Tag Archives: fiction

The Garbage Man – Part III

Continuing with the story, “The Garbage Man”.  What was to be a short story has taken off on me and is well on its way to becoming another fantasy novel.  No idea where it is going either.  I hope you do enjoy it.  The title will eventually change and Lotharic, you will discover, will return to his earlier name, Edgar, not only by popular request but because Beanna prefers it.  Oh, and the name, Allay is pronounced “Ally.”  And typos may be lurking where least expected… Otherwise, let’s see what dreams may come.

{start of part III}

“I feel so terribly cold…”

Lotharic brought Beanna out of the transition trance and explained: “I took you between worlds and it was your body that felt the cold of abandonment. We cannot travel thus physically. Whenever we enter the astral worlds we must leave our physical bodies behind.”

“So, my question about why we simply do not slip into the astral when confronted with dangerous enemies is answered isn’t it? They would simply kill us in the physical and we could never return and never leave the astral, forever stuck between worlds?”

“Yes, that’s explains it, for now, but there is more to it.”

“Fine, now I’m an Allaya, why don’t I feel or look any different?”

“Allaya in title, not in fact. I must begin your training now, at least as far as I can. You will need a full Allaya to complete it.”

“You said none are left alive here.”

“That is correct, but “here” is not the only meeting place. There is the astral. We will deal with that when the time comes.”

Gradually a grey line appeared on the eastern horizon and details of the landscape began to emerge. They encountered a dry creek bed and followed it, thus somewhat hidden from distant prying eyes.

“This bed has moisture in it, we should find a pool soon. I’m terribly thirsty… You know we are heading into the high country?”

“Are you sure, Bea?”

“This is my country now, Loth. We will have to cross some high hills, then if we continue north-east we will come to the sea, and a sizeable port. Much opportunity there for people like us.”

“I am curious. What are ‘people like us’ to you?”

“You know, warriors and entertainers. Men are always fascinated by me and love to make outrageous bets against the chances a small woman like myself has against a burly sailor or soldier, or an agile shepherd. Even if some get seriously damaged, it’s their own stupidity to blame, and I make good money at it. The trick is to escape with that money. But now there’s the two of us, and you are pretty handy with that staff. We pair up, we’re un-defeatable, well, within reason. We can easily handle the four on two. There’s always very high odds on that game. Sometimes it’s to the death but beggars can’t always choose, huh?”

“You sound eager to engage such combats, Bea?”

“It’s what has kept me training, and consequently, alive. A young girl, alone, in this land has no chance at all but to end up in a brothel or put on a ship to be sold as a slave on the mainland. To survive she has to have something going for her, and she has to make that happen on her own. The men don’t care what becomes of me after taking their pleasure and profit, so I don’t care if I kill them to get my own pleasure and profit. Tit for tat, my friend. And really Loth, don’t you see I’m still the victim even if I win? I can never be free to be myself, they won’t let me.”

“Interesting. What would it mean to be yourself? Who would you be?”

“I would care. I would love. I would protect, heal, and feed. If I were myself, I’d be a giver, never a taker. I would most certainly not go about armed. What keeps me going is hopelessness; the knowing that things cannot change, and the hate I nurture against such a world and what it forces me to be. I cannot love. My mother did and it killed her. I don’t wish to die a victim if there is a chance I can fight and defeat those who would destroy me. I smell water. Let’s be alert: pools attract animals, including the two legged kind.”

Lotharic pulled his staff, gripped it and shook it, loosening his arm muscles. Bea unslung her bow, strung it and pulled three arrows from the quiver, placing one lightly on the string, pulling and sighting in a sweeping arc. They approached the source of water slowly, quietly.

Voices. A sudden bit of breeze brought the strong smell of sheep. Shepherds or poachers? They stepped up out of the creek bed and in the growing daylight they counted four men and about two dozen sheep. Bea and Lotharic crept up to hear their conversation. Soon they knew these were poachers. They had killed two sheherds to steal what sheep they could before the main herd ran off. They were discussing how to sell their stolen goods without getting hanged in the process.

“We go west. There’s a town down there, maybe a day away driving these stupid animals.”

“Is there a guard there?”

“Yes, but they are easily bribed. They don’t much care what goes on in the countryside.”

“How do you know this?”

“I lived there for a time, hauling stones. There’s a girl there too I wouldn’t mind seeing again. The town’s the place to go being closest, or all this is for naught.”

Lotharic nudged Bea and whispered: “We have to take them down, they’re murderers and they will kill more people if we don’t stop them. This is bow work. Do it!”

The short but powerful bow twanged and one of the bandits fell, an arrow through the heart. It twanged again and another screamed and fell with an arrow through the left eye. The other two threw themselves on the ground using their fallen comrades as shields. An arm with a sword came up, the bow twanged and the arm had an arrow through the wrist. Another blood curdling scream followed. Lotharic slid down from their hiding place and ran to the last bandit who jumped up with a staff of his own and stood ready.

“Hold Bea, this one is mine. What’s your name, fellow?” He casually parried a thrust from the bandit’s staff, who then backed away a step to prepare a new attack. “I said, what’s your name? You tell me that, and the story about these stolen animals and who knows, you die quickly, painlessly. You say nothing and this girl coming down the embankment there has ways to make men talk. You can’t begin to imagine the pain she is about to inflict on you. She’s a real artist about it. Know this, that either way, you are a dead man.”

Another attack, just as easily parried, then a blow from Lotharic so swift the bandit has no time to parry and his left arm is broken. Another scream, of pain and impotent rage. Lotharic disarms him as if it was the most casual thing in the world for anyone to do. The bandit falls to the ground, sitting and grimacing while holding his broken arm. Meanwhile Bea has pulled out a short dagger from inside her boot and dispatched her winged bandit cleanly and has already begun going through their belongings for anything of value.

The last surviving bandit is trussed up, none too gently and amidst screams of pain, against a sturdy thorn bush growing from the stream bank, the inch-long thorns doing their own work to prevent much thrashing. The broken arm is left dangling, a useful incentive in an interrogation.

“Let’s give him some time to think things over, Loth. I’m going to have a long drink, then there’s some decent food in these packs and I’m hungry. We didn’t have any breakfast and small bodies are inconvenient in that they don’t go far on empty stomachs. What did you think of my bow work?”

“Not bad, but I’ve seen better.” He winked at her to diffuse her immediate rising anger. She knew her skills in archery were second to none, having won enough trophies to prove it. He would speak to her later about her pride and again, her impulsiveness. The Allaya training must begin but he must let her be herself for awhile yet so she can later compare her own nature to that of a fully empowered Allaya. It would be a long and difficult transformation, he feared.

After sating themselves, making sure the sheep were settled, eating and resting a bit, they turned their attention to the suffering bandit, a scruffy, weathered character of indeterminate age, with a prominent scar across the face and long scraggly hair. No past, no future. A human derelict surviving on the labour and blood of others.

“I’ve created a rather baleful reputation to this man for you Bea. If I leave him to you, you won’t disappoint me, will you? I, we, need crucial information from him, so he has to live long enough to give it and frankly I don’t care how you get it, just get it. We need to know where these sheep come from, and where the shepherds’ bodies are and how long ago this dastardly deed was committed. Have at it, artist.”

We, of our comfortable ways, with our laws and police, may be somewhat disappointed that our heroes would turn out to be such cold blooded individuals that they could horribly torture another for information. But before we carry our judgment too far, let’s remember the times, the places, the circumstances delineating how the people of that land interacted with one another. Internecine warfare was endemic. Gangs of bandits roamed the countryside, most of them formed by dispossessed individuals who had themselves seen family, children, lovers, friends, decimated, tortured, raped and enslaved by conquerors. In these times, you gave an inch, you died, seldom painlessly. I’m writing this down to remind the reader not to carry judgment of actions taken here based on her or his current reality. Although things never really change, there are cycles when overt violence dwindles for a time, or simply moves to another action theatre, for earth is a place of much bloody drama. If you are of those now living in a land that is experiencing a lessening of violence, just be thankful but remember, it’s a cycle. What was, will be.

“What’s your name?” It was Bea’s turn to ask. Instead of replying he tried to spit in her face.

“Sorry, incorrect response. For each incorrect response I must perform a reminder.” She grabbed the broken arm and bent it backward, trying to avoid being deafened by the following scream.

“Good. Your name is ‘Scream.’ An appropriate name. So, Scream, tell me, when did you and your dead friends kill the sheep’s shepherds?” Only deep breathing and silence answered.

“Another inappropriate response. If I have to change your name from Scream to Silence, that will only count against you. Silence is inadmissible. So, what comes next? Cutting? Yes, I think that cutting would be an incentive. Let’s start with the clothes, they get in the way of seeing what one is accomplishing, don’t you think? Oh, I forgot, you’re Silence now. Fine.

With Lotharic watching, she proceeded to cut open shirt and trousers, and pulled his shoes off. More screaming as she roughly pulled off the shirt’s sleeve off the broken arm. Then she removed the rest of his clothing and looked at his pathetic nakedness.

“It’s ugly, but there is much to choose from here. Shall I perform a castration? You know, I saw that done on a few occasions in public squares on poor blokes less guilty of crimes than you. So I won’t feel any regrets here.”

She grabbed the man’s genitals and penis and dragged the cold blade of her dagger across the skin as she pulled outwardly. The man groaned, then uttered a guttural, “NO!”

“It’s a miracle. It talks! Silence talks. I guess we go back to Scream then, hey? Scream is so much more fun. She yanked on his package, squeezed, and was given a healthy scream.

“Good. It’s working. Now where do I start cutting? Let’s see. Snip the balls, slowly, one after the other. That’s how I remember it being done.” She makes a bloody cut across the base of the scrotum. More screams.

“I don’t care for screams, Scream. I want some simple information. When did you steal the sheep? Why won’t you tell me? You have nothing to lose and much to gain. You’re going to die by my own hands, either swiftly and painlessly, or in long, long, very painful moments. My next cut is going to open your sack and I’m going to slice off your balls. It’s traditional to stuff them in your mouth but I can’t do that, seeing as I need you to be able to speak, so maybe I’ll cook them and if you get hungry…huh?”

The bandit retched and tossed against the thorn. Blood appeared where the spines did their work.

“I… No!”

“Ah! so you are protecting others. I thought so. Well, let’s see what they’re worth to you.”

She sliced off his genitals and placed them on a flat stone where he could look at them. Then she returned to the shaking body and made tiny cuts in the skin wherever she dragged the razor-sharp dagger’s tip, all the while maintaining a soliloquy.

“I’m not done down there yet, but I’m saving the penis for later. Now I’m trying to find a piece of skin to remove that would cause extreme pain. Maybe a breast, what do you say, Scream? I’m sure it will make you live up to your name. Once more: when did you kill the shepherds and take their sheep? A simple question. It’s not that we couldn’t figure it out but this is better, giving you a chance to redeem a bit of yourself before you shake hands with Old Grim. He’s going to be your master for eternity you know. OK, I’m cutting now.”

Amid the twisting and screaming, the breast and associated skin came slowly off, blood running freely down the body. Bea then poked the dagger in the bloody hole, eliciting even more excruciatingly unbearable pain.

“I just want some answers, Scream. You are the one in charge here. You can avoid all this rather unpleasant business by telling me what I want to know. Think about it while I prepare the next little surprise. She walked to a pack and brought out a shirt. Cutting off some of the fabric, she rolled in some dry leaves and tied it to the man’s penis. Then she made a small torch and lit it in the poachers’ fire. She waved it in the man’s face and showed him what she was about to do.

“That’s right. I’m going to light up your joy stick. That should make you want to dance. Once more, how long ago did you kill those shepherds and steal their sheep? No? OK, I can be patient, but not all in a row. Besides, I’m eager to see how my little torchlight ceremony works as I’ve never seen that done. Ready?”

“No!”

“Wrong answer.”

She lit up the dangling torch and was rewarded with some truly offensive cursing and screams. Then suddenly, silence. Total, complete silence, as the fire kept burning and spreading a smell of cooking flesh. She looked up and saw that the man had passed out. She couldn’t work out in her mind whether she was disappointed, or relieved.

“He’s passed out. I need some water to throw on him, bring him back.”

Lotharic, who had been wandering about for a while now, checking the landscape, watching for anyone approaching, came to inspect the inert body. He moved his hand expertly over the heart, neck and throat.

“Your man’s dead, Bea. There’s things a body, even a healthy one, can’t take. The heart stopped.”

“We didn’t get any information.” Matter of fact voice.

“We never needed any, Bea. I was testing your resolve, and comparing your current state of mind to that of a full fledged Allaya. I am going to explain something deep and terrible to you later. For now we have to bury these bodies. There’s an old talus slope over there. The rocks are loose enough we can stack the bodies inside a cavity and cause a rock slide over them.”

They dragged the bodies to the cavity and buried them under rock and dirt. Bea then cleaned herself up, re-stacked her arrows with great care, unstrung her bow and slipped it in its holder next to the quiver. It was only when she bent down to scoop some water to drink and wash her hands that she noticed they were shaking violently. She rushed away from the pool and threw up. Only then did she become fully aware of what she had done.

“Are you sick, Bea?”

“Yes… No. I’m filled with hate and disgust at myself and this world. Right now I want to commit seppuku.” As she was talking, she pulled the short sword from its scabbard and flexed it. Lotharic came up quietly behind her and held her, pinning her sword arm.

“Put the sword away, Beanna. What happened here, none of it was your fault, or even your doing. I manipulated your thoughts and feelings to expose your darkest side. It was necessary. Now, together, we will work on bringing out the compassionate, caring, loving Allaya. We will transform you. But again, let me emphasize: you needed to see for yourself; to experience, the depth of evil you are capable of as a human being. What you saw and did today is true for your entire race, or species. It is who and what you are. Some of you, particularly women and children hide it well from themselves, but the “good” among you are the exceptions and your goodness is always artificially produced. You are not naturally good, but rather always bend towards evil. Soon you will understand and fully accept that. The Allay and Allaya knew this fact about Earthians before they agreed to come here. We thought we understood the risks of course.”

{End of Part III – 180113}

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The Garbage Man – PART II

(Continuing then, with the story of the Garbage Man.)

A half mile and two rolling hills later Beanna and Edgar sighted the town. It wasn’t terribly fortified, having a combination of a low rock wall with an opening for the road, some part of the outer perimeter protected by a sluggish river and the rest a simple wooden palisade. At the gate stood two watchmen awaiting the arrival of this unknown pair.

They were questioned after a fashion, made to open their packs, instructed on the curfew and directed towards the town’s only inn, the Windward Sailor. After thanking and bribing the guards, they proceeded on to the Inn. Beanna chuckled as they passed the forge and its fires were banked, the smith having left for the day, either gone home or to the inn. Edgar gave her a closed-lipped smile. The inn welcomed them with a blast of warm air from its huge fireplace. Sure enough, it was burning coal, and a very large coal shuttle stood by half full.

Coal” was all the “ward” whispered and stuck her elbow in Edgar’s ribs. From here on, the ward would be silent as “he” was mute. The boy was ogled by all the men as if somehow they suspected the subterfuge but no one challenged them. Perhaps the sight of the iron tipped staves, the strange sword and short bow of unusual design on the ward’s back spoke loudly enough to the fact that a challenge may not bring about the expected results.

The meal, eaten on a bench with their backs to the wall, was coarse but filling and Edgar paid without complaining. Then he asked about a room. They were shown a small garret room on the third level. Cold and not very comfortable with its low ceiling and it’s one and only bed, but it had a good view of the road coming in and passing through the town. Acceptable for two very tired travellers. The price was settled upon and breakfast was ordered and prepaid also.

Only after they were certain no one else was on that level did Beanna speak, and that very low. “I won the wager, O Master,” she lightly mocked.

He whispered back, “So you did Bean, although the forge had been active earlier and we can’t be sure it was inn smoke and not forge smoke you smelled, can we. It should be a draw but I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Now, if you insist on full payment I must warn you that your life is about to change in ways you cannot even begin to imagine.”

How so?” she replied, eying the bed. He could see how totally exhausted she was. He grabbed her and lifting her as if she’d been a feather, laid her on the bed, covering her with the heavy hide that passed for a blanket.

Sleep now. We must up and away before dawn and you must be fully rested. Here, let me pull your boots.”

She didn’t struggle but let him, mumbling, “What about breakfast?”

Misdirection. They will not expect us to leave without our paid breakfast and won’t come up to wake us until sometimes after dawn by which time we will be into the hills again.”

If it must be so” … she replied and promptly fell into a deep sleep.

The man then covered over the small window with another hide. He pulled a small globe from his pack and held it in his right hand, closing his hand over it, facing down. He held his left hand open, palm out in a kind of greeting gesture. Gradually his right hand began to emit a dull reddish glow as the object lit up inside his fist. He sighed but did not move. Several minutes went by. Suddenly the light winked out. He opened his hand and placed the small object back in his pack. Then he took the hide down, surveyed the sleeping town for any untoward movement. Seeing none and obviously satisfied with his experience with the glowing ball, stretched himself silently upon the hard wooden floor, pulled the hide over himself and he too went to sleep, his staff cradled in his left arm.

Sometime in the night Beanna was gently awakened and told to get up. She rubbed her eyes but saw nothing in the room’s pitch dark. She felt a draft and looked to the window. It was wide open and in the night’s glow could see a rope over the sill.

What…?…”

Shhh. Quiet. There’s a passing guard detail below. When all clear you will descend the rope to the street and tug it twice to let me know you’re secure and safe. Then I will come down with our gear.”

I would rather take my own pack,” she whispered.

Very well. Just don’t accidentally bang on anything, especially a window. And watch the street. Keep your ears opened, breathe lightly and regularly. Go!”

The agile girl made the street in record time and signalled. Edgar followed after a fashion, first dropping the rope then closing the window then scampering across the inn roof, down a weather vane pole, a stable roof, a gable and lightly falling to the street. He gave a short whistle that brought Beanna, though she had her sword out and ready to use.

Come. Put your sword away and we’re off. Did you bring the rope?”

She handed him the rope and they headed back the way they had entered the town, running lightly and silently. At the entrance to the wall they found one female sentry sound asleep. Taking her key they opened the gate, replaced the key, closed the gate behind themselves and vanished in the night. They walked out from the town across country, then turned and resumed the direction they had been on the previous day.

They won’t imagine we’d leave the way we came. If they feel alarmed they’ll send a guard detail to the northeast and they’ll be on the road, so we’ll be able to see them before they spot us. They’ll be intent on scanning the road ahead, not the fields. Smell anything, Bea?” He asked, wondering if his change of nickname would please her more. It did and she commented on it.

Ah, I like that name better. Yes, I could be a bee, your bee! Bees make honey, is that what you were thinking? And no, I don’t smell anything but earth and plants breathing the night air. It’s cold though…”

We keep on at this pace, we should be fine. When we find a cottage, we’ll try to buy some food and maybe find a straw stack to finish our sleep in. You need more sleep than you’ve been getting of late.”

We have a bargain to conclude, Edgar. You owe me a wager.”

Are you certain you won’t consider it a draw?”

Not now. I’m confused about you and I hate being confused. Why didn’t you sleep with me last night? Don’t you like me that way? You indicated yesterday that you might be interested…”

Oh Bea, and that’s spelled ‘Bea’ not ‘bee’ – that’s not it at all. My problem is, I like you in too many ways, in every possible way. You’ve put a young woman’s spell on me and it is very pleasant, perhaps too much so. I should never have allowed myself to be where you’ve put me. But last night, well, you were much too tired and I knew our sleep would be short. I had some thinking and planning to do as well. I’ll tell you this, there was not one moment I wasn’t aware of your presence, your form on the bed, that I couldn’t smell you and that I couldn’t hear your breathing, even your heartbeat. Everything changed for us last night, Bea. You entered into my doom and now the only way you can extricate yourself, if you do it quickly, is to walk away from me deliberately, willingly, never looking back and forgetting you ever met me. “

Your doom, Edgar? Oh, that sounds so dramatic. Now I absolutely need to know what that is all about. Leave you now that I’ve put my spell on you? Never. You be mine, my very first to be sure but no matter, I’ll be yours and love will make a nest in our hearts. Is that romantic enough for you?” She smiled in the dark but he sensed it though he could not see her face.

Sadly, I cannot be as light hearted about this as you are, Beanna, and what I am about to tell you is going to change your life much more than you’ve already changed mine. Do you believe in fate?”

Oh, well sure. I believe that I must make my own fate, create my own magic, otherwise what’s a life for? I believe that the gods give us a life as a free gift. Fate is what we make of their gift. I also believe, as my mother taught me, that the gods demand an accounting for their gift when we die. It’s not to judge or condemn but to determine where they must send us as we continue. I believe a great many things I learned from my mother that your world knows nothing about. Did you know that the stars aren’t pinpricks in a heavenly fabric but more suns, more worlds like this one? That our world is a sphere spinning through space; that our sun is a small star and the moon is alight when it shows because it reflects the light of the sun? Funny ideas, aren’t they. But I believe them.”

I thought so.” Edgar seemed to be talking more to himself than to Beanna. Louder, “Yes, I thought so. In fact I knew you were aware of truths hidden to the people of these lands. That makes it a bit easier then, because you have an open mind. To the wager then? No turning back.”

Yes! Please!”

Many ages ago, those you call the gods decided this world needed shepherding. They sent special people, those that became known as wizards, with special powers. There were twelve sent here, to earth, six men, six women. The men called themselves the Allay, the women, the Allaya. Their role was to instruct in the arts of peace-making; to calm, to reassure and when necessary, to protect. They were often known simply as the Watchers, those who provided a bridge between men and the gods…”

And you are one of those, Edgar?” Her voice sounded meek and wistful.

Will you believe me if I answered ‘yes’ to your question?”

I believe you, but why do I feel frightened by what I’ve just heard?”

I’ve made you glimpse inside a different dimension than your normal Earthian one. It’s the only way I can tell you my story and not have to fight with your natural rejection. Your earth self cannot accept what I am revealing to you, and when I am finished, you will no longer be an ordinary earth girl. You will have become something else, something I cannot completely explain that you must discover for yourself in time. Your mind is about to undergo a great transformation. Even now you can no longer back away, you are caught in a reality stream from which only complete acceptance can free you. You are now between worlds, functioning as an earth being and as a shadow of an Allaya.”

I feel lost. Where are we, Edgar?”

My name is not Edgar, it is Lotharic. Of the twelve that we were, only three remain of which I am one. The other two remaining have gone rogue, being corrupted in their flesh by earthly power. They now serve as advisers to kings and emperors. Instead of being peace bringers they are now war engineers.”

What happened to the others, the Allaya?”

They were trapped, tortured and when they refused to serve the war makers, they were killed. As were the other Allay.”

You know this for sure, Lotharic?”

Yes. We have our ways to communicate and share information. My two greatest adversaries and myself, we share information. Or rather, misinformation and disinformation. If I locate them, I must track and kill them. If they find me, they will certainly kill me. They already know they cannot turn me.”

I feel strange. Where are we now?”

We are in between worlds. What you seem to be standing on is a non-place. Nowhere. I brought us here for your transformation. In the mind conversion stray thoughts can escape and be picked up by our enemies, for they are just as much your enemies as mine now. They will soon be aware of the appearance of another Allaya and they will hunt you with more intensity than they do me.”

Why me? What would they want from me, sex?”

In a sense. Much more than sex as you understand it. They want your Allaya energy. Your power to put down conflict and calm chaos; to open the hearts of combatants and make them see each other as lovers. They also want your healing skills.”

I don’t have any healing skills!”

You do now, and you will soon realize how powerful those are at disrupting disease and death.”

{end of part II}

 

Listening in Time

(short story,  by Sha’Tara)

“I know you are keen, and willing.  Good traits in a researcher.  But you are missing the key ingredients.  You must sit quietly, by yourself, for hours, maybe days, and listen in time.  Listen to the voices of the dead, and the pre-incarnate.  They are in the voices of “others” and in the sounds of the earth: the wind, the cracking soil, the moving grains of sand, the patter of the rain on scrabbly hard-pan soil.  They come on the heat waves.  Sometimes they get playful and paint mirages which tell stories from within your own heart and soul which your tired and bleary eyes will translate into images of desires.  

If you do not learn to listen, all you will accomplish in these places as you sift through dirt and rubble is collect garbage.  It will be recognizable as works of the people but it will reveal no stories, no myths, no history.  These you will have to create from your own imagination and trust me on this, it will not be the same stories as what was, even if the entire world should buy your interpretations.  Honest archaeologists are a rare breed but there is nothing written, either in this desert or in mountains, that says you can not be one of that small group.  When you teach yourself the secret of time listening the people who made and used the objects you unearth, they will tell you their stories.  Some will seem strange and some will be, to your modern understanding, quite unbelievable, but just listen.  It is not your call to re-interpret the lives of others according to your current knowledge: that is sacrilege.  Let the ghosts speak; let them tell their story, and accept it at face value.  It may be that they lie to you, but let it be: do not add insult to injury by adding to the lies.  After all, as you will discover in time, all of your history is lies.  There is no truth to be found on this world, or in this universe.  We know, we’ve been looking for millions of your years and there is no such chimera.”

I was young then, and I’d been experimenting with the local flora under the auspices of a would-be witch doctor who called himself George but whose real name was an unpronounceable Mexican word that sounded like apple-cotle or aptly cotli.  This particular drug induced “time dreams” he had told me, and… “You should only smoke a small amount at sunset.  Sit against a rock, or a tree if you can find one, and set your mind free to roam.  Do not try anything, just let it all go.  It is the time of the spirits and sometimes one of them will notice you and approach you with a story, or some advice.  Just listen and do not try to make any judgment about what you hear, or think you hear.  Put your own thoughts aside and just absorb.” 

I smoked slowly, not eagerly, trying to practice “wisdom” in my folly.  How long I sat against the rock that dug into my back, feeling the sand getting cold beneath me, I don’t know.  Darkness came and the sky exploded with myriads of pin-points of lights: star, planets, meteors, even satellites and flashing lights of planes.  Time passed and I no longer felt the cold, nor the loneliness or that deep fear of the dark unknown.  I “slept” with eyes open, hearing and learning to listen.  I heard small animals squeaking to one-another, some unrecognizable insects repeating endless calls; owls, even one loud shriek of what could only be some wild cat, cougar perhaps.  It didn’t matter.

It seemed as if I’d become a part of the landscape, an extension of the rock I leaned against.  I felt a deep well-being; a thoroughly unfamiliar certainty.  I was “here” and “here” was where I belonged.  This was “home” like nothing had ever been.  “Here I sit, and here I remain,” I thought, against all common sense.  I felt the cold, hunger and thirst but it did not matter to this “me” that was being absorbed by the land, the air, the sky, the universe, the cosmos.  In that time I was no longer a body-centered, or physical being.  I was a member of the cosmic races, with a part of me resting upon a planet called earth – a very small, very strange planet. 

That’s when the voice came to my mind; when I heard the words I quoted above. 

I have been digging up history in this part of the world for almost fifty years now.  I’ve become old and bent.  My skin is like that of a lizard, dry and scaly, with brown spots.  I’ve loved being naked in the sun and it has left its marks on my body but I don’t care.  He was my lover and I cherish his touch still.  I haven’t become famous.  No best seller came from my notes; no following.  People came here to dig with me, and left to seek fame and fortune.  Some managed it, returning to tell me about it.  Some even provided funds so I could remain here, on my wind-swept plateaus digging up ghost stories; me, the crazy Canadian who should have been more at home on the snowy wilds of northern Canada, than here. 

To the local people, I am “loca perdida” or the crazy one, though many come just to be with me, or to listen to my stories.  They come to get me sometimes, either with a jeep, or even a donkey, and take me to a village feast so they can hear some of my stories about their ancient peoples.  They seem to have no difficulty believing me, and I have wondered about that.  Do they also listen in time? They “pay” me in food, or in new blankets for my tents or shelters.  Good people, all of them.  I’ve always felt safe here; not sure I could have managed that in cities where people crowd unhappily together, hardly ever getting to know each other though rubbing shoulders every day.  How sad is that life, I think.

Here I remain.  Here I belong for my body’s time being.  Here I taught myself to listen in time and it is here that I will die so another archaeologist, another time listener, can find bits and pieces of my presence in this place and unearth my own story – a story that will have meaning only to her and the few who carry our vision of living in time.  

How I wish I could express, in words, how blessed my life has been and how much I look forward to new digs out there in the stars, knowing that when I sit down and look up I will see more stars.

A SMALL BLACK CLOUD

                                                         A short story by Sha’Tara

Judy awoke from a pleasant “beach” dream and pushed her big fluffy tomcat off the bed, shut off the radio alarm and mechanically tuned it to her favourite morning station, CKRY. She had thought how funny the acronym was at first, but got used to it, and the jokes that went with it. She slipped a sheer nightgown over her tall, slim frame and smelled the aroma of freshly brewed coffee that filled her apartment. She enjoyed her simple, uncomplicated, automated life. Her job paid little more than minimum wage, but she had few problems handling it, especially since she finally got rid of Mario. For a moment, a small black cloud filled her mind, and her heart constricted, but the feeling passed and she fed Tiny his morning allowance, enough to satisfy a hungry Rottweiler, she thought.

She liked her one bedroom condo apartment.  The building was on a slightly elevated part of town, her apartment facing west giving her a decent view out over the bay. A few large evergreens gave a feeling of privacy.   Her neighbours were quiet and she hardly ever had to speak to them, except at the monthly strata meetings.

She parted the blinds on the kitchen window and scanned the view.  It was still and cold in a harsh grey, smoggy morning light.  Even under the snow cover of the condo parking lot, frost coated the windshield of her robin-egg blue Mietta.

She sipped her coffee while brushing her long blond hair, her left hand alternating between the cup and a bowl of fruits and cereal she was pensively mixing. Everything was so normal, so wonderfully normal. She vaguely heard a comment on the radio about an accident in town, as she waited for her music, the old love songs of the Sixties and Seventies she enjoyed so much. It seemed the interruption lasted longer than usual, but the news held no interest for her. Her job was only a couple of blocks away, at a small distribution company, so she never drove or took the bus. Road problems seldom caught her attention and her Mietta stayed under cover except for weekend shopping or the occasional spin down Shoreline Drive.

She enjoyed her walk to work, and often, another woman, Samantha, who worked at the local paper further down the block, would walk with her as far as her office. The women sometimes invited each other over for coffee, or for dinner.   Both of them were now avowed singles, having bravely fought their version of the battle of the sexes… and won, or so they thought. For the time being, men were off their list. They had discovered that cats, especially tomcats, made much better, warmer friends, had a good deal less expectations and were definitely less expensive to maintain.

“…It wasn’t until four this morning that a work crew discovered bodies wedged down a sewer manhole at 7th and Balsam. We advise commuters to avoid that area, as police and other emergency crews are still there, cleaning up and investigating. … and now, for more of your favourite songs… this is CKRY, YOUR GOOD MORNING RADIO… “Bridge Over Troubled Water, I will lay me down..”

Judy smiled through her morning preparations for work.   She deliberated over her day’s dress, and makeup. She liked to change her appearance and paid a great deal of attention to her mood swings.   She followed these with her own body artistry so she wouldn’t feel ill at ease, or out of sorts with herself for the rest of the day. She petted Tiny as he rubbed against her leg to make him understand he’d have to spend the day outside. Of course, he loved it outside, but he had to pretend he didn’t. There would be a lot of complaining as he finally jumped through the opened window onto the patio.

There would be birds to watch at the feeder the neighbours so diligently filled every morning.   Who knows, maybe a careless one would provide some extra protein today, and the woman next door would chase him angrily off her own balcony, providing some excitement… Birds could be so incredibly stupid, and humans so entertaining when properly motivated. He stretched and meowed loudly. When Judy saw his claws dangerously near her wooden rocking chair, she said “No!” and “OK boy, time for you to go out.” Tiny could have shrugged as he smiled inwardly… a very sarcastic cat smile. Yes, humans were predictable. One only had to know how to move and guide them to do what one wanted. After all, why do they have those hands and feet, processed foods, sliding windows and warm, soft laps, if not to serve cats? Tiny had learned, early in life, the incredible power he possessed in his long, soft grey fur, his deep voice and his well-groomed claws. He believed he could move mountains with these, and he did: mountains of human emotion.

Today would be green.   A light green dress, green shoes, green scarf, and her green coat, which was a darker shade, but that didn’t matter.   She topped herself with a wide green woolen toque and felt quite ready to face the world.

“… Teenagers looking for a place to have a smoke on their way to school discovered bodies in an abandoned warehouse at the east end of town near the river. . Three men and two women were bludgeoned and left to freeze to death on the floor of the old building. Police are now investigating in force as fear is mounting that a crazed killer, or gang of killers, are loose in the town – this is CKRY.”

Again, Judy paid scant attention. This was a big city, and things happened all the time.  It had nothing to do with her, though it probably meant that Samantha would already have been called to work to deal with the news. Oh well, she would call her later and find out how it all went.   Quarter to nine, and the pale sun was just rising over the city. It would be a still day, no wind and only a few white, wispy clouds. Good. She hated walking in storms anyway.

“…Stay tuned for more news as our roving reporter brings you the latest in the killing rampage… this is CKRY, YOUR GOOD..”

She turned off the radio, picked up her bag, set the alarm, locked her door carefully, and went out into the cold morning air. She smelled the usual mixture of smog, exhaust fumes, sulfur, garbage and other unnatural substances which always assailed her nostrils until she got used to them. She heard some distant sirens of emergency vehicles but gave them no heed.   In the still, cold morning, everything was normal.

There was excitement at work over the night’s happenings, but she couldn’t get into it either. Why should she? It had nothing to do with her, absolutely nothing. She turned on her computer and began to tally, add, subtract, make sense of the orders, send letters, receive e-mail, and pass on the messages to the various department heads. It was a small local delivery trucking firm, so her work load was not so much heavy as it was varied.   She often thought of herself as a Girl Friday in that place.

“Hey Judy: did you hear about last night?   They’ve found at least nine bodies by now, all killed in the weirdest ways. The funny thing is, there’s no rhyme or reason to the killings: they’re not prostitutes, or street people, or people of any particular category; they’re just people. One of them was a young boy, about 12. Most of them were just people driving home, or walking on the street, or so it seems.   What do you think of that?”

Well, Frank was always one to ask dumb questions and enjoyed getting people riled up.   For a brief moment, she wondered why these “killings” had no effect on her, why she didn’t care, absolutely didn’t, but quickly dismissed the thought. After all, she had her own life, her own problems, and had to remain aloof in order to keep it together. She had worked hard to reach this point of semi independence, and she wasn’t going to let anyone or anything rob her of her accomplishments.

“Look Frank, I don’t care, OK? It’s got nothing to do with me. It’s just one of those freak things that happen in big cities, and this is a big city, Frank. Why don’t you take care of that order for McGraw’s Deli in your hand instead of wasting my time with speculation on accidents and the like? They have people paid to do that: police, FBI, Homeland Security, newscasters, analysts, shrinks, preachers, columnists, lawyers, the government… They won’t fill our orders, so let’s do our job and let them do theirs.”

“Hey, who pissed in your cornflakes this morning?”

“No one. I just can’t get personally involved in other people’s problems, OK?   I’ve got work to do and a life of my own. Why don’t you get one!”

Crestfallen, definitely resentful, Frank left. She felt so much better. Men!   They think they can come on to a girl by frightening her and offering protection. If she falls for it and lets the fear of being alone get to her, she may accept the not so innocent offer of an escort home, or an offer of a date… yeah, right. Well, not this girl. Been there, done that! Definitely don’t work!

From there on the day progressed normally.   The news spread, and there were more versions all the time.  It all exploded on social media.  One story was of alien abductions and experimentations. Organs were missing from the bodies, and they had all been killed in mysterious ways unknown to the experts in the field. Another was of an Oriental gang of trained martial arts experts led by a madman who wanted to take over all the cities of the west through fear and blackmail…  Some more out there talked of zombies and vampires.  Of course the main thread on mainstream media was the usual: terrorists.  When all else fails, blame terrorists.  Give them a race, a religion, a cause, make up names and invent faces if needs be and spin away.

“Ridiculous!” Judy thought as her day ended and she was putting on her shoes and coat.

She stepped outside.  The weather had not changed. Everything was still.  Even the sound of traffic seemed hushed.  The smog hung a little heavier at the end of the day. She walked home briskly, hoping to meet with Samantha, but did not. She was surprised, when she came in, that Tiny was not at the window, but he would be. She changed and prepared dinner. She set the table, looked out and called Tiny, then called Samantha.   No answer.

Strange. Oh well, life goes on. Tiny is a tomcat, he’ll return. Samantha is probably working late at the paper. I know, I’ll call the paper. If she’s not there, I can leave a message.

A man answered her call: “Citadel News Room,   Jerry speaking. Can I help you?”

“Yes, I was wondering if Samantha was still at work?”

“Who wants to know?”

“Her friend, Judy Simpson, from the condos.”

After a pause, the man spoke: “I’m sorry to have to tell you this miss Simpson, but Samantha was one of last night’s victims.”

“Oh!” and she hung up slowly. Tiny was scratching furiously at the window. She noticed her hand was shaking a little as she let him in.   She sat down to finish her meal.

She would run a nice hot bath after the dishes were put in the dishwasher, and everything would be normal again… Absolutely everything.

Dallas

 

[a short story – by Sha’Tara]

          Dallas was a week from her 15th birthday when she disappeared.   I am her older brother by almost 2 years. My name is Greg, or for some, Gregory, 3rd oldest of five siblings.   Home is Hope, a small town at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley, if you will. The house is in an older subdivision on the way to Kawkawa lake.     Not much ever happens in Hope and Dallas’ disappearance created quite a stir for the next year, until nothing was discovered or found and like so many, Dallas’ fate entered the missing persons’ growing police files.

          Needless to say, the family was not the same after that. Mom was disconsolate but adamant that Dallas was just “lost” as she put it, that nothing had happened to her. She managed to communicate this feeling to me and upon graduating from Hope Secondary, I decided to go in search of Dallas.

          There wasn’t much to go by, but I knew Dallas intimately – we were more than siblings, we were close friends, and I knew a lot of things about Dallas that obviously no one else knew. I knew that she was restless, not close to anyone and tired of being “mom’s girl” at home.   Dallas had grown wings prematurely and wanted to try them out. She had talked to me about leaving home many times but it was always something in the future, when she was “of age” so to speak. But youth is fed by impatience and Dallas added impetuosity to the volatile mix. Hope and home were much too constricting for someone like her. I could remember her flashing dark brown eyes and black pony tail swinging back and forth when she entered into an argument about something she felt deeply about, and Dallas felt deeply about everything.

          So, with only mom knowing my plans, and a little over 2 years since Dallas had gone missing; with some money from an uncle’s inheritance, I set out after her.  

          I naturally went west, towards Vancouver, and learned to do research on teens running away from home. I did a lot of work to create a working pattern. I rented cheap accommodations where I set up my wi-fi computer and cordless pocket printer. I transcribed my notes from the day’s search into computer files and printed pictures of Dallas to put on posts, bulletin boards or pass around. I got to know a few detectives in charge of missing kids and everyday was a new learning experience. I won’t bore you with the endless false leads, and the people trying to cash-in on leading me to Dallas. I learned to smell them out pretty quickly. And all the while, I discovered the City itself.

          I knew that anything was possible now. I interacted with prostitutes, pimps and massage parlours, any sort of place or business that might provide a haven for underage female runaways. I didn’t think Dallas would go that route but desperation narrows choices. On the other side, I frequented movie sets where a young girl’s ID might not be checked too closely when an extra was needed in a hurry. I checked the Internet for ads and agencies that placed babysitters or nannies.

          It was a strange time. The more I came up blank, the more convinced I became that I was on Dallas’ trail and would find her. I dreamt about her sometimes, and every dream showed me this: that she was not only all right, but had found herself and was happy with her new life. Sometimes I met her in a restaurant where she waitressed, or in a rich household where she worked as a nanny. There was always that mischievous look in her eyes, the twinkling that said, “I have a secret and I won’t tell you what it is until and unless you discover it for yourself.” Then she would laugh and the dream would end.

          I emailed mom fairly regularly, skipping many details but reassuring her that I was not only still looking, but increasingly sure that I would find Dallas and that she would be well. Often I would get a simple reply: “Thank you, Gregory, thank you. – Mom”

          It occurred to me, after over a year, and a third of my funds gone, to combine my search with some practical course on private investigating and journalism. Within a few months I felt confident that I had enough horse sense and street smarts to try working. I answered an ad from a family looking for their disappeared son. I visited the people and explained what I was doing in Vancouver and convinced them that I knew enough to be of value to them. We settled on a fee and I added 14 year old “William” to my search query, creating a new set of patterns. Not surprising (to me) I found William with a group of Lost Boys downtown, trying to earn some money washing windshields at intersections. Once I was sure of him, I waited for a chance and approached him as casually as I knew how, offering him a small amount of money if he would run an errand for me.   He was hungry and broke and completed the errand in record time. Before I paid him, I told him his name and asked him if he ever thought about returning home.

          “You a f…king cop?” he snarled and almost bolted from the outdoor table I had chosen for the exchange. I gently but firmly put my hand on his arm.

          “Oh, don’t be stupid, Will. A cop wouldn’t ask you to run an errand. I wanted you to have that to think about before I talked to you.”

          “So what’s the deal? Why do you care about me?”

          “Should be obvious – I’m a private investigator hired to find you, and I found you. I can have you home within the hour… if you’ll let me. Hey, it’s no skin off my nose if you run, I get paid regardless.   I report that I found you, the location, and that you took off. Doesn’t sound too smart to me, though. Whatever caused you to run in the first place couldn’t have been that serious, and it’s been 6 months. I think it’s time for you to go home, finish school, then think about leaving with your head high this time, with a job or a degree at least. You’re not a poor homeless kid, William. You’re a spoiled Yuppie brat who may just have learned a valuable lesson now. You can take advantage of that. You know what gets you the farthest in life? Self-discipline. You can do it to wash windshields, surely you can do it to a greater end than that.”

         So I returned a subdued William to his grateful parents. And I found other jobs; learned to collaborate with some of the undercover cops and my life slowly changed, but my purpose remained steadfastly the same: to find Dallas. Another year went by and most people would have given up by now. But something was inextricably linked in my mind: Dallas and the City. Dallas and I. All three of us were drawing together, I could sense this.  

          The City, as ugly and frightening as it had appeared at first, was definitely growing on me. I saw her gross sins and could forgive many of them. I interacted with her victims, the rich and the poor, and found out they didn’t mind being victims and I learned to accept that. And I wrote all of that down in my notes and began to feed some of my impressions to the borderline underground press that proliferated in the City. I deliberately used my real name to sign my articles and made sure it appeared frequently.   I made a couple of “appearances” on radio talk shows about my work on the street, and what I had learned in interaction with the “Wendy’s” and the “Lost Boys,” as I called the runaways; their pimps, employers, lovers, and mentors.

          And as I somehow knew it would, it happened: I found Dallas. She did investigating for a couple of Internet news blogs between other jobs, and she saw my name on an article, found the radio program on the Internet and contacted me by email. My heart soared as old Chief Dan George would have said. We chose to meet in a Starbucks, neutral grounds.   I was there early because I wanted to watch her walk in; wondering how much she’d changed; if I would recognize her.

          I had no trouble recognizing her face. Her hair was no longer in a pony tail but allowed to flow freely and thick over her shoulders. She appeared a bit taller, slimmer certainly, and much older.   She wore a brown fake leather jacket and a short blue skirt and knee-length high heeled black boots. But that dark brown-eyed twinkle was as bright as ever.

          “Dallas!” I couldn’t help calling as she looked over the crowd and line-ups. She saw me and smiled. It was still that special smile she used on me when we were “kids” it seemed so long ago.   She came over, hugged me and went to get an espresso. I watched her, the poise, the certainty, the assurance. I should not have been surprised, but I was regardless. I couldn’t help but remember that she had not yet turned 15 when she left home and Hope to find herself. And I though it uncanny how right both mom and I had been about her. Except that she was never lost: she had her own map, her own destination and her own destiny to fulfill. And as I watched that young woman interacting with the guy behind the counter, I realized what her mind had told her, those eventful years ago: “It’s time Dallas.   Leave – now, or forfeit your purpose.   They will take you, when you come of age; when you have graduated, or earned a degree, and they will file you, pigeon-hole you, and you will become the living dead, just like your parents, your teachers, the adults you see on TV and meet in the stores. They will make you fit in. You’ll get married, get a house and stuff, have kids, part-time brain dead job, and walk the treadmill until you die. Walk away now, Dallas. You can do it.”

          And, she had.

          We didn’t talk very long that morning. I was on a case and she had reports to file, so we decided to meet at my place. Hers she said, was a bit crowded; she lived with two other women, one of whom was her lover – for the time being – she added with that twinkle. “Neither one of us is ready to settle, and I don’t think I want a serious relationship, at least not for a long time.”  I was going to ask, “Define a long time” but I passed on that.

          She came to my place and having settled my case that afternoon and gotten paid, I got the goodies and wine and we talked, basically all through the night.   And although the question was burning on my tongue, I never asked her why she hadn’t contacted mom, nor whether she would now. It didn’t seem appropriate and besides, she was the one asking the questions.

          “OK, so I can see mom would try to put you up to this, but why did you come looking for me, Greg? Why didn’t you just let it go? Huh?   She got up abruptly from the chair, sending it flying ass over tea kettle, turned, grabbed it and threw it back on its feet. She turned her back to me and talked: “I’ll tell you why you came to find me. You didn’t believe, as mom does, that I was lost. I became an opportunity for you, didn’t I. An excuse to leave also. Romance, excitement, feelings, emotions, so many things that tend to get bottled up in a small town stuck against a mountain and a river, things that can be let loose and expressed in countless ways, good and bad, here in the metro. You wanted what I had discovered. And you wanted to find me to prove to yourself that you had found it too. You followed me, not to find me, though that was your intent, but to find yourself.   You were the one who was lost, Gregory.   You were never going to find yourself in Hope, or in whatever institution you ended up working for. You sensed it, and you found my map in your mind, where I left you a copy. So, have you found yourself, Greg?”

          She turned just as abruptly, leaned down with both hands flat on the small table and literally stared into my soul. She smiled thinly and sat down to sip some more wine. She waited for my answer.

          “You are right, Dallas. The commitment, the gallantry, the chivalry, call it whatever you will, that was the cover story. The underlying motive was romance. I would do something different, and I had you to light my way. And Dallas?”

          “Yes?”

          “What a light you turned out to be!” She smiled again, and her eyes were wet, as were mine. We finished the wine and I called a taxi to take her home. We hugged once more just before she got in the car. She picked up the dragging edge of the long trench coat she was wearing and I closed the door, watching her disappear in the early morning mist and smog.  

          And the City stood surrounding us, neither smiling nor frowning, withholding comment and judgment.

The Interview

[short story by Sha’Tara]

          Brian adjusts his lapel mike and checks his recording equipment.  He speaks, Brian Hinksley Interview with David Burnside, January 12th, 2038.  The man sitting across from him gives him a bit of a crooked smile.

          Good morning, David.  I trust your hotel accommodations are to your liking?

          Good morning, Brian.  Yes, the hotel is quite over-the-top decadent.  I sleep on the floor as you know.  And I would never eat in that $100 a breakfast restaurant, so I walked around to a deli and fixed myself up a nice meal that cost under $20.  I warned you about wasting your money. 

          It’s not my money David, so don’t worry about it.  I know your habits but at the same time I didn’t want to appear cheap and nobody over here  but me would understand your ways anyway.  Shall we start then?

          By all means, let’s.

          Direct question to get things rolling: How often have you thought about changing the world, David?

          As far back in my life as I can remember.  I was raised in a dysfunctional religious family remember.  Corporal punishment was the rule, not the exception.  It was mandated, and given on a regular basis.  However I tried to do what was asked of me there would always be at least one thing that would guarantee a whipping.  Some failure as a child to accomplish two or three things at once as ordered would necessarily result in at least one failed attempt resulting in a beating from either parents.  When I got old enough to leave home I didn’t go into denial about the way I was treated.  No, I used my home life as an example of how it is for most people in this world; how they are treated by their elites.  And I was driven by the idea that something had to be done.

          So, what did you do, David?

          Nothing!  Absolutely nothing.  Oh I wanted to do something, almost anything, and there were quite a number of moves I could have made to place myself into a world changing position back in the days.  Lots was happening around me.  There was student unrest at home; the flower children “movement” if one can call it that, the Hippies with their own dysfunctional ways of tuning out the world of their parents.  There was war and violent revolution in many parts of the world.  Suppression of popular movements in dictatorial “empires” like the USSR and China of course.  Out on the seas there were the Greenpeace boats and the Sea Shepherd society blocking oil tankers or attacking whaling ships.  I had lots of choices in entering the world changing scene.

          But why didn’t you, David?

          That should be obvious to anyone with a smattering of history.  Certainly that is a question you could answer for yourself, Brian, being a journalist and having travelled all over the world for your stories.  Isn’t it obvious that none of those quests to change the world have been entered into by individuals, groups, movements and armies since history was recorded and if anything they have only made things worse?  Oh sure there are a great many people, usually with some sort of vested interest, who argue against this claim of mine.  They’ll point at a great number of modern civilization’s accomplishments and bandy that about as proof that all these efforts have borne fruit; that society is essentially better now that it has ever been.  But you and I know this isn’t true, don’t we Brian?

          I’m doing the interview, David, so why don’t we agree that I’ll ask the questions? 

          Ah yes, interview – business – not conversation, huh? 

          Well yes, this is business, like it or not, and you did agree to do this interview remember?

          Yes I did.  Let’s move on then. 

          OK, so the ways and means people have tried to change the world, according to you, have only made things worse.  Could you elaborate on that?

          I’m not going to quote you statistics, Brian, that’s your department.  But I will tell you this: how many major charitable organizations have escaped unscathed from rulings of massive corruption in management since the new world-wide UN regulations mandate that audits be done by non-aligned, non-partisan UN auditors? Not one, Brian.  How much has the massive expansion of private security companies made the world, or individual nations, safer for their citizens and their visitors or tourists?  How have expanding wars and our yearly growing list of destroyed and failed nations brought about global peace?  And how much of this turmoil has been made possible by technology combined with the advent of computers?  How does that square with the oft-quoted line that “the computer revolution” has made life better for the world, I have to wonder – I am phrasing this so it does come across as a series of rhetorical questions, you understand.  After all, you’re asking the questions…

          I’ve heard your acerbic humour in other interviews and some of the documentaries in which you were featured David and point taken.  Let’s move on to the meat of this interview.  If none of the things previously attempted to make this world a better place have succeeded, or to use your view, have only succeeded in making it worse, have you, in your mental ruminations and experience discovered something that may be of use to us should we decide, let’s say, that our world does need fixing and all our efforts to date have not worked?

          I may have, Brian.  There is something available to man whereby he may yet save himself from the doom he’s placed himself under.  Mind, it’s not something I’ve discovered, it’s something that’s always been available to every person on earth having reached the age of reason.  It’s certainly not esoteric knowledge that requires special intelligence or wisdom, quite the contrary.  It’s so common place that it has been rejected out of hand as impractical.  People considering the idea have shrugged it off thinking that if it were designed to be so effective it stands to reason that the great leaders and rulers of the world would have latched on the idea long ago.  That the great teachers and way showers would have taught it as of first, if not of the only importance.  But it has been completely ignored while other concepts much more open to corruption or gross misuse have been loudly and dutifully promoted in its place. 

          Let me give you a partial list of some of the concepts proposed that were meant to change man; to make him a better person and by that, to make his civilized world a better place for all.  Consider love as being at the top of this list of very popular ideas pushed forth to change man and his world.  On its heels, happiness, or should I say the pursuit of happiness.  Peace, another popular concept and definitely one that has always ended up near the end of the race.  Humility has also been proposed, but mostly to servants and slaves in relating to their masters, or their gods and by definition, their betters who it is understood have no need to display such a weak nature.  Kindness, usually relegated to women and their children, preferably girl children: what have red-blooded men and their male heirs to do with kindness when it can only weaken them?  Goodness, that being strictly attached to one’s own, one’s nationality, or towards “the poor” (don’t forget to put that in quotations, Brian) if in a carefully restricted way intended never to pull them out of their poverty.  Gentleness, again a virtue generally reserved for women in service to their men.  Ah yes, let’s not forget patriotism, and what a wonderful virtue that has proven to be.  Then there’s faith, particularly religious faith.  There’s a world changer for you but I doubt that except for the most brainwashed of individuals few would consider it’s effect upon this world to have been much of a salutary one.          

          So let me leave you with this thought, Brian: the one thing all of you need to think about seriously is the concept of compassion.  As you know  this has been the central point of my teaching, if one may call it that, and certainly the expression of my own life.  Once I made a decision to think and act in a compassionate way it behoved me to express the idea to others in such a way that they wouldn’t think of me as another odd-ball altruist; a religious self-flagellating crazy; a charismatic mystic dreaming of leading multitudes to counter the works of global social dysfunction or whatever labels your world would want to give me.  The “evil” (again I remind you to use quotations around that term when coming from me) within the Power workings of your world is adept at destroying the works of those who would counter it.  Any good it encounters it turns to some form of destructive evil, and claims its destruction as virtuous.  People are taken in because they believe they cannot see the future, or should not try to see it. 

          Here’s some re-hashed, modernized teachings the Matrix uses to keep people in mental lethargy as the pull of organized religion wanes planet-wide.  People are told to live in the present; that it is a present.  Unfortunately for those who become believers of this mindless exercise it’s a complete lie.  The present does not exist.  The whole teaching of it is an obfuscation; a forced denial of one’s life from one’s past and all the possibilities that are held in its future; a poisoned dart that kills the spirit.  There is nothing in the present, and here’s another lie of the Matrix: that having nothing in one’s mind is the ultimate wise choice for beingness.  That such a thought is both foolish and futile somehow never registers.  These vacuous concepts of now and present and nothingness create only powerless mind-zombies.

          But when you approach all of your life through compassion you find yourself energized.  You are no longer the innate selfish Earthian but a kind of angel of mercy to all those you interact with.  You become empowered to give; to heal, to understand but also to judge all things and know right from wrong, not from external sources but from within your own spirit.  You know what to say, and what to do and if there ever is doubt in a situation, you know to give rather than withhold, to free instead of holding on; to sacrifice yourself if need be; that your whole life is a transaction in giving and in which you are always controller and master; in which you express of your own and constant free will – by choice, a choice once made and endlessly renewed.   

          Well, thank you David.  An interesting view point, and not lost on many these days, based on the level of popularity you seem to have garnered.  Any final thoughts on that point?

          My personal popularity is one of the difficulties I have to deal with.  It’s not something I wanted but it is something I knew might happen if what I teach was to catch on.  I sometimes think of “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein and wonder about the parallels.  Fortunately for me I know the lures and the traps of such a path.  I seek neither popularity nor martyrdom, just to live an honest life within a difficult and demanding idea, or concept.  The goal for me is to be true to what I am.  What others see, what they get from it, what they do with it, that is entirely up to them, just as what you make of this interview is entirely up to you.

          You’re not going to hold me to writing what you said here word for word?  You’re allowing me the freedom to describe our interview as I see fit then?

          Absolutely Brian.  I hold no copyright on anything.  Write whatever you think is best for you.  Once I stop talking, the contents of this interview are yours, not mine.

          Thank you, David, and I mean that.  I need to ask, will you be staying the full four days at the hotel?  I need to know, for the paperwork. 

          Ah, no Brian.  Please tell them I’ve checked out.  From here I’ll be taking the bus back home.  And I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you about the accommodations but I had warned you I didn’t need them.  Thank you again.

          Oh, one more question I meant to ask, one that many have asked and you never answer.  How old are you, David?

          The balding man in the comfortable black work pants and grey sweat shirt smiles to reveal a mouth with very few teeth left in it.  He stands, as does Brian and neither men say anything more.  They shake hands near the set of automatic sliding doors which open wide then close with a definitive hiss behind the reclusive, nonagenarian David who walks out easily and casually into the morning sun towards the bus station.  

 

He said his Name was Jack – a short story

So, I spent the day pondering life once more.  I don’t know how far I got on that particular road today, but at the end it seems fitting to post this little story. 

                                             He said his Name was Jack
                                               [a short story by   ~ Sha’Tara ~   ]

It was a hot and dry day up near the end of the canyon when my old half-ton blew the rear driver side tire. Fortunately I was taking it easy on the old thing as the going had been mostly uphill, something the old crankcase didn’t like much, so after a bit of swerving to gain control in the hard packed wash-board gravelly surface, I was able to pull up beside the road, on a dry patch of sandy dried mud.

I got out to assess my situation. I had no food and no drinking water Hadn’t thought of that since I was only going a couple of hundred miles.  An inaccessible half mile below me the river glistened mockingly in the noon day sun.  All around was dead silence except for a few crickets telling each other to shut up, and heat waves made everything shimmer.  The scent of scrub pine and sage brush filled the air and under almost any other condition that would have been enough to give me complete pleasure.   At that moment though, and perhaps understandingly, I failed to appreciate nature’s simple offering.

 There wasn’t much traffic in those days, as the conditions of the highway were still quite primitive so I wasn’t expecting help anytime soon. I went to the back and looked with some apprehension at the dried cake of mud that hid the spare hanging under the box.  I found a rusty tire iron behind the torn seat, some cracked gloves and a short carpenter’s pry bar and went to work loosening and dropping the spare.

 After some time it came loose and I was able to slide the lifter chain off and drag the spare out. Sure enough, it was as flat as flat can be.  Who thinks of making sure spares are kept up?  Wouldn’t have mattered anyway, I couldn’t find any sort of jack and looking up or down the surrounding countryside quickly told me that I wouldn’t find anything resembling a suitable lever to lift the truck.  Plenty of large rocks to use as fulcrums and supports, but nothing resembling a useful pole.

Well, what to do? I scanned both sides of the road for any sort of habitation and didn’t see anything.  Only one thing left to do: start walking.  I knew there was nothing behind me, so I decided it was best to head north, into the unknown.  At least this way there would exist the possibility of some sort of home or homestead or a highway maintenance yard showing up.

 Being eighteen at the time and having been raised on a homestead, my survivor mentality was pretty well honed and possessed of a bit of matching philosophy. The one thing I was sure of, I would never give in to the problem.  I knew by reasoning based on certain experiences, that life entails problems, that problems require solutions and that these solutions are always available, one way or the other, though none of that alters reality.  Going with the flow is not always the easiest path but it usually is the wisest.

As I trudged along I became very thirsty. The river surface down below continued to mock my thirst so I looked for berries but the only thing I saw were bunches of dangling blue elderberries.  Bird feed at best and not ripe in any case.  Too early in the season for anything else.  As I walked on uphill, each curve showing more endless climb, my feet began to throb in the heavy work boots so I stopped by a rounded rock to sit and loosen the laces.  A dull ache in my head made me want to stretch out by the side of the road and sleep, which is exactly what I did.  I didn’t feel like walking any longer.

 That I lay in dusty sand would not matter much to my dirty white tee shirt or my tattered greasy blue jeans nor to my over-length hair which was several days in need of a serious wash and many weeks in need of cutting. At least there were no flies and sleep came easy despite the choking heat.

That’s when I had the dream that would puzzle, haunt, thrill and bother me for the rest of my life. How could a dream manifest in reality?  How could events in a dream become events in real life which changed not only my mind, but my physical reality as well?  These were, and remain, unanswerable questions, of course.   So let me recap the events instead of getting into the mind-twisting impossibilities remembering always brings up.

I had just fallen asleep (at least it seemed so) when someone called my name and said, Hey Levi, get up. It’s time to go. The name Levi was given to me as a joke after I was stupid enough the mention that I’d wanted to be a priest in my Catholic school days, and there happened to be a defrocked Bible thumper in our logging crew who yelled, “Levi!” My real name is Logan Learned which was also quite entertaining in my school years: “Hey, what have you Learned today?” Laughter.  But now, Levi?  I had to ask why.  Matt, the ex-Bible guy said, “Don’t you know about Levi in the Old testament?  The priesthood of the Levites?

“Afraid not, never read the Old Testament. Only know the Catholic catechism and some bits and pieces of the gospels.”

 Instead of commenting further, he just laughed and the rest joined in, including me. Nothing wrong with Levi, so I became Levi the Levite to my logging crew.  So now I was, in a sense, a priest.  I’m sure my Catholic confessors would not have taken it so lightly, but that didn’t matter to me; I hadn’t been to church in several years and had no intention of ever returning.  Bad memories best left behind, along with my upbringing.  The more baggage you drag along with you, the more your life is stifled and I had too much to live for to let that happen.

I opened my eyes and I wasn’t dreaming. An obviously native man, dressed in a western shirt, clean faded jeans and cowboy boots, was standing over me, offering me his hand.  I took it and he held me firmly as I stood up.  He handed me a bottle of cold water which I gladly took.  Half was gone before I felt sated and thought that maybe that was all the water he had.  He smiled, the skin around his eyes crinkling.

 He must have sensed my concern for his precious water and replied as if I’d asked:

“Lots of water here Levi. Lots.  Don’t you worry about that.”

 “You know my nickname, how come?”

 “It’s the name you go by now, isn’t it?”

 “Yes.”

 “Okay then. Mine is Jack.”

 “Okay, fine. Thanks for the water, Jack.  I was parched.”

 “Yeah, I know. Maybe we should walk back to your truck now, or would you like some food first?”

 Out of a growing sense of curiosity I looked around. Except for “Jack” nothing had changed.  The sun hadn’t even moved; the heat was just as intense and I saw no food, nor did “Jack” carry any kind of pack.  He wasn’t even holding the water bottle anymore.

“I could use some food, Jack, if you have something without meat or fish, I’m vegetarian and I get sick on meat or fish.”

 From what appeared to be nowhere (sorry about the oxymoron!) he produced a fresh sandwich, loaded with vegetables and cheese. I took it with expressed gratitude and ate it in four bites.  It tasted like “more” and sure enough, Jack produced another one, just as delicious.

“Ok, I’m really curious now Jack. Where did this food come from?”

 “You people always ask these same small questions. Where do you think it comes from?”

 “I have no idea, that’s why I asked.”

 “Ever heard of the continuum, Levi?”

 “The what?”

 “The continuum. You know, what your religions call eternity?  What some people call heaven?  What science calls the abstract concept of infinity with that lazy eight symbol (8)?  If you’ve read the Bible you would know that the Hebrew God fed them what is called “manna from heaven” while they lived in the desert.  Connect with your nickname and look into your memories, Levi, third son of Jacob, founder of the Levite tribe.  Can you see anything there?”

“Afraid I can’t, Jack. Are you telling me that you pulled that water and food out of nothing, like God dropping food from heaven on the Hebrews?”

 “Actually at that point in history we should refer to them as Israelites rather than Hebrews. But yes, why not?  But not out of nothing as you think.  Out of another reality.  We’re always part of the continuum and it’s what feeds the material order.  Without this bleed through of energy, these worlds, your reality, could not exist.  All it takes is for an intelligent mind to image or invent material/physical reality from an endless supply of free energy we call the continuum.  It’s really very simple if you think about it.”

 “Well Jack, I am thinking about it and the more I think about it, the less sense it makes to me. This is too much like fantasy; science fiction, a fairy tale.  If it was that easy everybody would be doing it; everybody would have her or his way and you know what?  It would spell utter chaos, that’s what.”

“They realized this long ago when intelligent beings discovered the ability of manifestation; when the material order came into being and problems simultaneously appeared, as you were so quick to perceive. So “they” – the ones who discovered this ability decided to put a block on manifestation.  Only one would be allowed to manifest reality, that was their solution.  Basically “They” created the concept of “God”and through the eons the concept remained.  “God” gets to decide what is, what isn’t; when it begins; when it ends and all the reasons for it are also God’s reasons, no one else’s.  At least that’s the theory.”

 “Is God accountable to no one then?”

 “Oh yes, God is accountable, but only to his peers; to the “They” who started it all. And also, God isn’t always the same person on the divine throne.  They hold periodic elections and take turns running things.  Hence why you discover “jumps” and “bumps” – sudden bursts – or what your scientist love to call “big bangs” in the process of creation or material expansion and destruction.”

“This is very interesting Jack, but how do you know all of this for a fact? Didn’t you just say it was a theory?”

 “We go by what works, see? You and I, we’re the same with one specific difference: I’m from the other side of the continuum, you’re on this side.  I was on this side long ago, but I, shall we say, translated to the other side gradually, over many incarnations.  It began with a glimpse of the continuum, what you might call a near death experience.  Only it wasn’t near but fatal and total.  That was my first awareness of how much freedom there is in living without a body.  After being given a chance to look around, someone simply sent me back.  I had fallen and broken my neck.  They fixed me up, good as new and I was left with a permanent question mark that became a single-minded focused quest.  I would find this place I’d glimpsed and live there.”

“Then there should be literally billions of people like you out here now!”

 “Not really. You have to understand how the thing works if you want to, say, commute from the outside to the inside.  From the wholly non-material to the material.  After my return I began to earnestly study shamanism, witchcraft, the concepts hinted at by every established religion on this world.  I contemplated anything to do with the so-called after-life.  I discovered that only those who were able to pass through with their material bodies were said to be empowered to return and manifest back in the physical.  So I cheated: I found the trick that allowed me to slip out of this realm into the other with my material body.  Oh, it was immediately changed, transformed if you will, but it wasn’t killed.  There’s no termination over there, see?  Once you’re in, you’re in.  Then it’s up to you to make it work.  Luckily for me, bodies don’t need to be fed or even exercised over there.  They are what you make them to be and they remain that way until you change them.  You couldn’t begin imagine the different “things” I’ve been since I translated.”

 “Time out, Jack, hey? I can’t absorb all this stuff.  Besides, I’m still not convinced you are what you claim to be.  You could be an illusionist; some sort of con artist and my question remains: how do you know about this theory of yours regarding God?”

“Of course, I could be an impostor. Not impossible but I never asked you to trust me, did I?  But think on this, see if it rings a bell or two:  “You were thirsty and I gave you water to drink; you were hungry and I fed you.”

 “You’re quoting the gospels. You sure don’t look like him!”

 “Like whom, Levi Logan Learned?”

“You know who I mean, and I am really confused now.”

 “Excellent. It’s good to be confused on materiality.  Confusion and doubt prevent dogmatism which is astigmatism of the soul, a blurring which prevents clear understanding and appreciation of what actually is.”

“Ok, so there is a God? Or is that only your theory about the “Ruler” of materiality?  Answer me that!”

 “I can’t answer the God question simply because no matter how it is answered it will satisfy no one. Your people are too dogmatic to allow free information to flow through their minds unimpeded by belief systems, you see.  Even you, not knowing whether to believe or not to believe; not knowing if you’re an atheist, a theist, deist or anti-theist, won’t let the God question flow unchallenged.  For you it’s just too big a question fraught with too much emotion to be allowed its freedom to answer itself.

Now listen to this. “There is a God” is the truism that proves there is no such a being as God.  God, as religion preaches and teaches, is categorically impossible.  But according to all I have seen, studied, contemplated and worked with, there is a  “Ruler” that guides material reality, not always for the best.  It’s not God, of course, but it acts as if it were, and appears as God to less-understanding entities.  It is “all powerful” in that it can prevent almost anyone, certainly anyone without the necessary qualifications, from participating in manifestation.  Already explained why that must be.

Unfortunately, power begets power and as intelligence expanded in the “created” (manifested) realms, some of these individual intelligences sought power. Since you can only express power by dictating to others, usually of lesser minds, these intelligences became totalitarian in nature and “evil” was born in, and bred from them, oozing right down to your own tin-pot rulers and dictators, right down to your school yard bully.  Down to your racist, your misogynist, your bigot.  Down to your greedy, planet-eating sociopathic corporate management.  Do you get the picture, Levi?”

 “Huh, yes, I’m sure that I get it. It’s not a subtle point you are making.  But now, where does that leave me?”

“Exactly where you are, or as you were if you choose to ignore this unexpected interference in your rather uneventful System-controlled life. But don’t you have a truck to drive up the road another hundred miles or so?”

 Out of habit I struck my forehead with my right hand. “Ah yes, the truck.  Well, it’s down the road about a half-hour’s walk.  Or maybe you can transport us there and fix it for me?”

 “Would you like me to do that?”

(No shit, I felt like saying. Instead I replied,) “Sure, why not?”

 And I thought to myself, well, that ought to be a good one. What happens next?

 That’s when I woke up. I mean I really woke up.  I could feel the heat, the stink of my sweat, feel the swelling of my feet in my boots.  Overhead the sun was still blazing at its zenith as if no time had passed.  I did notice a couple of things that were different.  I wasn’t thirsty nor hungry and I felt, well, completely blissful.  And then I noticed that my truck was parked just below me, without a flat, apparently ready to go on.  I shook my head and let the dizziness pass before I stood up and took another good look around.  No Jack.  Just the same empty countryside, and the river surface reflecting silver from the bottom of a very deep, dark canyon.  Silent as the grave.

Being a “child of the land” as they say, I looked around carefully for tracks in the sandy soil. Tthere were only mine which indicated the point where I sat down, then laid down.  Nothing had changed and everything had.  And the only witness I had that “Jack” had been there was my old pickup with four healthy tires and except for the cracking of cooling dissimilar metals rubbing angrily against each other under the hood, it wasn’t saying a word either.