Tag Archives: fiction

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.

 

 

Nancy – a short story

 

I’m re-posting the short story, Nancy after making some pertinent changes.

Toiling at the keyboard deep into the wee hours, nursing a cold that kept me from the peaceful sleep of the blessed which I’m used to, this is what came out of my fingertips. It was “interesting” transporting myself to a land and place I have never seen, and coming across “tournures” of language that left me baffled.  How do you write English, British style when all you know is Canadian English?  The result is a bit of a mish-mash of culture, but I wanted the fog-filled streets of a mid-size coastal English town with a harbour, and I wanted London in the picture.  You see, this is meant to be an introduction to a longer story, perhaps a novel, though I find writing novels intimidating, particularly in the amount of research a good novel demands.  Well, without further ado, I’ll post this and if you feel like it, you can let me know if “Nancy” is believable.  If not, well, she can get married and have a nice uneventful life as a doctor’s receptionist.  Or a computer programmer.  Or a private investigator.


 Nancy
a short story, by Sha’Tara

Every sound was muted in the thick fog that rose from the strand in those late November nights when the sky was clear, the air crisp and cold. She didn’t mind the fog, in fact she’d been raised here and fog was a standard aspect of the city’s night life. She enjoyed the sense of mystery and romance the street light haloes cast over the streets. As usual when she walked home from work, she was alone on the street.  There was no traffic to speak of.  Sometimes not a single vehicle passed by during her walk.  She heard the growl of two cats having a serious discussion in a garden behind a low cement wall.  A dog gave a mournful howl into the night then all was silent but for the clicking of her shoes.

 “Night Nancy!” had called her mate when she’d left the pub. Nancy worked weekends at the Bosun’s Place to cover her college expenses and she liked the work. It was not a rowdy place as some closer to the harbour could be and she knew most of the regulars. 

On a usual Saturday there might be two or three strangers come and go, but it had been the usual crowd this Saturday except for a tall, too slim, dark-haired woman who had come in alone late in the evening, ordered a pint and sat quietly at a small round table, seldom looking about. She’d left about an hour before closing time, her face pinched, angry.

Nancy’s work shoes clicked rhythmically on the worn cobbles, the sound quickly lost in the thickening fog. She could hear the fog horn from the cape across the bay, and a ship’s horn as it entered the harbour.  She always knew if the ship was going out or coming in.  It seemed to her that being aware of your surroundings and interpreting smells and sounds was not only wise, but sometimes intriguing as well.  She felt happy. 

 Tomorrow she would get her monthly pay and run to the bank to collect it during her break. Later there would be “the gang” which consisted of her older sister and her current love; maybe her younger brother Ian whom she would tease silly in front of his date, and of course David would be down from London with whatever friend he’d call over for a drink or two.  Ah, David.  It had been almost a month since they’d spent time together and it might as well have been an eternity.  You don’t get many breaks when you’re a young physician’s assistant.  She sighed in the darkness, visualizing his serious looking face as he contemplated her. She smiled in the dark.

 She still lived at her parents’ bungalow, in an attic bedroom she’d transformed into a kind of private apartment. Gallant David would pretend to be a country swain, climb a near-by apple tree and slip into her place through the open window.  It was a game; everybody knew they slept together up there whenever David was in town, but nevertheless, it was exciting.  David, she thought.  She could see his face in her mind, his smile, his curly auburn hair that always needed cutting or trimming.  

 That’s when she first heard the footsteps following her. She was halfway home, just five more blocks to go.  She wasn’t too concerned but she knew better than to dally.  She speeded up her own steps, then crossed the street, stopping in the darkened entryway of a second hand shop she was familiar with.  She listened intently; the steps crossed the street and were definitely coming closer. 

 Nancy’s shoes were not designed for running and would likely trip her, or make her slip or slide dangerously or painfully on the wet stones if she tried it. So she abandoned that idea.  She had the advantage of surprise: she knew exactly where the steps came from; she knew they were definitely a man’s tread, so she would have to deal with a man. But her position inside the doorway meant her assailant, if he was an assailant and not just some lost soul or wandering drunk, would give her side and back protection.  She slowly and noiselessly put down her handbag, took off her shoes, keeping one in her right hand, and waited.

 I need to tell you something about Nancy. She’s not your typical girl.  I mean, most typical small town girls don’t usually go in for martial arts, much less work their way up to a second degree black belt.  She had that, and she had the temperament that allowed her to use it with impunity.  She didn’t ask permission, if you get my drift.  She would attack her opponent, disable her, him or them, then stand back slowly swaying on the balls of her feet and wait to see what the other, or others, would decide to do.  If they had any intelligence at all, they’d admit defeat, if in a tourney, or scamper if it was a street encounter. 

Nancy had decided to take up martial arts for self-defence years before, but intensified her training after her older sister was raped, beaten and left unconscious outside of town some months back.  Jenny was healthy and strong.  She’d bounced back quickly but the incident had marked Nancy probably more than her sister. She had a deep, deep desire to find the perp and make him pay.  He’d never been found and the police had totally botched the investigation, which made Nancy suspect the rapist was on the police force and they knew, or suspected and were covering up for him.

 She heard the footsteps slow down, as if the man was hesitating and wondering what to do next. Nancy forced herself to take deep silent breaths.  She sensed her entire body, loosening arms and legs, waiting, anticipating, almost wishing for the attack to begin.  The steps began again, slow, hesitant, closer and closer.  By now she knew this was an assailant and that he knew she was holed up in a doorway.  Finally she saw his outline in the fog.  She couldn’t judge his height but she could see he was stocky – and she thought to herself – like a policeman: he had the bearing of one.  She judged it prudent to assume he was armed, perhaps with a knife, or even a hand gun.  There would be no word, no negotiation.  She readied herself to attack and deliberately uttered what sounded like a small frightened moan.

 The man turned in her direction and saw the entryway. He moved towards it now, confident, certain.  He had his quarry cornered. Nancy fancied she could read his thoughts. “I’ll knock her out, carry her into the alley, tie her and gag her, then get my car, throw her in the trunk and the fun begins.”  She allowed some of her anger to mount but controlled it.  Enough, just enough to do the trick. Her sensei had cautioned her many times about using anger: “Anger is good, yes, it can be useful, but it’s also a poison.  It blinds you; makes you foolish to take chances, makes you want to attack too soon, take shortcuts.  Anger is a dangerous tool, Nancy.”  Then she had demonstrated, making Nancy angry and defeating her with her own calm approach.  For the sensei there was never any battle, just a problem to be solved.  She had learned.

The attacker jumped into the entryway only to meet with, what he must have thought, if he’d had time to think, was a banshee from hell. She kneed him straight in the groin, elbowed his face, cracking his nose, broke his right wrist, then throwing him out on the street, kicked him sideways in the head.  He rolled onto the cobbles, his head lolling.  He groaned, once, then lay still. 

She searched him, found those plastic ties cops prefer to handcuffs these days, and trussed him.  She took his wallet and walked over to the closest street lamp.  “Yes” she said to herself triumphantly, “that’s a cop’s ID.  I’ve got the bastard, got him!”  She walked back cat-like in her bare feet and rolled the man over.  She recognized him.  He’d been coming to the pub as a regular all this time.  He’d been stalking her, waiting for his chance.  First my sister, then me, eh?  My turn, you bastard.  She listened carefully, looked up and down the foggy street: no traffic. Had there been, and had someone stopped, she had her story ready:  “He’s drunk, I’m getting him home.  Don’t worry, ain’t the first time.” 

 She got her handbag, pulled out her phone and called her brother. In a voice that broached no argument she said, “Ian, come over to Main and Heather now, I need the car.” She quickly closed the connection, pulled the Sim card, crushed it, and threw the phone and the card down a storm sewer grate.