Category Archives: Death

The Mob Wars

The Mob Wars
[short story from   ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

What do you think, when you look upon a mob?  Or worse, you encounter one?  That had been the lesson of the day and the cadets in the class, all five of them, 3 girls and 2 boys, could barely restrain their yawns.  They really wanted to laugh at the instructor but there were rules at the Academy, and laughing at an instructor was bad business.  Punishments varied but they weren’t something you wanted to think about.

“A mob is dangerous.” droned on the talking head instructor, a short dark-skinned female who spoke the lingua franca as if she’d learned it from a computer.  Hardly surprising since she had learned it that way.  She wasn’t from the Clayborne worlds but from another galaxy altogether.  Still, she was human and you could relate to her as long as you remained totally mechanical, never betraying any emotion towards her, or her course material.  “A mob has no leader, that’s what makes it dangerous,” she carried on.  “If you see a mob coming towards you, purposefully march in another direction and as soon as you can, find a safe place to hide until it passes by.  Any grouping of ten or more individuals walking together and sharing information, or making loud statements constitute a mob by legal definition.  It is your sworn duty to the Imperium to report any observed mob activity, noting its coordinates and direction.  Anyone who observes a mob formation and does not report it is de-facto part of a conspiracy and liable to a charge of sedition.  The penalty, as you know, is ten years in the mines, the location of the punishment to be determined by the courts but always outside your home worlds.”  

We may be cadets but we weren’t born last night, or even the year before.  The Claybornes, a grouping of three planets orbiting their sun practically equidistantly, thus making each world almost a mirror image of the others climate-wise, were a relatively recent addition to an expanding Imperium.  “Space, the final frontier” boldly claimed a cartoon character from a series of funny little anecdotes that had been transcribed upon holos and would sometimes be available for viewing.  The quaint language and costumes and the posturing would bring out waves of rollicking laughter wherever they happen to be projected.  Final frontier indeed: the abysmal ignorance and hubris of our ancestors makes us wonder that we ever got off the ground of our original world at all. Too quirky.

I was writing about that line, the final frontier.  Even now with everything we’ve discovered and learned, most of it at great cost and unnecessary loss, we still cling to our ancient xenophobia and bigotry.  Once we “know” a thing, we believe that we’ve found the truth, or at the very least, some truth, something we can hang on and build upon.  Our awareness, our ideas, we believe, can be stacked up one upon another, like the modules we fabricate then build living units or space ships with.  It’s as if we choose to forget that no matter how long these modules fit together they must eventually disintegrate, starting with the oldest ones, but we don’t notice the rot and rust, and we keep on building on top.  There comes a point of attrition and entropy and whatever is, soon is no longer.  Simply put, the base collapses.  We accept that but we never see to apply the obvious lesson in it to our interaction with what can only be called the nature of things.

Which brings me back to my story about the mob.  Whatever the Cirillian teacher says about mobs, she really knows nothing at all about them.  But we Clayborners do know about mobs.  Our own societies were basically evolved from a mob mentality.  You see, the Claybornes were chosen by the Imperium as a dumping ground for all sorts of individuals who could not be coerced into the herd mentality, or group-think that serves the Imperium’s aims so well.  We are recent descendants of “deplorables” and “undesirables”  Our grand parents were those who could not be cured.  Many were anarchists.  Some were judged with criminal mentality because they openly defied and called down the Imperium.  And oh yes, we had more than a sprinkling of lower class criminals, the murderers, rapists, bank robbers, psychopaths.  As a fourth generation myself, I say good for them.  It’s here, on our own Clayborne world which we call Armistice, that you can really see the evil that is the Imperium. 

I discovered subsequently that the Imperium had hoped we would not only “break” open these worlds and extract every ounce of resources that could fuel their space economy and finance their Earth-based economy, bolstering ever-expanding wars of conquest, but that once the worlds were bled dry, that we would destroy ourselves, with a little destabilizing help from Imperial guards. Considering the make-up of our local civilization, it seemed inevitable that we would destroy each other when times got tough, a time when the resources ran dry and the Imperium ceased supporting us with the necessities of civilization that could not be manufactured locally.

Even early on in the colonization of the Clayborne worlds, that is exactly what happened.  Unwisely, to say the least, the Imperium representatives gave the game away too soon, when dreams of independence rode high in the minds and hearts of the colonizers.  Conflict ensued.  But at first it wasn’t against the Imperium.  That seemed too big a slice to tackle.  In anger and frustration, various groups, and towns led by gang lords, armed themselves by whatever means, mostly clubs, compound bows and arrows, long handled barbed spears and long knives or machetes, as well as agricultural implements which had reluctantly been allocated to them, and began to attack each other for control of the worlds.

That wasn’t according to plan since by now little or no effort was being made to mine the planets.  Everybody was too busy strengthening their defences and protecting their fields and other food supplies while attempting to lay waste to “the enemy’s” fields and food supplies, transports and storehouses and stealing resources and useful labour and women.

We could almost hear the screams of anger from stock market and “trading houses” all the way though space from an incensed earth, home base of the Imperium, as resources from the Claybornes’ came to a quasi-standstill.  Fortunes in speculation were being lost by the month, the week, even by the hour.  Action was demanded of Arch Imperator, Junes Kohlmadir.  She did what her kind do best: responded by massive force of arms against the wayward planets.

The Imperium intervened  with iron fist and jack boots.  Martial law and a general ban on every sort of weaponry was declared.  Walls around fortified towns were dismantled, sometimes with explosives, more often with slave labour from those arrested for disturbing Imperium-mandated peace; those that is who hadn’t been publicly executed in the first reactionary wave of the new military dictatorship.  They executed thousands of individuals, including women and young children – as an example.  As any thinking person would know and expect, more violence ensued, now directly aimed at the Imperium troopers and subsequent governors sent to negotiate and re-establish a working peace.  Adding insult to injury, the Imperium representatives decreed that any existing facility that could produce a space-faring vessel was to be utterly destroyed, not simply mothballed.  The Imperium set up its own space station to repair and upgrade its own ships.  All merchant ships had to have (and pay for) a complement of Imperium troopers on board, and an Imperium representative to accompany the captain at all times whenever it landed on one of our worlds.

This is the tipping point, where the Imperium, instead of subduing us, only succeeded in uniting the entire planet against the Imperium.

These people, my people, learned through bitter and bloody experience to hate the Imperium with passionate fury and vowed never to let the predators get their resources as cheaply as they had in the past.  We vowed to fight the Imperium to the last man, woman and child on our world.  There would be no free interference in our affairs.  Autonomy or death, was our slogan and war cry.  In the morning the call to arms and resistance would show up, painted on walls, fences, and even on the side of Imperial armoured personel carriers and tanks.  So the people began to organize; to create larger and larger political groups and legally challenge the Imperium’s manipulations.  We lived in wave after wave of bloody crackdowns and brutal repression but any talk of surrendering resulted in another body hanging from a pole, or tree, for the troopers to cut down and dispose of.  We would no longer be the Imperium’s “hewers of wood and drawers of water” forever, or until our worlds became unable to sustain life due to heavy extraction of natural resources and unchecked man-made pollution and we were abandoned to perish in the depths of space, with no hope of ever seeing rescue transportation off our dying rock.

Whenever the Imperium landed a detachment of Guard troopers, mobs formed and there was the inevitable bloodbath.  It is said that half of the population of Armistice died in the anti-Imperium “mob wars” that had already lasted two generations when, at sixteen, I found myself fighting for freedom.

So, ask me, do we know what to do if we encounter a mob?  Sure, if it’s from our side, join in.  If it’s from the enemy side, slink away and report its movements to our side, then form our own defensive counter-mob and attack.  To hesitate is to loose.  Now we are solidly united with our own spilled blood against the Imperium.  There would be no quarter from our side, for we are the legitimate people of this world.  

“Let me repeat:  a mob is a leaderless group of ten or more people bent on destruction and murder.  Report any mob to the nearest Guard post.”  Yes ma’am, thank you ma’am and why don’t you pack up your stupid course materials and return home by the first shuttle, with no due respect, ma’am?  Take some Star Trek holos back with you and base your next history course on them.  Maybe your students won’t turn into zombies on the first day. 

Meanwhile, what’s the real mob? There can be but one answer to that: it’s the Imperium.  The real Mob is always the largest, most powerful predatory group, for a mob takes what it wants because it has the power to do so.  Smaller groups, or “mobs” serve but to justify the real Mob’s oppression, or to do some of its dirtiest “wet” work.  Think “terrorists” as the vanguard of the Mob.  Oh yes, I have read quite a bit of the home world’s history to understand why here, on Armistice, we do what we do, and why we call our world by that meaningless term.  A mob, leaderless?  Never, no such thing.  The “leader” may not be a human being, it may be injustice, hunger, oppression, enslavement, but oh yes, a mob always has a leader.  In fact such a leader is the most powerful and motivational if it isn’t human, but an irresistible force, when choice is no longer choice.  Where, or when, anger and hate fill the collective vat of despair and feet begin to walk; hands grab sticks, stones, anything defensive or offensive, and charge down the street.

There came the inevitable bloody clash between Armisticians and troopers.  I was wounded in it and captured.  I was then seventeen earth years of age.  I am now an old but still strong woman from the hard labour I have performed my entire captive life.  I survived the mandatory torture and gang rapes, solitary confinement, sub-standard food fare and damp, cold, filthy accomodations.  Today, from my life imprisonment cell on Rebus, one of several Imperium prison planets, I write this for the “counselors” to read and ponder: “Down with the Imperium!  I still hope to see its final downfall.  How dare you call yourselves “civilized” and us “savages” and “terrorists.”   You are nothing but cowards who starve and kill women and children so your elites can wine and dine, get richer and brag.  Your lives are as hollow as the insides of our tiger reed.  I could almost pity you but will never: I vowed eternal hate and enmity between us and so it shall be.

Signed:  Selinia Armstrong of the free world of Armistice

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The Stories I Could Tell

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

Oh the stories I could tell when I set my mind free from the tick-tock revolving thoughts of only this is true and the rest is all fake and fiction.  But it’s late and I don’t have time for even one story, or perhaps I don’t have the energy left to write one down.  I do, however, have something to say that may cause some raised eyebrows, or some knowing nods of partial agreement.

We live in a strange sort of reality where all the things just seem to repeat themselves, whether these “things” happen over millennia, or over days.  We exist, while here, in cycles of happenings.  How can that be when we claim to have evolved, and to be evolving?  Shouldn’t we be honest and say we have revolved and are revolving?

All right, brass tacks.  The reason we keep “revolving” and “revoluting” (which does not necessarily mean we are revolting but it’s tempting to look at that as a truism).  What it really means is, by not trusting ourselves, and I mean “myself” as an individual, self knowing and self-empowered, we endlessly turn to systems to carry the responsibility for life.  We ask systems to do that which our mind is designed to do, and would eagerly do for us, and that is, take responsibility for all aspects of our own life.

What’s wrong with relying on systems, you may well ask.  Well, there’s the obvious, that they keep bringing us down; keep destroying anything good we once in a while decide to build – say, declare our nation to henceforward by a democracy with freedom and justice for all, irrespective of, blah, blah, blah – until next thing we know we’re plunging back into some unthinkable dictatorship; some authoritarian regime ruled by some religion, some financial system, some group of plutocrats or elitist apparatus and we wonder what the hell happened to our dreams.

I’ll put it briefly for now, it’s late and I’m feeling it.  The problem with systems, any and all of them, small or large, is that they tend to exclusiveness and absolutism.  All systems, bar none, can only grow or die, they can never simply be setup to run, like a machine for example.  They must swallow up all competitive systems, or be swallowed up.

How many times have we observed this; how many times do we see this now; how many times have we wondered about that?

What’s wrong with competitiveness that is motivated by absolutism?  It’s totally evil; life destroying.  Life can only exist where there is natural balance but when a competitive force rises above all others and establishes itself as “the” ruling force, that system reaches entropy exponentially.

There is such a system ruling planet earth today, and that system is called “man”.  Not individual people living and working together to produce a healthy living balance through sharing or allowance, but the man-system; a system primarily driven by Earthian males and primarily fed by all those who by decree are forced to be subordinate to the man-system.  Those who feed this competitive, now ruling system, are its victims, even those who think they benefit from it.  Over time the system rose above individuals to rule all and sundry.

Is there a way out of this horror?  I can see but one and that is to become self-empowered.  To look at the system and with or without proof, declare it to be anti-life and a massive lie in which there is not one iota of truth and within which there is nothing that can be trusted, or even fixed.  The self-empowered individual will challenge the machine, the man-made, man-ruling, earth-ruling system at every turn and through great effort, danger and very possibly loss of life, will eventually cause the monster to crash and die.

What will happen to civilization if the system collapses, implodes, dies of entropy?  A civilization built upon oppression, repression and massive death through calculated famines, genocides, wars and systematic poisoning of land and food sources must not survive: it must die with the machine it built and fed.  Only free individuals can outlive the monster.  Only self-empowered individuals can live without systems, be they religious, political or financial.  They are, all of them, but chimeras but what a job they’ve done of convincing people they can’t live without them.

So I say to those who continue to believe that they can tweak this system thing; that they can fix parts of it; legitimize some of it and recycle other parts, you are extremely naive.  None of it can be converted into life-giving energy: its nature is killing and dealing in death.

Yes, it’s hard to let go; to watch something you’d spent years working to support, or used to support yourself and perhaps a family.  It’s hard to tell the younger generation, don’t drive our old machine, it’s a deadly poisonous system that has no fix.  Let it die while you dream up something new; something that has a chance to become an equitable, just, fair, open, kind, simple way of life for this earth; something that allows free room for all types of life interacting here; something that knows nothing of taking, of fear, of killing.

Utopia?  Of course.  It’s the monster’s lies that has convinced people they cannot have a utopia on earth.  It is self-empowerment that will call for compassionate interaction and eventually re-awaken our natural heritage we call empathy.

 

The Fly in the Ointment

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ ]

There are “bad” people in the world, and there are “good” people. For the sake of argument, we’ll say that for every “good” person, there are on average, say, 100,000 “bad” people (I’m sure it’s way higher than that but let’s be generous). When I say “bad” people I’m not saying “criminally bad people” per se, I’m talking about people who simply don’t care, being self-centered and selfishly motivated, whereas “good” people are those who care about things other than as they affect them, or as they may harm or benefit them personally, i.e., “good” people are relatively selfless.

That said, there is a third, tiny minority of people who exist, it seems, strictly to throw the proverbial monkey wrench in the gears: the fly in the societal ointment. In ancient times they were known as prophets and these “naysayers” were always at odds with the propagandists (the false prophets – today’s main stream media and priesthood of that always popular self-help and positive thinking church) and with society’s leadership and society at large (the Establishment). Their end was often quite violent.

I happen to fit the label of the latter, whether I like it or not. Although the areas where such as myself can speak freely are rapidly diminishing I am thankful that I can still do it, for people with the prophetic curse/gift must speak or die. Remember Cassandra’s curse! As Lord Byron wrote: “If I do not write to empty my mind, I go mad.” We speak “the truth” not only as we see it, but as we are driven to see it and speak it. That more than anything else, is what really irritates people; not just those who stand to lose greatly if we are listened to, but basically everybody. And here’s why.

In a world such as man has made of this earth, the truth is neither pleasant nor painless for anyone confronted with it. It is civilization’s scalpel, and the more diseased civilization, the deeper the scalpel must cut in order to attempt removal of diseased parts and allow for re-construction. Once convinced of the seriousness of a particular disease and the need to amputate, a patient may finally accept the fact and come to rely on the surgeon to save her life. Here’s the rub: a prophet is not the surgeon who’s going to amputate the cancerous parts of the body politic and help activate healing and possible re-growth of missing parts. The prophet does two things: s/he will tell you what your problem is based on your symptoms, and s/he will also tell you whether any surgery can fix the problem or whether it’s too deep, too endemic, to be arrested and a healthy recovery possible.

The prophet does not wield the scalpel: you, as a member of that body, are the surgeon.

You, with full cooperation and participation of all other parts of the body politic must perform the surgery, must endure to pain, accept the prophet’s “prescriptions and diet” if there’s to be any hope of recovery.

If the prophet says the disease has delved too deeply and greedily inside the body for the body to recover, that is not the end of the matter either. If (that’s a huge “if”) all the parts of the entire body still insist they want to live as a body, nothing is ever impossible, nothing is written in stone. Recovery remains possible, but the costs of attempting such a recovery may be way higher than most are willing to undertake. Since the majority “share holders” of the body are endemically “bad” people, i.e., bad stewards and managers, the prophet, taking that into account, will say (to the “good” people), “Honestly Pete, it ain’t happenin.”

This little essay is a warning to all the “good” and certainly well-meaning people I’ve encountered, whose efforts on behalf of the world, the animals, the environment, the poor, the oppressed, the war-torn refugees are beyond stalwart, to not expect those efforts to actually change to body politic for the better. They are band aids, nothing more, because they will never be allowed to be more than that. Success would mean loss of privilege, profit and comfort for that overwhelming majority of “bad” people. As a prophet I’m not advocating the “good” people stop their selfless efforts on behalf of what they perceive as needy, including the global environment, far from it. But to avoid burn out, disappointment and worst-case scenario, despair, make it a purpose, not a goal. Be there, without expectations. Be there because that’s where you belong; because that’s who and what you are. Then come hell or high water, all will be well, even when you are drowning in tears of sorrow and the tiny beachheads you’ve created though a lifetime of effort are wiped out overnight by the men in jackboots.

We are daily made aware that we are awash in the blood of martyrs. That blood is not a healing balm upon the earth, but an acid burning Earthian civilization to its bones and to its very marrow. So much blood has been shed in the last century and the first decade and a half of this one that nothing but a complete wipe out of man’s current civilization can begin to expunge man’s grossest-ever crimes committed against helpless and peace-seeking innocence. As a species, man has plunged (and continues to plunge) lower than even hell can imagine. That’s not the worst part. The worst part is, that for the vast majority it’s just more “business as usual.”  The day belongs to the “bad” people. 

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.” A quote not to be used lightly in these, the last days of this civilization. Yes, the last days, for the necessary will to change does not exist and will not be allowed to come to pass.

A Difficult but Necessary Matter of Balance

 (thoughts from    ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara)

I haven’t had much time for blogging lately, being as they say, busy.  But surprisingly, I’ve had time, perhaps too much time, to think about this world, about its overall condition and where it is heading, apparently heedless and unaware.  I know this is a judgment forming an opinion, but not once in my entire life of 70 years has my sense of where things are going ever been wrong.  It’s like a compass in my mind, something I can “see” and rely on entirely, basing my personal movements on it, knowing when to “hold and when to fold” as the song goes.

I feel massive waves of sorrow passing over me time and again, triggered by many encounters: a baby in its mother’s arms; an old man hunched over waiting to safely cross a busy street; a homeless lady holding a sign saying, ‘Please buy my CD, I’m hungry’ and displaying a CD she probably found in a dumpster – (she got lucky: I saw her and I chose to believe her despite all the propaganda against her) or even moved to a helpless stop by the wind’s choreography of tree branches not yet covered in leaves.  A house hunched behind a sagging gate; a rusting sign from a business that went broke years before…  

Have you ever just “thought” about “the world” and had tears well in your eyes until they started flowing down your cheeks?  Closed your eyes and brought your hands together as if in prayer, though you don’t pray?  Then thinking, ‘Do I want to be here?’ and knowing the answer is ‘No, I don’t want to feel this, this way, connected to this chaos of ignorance, of pain, of apparent mindlessness.  I don’t want to be the stranger any longer; to not be able to speak to the trees, the birds, the clouds.  I’m tired of just feeling and finding it so terribly difficult to harness those feelings; to draw intelligence, awareness, understanding, acceptance and meaningful teaching from them.  That is probably neither their purpose, nor task but I’m breaking the rules here.’ 

Life, I find, is like driving a street.  Some parts are smooth, some rough.  Some are safe and some, well, you may not get out of alive.  The truly sad part is, much of life is entered into without its overall costs duly assessed.  People are programmed, it seems, to repeat patterns and unable to stop and consider the risks, the odds, based on previous lives, previous experiences of elder people, or people in history.  ‘What are my chances this is going to work as I hope?’ Is not the question asked.  Plunge into the swamp, there are no alligators here!  But there are, disguised as floating logs.  You may have passed your swimming tests and won medals, but guaranteed: terror is but a splash behind you, and it isn’t virtual reality. 

Too dark a vision?  Probably, but some of us have chosen a path that runs counter to that of the herd and we see that which the herd isn’t permitted to see, and would not want to see in any case. 

Someone has to shed burning hot tears for the dying.  It’s a difficult but necessary matter of balance.  

 

The Times After

[Short story, by Sha’Tara]

The voices came from the branch and stone shelter partially sunk in a sloping dry creek bank.  Two men talked quietly.

“They’re coming, Ruben, I know it.  Just be patient, remember.”

“Not sure I can continue to remember, Lon, and I’m definitely out of patience.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way, or this long.  I was down at the orphanage yesterday with a handful of what were little more than weeds I’d picked over my usual wandering in search of edibles.  The children are starving Lon.  Don’t you care?  If this drought doesn’t break and water start flowing very soon we won’t even have water to drink. 

I’ve wandered over the flats as you know, looking for another more suitable place to make our winter quarters.  I haven’t found anything yet.  I’ve decided to leave and go away in search of a new place.  I may be gone for weeks, maybe a couple of months.  I’ll need to take the rifle, Lon.  I’ve also made myself a good strong longbow and a dozen straight arrows I can use to bring down game, or for self defense.  I’ll return, never fear.”

“Now there’s the problem right here Ruben.  When we came together after the last collapse and our escape from the slave hunters, we gathered as a group to help each other survive and to take care of the twenty eight children we rescued from the hunters, remember that.  We still have twenty three of these children living, none old enough to do much, certainly few strong enough to join the adults in the gathering of food and building shelters or collecting wood for fuel.  That, I do admit.  The nine adults of this community are, however, fairly healthy and are learning the arts of survival very quickly.  So far we have had no deserters or detractors.  Only one death.

“We are, as much as can be claimed, of one mind on our reason for surviving.  You remember when we decided not to commit mass suicide, but to build a new society, for the time being, of just us.  We don’t know what’s left out there.  We’ve been here over three years and I realize that with this drought we’ve exhausted the land’s capacity to grow food for us.  I know we need to find a more sheltered place and we need to locate near a permanent stream, or else find a river, or a large enough lake that it can purify itself with the change of seasons.  We’ve talked about all of this.  So in the going, I support you though I think you should take one other with you.”

“I won’t Lon.  I can’t be responsible for myself and one other and no one here can survive in the wilderness as I can, and I certainly won’t have the time to teach her, or him, skills and intuitions that one has to be born with.  As you’ve all said, I’m a throwback to a time before the collapse and before there was a civilized society of man.  As you know, I’m here to help and support.  If I had a free choice I’d be long gone.  I like living alone and moving on constantly.  My feet and my mind itch to be away from this stagnant, dying place.  I need to go.  I promise I’ll return.  I won’t get lost or die out there: that’s my home we’re looking at beyond that indeterminate horizon.”

“I know that about you Ruben.  Without you at the beginning we’d been all dead, or captured.  But there is something else.  Something that your atavism blocks from your consciousness: the matter of how we go about surviving.  I know you stayed out of the group when we discussed our goals as survivors.  But you did join us in taking an oath against predatory violence.  Violence in self defense we could only hope to avoid, but knew we may have to resort to it in an extremity.  That’s why we kept the gun and let you train some of the people with the bows and the knives.  But now you say you will go, take the gun to use to, and I quote, “bring down game. 

“You took the oath not to kill except in extreme situations.  Never for food.  We gave up the shedding of blood entirely.  Do you remember why?  We spent days discussing the subject of a new human civilization, a new society, a new culture.  We admitted to ourselves that our downfall had been our violence towards the planet, non-human sentient life on it and towards one-another as a species, often for nothing more than profit, too often in sadistic pleasure.  We concluded that re-building society was totally pointless if we did not change the very thing that destroyed us.  You were there, sitting behind the others listening.

“Convinced or not, you took the oath of non-violence.  When you use that horrible expression, “bring down game” the key word is game.  It was a game in the old ways.  Even war was a game.  Oppressing, subjugating, dispossessing, enslaving, raping and murdering, even to committing war crimes and genocide, that was all a game.  That game killed us, remember that.

“We took an oath, all of us adults, to change this.  We decided that we would indeed build a truly new society.  You remember Ana, small, wiry, tireless Ana who literally gave her life to save many of the abused and malnourished children, as well as binding wounds and broken bones among adult survivors.  She would never tell how she learned her skills, or gained her healing powers.  She wouldn’t talk about herself, instead leading us in meditations and encouraging us to take the oath of non-violence, to seek not only help and support, but make ourselves as one with the earth and the skies.  Remember how she would go into the open place where the sun and wind had parched our meager efforts at growing crops, and stand there for what seemed hours, staring into space?  Do you remember how she’d capture our interest talking about “her people” whom she would bring back to help us?  Oh, Ana… why is it taking you so long?  You’ve been gone almost a year now…”

“She didn’t “leave” Lon, she died.  She died!  Her body is buried out there with the dead children.  She didn’t go anywhere!  She isn’t coming back.  There never were any other people, whether angels or aliens or what-have-you.  She deliberately fooled you thinking it was for the best, that you would never give up as long as you held on to the hope that she would rescue you.  You need to believe it.  I don’t, and I never did.  What we don’t do ourselves doesn’t get done; will never get done.  It strikes me as somewhat contradictory that you would build a new world without violence yet surreptitiously you allow religion to creep back into it.  Don’t you realize that “Ana” is becoming an idol in your mind?  Don’t you remember that civilization’s very first poison was faith in unseen entities from which all the evils known to man evolved?”

“I know what you are saying, Ruben, but it’s different this time.  Ana isn’t an angel or divinity.  I know she died, how well do I know.  She was my wife, Ruben, and my lover.  Her death was the most painful event of my entire life, and believe me when I tell you that I have seen things when I was a child I could never write down in words – things too horrible… and felt the pain of it all, some of it upon my own body.  Yet they are as nothing to the void and emptiness Ana’s death created in my heart.  To survive her loss I swore to her privately that I would switch my love for her to my love for this world and in particular the people of this little tribe.  She also swore to me that she would return with help for us.  I will never give up on that.  Some people die, Ruben, and some just pass away.  Ana was one of the latter.  You give your whole life to others, and you are given your own life in return.  It’s how it is.”

“It’s how it is for you and I assure you that I fully accept that.  It isn’t how it is for me, and now I need to go find us a decent place to re-locate to.  How shall that go between us, Lon?”

“I am not your leader, Ruben.  I’ve reminded you of certain obligations and now it’s up to you how you proceed within those boundaries, or whether you break out of them and choose to become once again a wild one.  You leave with my blessing, however you leave.  The weapons are your decision and your personal burden.  Come with me, let me show you something important.”

The two men came out of the shelter and Lon walked to a clump of stunted black willows.  Partially hidden within the clump, nailed to one of the main trunks, was a short cross piece of wood that would, with a bit of pressure, spin vertically.

“This was how Ana and I communicated when we had to leave the area.  We would spin the cross piece to indicate direction – the top being north.  Below, here are three holes indicating morning, noon and evening.  You put a small stone in the one closest to when you expect to return.  Crude but useful.  If we are to be gone before you return I’ll attempt to leave you a decipherable message here.  If time permits; if it isn’t a rush exit, I’ll write something in the dirt floor of the old barn that serves as “the orphanage” and cover it with planks.  Look for the planks.”

The two men looked into each others’ faces, then hugged without hesitation.  Backing away from each other, Ruben added,

“If you must leave here before I return and your hoped-for help hasn’t arrived, remember this: travel at night, hide in the daytime; stay in the lowest places and post a minimum of three sentries at all times.  Rotate regularly, leave nothing to chance.  If I come back and you all are gone and I cannot catch up to you for whatever reason, don’t worry.  I’ll head north, far north.  It won’t matter then for me, I’ll have gone wild again.  Luck, Lon.” 

“The gun?”

“Won’t need it, you may.  I’ve got my bow and it’s a really good one.  Who knows but I may learn to eat plants and roots?”

He saluted smartly, then his silhouette shimmered away over the baked earth, his tough bare feet leaving no marks for anyone to find. 

{there will be a part II… honest!  I mean, there has to be now I typed myself into a corner with this one…}   

 

 

Experiencing Wearing Down

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

When we’re young it’s basically impossible to consider life past, say, the age of 50.  Now so many of us live in what was then called “old age” in better or worse financial and health conditions.  I just watched “The Notebook” movie again – probably for the 5th time at least.  I’ll never get tired of that story, it’s so well told.  You’d think that a love relationship with such stormy and crazy beginnings wouldn’t have any hope of succeeding.  But in this story, it does, and it’s ending is wonderful and perfect.

I like a line James Garner says in the movie: “I’m experiencing wearing down.”  Many people feel that way in my age bracket.  We are indeed wearing down.  A whole gamut of emotions follows this wearing down.  For some it’s a blessing, for most, I’d say it’s never acknowledged, and for others, it is feared and fought to the end.  It does mean that we are approaching our rendezvous with death.  However poetically one phrases that, it is not a pleasant thought – honestly.

I am of those, perhaps having been raised quite strictly religious, who not only believes that life goes on beyond the body, but that it does so in full consciousness and “I” continue to live my life, replete with choices and destiny.  Later, when I overcame the need for religion, and the need to be totally dependent upon the caprices of some god, the inner knowing that life is eternal and infinite did not go away with my religion.  It was, in fact, the one thing from my religion(s) that remained true, if only for me.  (I think that in the realm of eternity, such choice to believe or not is entirely up to an individual, a sacred belief that no one has the right to either deny anyone, or force on anyone.)

Does that awareness make it easier to face the reality of death?  Not for me.  I don’t like the idea at all, even if, being of those who remembers past lives, I’ve gone through the process before.  It is the place where one, alone and helpless, faces the ultimate stripping of attachments to this life.  

For those who cannot believe in continuance, death is the end.  The termination of all awareness.  That, to me, would be unbearable.  I think one has to be incredibly courageous to meet death with such stoicism.  

For those, like myself, who “know” (as in some sort of unshakeable awareness) that life continues, the passage nevertheless is fraught with questions and trepidation.  I know, for example, of the many things I did (in this one life) that makes me a poor candidate for any sort of, shall we say, graduation to something better.  Countless thoughts, words and deeds must be there, ready to accuse me.  Is there some balance, some way that thoughts, words and deeds of the non-selfish variety can outweigh the others?  I honestly do not know.  There must be justice, that I know.

So as I inevitably wear down; as I come closer and closer to death (of the body) I ponder such things.  I don’t know what to expect, not exactly.  I have some ideas, some thoughts, on the matter but where are the facts? 

There aren’t any.  So what do I have to offer, if indeed some sort of judgment is in the offing?  Very little.  I can offer a changed life, from selfishness to detachment and self-empowerment in order to practice compassion and develop empathy.  I can offer forgiveness, certainly, that having been one of the easiest lessons to learn.  I can offer my personal commitment to my chosen purpose of a life lived to serve others – however much that effort remains wanting.  Beyond that, I have nothing to give in exchange for some sort of pass.  Perhaps that “nothingness” is what is needed?

Life is truly short and throughout its meteoric passage it never stops from asking us to make meaningful and life-affirming choices in all things.  If only we weren’t so spiritually and mentally deaf to the teachings we are given so freely, and all the time.  If only such would suffice to turn us from our baseless fears and selfishness that make us such bad stewards of our world and of those who need our compassion now more than ever just to survive.  If only… 

Quotes: 

“Throughout history, empires and civilizations have collapsed once they degrade the environment below its capacity to carry the human footprint imposed on the environment.” – Paul Craig Roberts

“When you are small, if you reach out, and nobody takes your hand, you stop reaching out, and reach inside, instead.” — Amanda Eyre Ward

“Nothingness is a sigh of eternity, a casual avowal of the infinite.” —  Edmond Jabès, The Book of Resemblances.

 

FIRE SPIRIT

[a short story   by Sha’Tara]

A restless wind whispers softly in the spruce on the edge of a small lake. Brightly shining stars and distant, paling northern lights cast eerie shadows in the late summer night. A great horned owl calls, answered by the howl of a timber wolf echoed over the waters. A startled killdeer gives its plaintive cry, repeated several times, then silence again. Glowing softly, a small campfire throws its own little stars into the night, their flickering, sinewy path changing to the mood of the breeze. A young woman sits near the fire, staring, unmoving, her dark eyes reflecting its dancing light. The minutes pass slowly as the stars trace their endless circle around the tail of little bear.

At a  chosen moment the woman stands and throws some broken branches upon the fire, watching intently as the flames leap up, crackling, hungry. She begins a slow dance around the edge of the fire, her bare feet moving through the drying grass, her footsteps blending with the lapping of wavelets on the shore and the sighing of the wind in the branches. She hums in a low monotone, unintelligible words passing her lips. Gradually, the song becomes more forceful. Proudly throwing back her head, her black hair cascading down her back, she lifts her hands up and starts chanting. The song rises and falls, hauntingly moving, echoes of ancient voices seeking words to an as yet unformed hope.

Her dance takes on a rhythmic pattern, her knee-length dress swaying as she approaches the fire then steps back lightly into the darkness of the trees, to reappear from another direction. Her voice rises above the trees, flowing through the rolling hills…

From the midst of the flame, a form takes shape, graying head bowed, hands held in blessing. The form addresses the dancer: “Daughter, what are you doing? Why dance with danger tonight? Why seek death? You are the hope of the people. Would you tempt the white man again and be accused of witchcraft? Would you die in his fire too? You summoned me… now answer me!”

Swaying gently, without looking at the flame, the song dying on her lips, she answers the vision: “I am your daughter. I cannot be otherwise and I have your heart also. You died to save me, mother, though I never asked it of you. Now, you are Fire Spirit. You live in the heart of the volcano at the centre of creation and possess the gifts of life and healing in full measure: would you deny me my own birthright and refuse me my homecoming?

There is nothing left here, mother. The people are ashes, spirits without homes. Those who remain are slaves eating crumbs from the hand of their conqueror. Should I fear a moment of pain and I too become a slave?

No, mother! Do not try to dissuade me. Tonight, I dance with the spirits under the stars. Tomorrow, I will dance in the fire. Then I’ll come to you and together we will prepare the medicine for the wandering spirits. We will rise with the breath of the sun in our mouths, awakening the land, shaking the ashes of the people in the winds until all becomes one and life pulses freely in the land again. I’ll see you tomorrow, mother…”

The flames died down and the vision vanished. She took up her chant and her dance, delighting in a myriad of physical sensations heightened by the knowledge that this was her last night on earth. In the morning, her relentless pursuers would find her. The angry new god would have his victim and enjoy a short-lived victory over the past. From his fire she would rise to become Fire Spirit and wrest the future from his bloody hands.