Category Archives: Remembering

Is the Owl Calling my Name?

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

Moon and stars vie for splendor
in a night sky of long ago.
It was the open prairies then,
icy snow glistening for miles around
echoing the cold crackles of ice sheets
sinking under relentless cold.

Out by the frozen pond
a skeletal cottonwood stands,
stark against the wan moonlight,
the great horned owl on a top branch
repeating his “Who? Who-who? Who!
keeping the answer to himself.

Smoke lazily rises, then settles
losing heat, mantling a straw stack
where the cattle have burrowed
to find their proximate warmth
knowing the late morning sun
will have none to give.

Far away, on the coulee trestle
the coal-fired NAR train rumbles
then lets out its eerie call:
a dinosaur knowing its time
is past and its death near,
a couple of coyotes join in,
“Yap, yap-yap-yap, Aoooo!”

These memories of mine,
what stirs them tonight?
What does my mind know
that it feels so restless?
Is the owl calling my name
beyond the woods, the river
this night? “Who, who-who?”

Is the answer: it is I?
And if it is, is the call
A welcome one? A reprieve?
All those days I have wondered,
Are they coming to their end
As things of earth must?
Do I long for such an end?

 

(NAR: Northern Alberta Railway)
(There is a belief among the central coast people of British Columbia who call themselves the ‘Kwakwaka’wakw nation, that there is a time when you can hear the owl call your name. When that happens, you are about to die. Margaret Craven wrote a fiction novel, “I Heard the Owl Call my Name” on this belief in the 1960’s – Wikepedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Heard_the_Owl_Call_My_Name)

 

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The Shared Mind

a vision, by Sha’Tara]

It is difficult at times to determine if a vision is good or bad. I suppose it can be argued that it’s all on how it makes you feel, or the effect the memory of it has. In any case you may find the following entertaining, interesting, perhaps even intriguing. Perhaps you even know what this is all about.  Perhaps this is also a part of your reality.

There was a girl on the street. A quite ordinary looking girl in scuffed runners, faded jeans and an oversized blue sweat shirt. Her dark hair was tied in a loose pony tail. How old was she? You don’t ask a woman her age.

She was kneeling by a broken vase someone had heaved out of an open window.  It’s possible it had simply fallen. There were stems of dried, long dead flowers scattered all around, and some spots of rust coloured liquid spattered the cement under the broken pieces.   Water or blood?

I watched this girl very carefully, though she could not see me. I was using a wide power pole to hide behind so I could observe the scene without disturbing anything, neither her thoughts nor her movements.

She picked up the broken vase, and carefully held it as she arranged the pieces so it would look as if it was still in one piece. It had been painted over with a cheap imitation of mother-of-pearl. So, rule out the possibility that it had been either a fancy or expensive item.  She picked up the dried flower stems and put them in the vase. Then she stared at it, unmoving for several minutes.

I waited and wondered. What was the girl thinking?  Doing?

You know those balloon things you see over the heads of people in cartoons?  I saw one of those over her head.  I saw what she was thinking.  She wasn’t thinking in words, or perhaps I didn’t know her language, but what I saw did surprise me.

There was an image in the balloon.  It was of the vase she had so carefully reassembled.  A man in an outlandish uniform was holding the vase, and it was filled with the most beautiful bunch of red roses.  He was handing it to a woman.  The woman was veiled, her face hidden behind a white lace and her hands, as she reached for the vase, were covered by white lace gloves. In contrast, she wore a floor-length black dress with a high collar. They were standing in a large room and I could tell from the man’s uniform, the woman’s dress, the curtains and pictures on the walls, that this was of another time, and of another part of the world.

What kind of past life memory had I come upon?  What old love story was being brought forth from the nether worlds by this strange and unexpected vision?

The girl on the sidewalk slowly let the broken vase slip from her hands and its pieces spread out as before.  The balloon image vanished.  She got up, holding her right hand over her eyes, found her balance and looked around.  I had stepped out from behind my hiding place and when our eyes met, I saw her eyes welling with tears, and more running down her face.

Her lips made a surprised “O” and she turned abruptly, running away from me down the street.  I looked down and there was nothing on the sidewalk, just the dirty, old, cracked cement. No broken vase, no dried up flower stems, no rust-coloured stains. Down the street, no woman running.

I knew instinctively that I had no need to go running after her and try to glean the story from her.  In my mind I knew I had seen her thoughts because I was one of her “partials” as my people explain it.  A piece of her mind linked to mine.

I will find her again and I will get the story (if I want it), whether in a restaurant, in a dream, in a vision, in a walk by a lake, in a memory, even in another life, in a lovers’ embrace, none of those particulars matters.  We are linked in a shared mind, that’s what matters. It’s what I needed corroboration for: the shared mind theory.

I Lived and Died, Then

Remembrances of a young French woman

by Sha’Tara

The resurgence of Fascism, or Neo Nazism is not something I could easily ignore. This past life piece of an autobiography will explain why that is such an important issue for me. At least that’s what I mean to happen. I have to put heavy restraints on my feelings in order to get this written in some proper chronology. The following is difficult, and painful, to recall and to recount here, even now, at this time and in this life.

Let me take you back to those years of which so much history, so many stories and movies have been written and made, beginning in 1940, and for me, ending in 1943.

In 1940 I was living in eastern France, on the border with Belgium near Mont St. Martin. I was 23 years old, married to a heavy set, tall, abusive drunkard and had no children. My name was Helene Matthieu, nee DuPre. For me the draft had been a God-send as it had taken Henri away from me. What happened to him subsequent to his going to war against Germany I cannot say. I never saw him again, nor heard from him. It may sound callous but I never regretted his disappearance. But then as you will read, those were strange times.

Suddenly though not unexpectedly my small world was invaded by the Germans. I was out on the street of our town to watch the Panzers rolling through, as were just about everybody else in town. The pretty girls were noticed, as I was. Before I knew it I had made the acquaintance of some very handsome, gorgeous German soldiers. One thing to another and I was introduced to the general staff, and promised that I’d be in Paris within the month. I had nothing; there were refugees everywhere. The future looked bleak and Paris was a powerful attractant for someone like myself. I needed this event to disappear from Mont St. Martin. How could someone like me have any idea what living under the Wermacht-SS coalition was going to devolve into?

Subsequently, with my Wermacht contacts I did make my way to Paris after the cessation of overt hostilities. It was a breath of fresh air. Full of their superiority and success, the Germans were gallant to a fault though some were pushy – men are men, whatever they wear, whatever language they speak. I didn’t mind, none of the other girls did either or we would have found ways to return where we came from – though I would never call it home. Paris became my home.

My luck kept up with me. I knew how to drive, even recklessly, so I was trained and hired as a driver for the general staff, mostly to run errands, sometimes to deliver messages. Some of those drives took me to areas bordering the Channel – which we call “La Manche” as you probably know. Though the war raged across the Channel and I heard about it, the horror of what the English, especially in London, had to sustain didn’t come down to us. Our news were carefully filtered, you can imagine. Still for me, the rest of 1940 and to the Summer of 1941 were a good year.

Though I could not know it however, my own black clouds were gathering and these good years were to become the sort of good year you experience reading a romance novel, not in a real life.

Things, strange and troubling, were happening around me. My German friends remained friendly but my mood changed. I saw people taken out of their homes, beaten and taken prisoner. They were Jews and those who had harboured them. Then I saw ordinary French people, including women and children, rounded up and summarily shot. My fear and anger grew day by day though I did not show it. I was beginning to think of a way I could help some of these people being taken away. I had passes and access to Wermacht vehicles. And often enough I was sent to the coast where the great defenses against a sea invasion were being built. The vehicles I drove were large with lots of room inside where a couple of people could hide. My passes meant I’d never be searched.

It was late in 1941, early Winter, when a young man with a bicycle was standing near the entrance to the flat I shared with another woman. He watched me as I unlocked the door to enter, then rushed up, grabbed me, pushed me inside and closed the door – so quickly I had no time to even think of screaming. I fell to the floor, he on top of me. He held me in a stranglehold and had one hand on my mouth. “Shhh!” he said and made the throat cutting gesture. I went limp, waiting, petrified, sure he was going to kill me.

Je suis avec la Resistance” he said. That was enough. Already several women who “collaborated” with the Germans had disappeared. We had one chance to remain alive: join the Resistance and work to defeat the Reich. When he allowed me to speak I told him I had already decided to do that. He knew all about me and what I did so he was cautiously relieved. “Je ne voulais pas the couper la gorge, tu es trop belle.” (I didn’t want to slit your throat, you’re too pretty.)

And so began a terrible cat and mouse game. I was able to carry documents to the coast along with a few terrified Jews and Gypsies, mostly children. There were contact points and small boats came in the dead of night under fog to pick up escapees and survivors. I have to say, as memory serves here, that the English people who came thus to help were probably the bravest and most honourable people imaginable. What a contrast with my swaggering “hosts” in Paris. From today, from another life, once again: Thank you, English water folks.

Such serendipity cannot last. Predictably my clandestine operations were discovered. I was stopped, searched, arrested by the SS only three months (give or take) into my new life as a “Resistante.”

I will not, cannot, describe the sort of tortures they did to me. I’ll tell you the rest from a different viewpoint, from this life.

It is common for children to have terribly frightening nightmares. The most common is the kind where you try to run away from someone, or something terrible and you cannot get up to speed. Something always holds you back, forces you to just drag along. I had those, and another kind where I was walking in a gloomy landscape bathed in greenish light. All around me were those gaping round holes. I had to try to escape by walking around them or jumping a cross them over very narrow ledges. Each step threatened death. But as a child I had a third kind of recurring nightmare, one I could not share with anyone, it was just too hellish and I didn’t, couldn’t, understand why I could see such a thing.

In this repetitive nightmare I saw a young woman chained to a cement wall, spreadeagled. She was naked and there was blood on her skin. Her hair was matted and she either screamed, or moaned. The wall was part of a small, squarish cement room and in the middle was a table. There were usually three men in the room. Two were soldiers in uniforms and oh yes, I did recognize those! The third man, quite older, sat at the table and spoke to the woman. If she answered, she was beaten by one of the other two. If she did not answer, she was beaten, sometimes savagely whipped with a sort of belt.

Years passed and I grew up. The usual nightmares stopped, but not this one. It only became more real, with more details as I could now reason why this woman was being tortured and what they were doing to her, including raping her time and again.

In the late eighties, while under the instructions of “The Teachers” as I call them, the one called “El Issa” – a small woman with a keen interest in all the things of earth – asked me about my nightmare. “Do you know yet what that is all about?” I said no, no idea, but it is very personal and poignant. What does it mean?

She said, I waited to tell you because I wanted you to understand the meaning of true forgiveness. Now I will tell you who the woman is and what happened to her. Her name is (not was) Helene Matthieu. You have been looking at a few scenes of your immediate past life, that’s why I say “is” – for you, all these events exist in real time. You are here, but you are there also. And in many other places, as you will now discover with your power to delve into past lives and perhaps if you are diligent, into future lives as well.

I will finish this story for you. The SS tortured you mercilessly because to them you were the ultimate traitor. They had taken you in and you betrayed the hand that fed you. So you had to pay a heavier price, you see? They raped you in that cell and you became pregnant. They watched as you grew, then they systematically beat you until you aborted. They made you watch that dead child. They burned it in front of you. There were more tortures. Eventually they didn’t even want your answers, they’d gotten all they’d get from you and got nowhere. You were and are, a very stubborn individual. They just continued to torture you until late in the Summer of 1943 you finally gave up fighting to stay alive and died. You were then twenty six years old and you joined millions of other young women who died in similar circumstances: the costs of war; collateral damage.

There is much more to this story; this past life remembrance that is so vivid it may as well be of this life. There is the whole aspect of forgiveness which the event was used by El Issa to stamp into my consciousness. I have written about this here and there, and probably will again. But it’s got to be for another time, this is already so long. And as always when I delve into that time, I feel extremely wiped, mind tired. Thank you for reading. I’m not asking that you accept the reality of other lives – that’s a personal awareness.  Sha’Tara, aka, ~burning woman~

Confessions on War Day

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

Have you ever had those moments in time when you just can’t get out of your own mind?  It’s like those dreadful days at the corporation they call “stock taking” where the business is literally shut down and everybody is expected to become, if not an accountant, at least a counting machine.  The word “boring” doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Fortunately for some of us, we were the “cutting edge” of techie support, always on call and if Lady Luck was in the mood for granting us a boon, we’d get an emergency call, preferably from some McDonald restaurant with a problem that would take at least a day or so to resolve.  We’d make sure to call in the reserves on that day, make friends all around… I digress…

In the many pigeon holes that make up the mind, there’s one large one, generally and thankfully covered over with cobwebs where we file personal information we’re not so fond of, memories of less than scintillating performances among kin, clan, fellow and fellowette students, co-workers, and drib-drabs of conversations held after mass on the church porch while our priest walked around the disappearing crowd shaking hands and soaking up congrats on his sermon.

Taking a huge leap here: I’m in one of those “stock-taking” phases, so I may as well clear the cobwebs and start pulling out the scrolls, rolls and polls.  If you already know even just a little bit about me, you know I’m inclined to tell stories.  I’ve always been able to do that and convince myself that a well told story passed off as truth isn’t a lie, it’s a skill.  It’s art.  I figure that as long as I’m not using it to suck money from the unsuspecting, no one’s hurt.  Mostly it makes it easier to live with myself, whoever that is, I’m still looking for whomever stands behind the mirror.  I don’t like surprises so I cling to my stories so that I never realize that the character behind my mirror is a crazily grinning rattling skeleton.

Be that as it may, if I have to be honest here, after scanning through some of the memory rolls I have to admit that for about half of my life I was an insufferable egotist.  I enjoyed being “in charge” and calling other people short on their performance.  I’m being truthful now, the stories will resume again later.  For the second part of my life unto this day, well, despite a lot of life changing moves, I remain a driving bitch.  I get an idea, see?  I put it through the meat grinder, observe what’s left and woe unto my immediate world if anything remains that shows it’s a valid thought.  I say what I mean and mean what I say.

I did learn this though, and that is to not impose a “new idea” upon the world until I’ve fully tested it.  If it’s going to blow anyone up, it should after all be me, not some poor unsuspecting victim.  So, you’ll ask with bated (baited?  Nah, let’s stick with the other spelling), what’s the new idea then?

I’m going to close off the memory hole now, having taken stock and looking a bit green, and let’s talk about that new idea.

In keeping with the “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God” here, this isn’t a story.  The new idea isn’t new at all.  I’ve already been bashing all and sundry with for quite some time, and I call it compassion.  “Oh yeah… (yawn) don’t we know it.  All that stuff about compassion being the great idea to save the world, and how it is incompatible with love.  Can’t you talk about something else?”

I suppose I could but remember I said, “No story: the straight goods this time.”  Yes, I am being annoying.  Yes, I am proposing a world-changing concept that people in general will do all in their power to deny, refuse outright or insist on mixing with a whole lot of sugar so it tastes basically the same as any other world changing concept ever presented to be played with and dog-fought over and thankfully amount to nothing more than establishing another money-sucking group or collective with a colourful title and great mission statement.

The sugar in this case is called love.  A cornucopia of beautiful white granules that can be spread over, or melted in, just about any other idea confection to make it palatable or even a delicacy.  Love, man’s greatest of all feel-good drug.  A spoon-full before sex legitimizes a terribly taboo performance and makes it feel even better.  A meal or two of it just before plunging in the battle of the Somme or the Gallipoli campaign.

Yes, of course love is the great sweetener of war.  No one goes to war just to kill an enemy, or just to be killed.  There aren’t that many outright psychopaths out there, or assisted suicide hopefuls.  Of course not.  And we have, at least in the West, November 11 to be reminded that our wars were and remain wars of love.  Love is what made those “fools” rush in where angels would never tread.  Love in defense of the home land and to keep our loved ones safe from a barbaric enemy.  Does it matter if your commanders, your leaders, are themselves obvious psychos and often the real aggressors?  Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do or die.  We do it for love.  Then we die in love, in heaps and heaps of love.  What I don’t understand is, why are these heroes of love mourned when they should be cheered while we do all that we can to ensure we too get to embark upon another warring love adventure and die for love?  Could it be there’s something not quite right with the picture?

My father, for all his faults, was a veteran of WWII.  He participated in the complete defeat of the French army in 1940, was finally captured and sent to a German prisoner of war camp.  There, despite unbelievable conditions and near starvation, he survived, met people from all over the conquered world and interacted also with German soldiers.  Surprise: they were no different than he was, if only better fed and better educated.  He rubbed shoulders with other Third Reich slaves: gypsies, not yet slated for the slaughter, communists, homosexuals, writers, philosophers, any sort the Reich saw as dangerous enemies and would squeeze to death in the war effort.  Dad, being a great communicator, made friends where it mattered and basically talked his way out of the camp and returned to Brittany to work the fields growing food for the German army holding the coast.  From there into the underground (tracer bullets, he said, are really scary shit) and from there to become a landless and penniless recently married family man forced to emigrate to Canada to try and make a living.  Love was in short supply in the real war and post-war world so maybe I learned to function without much of it myself.

So you see, I’m not the one who’s spreading bullshit stories by proposing we give “love” a break, cast it adrift, and look for something a bit more realistic upon which to build a future.  We’ve already spent all the love we could through our endless wars, and we’re expending a whole lot of that sugary nonsense in the Middle East right now.  We’re eager to cover North Korea with war-love sugar and those crazies don’t understand and want none of it.  Can’t they see how well our love has worked to this day?  Can’t they marvel at how our love wars have made the world a wonderful, humane, free, clean, safe, world where no one need ever again worry about waking up starving, to be blown up or on the wrong side of some great big beautiful wall?

Assuming I’m being just a tad sarcastic, do you see why I would propose we look at something else, something other than, something we’ve never, ever tried in its unadulterated state?  It’s so simple.
a) stop defending love as a legitimate form of interrelationship.  Admit it doesn’t work.  Let it go.  Don’t worry, it won’t go far.  It will keep braying at the barn door day after day to be re-admitted and fed in the hope of engendering new conflicts.
b) just think about compassion, nothing else, as the means to change the world.   Define it for yourself without, just this once, throwing a pinch of it in the mixing bowl amongst a heaping pile of sugary love and calling it compassion.  Try it raw, show your mettle.

That’s the challenge from this honest certifiable bitch.

The alternative is simple: find another means of change that can accomplish the same thing without all the bother of self empowerment, detachment and willingness to give to all who ask; or declare that it is preferable to stick with the tried and failed because, well, it’s what you’re used to and it’s comfortable this way.

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

Benny

[a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Benny sat by the river that flowed past the house, just beyond the back yard.  He was tossing small twigs in the water, watching them float away and he was trying to remember so he’d know who he was.  

His memories were all a jumble in his head and they usually frightened him.  He thought he remembered a couple, a man and a woman who were very loud and made him scream.  He remembered hurting and feeling guilty for that.  Then the woman would hurt him more but he never understood why.  He remembered being cold, dirty and hungry.

One day when he was alone in the yard and crying, hurting and hungry, a nice smelling woman came to him and picked him up.  She took him away from the bad people and he never saw them again.  Then an old man came to see him where he played with other children.  The old man took him away from there to a house that had trees around it, green grass, and at the back of the house, water flowed.  The old man would hold his hand and let him lean over the water.  Leaves and twigs floated on the water and down below the rocks shimmered and danced, changing colours.

Benny liked it with the old man.  He grew up and the old man said he was his maternal grandfather.  He explained about his daughter, who was Benny’s mother, how she was addicted to drugs and drank and how she liked running around with bad men.  One of those men was his father.  He explained that it was that man who had hurt him and that he was in prison.  Benny tried to understand all that when he got older but he liked the water better.

The old man, his grandfather whom he learned to call “granpa” taught him about the water.  “It’s called a river” he’d say, “it is very pretty but it is also very dangerous.  Even for a good swimmer, it’s a fast running stream and a person can easily drown in it, do you understand that?”

Benny had learned when only a baby to agree, no matter what was asked; to do what he was told or there would be consequences.  “I understand granpa,” he dutifully replied. 

But the water was more alive than anything else had ever been for Benny.  It would sing to him in a language he could understand.  It didn’t scare him like people did, or make terrible noises like street traffic.  It never hurt him and it was even more gentle than granpa.  If he felt thirsty, there was a log that dropped down into the water.  He could carefully walk down to the water, then scoop the cold water into his mouth.  It was so easy and simple, he’d laugh whenever he did this.

There were very large trees that grew by the river’s banks that bent their heavy, luxuriant tops over the water and swayed in the wind.  During the warm seasons the leaves would come, then slowly at first, when still green, they would fall in the water and speed away.  Benny liked looking up into the green canopies waiting for a leaf to get tired of hanging on to its branch, let go, and flutter down to the water to be swept away.  Later, as the leaves changed from green to brown, yellow or even red and green, more and more of them would fall away from the branches and float down to the water to also be swept away.  If a strong wind came up there would be cascades of leaves falling, covering the ground and the top of the water.  That thrilled Benny as he stood under the falling leaves with outstretched hands. 

Some days when he was really happy, Benny imagined himself a leaf floating down to the water and being swept away.  He knew granpa meant well to warn him about the water but if the leaves weren’t afraid, why should he?  He though of asking granpa, but that would be like disobeying and Benny remembered what that meant.  He felt the deep fear of the pain he had been given when disobeying the man and woman who were his parents.  If he questioned granpa, he knew he would be beaten and locked up and made to go cold and hungry.  I mustn’t say anything, but if I float away then no one will hurt me.

A leaf fluttered down noisily, landing for a moment at Benny’s foot then sliding down into the water to spin away.  Benny followed the leaf and the river took him away. 

Perhaps, why Romantic Love Fails

{a change of topic, though perhaps not so alien to my usual posts in meaning.  Think: self-empowerment… again or at least, serious choice.}

The title, then, is:  “Perhaps, why Romantic Love Fails”  and let’s be generous and add “most of the time, not always, not automatically.”  

Bracing myself here, this should, or could, bring “romantic love” experts out of the woodwork to offer their own experiences, or beliefs, to praise or castigate, and all of that is totally fine by me.

 “Oh love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me. I’ll be anybody you want me to be.” — Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters.

Imagine the amount of energy it takes to keep this up, to be “anything you want me to be” to someone, just for the fleeting sensual moment of feeling loved. Who then is really being loved when the ploy works? The pretender, the imitator, the parrot, the ghost: an elaborate illusion.  Not me, not the real me, just the character played by the actress. 

Any wonder romantic love so often fails?  

He isn’t loving me, he’s loving the pretence I serve him from morning ‘til night and the moment I can no longer sustain the illusion, he loses interest and perhaps rightfully, blames me for his disinterest.

“You’ve changed,” he’ll say. And right he is. Under the pressure of time and expectations, I gradually drop the illusion with which I ensnared him and I become myself, someone he’d never had a chance to get to know.

Perhaps if I hadn’t been so eager to “get him” and satisfy my longing by serving him with an illusion?

Perhaps if I had had the wisdom to look into the future to those times and event when I could see the illusion would be unsustainable; perhaps if I’d been courageous enough to show him who I really was, he may have loved me for myself, and we might have had something more than a staged performance…

Perhaps, and that’s the saddest realization of all, if he’d seen the real me he may have loved me for myself and never experienced disillusionment.  

Perhaps, like so many in my situation, I’ve been an idiot, turning myself out as a zip-lock bag of bait instead of the solid full meal deal I could have been; that I really was.

Perhaps, but perhaps is a lot like “if” and as Roger Whittaker sang, “No, I don’t believe in if anymore, if’s an illusion, if’s an illusion!”

So, I let the illusion go and live alone.  It’s not so bad once you get used to it and you have a few friends who don’t live in expectations of you pulling rabbits out of fancy hats.  Also, I must admit, love, however ephemeral, did have its compensations.  I had some really good times.  

I choose to remember the good loving times.  As to the separations, and I’ve known a few, the first was extremely bitter, then each one after that became easier, more natural, rather expected.  The thing about us is, we can get used to anything, even learning to enjoy experiences that at the outset appear unthinkable and disastrous.  

Looking back and thinking, if I were a few decades younger, would I fall in love again? Oh yes, definitely, for a great evening of being taken out to dinner, dancing, or the opera; for a night of pure heedless bliss with or without a full moon, and a sweet goodbye in the morning.  

Oh yes, I would fall in love… and fall in love… and fall in love… and make each fall redemptive.  In between, I would live alone in a world that is all mine.