged for the dragon, keeping the power to his legs to keep him quick.

The dragon disappeared.  “What the hell?” He felt the devilish power swell behind him. The hero turned toward it and found the dragon standing where he just was. He stopped hard, driving his leg into the earth. He dropped his leg too quickly, though, and nearly broke it. A pain shot through his knee from his tendons stretching tight. He winced as he fixed his gaze to the deceiving creature. “Stop.” He panted, still trying to catch his breath.

“Stop what hero? Protecting myself?”

“You… you’re… you’re fucking with me you bastard.”

“Fucking? Bastard? You hardly have the eloquence of the hero. How would such vulgarity be seen by your admirers?”

“Demon! Stop! Why…why won’t you just be, uh, quiet?”

He pushed himself from broken stone to take down the demon. “I’ll tear your head off!” he screamed as he charged. He pushed harder, moving himself faster.

The dragon disappeared again, but he could still sense it. He felt it about to strike from behind. He turned around, parrying the demons throw, and using his own weight, pushed his fist into its snout. The demon fell back and twisted, catching the man with a thrashing blow from its forked tail. The hero reeled back and fell to the dirt. He did not lie still, though, and the moment his back hit the earth, he rolled toward the falling demon. Again, it disappeared. He sensed something to his left. He looked to it and found his face gripped in the hand of the creature. It lifted him off of the earth and flung him into a tree. The tree didn’t give, and the hero screamed as his back slammed against it. Ignoring the pain, Mahavir attacked again. He pulled more energy in, pushing all of his strength into the muscles in his right arm to bury it deep in the demon’s skull. He rushed toward the creature fast and hard. The dragon didn’t move.

Abruptly, Mahavir stopped, tumbling and grinding his knee into the earth. He understood why the creature wasn’t moving. He let the energy leave his body, spreading to each limb and cooling as it dissipated from the tips of his fingers and toes. There was nothing else he could do. His hand, limp and lax, touched the dirt underneath his knee. “You know…you know I can’t beat you.” His throat went tight.

“Yes.” It lowered its head, looking to the dirt.

“Why are you toying with me?”

It took a deep breath and let it out with a moan, shaking everything around it. “I believe you mean, fucking with you.” It kept its eyes to the dirt, eyes still fixed on it. It was so serious in its play.

“Stop. Just…just stop!” Mahavir put his other hand to the dirt in front of him. “You know I don’t have a chance. Just…just kill me. Get it over with already!“ He threw dirt at the creature, but it never came close to hitting it. “Why don‘t you just finish what you started?”

The dragon kept its gaze to the earth, now with a furrowed brow. It looked confused. “What I…” Then it stopped talking, holding its breath.

As he waited for the dragon to finish, the hero looked over his shoulder, finding his mimics gone. There was nothing there in the dark that was him.

Finally, moving its gaze away from the dirt, the demon bared its fangs and let out a howl, laughing at the hero. “You’re just like them!”

“What…”  Mahavir turned his head back, finding the laughing demon. “What do you know of them? You have no idea! You’re not human!” He forced his words out, spitting as he screamed. “How could you look into the center of something that’s foreign to you!” The hero’s lungs nearly flew out of his throat.

The demon‘s laughter quieted, and its gaze found earth again. “Show me what it is to be human.”

I wish this thing would just get it over with. They both stayed still, not even a breath between them. Even the wind seemed stalled and confused, not sure of what to say next. I’m going to die. A fallen hero and a broken hope leaves man to his own, and with his own, man finds his end with him. Have shame hero. You’ve failed. Wasn’t your training enough. This thing has found you weak and powerless, and has easily beaten you. You were meant to be the best of us all. Or should we have found someone else.

He knew there would be many that would end at the hands of this demon. He could hear its beastly taunts as it pulled at their limbs and tore their flesh between sharp fangs. Where is your hero now. It would tear into the bodies of man, woman and child, their drippings falling from the demon’s jutted jaw, bloodied and shredded. They would cry. They would cry for a lost hero as their flesh is roasted. I can hear it. I can smell it. I can taste it. It tastes like…

Then came the heat, rising in his legs and resting in his chest. He could feel the flesh on his legs boil. He didn’t care. He wanted this thing dead. He wanted to hear the last muffled howl as he pushed his fist into its face. He wanted to smell the flesh as it burned from his fire. He wanted to taste its blood. The heat kept building until it felt like his chest was going to burst. His pulse was racing, forcing his hands to shake. His gaze found the earth in front of him, even in the dark the scorching of the green could be seen beneath him. The hero threw his arms in front of him and pushed everything out.

“I am not them!”

A surge of light, flowing brighter than he had ever seen in colors of blue and red, erupted from his hands like water breaking through a dam. There was white in it too, bright and clean. His aim was true. The dragon was directly in the path of the burst. The light twisted and twined around itself and flew to its prey with delight. “Die,” the hero said softly, looking beyond the energy into the eyes of the fated creature. “Die,” he called again as the force neared the demon. “Die!” he screamed the moment before it hit its mark. The dragon didn’t move. It made no attempt and showed nothing of fear. It simply closed its eyes and raised its clawed hand between itself and the oncoming light. The light entered the hand, flowed through the powerful arm, through the body, and found its way back to earth.

The hero fell hard to his knees. His body was done, and his light was wasted. He was beaten. His gaze kept to earth in front of him. He could hear the demon walking nearer, and its voice boomed once more.

“A great hero.” It growled. “You were sent to destroy the evil that is plaguing man? I don’t have the power of this evil, and you couldn’t even touch me.”

“It’s over. My body’s broken. I was no contest. Take your prize. You can be the killer of the one hero.”

“What makes you believe that you are so unique?”

He glanced at the creature’s massive talons as they walked past but sill kept his eyes to the dirt. “Stop taunting me with your…malice.”

“I asked you what makes you believe that you are the only one?” The demon waited behind the hero.

“People, men, have faith in me, and I…I…“ He raised his head and looked to the sky where the stars had shown through and were illuminating the night. They looked down on the hero in audience and watched where faith would fall and fail.

“But faith isn’t enough. Not enough to keep you. Not enough to keep you strong. What would you look to before the end?”

“What are…are you talking about God? What do you know about God?”

“I know he wasn’t with you today. Until again hero.”

The hero held himself ready to die. He saw blood on the earth. It ran down the blades of grass and flowed back into the soil, slipping past the crust, soaking through, and finding its place by the roots, there to lie and there to stay, not so deep that it could not grow. He closed his eyes, and he felt nothing.

There was just darkness, and darkness he followed.

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