Goings and comings.

Of course I realize there are many habitable planets scattered loosely throughout the galaxy. Our galaxy. Can’t even grasp the concept of billions of other galaxies out there, but I’m starting to get a pretty good feeling of what our galactic environment is at this moment. We are a one of many planets that actually support and share, when you think of it, a fairly narrow band of existence. That of large brained, tool using organisms that have overcome and dominated their environment to the point where there survival is being threatened by that very adaptability. In other words, it evolves into a  taker of what is there. And the there part becomes less and less and gets smaller and smaller till there is nothing to consume, except oneself. Obviously, in other words, extinction.

Tune in later

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WAR

In the human species it spans thousands of millennia and it only really comes down to one thing. How much life are we willing to expend to protect our territorial prerogative?
The answer evidently, is whatever it takes. You can see the meat-hunting bonding of a troop of chimpanzees, all males on the hunt. This reaffirms the societal glue that holds them together. Plus the brain – building power of protein. This bonding is territorial and is the basis of the human ape. None of our cultures has progressed beyond that. It’s always our country versus their country. Our tree versus their tree. This is us. You could put this into the context of a city or a forest. It will always be the same reaction pattern.
Can we overcome this? Can we overcome the basic programming of using up every bit of the environment, every bit of the food supply to secure our own survival? Even though that concept can only build to the point of all of our own obliteration. Are we doomed and in so doing bring down and cause all of the other beautiful species that live with us to die also? Some points to consider. Could this be fixed by us turning into a totally agricultural society with the strict caveat of controlling our numbers? An agricultural society that doesn’t use poisons to grow its food. An agricultural society that is not based on, in our case, the Wall Street agenda. Which is the God of profit. Are we capable of this, and as a society, keep in check those that have mastered to a degree the ability and the want to use money as a weapon to get their way instead of a club in the forest. Not a spear, but the manoeuvring of clever manipulation of monetary power as a weapon. As the upper level of pendants has now put it, a weapon of mass destruction. Which is really a weapon of mass manipulation.

As a species, we have the need to take as many bananas under our armpits as we can carry. Now we have houses and buildings and apartment complexes and military buildups and land. And then more land. And people like the mild super rich to the aggressive super rich. The not so great gap between Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Donald Trump. Still all together enmeshed and winding down to chewing up and spitting out and wasting small and precious resources to the detriment of all. Including, in the not so long run, themselves. Look at these words and now, quietly, yourselves.

And the uncomfortable thoughts that come when you approach the how of doing that, to the doing. What prods you to join? To be safe? To be protected by the tribe? Protected, and then to do what? Your own good or bad undercurrents safely hidden? And those things good or bad for the troupe? And then, having made that judgment, comes what? Satisfaction? Security? And then satisfaction for what? You? Your family? The culture around that is supposed to protect those two basic values stridently shallow and falling apart? Or maybe not shallow. Definitely falling apart. The human species not keeping up with the tsunami effect it has on the planet that is deteriorating underneath it.

But, personally, I see a shift. Fast and quick by Gaia’s standards, but slow and sad for those pure beings that are falling through the ice with no food or sustenance. Their environment less and less able to sustain them. On the thin ice throughout the world. In the deserts. In the sky. In the oceans.
And we will lose them.
I’m not a drum beater. But I know this is true.
We have to quit killing the wild things. Oh, I know I should be saying we should quit killing us, and that’s probably true, but that doesn’t do any good. Two great wars. I have no idea how great they were but they didn’t seem so peachy to me and they didn’t really kill off, in the great scheme of things, enough of us. Mere millions, when what was needed, billions. And then we wouldn’t have one of the third greatest mass extinctions ever known to this planet. And when I look over all of the evidence of what has gone on before on this planet, I personally feel we have/had one of the prettiest conglomeration of species this place has ever seen. This is true. The stripy coloration of a tiger? The joyful and deadly markings of a leopard? The perfection of a raptor? The horned ferocity of all the things that fight back with ferocity so that they will survive?
And all the beautiful bugs?
I don’t want to sound like I’m lamenting, but it saddens me. As I’m sure it saddens many of you. Maybe not those that have a somewhat sexual relationship with her firearms and the ability to convince themselves that they still live on the Veldt of 35,000 years ago. That’s where the male went out hunting and killed the mammoth while the woman stayed back in the cave and made it sanitary and healthy and happy to live in.
That’s what we are. That’s what we have been for millennia and our environment here now is false. Artificial.
And were killing the place.
And us.

Now, I know a lot of you who will read this now are aware of all this.  A lot of the rest will be, still, Neolithic hunters. I know this because that’s exactly what I was and I can still keenly remember the hunt and the kill and the razor-sharp joy of being in that moment. But that was/is a luxury that we can’t afford any more. We have to stop it. We have to overcome it.
Or there will be nothing left to put us back into the perfection of Gaia.
And of course, in the long run, that won’t bother Her a bit. She’ll just encourage more to come forth. I personally don’t think it would be as pretty as we all are now, because it is all going to be based on Komodo dragons and rattlers. Maybe.

You never know.

Have some fun with it.

“”Note: I’m reading this from the first draft, so pardon any grammatical awkwardness_

 

Later the next morning they were well south of the escarpment and Margo was shading her eyes looking into the distance.
“That’s odd.”
“What?”
“We should be coming to gully country ahead. But it doesn’t look like it.”
Vance scanned with his very sharp eyes and said. “There’s a reason for that. The place has changed.”

An hour later they were looking at the reason. A gigantic lava flow had burst out of the mountains to the west and had covered the land. Now they were facing a 10 foot wall of hardened obsidian basalt that stretched for miles to the south and east with a shattered surface of broken glass. The woman was dismayed. “Can the horses travel through this?”
Vance shook his head. “No. The shards would cut them.”
“Then let’s just leave them here and we’ll go ahead on foot.”
Vance looked at her. Definitely not as empathic with animals as he was. Had he misjudged? “They’ve become my friends and I won’t leave them. Besides, our moccasins wouldn’t last very long on that surface.” He pointed. “The lava has covered the old road but I remember that it headed toward that notch in the mountains to the west. We should be able to reach the tree line there before nightfall. We’ll go west through those mountains and then turn south until we hit a route back east to where your children are.”
“That’s going to take a lot more time!”
“You’ve been away for 12 years, so a few more weeks won’t matter. Have patience.” He was starting to notice that she could be irritating.
She followed him as they moved away from the dry lake bed. “Have you never had children?”
“Yes. Quite a few. Mostly litters.”
“Well, don’t you miss them?”
Vance let number four take him west for a few more moments before he answered.
“No.”
He didn’t want to go into it. 3000 years of familial memory was just more bother than it was worth out here on this dry flat land.
He looked up. Those mountains will be nice to travel in and they’d be moving into the warmer air of the western coast after they got through them. He was looking forward to it.

Six hours later they had found the western road and were now heading up into heights adorned with tall trees interspersed with meadows and some freshwater creeks.
Travelling higher, they came to a sign on the side of the road that said in old faded letters   *Government Campground. Please sign in.*  Below that, a crudely hand painted sign that said.  *Don’t come here unless you got permission.*  Whoever had painted the sign had spelled permission as purmishon. Vance looked around and wasn’t able to see any sign of human activity. Both signs looked old. These rules likely didn’t apply any more. They moved forward and entered into an ancient public campground. Overgrown stalls cut into the trees in various spots and each one containing a fire pit with the remains of old picnic tables beside them. The one large fireplace in the centre of the compound had obviously been used sort of recently. Vance looked closer. Not for a while, though. A year at least.
“If it’s okay with you, Margo, we could stay here the night.”
She got off her horse and walked to the small creek that ran through the campsite and tasted the water. “Water’s good and it looks like those brick outhouses are probably useful. We’ll be comfortable.”

After they had set up their camp, Margo looked up from their supplies. “We could use some fresh meat.”
He nodded. “No problem. You get some water heated up and I’ll be back soon.” He had smelled rabbit in the distance and he was particularly good at catching bush bunnies. Taking off his clothes and carefully laying his swords on top of them, he quickly changed into his wolf form. Not the werewolf form, but the nice one. The one that actually looked like a proper wolf. As he loped off, Margo thought again how odd it was to have a werewolf for a boyfriend. At least he was handy to have around. Her sister had dated a vampire for the longest time and it had been a trial for her. He was a night person and she was a day person. They just were never able to work it out.

As Vance ran into the forest following the scent of rabbit, he passed by a chopped down tree and stopped to sniff. Four humans. Three males and one pregnant female. Two Caucasians. One from northern Europe and one from the British Isles another male and female of African descent. They had been here about three days ago. Which made Vance a little uncomfortable. Even though he could smell them quite readily now, he saw that two of them had the ability to cover their scent. A comparatively recent adaptation of hunters these days. Vance could do that too, but then of course, he was a werewolf. That particular talent had come with the territory.

Moving on, he finally came to the meadow where the concentrated odour of rabbit had been emanating from. And then he stopped. Oh, shit! It wasn’t bunny rabbit. It was jack-rabbit! Hard to catch and stringy meat. Fuck!

An hour later and panting heavily with his tongue unfolded onto the grass beside him, he lay gasping for oxygen. Son of a bitch! These were even harder to catch than usual! Harder than any other jackrabbit he had ever hunted before! Smart, too. He was only able to catch two of the buggers before running out of steam. It would have to do. Three would’ve been nice, but, what the hell.
Changing back to his human form, he picked up the two rabbits and started moving back to his camp. Then, as he neared, he heard voices. One was Margo’s and the other was a man. He crept closer and saw that there were about 20 men and women wearing rough-cut furs and crude leather legging standing in a group around his companion. They had many tattoos and decorative scars on their bodies with a variety of piercings throughout. Their faces were painted in garish patterns of black and white. Lots of skull themes.
Vance stepped out of the foliage. The savages looked at him and then one, a female, stepped up behind Margo and put a flint knife to her throat.
A very sharp flint knife.

The only one that wasn’t standing was a large muscular and somewhat overweight man painted a little more extravagantly than the rest. He was reclining against a woman hands on knees behind him. To Vance, he looked kind of comfortable. He looked closer. So did the woman.
The man looked up to him with a bad-toothed smile and said. “You must be Vance! Pleased to meet you. I’m Chief Cecil. Your lady here mentioned that you were out hunting!” The man’s eyes widened. “And you caught jackrabbits! We’ve given up trying that a long time ago. How did you do it?” Demeanour of excited curiosity. Vance stepped forward he was within striking distance but he noticed that the woman holding Margo had put the point of her blade a little tighter. A small trickle of blood had now appeared.
” No doubt they are hard to catch.  “Do you want them?”
The big man waved his hand in a shooing motion. “Oh my goodness no, old boy. We’ll not be taking the food out of your mouth.” He had a very pronounced English accent beautifully enunciated and Vance could even precisely tell what part of England the man was from. He’d been everywhere after all. “Well then, sir. What’s our situation here?” He laid the rabbits down by the fire and stepped back.
“Terribly sorry, old boy, and I realize this must be awkward for you, but you have trespassed onto our sacred grounds. Most tragic!”
Oh, piss! More of this stupidity? Vance couldn’t remember how many times he’d ran into this situation. Just recently in fact. He started very subtly to change his voice to the man’s accent for empathic control. The faster you can become your enemy, the sooner he will trust you.
So he said.
“Well, I most certainly apologize, sir! Stupid of me of course! But the signs seemed so old, drat it all, I just assumed. Silly of me. Terribly sorry!”
The large man raised a quizzical eyebrow that was perhaps bordering on cynicism, but then he relaxed and said. “Well, quite understandable, old boy. But rules are rules and one has been broken.” He shrugged. “Again. Terribly sorry.” He motioned to one of the lumpy ax wielding warriors. “Edmund? Tea please.”
Laying down his ax, Edmund shuffled forward and produced two porcelain teacups from a pouch strapped around his waist. Though cracked, it was obvious that they had been acquired from a set of refined value and Edmund treated them with a delicate precision of mindful respect. Carefully placing the 2 cups in his one large hand, he took the boiling water off the campfire and carefully dribbled the liquid into them. Seemingly without noticing the fact that some of the boiling water had flowed over his thumb. Then, once again dipping into his bag, he pulled out a small pouch and opened it. At only a distance of 10 feet, Vance was able to bask in the aroma of fresh Orange pico! Where in hell did that come from? He looked at the reclining fat man. “Well, you know, Cecil.” He paused. “May I call you Cecil?”
“Yes of course, old boy. May I call you Vance?”
“We’ll of course, Cecil. Now, with your permission, may I say that any trespass here was quite inadvertent on our part. With all due respect, of course.”
Cecil smiled. “Well, yes, old boy.”
Vance was starting to get really tired of being called old boy.
Cecil dabbed a drop of tea from his surprisingly well-groomed moustache. “But again you see, old boy, a line has been crossed, what? And custom must be adhered to. I’m sure you understand.” He took a sip of his tea. “Now this particular crime usually demands, regrettably,” he took a sip.
“Death.”
“Vance closed his eyes. Why him? Why all the time? But he continued. “Well, that would be most regrettable, Cecil. Because any move toward that end would require me to kill you.” He looked around. “All of you.”
After a cold moment, Cecil’s smile returned. “Really, Vance? All of us? We have your swords. Besides, we don’t want to kill you.” He looked around to his tribe to make sure that they were observing how well he was handling the negotiation. “I mean really, old boy. If nothing else, a move on your part would ensure the death of your lady. Does that mean nothing to you?”
Vance looked at Margo for a moment before answering. Of course not.”
Cecil smiled good-naturedly. “Well good!”
“So what is it you want, Cecil?” For Vance now had the impression that these savage people required more than a customary punishment. He had the uncomfortable feeling they were expecting some kind of entertainment.
Cecil grinned. “My good man! That’s the spirit!” He looked at his pleased compatriots who were now quietly clapping in subdued appreciation. The possibly dangerous victim had now been manoeuvred into entertaining compliance. Once again they all agreed that they had the best boss in the whole world.

Vance looked around and realized that these people were starved for entertainment. Seems beating on a hollow log only went so far.
“So, Cecil. My good man. What do you wish of me?”
Cecil straightened up and, clinking Vance’s teacup with his own, said. “A poem, my friend. Lift up our souls with the prose of Kings! Let us hear the wings of the Dove of God fly amongst us! Open our hearts to the blessings of Heaven! Perhaps even the dolorous and ancient poetics of the bard Cohen!”
The group around the fire now grunting and stomping the ground in fervour. OONKADITTY! OONKADITTY!!
A bit unnerved, Vance said. “Of course, my friends. Of course! Let me think!” And he sat on the ground feeling the heat from the glowing campfire and the surrounding expectant bodies. The savages also reclining and following suit. After a few moments of nervous anticipation and a few impatient coughs from the crowd, Vance stood up.

Raising his left hand and pointing up and his other hand grasping an invisible lapel on his naked body, he looked around at the now rapt and somewhat grubby faces and said in his best early 21st century Kelsey Grammerian imitation. “Well!”………… a pause. “It’s. One!…………. another pause. “For. The. Money!” And here he spun and pointed an accusatory finger at the Chief. “And. Two. For the. Show!” Now he spun again and raised his hands to the heavens and roared in his best Shakespearean intensity. “Thddreee. To. Get. Ready!!!” Now dropping again to a tragic and embittered whisper with one hand covering his face and saying quietly.
“Now go. Feline. Go.”
There was a gasp from the crowd. A cumulative shiver went through them as they realized they were now listening to a quality of drama that only came along very rarely. If at all. They leaned forward in tremulous expectation.
But Vance was a little worried. He was terrible at lyrics. He wasn’t sure whether that was because he was so old or if it was just because he was never all that interested in that kind of thing. But given the circumstances of the moment, he forged on.
And so he said.
“Blue. Blue. Blue suede shoes.”
Now he spun around in the sand surrounding the large campfire. His naked feet kicking grit into the sitting savages.
“YOU CAN SLAP MY FACE!!”
And here the surrounding crowd flinched back reacting to the inherent violence of that act. A terrible breach of me-space.
He lowered his voice to tragic indifference, at the same time brushing a lock of hair from his eyes.
“You can steal my car.”
One woman, an attractive rough hewn beauty, fainted.
“You can…… his voice rose once again. This time in contemptuous dismissal.
“Drink. My. Liquor. From. An….” His voice now lowering in dismay at the tragic lack of honour in the human race.
“Fruit jar.”

He looked around and knew that he had them now. Truly a great audience. He strode over to a larger than usual warrior and bending down, grasped the mans chin and looking deep into his eyes said. “You can do anything that you want to do.” Now he rose and roared in his best Derek Jacobian loudnessness. “But NUH-UH HONEY!! STAY OFF OF THEM THERE”……… a pause. “Shoes.”
Walking casually around the campfire he raised his face to God and muttered in prayer.
“Blue. Blue. Blue suede shoes.”
Moving to his left, he pointed to a woman who was looking up at him with rapt adoration. Tears trickling from her eyes. Addressing her in a casually indifferent tone, he said. “You can knock me down.” Then he leaned close to her and put his lips to her ear and whispered. “You can slap my face.” As she fainted, he walked on and pointed his finger at the chief and said in bitterly accusatory tones. “YOU CAN SLANDER MY NAME ALL OVER THE PLACE!! Turning quickly, he once again faced the crowd and argued his position in calm and reasonable tones. “But don’t you, with all due respect, step on my blue suede shoes.” And here he once again roared in his most stentorian and somewhat overly dramatic Richard Bertonian stentorianessness. “BLUE…BLUE…BLUE SUEDE SHOES!! Then he dropped to his knees with hands clawed to the heavens and tears streaming down his cheeks to clutch at the tenuous hope that could hold, perhaps, with some mercy from a fickle God, the meaning of humanities fragile existence on this brutal place we call Earth. Just to accentuate the effect, he squeezed out a few more drops.
Just in case.

There was a stunned silence as the crowd, mouths open, looked up at him in tragic dismay. Then, to his left, a small woman started to put her hands together in a quiet reverential clap. And then another to his right. A large man attempting to clap and wipe a tear at the same time. And then more clapping! Then spears thumping on the ground in approval! And then voices! Bravo! Magnifico! Huzzah! Right on! The chief rose up and walked over to Vance. “Vance! Vance, my good man! A truly a wondrous performance! Truly wondrous” turning to his cohorts he grabbed Vance’s arm and raising it in the air, said.” Well, come on! Let’s hear it!” And the hoots and hollers of the crowd could even be heard by the fast rabbits to the west. They wondered what the hell was going on.

Stepping back from Cecil’s teary kiss on the lips, Vance turned to the crowd and said.
“Thank you, folks! Thank you! You’re too kind! Please. Thank you. Thank you.”
After things had died down for a bit and the fainted women had come to their senses, Chief Cecil addressed the crowd saying. “I think we can all agree that Vance deserves the prize! And not just the prize, but the prize of the year! I’m declaring right here and now that Vance has just won this year’s poetry award.” He raised his hands. “We all agree?”
“Great thumpings and cries of eager joy. They definitely all agreed.
And with that, the chief rummaged into his pouch and brought out a small package. Vance was actually starting to get a little excited. This must be one hell of a prize!
Opening the package, Cecil held it over Vance’s palm and out dropped six plastic buttons. One had a small crack in it but not much else was wrong with the set. “These are precious relics from the far and distant past, my friend. They are very rare and extremely hard to find.” Taking one step back he bowed and said. “They are yours.”
Vance looked down at the gift. Back home where he lived near his friend George and Georges wife Patricia, he’d seen a whole box of these things. If they were as precious as these people seemed to think, that box would be able to buy this whole tribe plus their complete territory. He didn’t say that though. Instead he said. “Cecil, I…… I don’t know what to say.” He wondered if he could squeeze out another tear. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Cecil put his meaty hand on Vance’s shoulder. “I’ll hear no more of it, my friend. You’ve earned it.” After that, it was dining and dancing with fresh possum being brought out and barbecued and accompanied by some pretty good hooch. This was followed by a generous portion of hummingbird tongues  drenched in fireweed honey. All in all, a hell of a good evening.

That’s it, folks. If I get some feedback I’ll throw more of the story down later on. Have a good life and never forget the power of silly.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

 

Just as the sun passed its zenith, they came out of the reeds and entered into dry pancake-flat lake bottom. Now they were on an ancient roadway and Vance was starting to remember that he had passed through this area before the change 2000 years ago.

“If I remember rightly, there’s a place up ahead that has a spring. When I was here before there had been a store and a home carved into the sandstone. I just stopped for some gas and drove on.”

Margo turned to him. “What do you mean, gas?”

“Those were different times, my lady. You have to remember.” He smiled. “I’m very old.”
“You’re also very strange, Mr. Wolf. I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to you. In any case, when I was here, there was nothing like that. Just some ruins. The cave house was still intact though. I just stopped long enough to water my horse.”

An hour later the high profile of a sandstone escarpment rose in the distance. The road ran through a notch in the rock and when they came closer they saw that off to their right a small pond was being fed by a rivulet of water coming out of the cliff. Dismounting, they walked over to a neatly carved door penetrating into the red sandstone and looked inside. They could see remains of old scattered furniture and bits of broken pottery strewn about, but the place smelled fresh. People hadn’t been here for a long time. There were windows cut in the rock and Vance could see that it probably had the makings of a very comfortable abode. Margo stepped up to the doorway.
“I think this is good enough for the night.”
Vance sniffed the interior. “There’s a rattler here.”
She stepped back. “Then let’s pitch camp over by the pond. Snakes make me nervous.”
Vance stepped into the dusty room. “Let’s see if this old guy doesn’t mind moving out for a night. It’s about the time he would want to go and hunt anyway.”

Vance walked forward and sensed that the snake was now aware of him. He mind-spoke. “Can you hear me, old one?”
“Yes.”
“We would like to have the room for the night.”
A small rattle as the snake uncoiled itself. “Do so. I go to hunt.”
Then Vance saw the thick dark body move out from behind a shattered armoire. His eyes widened. It was big. 10 foot long big with probably enough poison behind his fangs to drop an elephant. Maybe even a mastodon.

“How is the hunting around here for you?”
The serpent sighed. “It sustains me.”
“Good, good. Ah, don’t bother the horses, okay?”
“Too big to eat. They no bother me, I know bother them.”
Vance followed the big guy outside as it sashayed through the rocks and into the desert. He walked over to the horses. “Don’t mind the old snake, fellows. He’ll mind his own business.”
The two large animals watched the serpent disappear into the scrub and, in kind of a horsey way, shrugged and went back to nibbling on the tall grass around the pond.
Vance walked over and undid their harness. “It just occurred to me horse, that I don’t know your names. Mind telling me?”

The larger of the two looked at him for a moment and then mind-spoke. “We no have names. Our last Masters just numbered us. I’m four.” He nodded to his mate. “And she’s twelve.”
Vance walked up and took the blankets off their backs. “Well that’s no good! What do you call yourselves?”
They both looked at him blankly for a moment before the mare said. “I’m twelve.”

And the male said, “I’m four.”
“Yes, I know. But what’s your actual horse names? Your real names?” For Vance knew that everything on the planet had its own name.
The horses looked at him and then looked at each other and then looked back at him and then the female said, “You want power over us?”
“No, horse. I’m not a sorcerer. The only power I want over you is your permission to let me ride you peacefully. So. What’s your horse names? I’d rather address you like that. It just seems more polite.”
The mare turned to face him and put her broad forehead against his and mind-whispered a name with many nouns and syllables interspersed with glottal diphthongs and Kalahari throat clicks. Stepping back, Vance thought for a moment and looked into her large, beautifully eye lashed eyes. And then he said, “Seems to me that four and twelve will do just fine.” He walked over to the pond. “How’s the water here?”
“It good.”
So Vance bent down to take a drink and saw that there was somebody standing beside his reflection in the water. Startled, he looked to his right and saw nothing. He relaxed and smiled. Of course not. You can’t see a ghost proper until the moon comes out.
“Were staying the night, ghost. Hope you don’t mind.”
The ghost shrugged and disappeared.

Returning to the cliff house, Vance saw that Margo had tidied out the room by the door and was laying their blankets on the drifted sand of the floor. “Who were you talking to?”
Vance helped her straighten the bedding.
“The local ghost. Seems like an alright sort.”
“Good, but ghosts make me nervous too.”

Later, as they lay in the warmth of their robes, he asked. “Have you had much experience with ghosts?”

“Not much. Just one in the castle and only on the 21st of every month. Something about her time of death I think.”
Vance’s eyes had opened wide from hearing that last statement. “Castle?”
“Yes. Why?”
He leaned up on one elbow and looked down at her. “Just what does your husband do exactly? It’s pretty uncommon for stewards to have castles as far as I know.”
Vance realizing again he had never really asked her too much about her past history. He should have remembered that lovemaking has a tendency of getting in the way of communication.
She looked up at him. “He’s actually a King.”
Vance winced.
“Really? A King. You fibbed.” Vance was starting to get a little better idea of what he had gotten himself into.
She shrugged. “I’m sorry. Now that I have you with me, I didn’t want to scare you away.”
“Why? Because you figured I could handle a Steward better than a King?”
“Yes.”
“So instead of just taking care of a few guards, now we gotta take on a King and probably an army or two.”
“Yes.”
Vance lay back on the blanket and looked up at the ceiling. Then he said,
“Okay.”

Just after midnight, Vance got up to relieve his bladder. Looking down he applied the golden liquid upstream from a young cactus. Waste not, want not. Everything needs nutrients. Then he looked up. Just near the pond, he could see the ghost staring north into the desert. He had met a lot of ghosts but this one seemed to be a little more melancholy than most. Being not that sleepy, he decided to see what it was all about. Moonlight tended to keep him awake. Passing the snoring horses, he walked up to the ghost and asked, “What’s your story?” There was always a story and it seemed it was always of penance and or retribution.
“I did a great crime.” It intoned this in the ghostly tones of a melancholy Spirit.
“I see. What did you do?”
“I had come to the wrong conclusion about a man who I thought was in love with my wife. I realized I was wrong, but not until I had already killed them both.”
To Vance, it sounded familiar. The two headed serpent of insecurity and jealousy.
“Did you say the proper words of sending?”
“For her I did. Not for him.”
“Ah! Then you’re a ghost being haunted by another ghost. What is your punishment?”
The spirit pointed north. “Him.”
And out of the moonlit mist in front of them walked a horribly disfigured apparition. Vance could see that a barbarous death had been put upon the thing and he now realized what he would be asked to do. For these wraiths had recognized him for what he was. A Moon being. And one of the duties of his kind was to settle these types of matters.
He sighed. “What are your names?”
The ghost beside him said, “My old name was Victor Krasinski.” Then, pointing, “His is Billy Paul.”
By this time the disfigured Billy Paul had come up and was looking at Victor Krasinski with dead eyes. Then the two ghosts went to the shattered tree by the pond and Billy Paul whispered something into other man’s ear. Who then put his hands on the limb above him and waited. Vance called over. “What is your name now?”
The ghost looked back at him sadly. “The flayed Man.”
Then Billy Paul took out a thin blade from his tattered pants and started to remove the skin off the figure in front of him. Long thin peelings accompanied by long thin ghostly peelings of agony from Victor Krasinski. Vance was patient. He had seen events like this before. In 3000 years you get to see just about everything. Usually twice.

When the deed was done, the two mutilated things came and faced Vance once again. Then Vance looked up to the sky. “These two have been joined in revenge.” He paused and asked, “How long ago did this happen? This terrible crime?”
They both answered in unison. “The winter of 1898.”
Vance was shocked. “Holy Shim shit! You guys are terribly overdue!”
He started over. “These two have been joined in revenge. This is been going on too long, so I’m sending them home. All I can say is, it’s about time.” Then he picked up both of the weightless wraiths and threw them into the night sky saying. “Treat them easy. They’ve been through a lot.”
He watched as a flicker of lightning lit up the broken clouds above him. The door had opened and closed. Good enough.

Walking back to the cliff house, he noticed that the old rattler had coiled up in front of the door. “Hello snake. Found food already?”
“Yes. I need not much.”
Vance noticing that the serpent seemed uncomfortable. Then he realized that the old guy was probably chilly. The night had turned cool. “You want to come inside? It’s more your house than ours anyway.”
The old snake slowly uncoiled. “Humans build house, not me.”
Now Vance remembered that snakes really didn’t like being where they felt they weren’t welcome. Shyness coupled with politeness he supposed. “No problem. Get on in there.” He smiled. “But no biting, now. Ya hear?”
“I hear.”
Vance had noticed that snakes, rattlers especially, seemed to take everything very seriously without too much humour involved. That just seemed to be the way they were and you couldn’t do too much about it.

Tune in for the next installment where Vance gets to show off his knowledge of poetry.

 

The big lie (sometimes not so big)

Now, I am an outsider. Not just here in Canada, but the world in general. If I tell you I’m from Antares seven, there’s a very real possibility that you should believe it. So I truly am impartial about the things I speak of, but I am honestly fascinated with the Trump guy. Him and his cohort, Vladimir, have very much taken the showmanship and the reason for being from Mussolini. That amusing little fellow from World War II. The whole package comes with bombastic mannerisms, gestures and wild unsubstantiated statements. Very much backed up by the Credo that if you tell a lie long enough it becomes a truth to your audience. And who is the audience? Why,  the very people that  firmly and comfortably believe that John Wayne won World War II all by himself. In other words a white dominated society that didn’t have any room for queers, lesbos’ left wing liberals, brown people and anybody who thought too much. About anything. Then, over the recent years and coming from an overly crowded world, there came people that were brown, had funny accents and  religions that were definitely different from theirs. I don’t know,  really, why most of these John Wayners  seem to be from rural areas and the unresolved Civil War of the South, but they’re there and these are the people that the Trumpeter is  targeting when he said if he ever ran for politics he would run in the Republican Party because people there are more gullible. Seems like he was right. And right now they seem to be having a country that is pandering to people of the soil who are just starting to realize that white people are a minority on this planet. And they’re scared. So they buy more guns and listen fiercely to all the Nazi propaganda coming from the NRA and then sit behind the barricades and wait for all those brown people to come out of the woods and, I guess, kill them. Or at least have wild and insanely pleasurable sex with their women. And  the Trumpeter looks on, pleased that he’s been able to follow his Russian blackmailer so assiduously. Plus he just loves the power. And believe me, it’s definitely going to his head.

And we, sitting nervously up here in Almost Neverland, watch nervously in fascinated horror as our beloved neighbour slowly sinks into a pretty good facsimile of fascist Germany 1931. What fun.
If you think I’m right or wrong, please retort. I’m not doing nothing and it’s always fun to have a good conversation.

Vance

Chapter 3

“There are two of them on the Little River. One man and one woman. The man is armed with two swords and they’re camped on Green rock island.”
“The swords. Do they look old?”
“Yes.”
“Then he is probably very good with them. Anything else?”
“Yes. The woman is the same one that passed through here many years ago.”
“Really?” This made the old man happy. The woman’s husband had come to the camp shortly after the woman had left. His horses and men were spent, but he still wanted to go on. The old man had let him know that foreign men were not allowed into the sacred land to the north. The husband had offered a reward if the old man’s warriors would retrieve her back to him. Then he threw down a bag of gold saying that if she was caught he would bring more to the tribe. Taking him for his word and already liking the amount of gold in play, the old man sent out three warriors on fast horses to catch her. They could not. By the time they had gotten near to her, she had entered the forest and that was a place that his people did not go. Old vengeful spirits lived there.
The husband had left the bag of gold behind saying that if they ever saw her again to bring her to him.

Now the old man smiled. He saw the wealth of many horses on his immediate horizon. “Take 20 men and place 10 on either side of the river. I will tell them when to attack.” He paused. “Now only address me by my hollow name. I see a death in front of me.”
The tall warrior nodded. “There will be 20 of us, Pownca. It is the sword carrier who will die.”
After the tall warrior left to gather fighters, the old man rose into the air and started to move toward the river. The swirling of the reeds beneath him marking his passage.

Chapter 4

Just before dawn, Vance entered into a dream. A dream that had terrified him when he was a child. Now again causing him to feel the same cold ripples of fear from that long-ago horror. It always started out the same. He’d be standing on a long flat plain of waving grass facing west into a dying sun. Then, against his will, he’d be forced to turn around to face a house. Being from the steppes he had never known what a house was until his mother, who his father had captured as a slave from distant lands, had explained. When he described it to her she said she had never seen one like that. The houses that she had lived in had been made of stone. She would come to him at night when he was having his terrors and make sure that he didn’t hurt himself. It was her cultural belief to not wake anybody  out of a dream. Especially a bad dream. The image of the house had been strange to him, but he realized later as the years passed, that it would have been a 19th-century two-story wooden mansion with gabled roofs and tall dirty windows with the drapes pulled shut inside. It was in a state of advanced disrepair sitting behind a low rusted fence. The front gate tipped and broken. And again, against his will, he would walk toward the house and up the wooden steps to the narrow veranda. Then he would open the door and step in, whereupon the door would immediately close behind him and he would know that there was no escape that way. The only way out would be to go upstairs and down the long hallway there to the back door where another set of stairs led down to the ground. And to reach that upstairs he had to go down the hallway in front of him. A narrow corridor with many doors. And he knew behind each door was a horror of taloned monsters. Things that slithered and mewed, broken and bloodied bodies living in nightmarish pain and darkness. And as he was forced to pass down that long hallway, sometimes, not always, a breathing thing would reach out and attempt to grab him. The boy seeming to know that the rule was they could not leave their dark rooms, but he was never sure. That was part of the game the house did. And eventually he would walk past the terrors and escape. If he woke up in the middle of the dream, then the next time he slept he would start back at exactly the  place he had left it. And now, as Vance became more and more enfolded into the scene, he remembered. He remembered how he had overcome the dream. So now he did the same thing. Before he got to the broken gate he rose into the air and pushing his hands forward, crashed into the house and then right through it. Going through every room and momentarily seeing the occupants as he destroyed them and the house around them. Back and forth east to west, north and south he kept demolishing. And then, when it was nothing but a heap of wooden wreckage, he stopped and turned to look at it. And out of the rubble rose an old man saying.

“You are strong, wolf.”
Still fighting remnants of fear, Vance awoke and mind spoke to the hidden figure on the far shore. “Show yourself, Witch!”
After a moment’s pause, a robed man rose out of the reeds and floated across the river to hover 20 feet away.
Vance made himself more awake. “Why do you attack me, old man? I have done nothing to you!”
You have trespassed onto sacred land, Wolf.”
Vance winced. Not that shit again. He couldn’t remember all the time he’d trespassed onto sacred land. But he did remember that it always seemed to wind up as trouble. “My apologies.” He probed a bit. “But we have to go south and how was I to know it was sacred land?”
The old man moved forward to descend on the pebbled beach. “I would assume that the impaled body might have been a clue. He was a trespasser too. And a thief. But there is an out for you here, wolf. Do one simple thing and you can be on your way.”
“Really? Then if it’s in my power I will do it.”
“I can see that you are a wise wolf. All you have to do is give us the woman. She is valuable to us. We would not hurt her.”
“Is that because her husband doesn’t want anybody to fuck her up? Because that’s something he’d want to do himself. She’s told me her story. By the way, why are you using your hollow name? Do you expect a death?” Vance slowly raised his hands to the hilts of his swords.
“You know my hollow name and what it means?”
“Yes, Pownca. I have some abilities.”
The old man brushed some of his long hair away from his eyes and Vance knew what that meant. Drawing his swords, he turned to see a group of 10 men silently moving over the  beach toward him. He immediately saw what he was up against. Long spears and short Impi stabbers for close in work. They all had woven reed shields and had war axes on their belts. Vance’s eyebrows went up. And they moved good! Really good. They split into two five- man units that Vance realized to be a Zulu attack formation.
Their footwork was perfect!
Leaping to his right, he put his back up against a broad bone tree and called out to the old man. “Stop them from doing this, Pownca! They will die!”
“You will give us the woman?”
“No. I don’t think I will. Now stop your men or I will kill them.”
The old man smiled. “We’ll see.” And with that, a five-man squad attacked Vance on his left. Again, Vance couldn’t help but admire their positioning and footwork. These guys were artists!
As they closed in, Vance spun to his left in a half circle and brought his sword down on two thrusting spears and cut off the ends. Then he spun back to his position against the tree. “Stop them, Pownca. These warriors are too good to die!”
Margo had woken up and was now standing behind Vance with the long black rod from her pack in her hands. To Vance, it looked like she knew how to use it. “Don’t waste it, Margo! I can do this!”
Then the warriors attacked again. This time all 10 and another 10 approaching in the near distance. Vance stepped forward into the formation and sliced one shield in half. That slice also taking off the man’s arm behind it. Then he pivoted back to the tree swinging his swords in a figure 8 pattern. “I’m begging you, man! Call them off!” He hated killing talent.
“I cannot, Wolf. It is our code to fight to the end. Whatever that end may be.”
Vance pounced into a small opening among the warriors to his right and just as he lopped off two heads to his left, a spear thrust penetrated his side. Damn! These guys were good! He knew he could stop these warriors, but there would be much death and he would most likely get punctured a lot. He hated that! The wounds itched for days.
Then Vance realized what he had to do. Dropping his weapons he put up his hands and said. “Can you give me a minute?”
Expecting surrender, they stopped their charge. Then Vance changed into a werewolf. Not the kind where he was just a wolf, but the kind that was part human and part wolf and 7 feet tall. Long ropy arms ending in gnarled hands equipped with sickle -like three-inch talons. Humped back tapering up to a heavy maned head holding more than its share of long yellow fangs.
“Well come on, thfellas’ leth’s thsee who wanths to die thtoday!”
He had a hard time talking with all those teeth in his mouth.
The warriors looked up at him in shocked horror.
Then they ran away. Some of them screaming.
Vance relaxed. ” Thwell! I geth thaths that!” And he changed back into just plain old Vance. Turning to the old man, he asked. “Now. Are you going to be helpful?”
“Sure.”
“Great! Um, can I ask a question?”
“Sure.”
“Where did your men acquire their training? They’re very good.”
“Thank you. A Kenuckian mercenary was passing through from the north and we persuaded him to teach us. He coveted gold.”
“Must’ve been very good. Where did he go from here?”
“South.”
“Well, in any case, your warriors learned quite well. May I ask another question?”
“Yes. Please do.”
“Thank you. Would you have horses available?”
“Sure.”
“Could we buy a couple of them?”
“Sure.”
“How much?”
“Would you be leaving right away?”
“Yes. How much?”
“No charge.”
“Really?”
“Sure.”
“Well, gosh! That’s really nice of you!” It always made Vance happy when he could find the good side of people.

Later, as they were riding south, Margo commented how nice the people had turned out to be. Even giving them supplies of corn meal and salted meat. Vance agreed. “Usually when you give people the opportunity to do good, you’ll find that their better nature always steps forward.” He shrugged. “That’s been my experience anyway.”
The horses they had been given were Red Kalgolys. A beautiful big chested mixed breed that had been developed for stamina. Also a very comfortable ride.
He liked horses.