Posted on | March 21, 2013 | No Comments
Welcome to the world of Ambergris where a young sea world employee must seduce a whale to free his imprisoned giantess lover from the clutches of the dastardly Frenchmen.
Why am I making seductive whale sounds that may remind some reggae fans of Bob Marley’s last words?
Why am I dressed up as a dolphin hoping that they are considered the sexy urchins of the sea?
Why am I disappointed that Methias the Whale finds my rubber form ridiculous and mocks me with his laughter? The answer is simple. I love you.
To properly explain the story we must go back 38 years ago.
My grandfather was a retired fisherman in Nova Scotia.
His inability to catch a single fish in 12 years had near crippled him.
Even the sound of water dripping from the tap had him reaching for a bottle of Old Sam’s rum. He lived near the ocean and peering out his window would result in a feverish attack of panic. As such he lived in constant drunken terror. You see he liked to draw murals of the ocean for the local postcard company to pay his rent.
One day my Grandfather decided to face his fear and go for a swim. He got as far as the beach when he slipped on an oily white viscous rock like substance. My grandfather broke his back and died. A blind man found his corpse.
His killer was the seemingly harmless rock. After the blind man’s guard dog had finished licking the smelly rock, the police brought the rock in for questioning. It turned out that the rock was a substance called Ambergris. The blind man became monstrously wealthy and bought the eyes of a starving child in Africa. The point is so simple that even the blind man can now see with his currently perfect eyesight.
My grandfather could have been rich. I would have been able to afford to follow to France.
It doesn’t seem that there is much in the way of interspecies attraction between dolphin and sperm whales. Or perhaps the cunning beast has seen through my ruse. I fear to see the behemoth in heat and the rapturous eruption from it’s blow hole. Love is hard. I will free you from the army of midgets that have imprisoned you. I will feel the cool whisper of your gullet on my neck.
Tomorrow I will dress up as mackerel. Thank god for the costume’s stores 20 thousand leagues under the sea section.
Pray for me,
Michael Gray Kimber
Posted on | March 20, 2013 | No Comments
Welcome to the story of a love struck employee at Sea World and his attempt to make his fortune in Ambergis to free his giant girlfriend from imprisonment in France. For the first installment of Ambergris click here
I regret to hear that of your imprisonment. I am proud that it took five helicopters to and three hundred marines to capture you. You look exquisite in the National Geographic pictures where heavy iron chains cover you from head to toe. Very S and M. And yes, your bangs looked dynamite. I hope your haircut is all you wished for when you journeyed to the land of our French forefathers. I will do my damndest to raise a fortune to free you.
Which brings us back to my adventures at Sea World. As I grin at the Sperm Whale and scream it’s mating call into the dour evening, I know my time has arrived. Prance, dear whale. Prance! You will make me richer than my wildest dreams.
The answer to your financial problems lies in Ambergris. Most people know that Paris is famous for it’s perfumes. However most remain unaware that these perfect scents would not be possible with the near mythical substance that is Ambergris. A scent that smells too sweet or too musky is repugnant to the human sense of smell. Thus the most putrid smell in all of the world must be added to give ladies that one of a kind, “I-must-frantically-copulate-with-your-inner-limb” scent. It comes from whale ejaculate.
As the sperm whale prances I see your chains lifting.
I am Ahab, my darling. And I will seduce the behemoth for you.
Don’t despair. I’m coming and the whale will follow.
Pray for me,
Michael Gray Kimber
Posted on | March 20, 2013 | No Comments
I miss you more each and every day. Until my heart itches like it has developed chicken pox that may prove fatal. I scratch it with thoughts of your gigantic and lethal limbs wrapped around my miniature body. Oh how I wish I could see from the mammoth height of your shoulders. My heart pitter-patters with panic at the idea that you will never give me another piggy back ride.
Your foray to France has left me heartbroken and trying get rich quick schemes so that I can come to Paris and passionately make love to on a bed of money, perfume and cheese. I hope your trip has been fruitful and you finally got the haircut you couldn’t find in North America.
I am writing to tell you that I have found employment at Sea World.
My fortune shall soon follow.
Pray for me,
Michael Gray Kimber
Posted on | January 5, 2013 | No Comments
Members of the Colony might remember that two years I found myself on the internet and his name was Michael G Kimber and he wrote novels that he posted online. You can read about it here: http://colony-of-losers.com/wordpress/2010/12/10/the-return-of-michael-george-kimber/
He is 75 years old and British. Immediately we had a strange kinship you can only experience when you are the exact same person but separated by 50 years and an entirely different life. To know that there is another Michael Kimber who has put his dreams to page and felt love, heartbreak and the knowledge that time brings.
During the winter I always wonder if I should have come out and made my pain so public. Because it’s hard hearing confessions from strangers who just want someone to listen to the things they can’t say that to the people they love. Because I don’t actually know how to help them.
Because each time I go back to the Colony I both love and hurt more than I am comfortable with. Because my little brother still hasn’t been able to find help and my connections with the Mental Health Commission don’t make any different from the rest of you.Despite auditory hallucinations and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder he remains unmedicated. The government says he doesn’t qualify for treatment.
A counsellor told him that if he wants to get help he has to be suicidal, have a plan and make it eerily plausible. You almost wonder if a little small cutting would be necessary to provide the requisite versimilitude. The government is comfortable with children dying as long as it feels it has plausible deniability. And I remain powerless to stop them.
Because I often have to lose strangers and learn about the tragedies of people I barely know. I have peeked behind the curtain and seen the life of people laughing at parties and crying when no one can see them. I have seen the vulnerable side behind the smiles and felt love so wild and desolate it has taken nights of sleep where I live the nightmares of strangers and hold the hands of their loved ones. I lack patience or an understanding of a reasonable pace to change a system that takes 4,000 Canadians from their families every year.
Because I am wildly ambitious and want to change the world and the world changes slower than I would like it to.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter that strangers say nice things and the world has greeted me with open arms. Because sometimes I wish it hadn’t happened and I could just be like everyone else. You want to peek through space and time and see if you did the right thing.
This is the letter that traveled to me through time. This is me as a 75 year old British man. All I can say is that it was nice to hear:
I’ve been reading about you in the Toronoist (don’t ask me how I got there!) and about your coming out campaign. Just thought I would send you a message of support between namesakes.
In the article you claim that you did not set out to be a spokesman for people with mental illness, but life has a funny way of creeping up on you. It seems now that you’re the man. As you probably sussed out in our previous correspondence my language is not as colourful as yours but from time to time there’s an exception; like now perhaps. I hope you have the balls to carry it off. People with your kind of problem need someone with strength and determination up front to speak for them, someone who knows what it is all about. I guess that’s you Michael.
I was pleased too that the piece carried a good photo of you. I never really knew what you looked like and now I do. It reminded me of something you said in your blog shortly after you discovered me, “I’ve seen what I will look like in fifty years” you told your readers. Looking as I do from the other end of the telescope I can tell you that, apart from the beard which I didn’t have then, and the hair colour (I was very fair when I had some hair) we do share a kind of a likeness, so you may well have been right. I’m tempted to say be careful what you wish for – you know the rest.
Good luck to you in your endeavours. I hope that helping others will in turn help you,
Best regards for 2013 and beyond,
Props to Michael George Kimber and the wonderful world of the internet. To the Colony I am here with you and the time to make a change is coming. Expect big things in 2013. To my little brother, we are also just getting started. I expect big things from you in 2013 and I will break the world if tries to keep you from being in it.
Happy New Year. Let’s make history.
Posted on | December 4, 2012 | 3 Comments
“Sorry. Your crisis isn’t enough for us to keep you,” said the doctor. “This isn’t an emergency.”
Through my time trying to help others I have acquired an intimate secret. The place where your empathy burns on endless fuel of black pitch and bile. The exact location where your heart and brain meet. I know what it is like to feel love and anger become the same thing.
Today at work I seethed.
In between jokes about Mitt Romney and his newfound feud with Boston, I am fighting back the emotion so it doesn’t shine through my eyes and ignite the room in flames. Where tears become fire and all sense of calm crumbles.
This is not an emergency.
Let me explain the last few days, dancing in and out of moments I struggle to bring to reality when I turn them into unrehearsed speech. I want you to understand what my life is like when the sun goes out and the winter enters your bones.
Let’s go back to Friday.
I have given a speech at a mental health film festival and a fifty-year-old woman looks into my eyes with tears. Her hair is gray and her unshed tears weigh heavy in concentric circles under her eyes.
She has listened to my speech and wants me to help her save her son’s life. He is addicted to crack and cocaine and can’t stand to be around joy and laughter. His sickness has become so familiar that it’s opposite, that communication in kindness and joy makes him feel like a space alien from another galaxy. The way he speaks to himself is in disgust and self-hatred. He can’t learn another language.
He prefers the company of bad people and those who will take advantage of his merciless frailty because his terror has led him to take every escape from the life he no longer feels capable of having. He can only be around family when they judge him. His only intimacy is found in arguments.
His mother has no idea what to do. She thinks that since I have climbed up the mountain I can point her to crags and cliffs he can grip onto. She doesn’t understand that the way down and the way up that mountain are never the same. That every fall is different and each climb back up is perilous.
I try to find words that will help or heal this hell.
Imagine looking for a miracle in your mouth and only finding sounds.
The last year I have grasped my tongue waiting for God to speak through it as I watched a close friend continue to fall without finding their feet. There are no words to manipulate her into seeking the help she desperately needs and god knows I have looked for them. I have tried humor, genuine emotion and anger. None work.
She looks beautiful in pictures. Pictures are worth a thousand words but most of them are lies. Everyone smiles when the camera flashes and according to the world she is climbing to the summit. Even if those who love her know that she is standing on a cliff and has a defined fear of heights.
My love has taken the form of silence and rocks in my throat.
I can’t save her.
She must hurt herself enough to be ready to heal and I am not around to watch the show. As she breaks the things that hold her to this life, she might feel like she is flying and free to be nothing but the worst things that exist inside her. Alone can feel free if only for a little while.
Utter helplessness is the most infuriating feeling in the world and one we all must deal with. Such is the life my friends and I must lead as disease makes mockery of a beautiful life.
This sweet looking mother waits for me to tell her the secret to save her son.
I tell her that he can only get better if he wants to get better.
“He doesn’t want help. He wants to die,” she says. “He will die if I don’t think of something.”
“There is nothing I can do,” I tell her; giving the only truth I have, even if it is an ugly one.
“Things are fucked up around here,” she says. “He looked for help once. There wasn’t anywhere he could go.”
I give her a hug because I can’t give her son back to her.
This is not an emergency.
I’m watching pornography in the privacy of my bedroom preparing for sleep. From my ear buds comes the sound of a fake orgasm. I wonder if the outrageous moans can be heard outside of the privacy of my eardrums.
My attention span is short tonight. I am watching a cornucopia of movies all with the exact same lack of plot. Everything is boring, and a thousand beautiful women don’t take the place of a real one.
Interrupting my moment of solitude before sleep is the beeping sound that says someone wants to talk to me on Facebook. Curiosity makes me multi-task.
I don’t really know her and her opening lines are hesitant and filled with misspelled words. She wants to talk. My heart stops for a quarter of a second. I know the conversation I am going to be having.
It’s after midnight. After midnight people only want to discuss one thing with me.
Life and death.
She is a sister of someone I was friends with in high school. Looks the same now as she did when she was in girl’s scouts or cheering her brother on when he played basketball. In her pictures she smiles and you can see her youth in every unwritten line in her face.
She is drunk and doesn’t feel like she can trust herself to be safe at home. It takes only a few moments for me to realize that she is looking for a blogger to save her life at midnight. This phenomenon is incredibly familiar to me and part of the reason I rarely post here.
The reason is simple: they want help and have no idea where to go. My job in this circumstance is to point them in the right direction and say goodbye.
I ask her if she is suicidal.
She says she believes she might hurt herself.
I tell her that she needs to go to the Emergency room. I send her the address of a local hospital.
This girl says she is going to go to the hospital and for a moment a movie plays where I am a hero and this is the moment where she turns her life around.
A moment later she says she doesn’t have the money for a cab. I tell her to put it on her credit card. If it is a question of life or death, she should pay for a cab anyway she can. If she has to she would walk there. If she has to, she should run.
She says she is going to pass out drunk and will figure it out in the morning.
I tell her goodbye and block her on Facebook.
I make a Facebook status that informs my Facebook friends that I am not a therapist and I can’t save their lives. All I know is that I am not a trained professional and this is not my emergency.
I go to bed sick to my stomach.
Back to regularly scheduled programming and a good night kiss from a porn star.
All he can see is my glasses reflecting back with images from the computer screen in the pitch-black room. The lights in my room are weird candelabra shaped light bulbs and I can’t find replacement bulbs anywhere. Facebook chat brings me together with a brilliant young boy whose highs and lows I have become intimately familiar with.
A few September 1sts ago I drove around Halifax, worried that he would kill himself before I could find him. After a shitty afternoon he finally returned my phone call and told me his location. We went to the Emergency Room and the doctors told him he wasn’t suicidal enough to get immediate help.
We left the hospital and less than a year later he left the city. We still talk now and then. He remains eccentric, brilliant and out of his mind.
“So does it sound like things are chopped and screwed?” I ask.
“Sort of,” he says. “My thoughts go slow and stretched out. Sort of like I am hearing my thoughts in rewind.”
Three years later and he is having auditory hallucinations.
A few months ago he was having a manic episode. He went to a clinic in his hometown and was told he had bipolar disorder. Before giving him medication or pointing him towards counseling they saw his address on his piece of identification. He was in the wrong district. He was told by the doctor he would have to get help elsewhere. Not surprisingly, he didn’t.
“I need you to work your mental health guru shit and find me some place to get help,” he told me.
We make jokes. Not really sure what they are. At some point, we Skype while I take a shit.
I tell him that he needs to explain to the workers that he is suicidal and has a plan. There can be no repeats of the last dozen times we tried to get him help. He can’t help laughing when he contemplates explaining in detail a plan that doesn’t exist.
“So I looked at this spoon and I knew I wanted to shove it in a socket and kaboom!”
I do an Internet search. We find a few places and he promises to go. I don’t hear anything for the rest of the day.
I send a Facebook message to my own mental health guru, a man by the name of Andy Behrman.
I explain the situation.
Andy is baffled that someone who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder wouldn’t have been immediately prescribed medication. He tells me that my young friend needs to seek out EPT(Emergency Psychiatric Therapy) as soon as he possibly can.
Unfortunately my friend has gone looking for help and is temporarily off the grid.
Andy and I talk for a few moments about the price we have paid for sharing our life stories. He tells me that he can’t over the desire to help anyone who asks him for help. He has learned a few things and wants to help people find their bottom because his own fall landed him in some desperate and deep hells.
He points these strangers to the right places and he takes their phone calls when they make them. They are strangers and they are like family because they know the lost place where he comes from. Every few weeks another friend dies and a little piece of him goes with it. Such is life when you dedicate your life to helping others.
I decide I will only dedicate my life to helping people I love.
There isn’t enough of me to lose that much.
Instead I lose much of a good night’s sleep tossing and turning, caught in imagery of all I might lose. Despite the boy’s curious personality he is one of the people in the world I am closest to. The only person in the world I regularly yell at.
Years ago during a freestyle session I told him he was my brother.
No matter what I wouldn’t turn away from him. For some reason I love him. For some reason beyond my understanding he is a part of my family.
At work I receive an email from my young friend. He went for help and didn’t find it.
The doctors in the emergency room said, “Sorry. Your crisis isn’t enough for us to keep you. This isn’t an emergency.”
Let me take you to places you have no desire to go.
You are in an Emergency room and you don’t know if you can live to see tomorrow. Grasping onto your last shreds of consciousness you decide to live and find the courage to drag yourself down to triage. The lights are fluorescent and their shine hurts eyes that haven’t seen sleep in far too long.
You are in your early 20s and far away from your parents and the egomaniac that calls you his younger brother. There is no one to hold your hand and no one in this god-forsaken place knows how to make a joke. With hands cold and near frostbit you are going to try to climb down the mountain you fell down. All you need is a little bit of help. Someone who knows what they are doing.
Your stomach feels like it is trying to jump out your throat. Words don’t come easy but you manage to mumble the truth.
You tell them what’s wrong and they tell you it isn’t wrong enough.
Your life and death isn’t an emergency situation.
Now pretend you are someone who loves them. Who has been dizzied by their highs and lows and felt vertigo watching them stare into the mouth of the abyss and sing songs that could shake the heavens. You have felt powerless and knew that they were the only person who could save their own life. And they are going to do it. Your eyes fill with tears in the pride that they have found this strength in themselves. They are finally going to get help.
Now watch them reach out for a helping hand and find their fingers slip on red tape. All you can say is better luck next time and hope they have the courage to try again.
This is your child and you didn’t know what they were going to grow up addicted to crack and coke and live on the street. This is the person you fell in with and you have watched every beautiful thing fall away in a frantic retreat from all that terrifies them.
Every year four thousand people die in Canada from suicide. In the last five years that is twenty thousand dead, most of them children, all of them members of a family, all of them with friends who walk with broken hearts and must relearn how to breath.
How many of them were in an Emergency room and were told they weren’t sick enough to be helped? How many of them would still be with us if our system weren’t incredibly broken?
Canada wants to build prisons instead of hospitals and drug treatment centers.
I want you to get in touch with your members of parliament. I want you to send them emails. When their assistants send you a nicely worded letter, I want you to visit their offices and I want you to bang on their door until they open and I want you tell them about the friends you have lost. I want parents to mail them pictures of the children they no longer have. I want their hearts to break with yours.
When an Emergency room won’t take you and the suicide hotline is busy I want you to call your Member of Parliament and tell them what it’s like not to be able to get help. Don’t send me your letters of desperation and despair. Let them feel this agony that burns in me. Let this anger burn away indifference down to the last drop and let them feel the need for change until they can no longer take it and have no choice but to do their jobs.
They can’t ignore us any longer. In the last few years we have broken our silence and begun to speak.
Obama won his election because the Republicans ignored the African American, Hispanic and LGBT vote. They believed an old system could survive and they were left in the past because they couldn’t believe in a better future.
In the next ten years we are going to be the next group they can no longer ignore. Get on our side or lose the next election. We are your marketers, we are your artists, we are the ones who paint your dreams and write your slogans.
We aren’t alone. There is no family that we are not a part of. We are in every stratus of society, we are in every race, we are in every religion, we are in every industry. In the very near future we will break the stigma. Then we will break the system.
This is your chance to do the right thing.
My last few years have been filled with others pain.
But I am the wrong person to speak to.
Speak to your Member of Parliament, your MLA’s. Speak to your provincial government’s health ministers. Speak to the media.
This is an Emergency.
It’s time that they realized it.
Posted on | December 1, 2012 | No Comments
When I performed the Cure for the first time my legs were shaking and the stage lights were so bright they burned.
For months I desperately sought rescue from my anxiety. I couldn’t make sense of the chaos and each step I took was accompanied by an abrupt fall to my knees.
After months of constant anxiety, of sleepless nights, of breakdowns in front of friends and family, Christmas dinners as a zombie, I had finally come to a point where I had to love myself or die.
The Cure is a love song.
A desperate plea for change. A refusal to take one more step back from my humanity. That no matter what happened to me I wouldn’t give up my right to love and be loved.
This speech is not about my words but the actions that followed them.
After that night I dragged myself up that cliff after falling down it.
That night I stood without allowing my knees to buckle.
That night I gave my victory speech.
Today I speak about the imagination it takes to find the beauty in life.
It’s about last year when Halifax’s heart was broken and my Facebook picture bore a rainbow flag.
It’s about when I broke my own heart because I couldn’t imagine that I deserved to be happy.
It’s about the people who stand in this room and found the courage to move the world with the love that moved them.
It’s for Egg Films who dared to believe in me and every single person who worked to make this magic for no money in a warehouse where you could see your breath and everyone’s nipples were visible.
It’s for the people who said that this little video helped them to live.
It’s for anyone who understands that if you can change yourself you can change the world.
It’s going to be weird.
The first time I really thought about the concept of Me, involved eating a chewy handful of mushrooms in my first year of university.
I was 18 years old, playing the friendliest game of NHL 94 in the history of time with my best friend.
We refused to check each other and try to score points and frequently passed back and forth between teams. My face was lit with a mushroom smile, where you can feel the muscles in your face, breeding a second smile made of poisonous plant matter. My friend looked like a gigantic and peaceful gorilla.
“I have been having this thought,” I explained.
“Just one?” my friend replied.
“Yeah I think it’s brilliant in a stupid way.”
“You just checked me.”
“Instinct. I was thinking about how wonderful this is.”
“Can I check you back?”
“Sure. I was having this thought….”
“Yeah, I have feel like I am at a zoo. Everyone is wonderful and in cages.”
He might have been referring to my friends who decided to mix their shrooms with mescaline and acid and were periodically laughing, crying and kissing each other in the rooms upstairs. Through the open door, you can hear that they have settled on braying laughter for the moment.
“It’s about cages. Sort of about cages. I mean no metal. I mean the cages in our mind.”
Purple Pandas. Lemon Lions. Curious Cougars.
“I don’t really understand bars,” says my friend. “People getting drunk and stupid. They should be playing hockey. Doing sports. Lifting weights. Getting a real job. Paying for dentistry.”
“It’s not really about that,” I reply. “Though I see how you went from cages to bars. Nice wordplay. I am talking more about how wonderful this is. How happy I am right now. How if I had the choice to be like this I wouldn’t. Not all the time. I’d rather be me than be happy. I like happiness but I want more from life than that. I like being me. ”
“You just scored a goal.”
“And I am a dick.”
On the screen, a pretend crowd goes out of their mind cheering for my goal earned off the dreaded left right deek.
Downstairs one of my best friends is tripping out on drugs and hallucinating that he put a shotgun in his mouth and ended his life at age 20. I would watch a beautiful man break himself to escape that pain. For the next decade he would fall through the horrors of drug addiction.
For the first time I would learn about mental illness in school.
Flash forward, through years of experience and different friends. I am in a bar wondering if I am drunk enough to dance with a pretty girl. I am biting my lip to look sexy. The white man overbite.
“I don’t usually talk about this with people,” she says.
I am guessing I do.
She is wearing red pants and has elaborate eyebrows. She also has red hair, which makes her pale features somewhat exaggeratedly beautiful, like you know how people look skinnier when they wear black and more innocent when they have a fire crotch on their head?
“It was about one day waking up totally happy. That one day I wouldn’t worry about anything anymore. I was willing to kill myself but I wasn’t willing to do that.”
“I was sad for like ten years, depressed I guess. I just figured it was sort of who I was. I didn’t want to go on medication because I felt like maybe it would all go away. Everything about me seemed so negative, it was who I was. One day I’d wake up and I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t be anything. I’d just be happy.”
“Antidepressants don’t do that,” I reply. “I thought the same. That I’d become a robot. You will still be you.”
“I just couldn’t imagine what I’d be without that feeling.”
“You realize you are more than you think you are, right?’
She is smart enough to realize that what I have just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
“What I mean to say is….”
Flash forward a few weeks.
“Why do I even like that?”
I’m deleting the porn history on my computer, contemplating Judgment Day when Google releases our Internet histories to the public and every single person is exposed for being a pervert.
I throw away the tissue and see what is going on in the world.
On Facebook people are agreeing with me online. For some reason that makes me angry because I didn’t say what I really meant. For some reason it feels like the entire world has decided to masturbate in public.
I have joined the legion of people who are trying to make Raymond Taavel’s death into something more beautiful than absolute heartbreak.
On my Facebook feed people change their profile pics to show their support for those who lost a man they loved. Others posted statuses about how a profile pic wouldn’t bring him back to life. That we needed to stop the mentally ill from hurting us again. I can’t help but feel that in the wake of large tragedies little gestures are all that we have left. That finding someone to blame doesn’t take away the heartache of losing an irreplaceable person but rips one else apart in the act of trying to put ourselves back together.
My Facebook message box is filled with people telling me I need to defend Andre Noel Denny’s rights as public opinion reaches the boiling point.
Mahtmi Mike Kimber would go along with the rising wave of sympathy, where blames is put on everyone and anyone besides Denny. It’s the mental health system, it’s the police who abuse aboriginals, and it’s homophobic Nova Scotia. It’s about Mike Kimber scoring points in a city that is living and dying under a rainbow.
According to Facebook I need to support Denny even if he does seem like a piece of shit. If I were a better person, I’d have more sympathy for someone who slits a dog’s throat and beats a man to death with his fists.
I’d understand that his illness is untreated and there is some delicate line where you can divide him in half between his disease and his identity.
A man died because another man rushed to judgment.
And we followed and I followed.
I’m interviewed on the radio and asked what could the Nova Scotia health system have done to better protect us from schizophrenics. I asked what is a schizophrenic?
I knew people who live with schizophrenia but I had never met a person whose character was dictated exclusively by their disease.
Laura Caitlin Burke is a poet and that’s how I know her.
John Nash is a mathematician and that’s how the world knows him.
I don’t think Denny is a statement about what it’s like to live with schizophrenia. He did it because he is Denny, which is a mix of a bunch of things I don’t quite understand.
I don’t know Denny, thus I find it immensely difficult to get beyond what I have heard. I think killing a gay person seemed to him the perfect place for him to take out his rage. I think tradition told him it was okay to do so. I think our system didn’t teach him to love himself and we treat the world as we treat ourselves.
Like Denny, I wasn’t able to love more than I was comfortable with.
For two feverish weeks everyone talked about change, love burning with anger, a passion destined to disappear. The public went away, and his friends and family were left with a world we had torn apart to prove our points.
We had a hero and they lost a friend and the trade wasn’t equal.
We forgot to change the world.
To make change we had to look at what Nova Scotia is. Where we came together as a city under the rainbow and where a man can die for taking a walk. Where we are divided by economic and ethnic lines into North and South. Where fag and schizoprenic are both used as terms to limit what a person’s life means. Where our mental health system has failed my friends, your friends, your family. Where our love is new, and our fear and hatred is our history.
You might be wondering why I have talked about doing mushrooms; a pretty girl’s depression and sometimes watching depraved porn on the Internet in conjunction with Taavel’s murder. It comes from my rather confusing feelings about certainty and self. Because I want to be more than just filled with incapacitating-mushroom-fuelled euphoria and revelation. Because I know I am more than my pain and how I write about it. Because I know the hard work it takes to learn to love and the incredible task we have before us.
We can’t believe in angels or monsters if we are to lift up the crushing weight of our humanity and make something beautiful out of this pain.
Because we all base our identity on our things we hate about ourselves and hold onto our own flaws like they were precious possessions. Because what is familiar is killing us.
For me one of the greatest terrors of humanity, is that in our greatest grief it is considered impolite to withhold judgment. That within grief we look for and find a certainty that leads us to greater pain. For safety.
The problem is that the thoughts that make us safe are the ones we are most familiar with, and as such most comfortable. It’s why for no good reason I’m not supposed to eat bacon covered lobster on the Sabbath because I am Jewish. It’s why many Christians rant about homosexuals, or abortions, because their parents did it, and we don’t feel comfortable going against tradition, that there is intrinsic value in doing as we always do. For anyone has hated themselves for any period of time, they will recognize that what is familiar is not necessarily what is healing.
For anyone who has ever had a substance abuse problem, they can say that what makes us feel better is also often what kills us.
I have my own legends, my own strange gods that protect me from being vulnerable. For years I was more writer than human, dreaming of a world where I would have earned my humanity and could control my frailty. And there are deeper myths beyond this. Like I wasn’t meant to be loved, I was meant to be a writer. These thoughts were familiar, so deeply embedded under the surface that I wasn’t even aware of them.
When suddenly love made me live I felt passions moving through me that were beyond my control, and I tried to form myths to make them safe.
Love was a young and vulnerable, unprepared to face the myths I had spent my life believing in. See the thoughts you think are more vulnerable then the ones you have put beyond question. It takes imagination to love, as when you actually find it, it is unlike anything you have ever experienced.
Even when the revelations are wonderful, it can be terrifying to be told that you don’t know the depths of yourself, that the content of your past isn’t an explanation of your future. We prefer solid ground to walk upon and for this reason, we rarely fly.
There is a safety in madness, of living in the smallest endlessly grinding wheel of our own fear. The certainty that you are pathetic, weak and monstrous, that you know yourself because you intimately understand how to make yourself suffer. Depression in the strangest way is incredibly safe. Because we know exactly who we are. We were pain, because how else could you explain that when the world went away, it was the only thing left alive, the cockroach that survived the apocalypse. Gradually your imagination dies, and your delusions are unchallenged. Only in all that darkness, I remained desperately in love with life.
I understand why we fear love, why we protect ourselves from it.
Because the results of love aren’t tangible or guaranteed.
I know what something looks like broken.
On that stage I could only imagine what work could build.
I couldn’t imagine the absolute strangers who would say that I helped them live. I couldn’t imagine the joy I would feel when I made my mother proud. I couldn’t imagine that today I would stand on this stage and say I couldn’t imagine that I could be this happy.
We need more people to live with imagination, to believe that we can better tomorrow than we were today. To remember that our poetry is written with our pain.
Halifax you gave me my heart and I want you to beat it like a wardrum.
To go to places where thinking can become terrifying.
This city is more than the past we were raised in. Every act of love is important. Everytime you touch the world with kindness it is felt. The world can feel a million miles away before you move to touch it.
You are our voice. We brought down the Berlin Wall, you were with Martin Luther King when a million men marched, you were there with Harvey Milk when he fought for the right to love as they wanted to, and you are here with me right now, ready to declare that we can be loved for who we are.
Today I want you to commit to loving more than you are comfortable with. To force yourself out of the safety of familiar things. To meet grief with love, to meet pain with celebration.
Today I ask you to make a better world.
Where you don’t get killed for taking a walk in my city’s streets. Where we don’t lose four thousand irreplaceable people every single year in Canada to suicide. Where teenagers can go to Halifax Emergency rooms and not be told they didn’t plan out their suicide in a reasonable enough manner to be worthy of help. Where it doesn’t take six months to see a state sponsored psychiatrist. Where your sanity doesn’t depend upon being able to afford the 150 dollars an hour for a psychiatrist to give you back your sanity. When a 60-year-old woman doesn’t have to hide her mental illness from her husband for fear that he won’t be able to love her as is she is. When a child won’t hide his mental illness for fear of breaking his parent’s heart. Where Harper spends his money to build hospitals and drug treatment centers instead of prisons.
This will need to be a work of love not constructed of words but actions.
We only get a better world when we make it better.
First we have to be willing to dream and then we must commit to live until that dream is a reality. Hatred, ignorance and tradition will fight us until we are bruised and bloody. We will not be safe, we will love dangerously and we will break these walls and use the foundation to build a dream.
Where everyone can stand on their own two feet and make their victory speech.
This is the only cure I know.
Posted on | November 12, 2012 | No Comments
The Big Red Door
It was not supposed to be like this.
The Man in a Midnight Black Bowler Cap raises a pistol and aims at his chest. There is no mercy or sadness in the eyes of his soon to be killer.
He knows there is nothing he can say to stop fate. In some ways he may even deserve it.
The Man In a Midnight Black Bowler Cap fires without remorse, before dissolving into a strange fit of laughter.
He has dreamed of this moment for years but never thought to see it actually happen.
You cannot die in a dream so Hey-You wakes up and forgets that he was dreaming of his own death.
“Do you have a question for me?” asks Yozev.
“Are we there yet?” replies Hey-You. He keeps his eyes closed. After so long, in the cold he worries his eyelids may be frozen shut.
“Yes,” replies Yozev and with a snap, his hands spring open and with his stomach in his mouth, Hey-You wishes he had not asked the question. Hey-You does not have the time to form a response before crashing down a mound of soft snow. Yozev grins—there is no crying. He was right; the child had not broken any bones in his fall.
Hey-You staggers for a moment, readjusting himself to solid ground. Having done so, he glares up at Yozev. This does not appear to be the safe destination he had envisioned.
Basileus can be seen through its transparent protective dome-warm, comfortable, impossible, safe. However there is a long line to get into the city and the people appear to be in poor humor. The refugees outside the city have not slept a whole night in weeks, constantly moving to survive the cold. Hundreds of thousands wait for the boats, some children with parents, some other in the company of friends, more in the company of strangers, but all are here to survive. Hey-You, takes a look up at Yozev, hovering nonchalantly above him.
“So?” asks Hey-You.
“You’re here,” answers Yozev. “Now all you have to do is make it to the boats and you’ll be fine.” His chest aches. He is lying. Sometimes he is unaware that he is not telling the truth, until the pressure in his chest builds. It reminds him of Pinocchio.
“Liar,” says Hey-You.
Basileus is the only city in the Olympian World that is not utterly in shambles. On the ocean shore at the city’s limits, there are thousands upon thousands of rusted boats. At one time the boats had motors. Now they have men with oars. Like the boats, the city used to function. Basileus is the opposite of a snow globe, inside it is warm and dry, and outside the snow falls in pitching gales. It would be very easy to die standing in the long line outside the city, as your body slows its movements and the cold is death’s bedfellow.
“Liar,” says Hey-You.
Yozev cannot resist the temptation of watching the boy even though it pains him. Yozev receives another lesson in humanity.
After fifty steps, Hey-You falls over. There is something in the child’s ineptitude that touches Yozev. Unfortunately, being a god his affection appears to humans as contempt. In his mind Hey-You pats Hey-You on the back.
“You are pathetic.”
Hey-You’s nose begins to bleed.
The child mutters under his breath and stomps in the footsteps of bigger men who have already made the trek. “I think this might be an amusing adventure,” Yozev says finally, having found the excuse he was searching for. “Let me come with you. I haven’t seen the sea in a long while.”
Hey-You seems to be taking his mother’s death poorly. His vocabulary has become somewhat limited since Yozev refused to go back for her. So far he has only asked when they would arrive at Basileus and called Yozev a liar. This is unfair, as he has explained to the boy several times; he only had arms large enough to carry him. The mother was too heavy and most likely dead already. His explanations had not gotten the positive results he had expected.
“The truth is, boy, I am not sure if you’ll make it without me,” explains Yozev. He hates this illogical weakness. He has done a good thing and now that good thing has only brought him further burden. He could not find reason to congratulate himself on bringing the child all this way just to let him die at Basileus. Rationally, this means he must accompany the child all the way to safety or the pain in his chest will intensify.
“You’re a midget,” replies Hey-You.
“And you are witty. We both have our burdens to bear.”
Humans like to hurt other humans when they feel hurt. This explains their many problems.
Hey-You had just been contemplating this as Yozev began taking a few tentative steps towards the little boy. The pain intensifies. Yozev concludes he may have been wrong about the validity of his solution.
“Do you ever sleep?” asks Hey-You. The boy’s own eyes reflect that he has not slept in quite sometime. Which means he had faked being asleep to avoid talking to Yozev.
“No rest for the wicked,” says Yozev.
“Your eyes don’t close,” Hey-You points out.
“I have learned the trick of sleeping with my eyes open,” he replies. He actually has no eyelids and thus it makes this necessary. “That is but one of my many talents.”
Shivering desperate people, covered in poorly made clothes, surround the duo, sweating, stinking, talking profusely about trivialities. He can see their rising passions like a thermometer about to explode. The child passes parents holding their children. A father screams at Hey-You not to skip ahead in line. The mother shouts obscenities at the boy—he wishes he had a family.
Yozev steps in front of the boy and smiles as if he might be insane. Actions done by the insane are attributed to the gods’ justice and, as such, their crimes are not punishable.
“Your mother wanted me to come with you,” says Yozev. “I wouldn’t want to break a promise.”
Hey-You nods, unable to disappoint his mother.
Yozev has found a way of controlling the child. He will invoke the boy’s mother whenever he needs him to do something. It is always worthwhile to know how a piece moves.
Thousands of yards stand between them and the gates. People are in poor temper, more prone to curse than to be polite. The tension moves in waves. Sometimes they are just people in a line. Sometimes the cold starts to feel like fire on their skin and time feels like it is running out. People become impatient and seconds become hours. That was days ago—this moment feels like eternity. The guards are all that prevents the lines from rioting. Those who cause disturbance are dealt with. Judging by the fading patches of red amongst the snow banks, they are dealt with deftly.
Some wait as long as weeks, the lucky wait days. Every few minutes another person succumbs to the cold with a dull thud. Hey-You imagines himself outside the gate watching the boats leave without him. He occupies himself by meeting strangers. Telling them made up stories, about how he was going to meet his mother in the city. The lies are more pleasant than the truth. The truth might just drive him mad.
“You shouldn’t look at people like that,” Yozev says accusingly. “Your face might stay like that for the rest of your life.” He has heard parents use such lines and earn smiles. Surprisingly, the child continues glaring at him. Yozev quickly learns a lesson about lessons most humans never learn. Lessons are usually situation-specific and, when referencing past incidents, are only useful in hindsight to that particular situation, which has already occurred and, as such, lessons are altogether useless. “I saved your life and now you are angry,” Yozev says sulkily to the boy. “That makes me curious.”
Curious in this case means sulky.
“My mother is dead,” replies Hey-You.
Yozev notices the boy’s little hands are bunched into fists. He points to the boy’s fists. “This means you are angry?” asks Yozev.
The boy nods. “How can you not have learned this before?” asks Hey-You.
“I didn’t care. Godly feelings are fairly ambivalent for the most part. For some reason, I feel the need to pay attention now. Your argument for being displeased in regards to your mother is faulty. It is for the best that she is not here. She was sick anyway, and would only have died in front of you, which in the long run would be more painful and awkward,” Yozev points out.
Seeing the child’s welling eyes, Yozev speaks again and cannot make his words sound believable. “I suppose I am. She will make it through the gates soon.”
Hey-You punches Yozev in the chest. Yozev feels the instant desire to ask how any of this is his fault or strike back at the boy. Instead, something soft in him speaks. “I never had a mother. She died when I was born. And my father wasn’t around much either. He was a ladies’ man and had a lot of sons he ignored.” Perhaps that might explain why Yozev ignores his own sons, and why he is himself a ladies’ man.
“I knew my mother,” says Hey-You.
“Yes, she seemed nice.”
The child has nothing to say to that. He returns to shuffling back and forth on his little feet, like he is treading water and walking at the same time. The line moves a few more inches. Yozev’s patience with waiting in line begins to wane. “Do you think you will ever grow? I thought I would,” reflects Yozev helpfully. “It just seemed to make sense that I would. My brothers are all much bigger than I am. Maybe you will be a child forever.” A lot of people do not appreciate Yozev’s sense of humor.
“I’ll get old.” Hey-You points to a gray bearded man hobbling on his cane, talking to himself, flapping his gray toothless gums. “That will be me,” claims Hey-You.
“How ambitious,” Yozev answers.
He finds it strange that he could be thousands of years old and looks so fantastic while these seventy-year-old babies were rotting from the inside out. An arrogance bestowed by years of worshipping has led Yozev to a belief that he is insanely handsome. As a result he is constantly looking at himself in mirrors.
Finally they reach the gates, which is guarded by twenty sober looking soldiers. Hey-You and Yozev are patently ignored. A plump guard decides to take an interest.
“Is he your son?” asks the plump guard, his double chins rolling around on his face like dancing ass cheeks.
“Yes.” Yozev looks at the child and warns him with his glance to keep quiet. From the hungry eyes of the guard, it is clear many children come unattended by adults.
“Here are your tickets,” says the guard, running his hand through his greasy hair and then picking at his beard before handing over an envelope. “I wouldn’t open them until tomorrow. It may cause you a bit of trouble.”
“Tickets?” asks Yozev.
“There aren’t enough boats for everyone. As of yesterday’s count at the gates there are nine million, eight hundred thousand people in Basileus now, but only enough ships to take four million away. The Priests decided on a lottery system to determine who gets on the boats. From what I hear a lot more people will arrive at the city after the gates close and won’t be nothing we can do for them,” says the guard. He looks at Hey-You and licks his lips. “Things can be done for a price.”
Yozev’s eyes become blank and a hand slowly reaches for his blade. The man goes white when he looks at Yozev’s insane eyes. “Enjoy the city, sir. They decided to drink a world of wine in five days to celebrate the end. Every street offers free drinks.”
“Do you think everyone being drunk will help the situation?” asks Hey-You.
“Be a lad and shut up,” says Yozev.
Two men pass them glasses as they enter the domed city of Basileus. The boy passes his to a man he had met in the line. Yozev takes a sip, pretends to swallow, and disposes of the glass and wine in his mouth at the earliest convenience.
Basileus is warm. For Yozev this is inconsequential. For Hey-You it means he is shivering because his body is finally warm enough to register that he was cold.
Desperation is in the air. So are music, love, fucking and feces. The smell is of rotting garbage. Less than a week earlier this city was pristine. Now piles of garbage litter the alleyways and gutters. Rays of light comes in through slits in the mostly snow covered dome and hurt the eyes when caught directly. The city was built under a dome of glass, made to last the most terrible of storms. Inside, a storm is brewing which will destroy the city and bring down its domed ceilings in crashing shards.
It begins slowly.
“I’m hungry,” pleads Hey-You.
“I doubt these men will have food to spare,” says Yozev. He raises an eyebrow. “Unless you intend on being a cannibal, then there might be a sufficiency in food. Didn’t you eat yesterday?”
He steps over a drunk passed out from drinking too much wine. There is far too much garbage on this street for Yozev’s fastidious mind.
“I need to eat every day.”
“That is a dreadful inconvenience. ”
“I like it.”
Yozev wonders if he can taste things now. He has not tried for millennia, having found the experience somewhat pointless.
“You will not like it when you do not have anything to eat today or the next day,” says Yozev spitefully.
An awkward silence follows. Yozev and Hey-You begin their journey into the city. It is a big city, bigger than any that Hey-You had ever seen, with more people and more things going on.
Religious sects look for customers. The end of the world is destined to increase their business. People drop coins in their baskets. Not like they need to save for tomorrow anyway.
A seemingly endless line of half-naked, curvaceous women approach Yozev and his ward, sidling past them with big grins and swaying hips. “How would you like to spend your last night?” asks the matron leader of the topless women, who happens to have a black eye and luscious pert breasts. She notices their delayed response and laughs. Her breasts jump up and down as she wiggles with mirth.
“Do you like girls, yet?” Yozev asks Hey-You.
The child’s mouth opens and closes without words coming out. “I think we’ll keep walking,” comments Yozev.
“Come on midget, you don’t need to be in the circus anymore,” the woman’s eyebrows dance up and down.
“Insulting me doesn’t turn me on, girl. I am not a woman.”
“I don’t find that attractive,” says the woman, her hand going towards her black eye. She looks at Hey-You as if he were old enough to have a name. “What about you, big man?”
“No thank you, miss,” replies Hey You. His eyes do not stray from her chest. “She has nicer breasts than my mother.”
“Thanks, darling,” says the woman. Yozev kisses her hand and moves on. He does not know why he did that. He does a lot of things like that.
“In the future, if you are trying to seduce a woman,” says Yozev, “Do not mention your mother. Generally speaking it just makes things more complex.”
The throngs of half-naked women follow them. They are not actually following the two of them per se, just walking in the same direction. It gives Yozev a certain smile to think they are following him. Hey-You looks back at them and ruins their air of cool nonchalance. The duo’s attention focuses on a scene unfolding in front of them as the ladies make their way around a corner. A man and a woman are exchanging words.
“I love you. Can you honestly say the same thing?” asks the woman.
The man wipes sweat from his brow and sighs. “I guess I owe you the truth. I never really loved you,” admits the man.
The woman grimaces saying. “You were a poor lover.”
He puts his hand in the air. “You never had one interesting thing to say,” he replies.
“Why did you stay?” asks the horrified woman.
The man brushes his brow again. “I don’t know. I guess I wasted my life.”
The woman looks mildly embarrassed. “That is terrible, just terrible.”
He stops and looks her in the face. “Yes, that’s exactly what it is!”
The couple stands poised on the street realizing they are not alone. Most people would leave each other after such a confrontation, but this couple lacks a better place to go.
Yozev pushes the boy past the couple and directly into two drunken Priests. He smiles at them with a look of affected derangement. They grin back at him, exposing grimy teeth and eighty proof breathe. One of the Priest mutters something and the three of them laugh ferociously.
“What was that you just said?” asks Yozev.
“There is-ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,” the others laughs again.
“Well out with it,” says Yozev.
“There is no hope.” One of their glasses smashes to the street—this time their laughter is explosive.
Past the Priests, are members of all twelve Olympian castes—drunk, happy and spouting clichés. Children set off fireworks. Parents flinch with every bang. Street vendors give away their wares. Children feast on sausage and lamb wrapped in bread, grease dripping down their fingers. Clowns dispense helium balloons and children release them, leaving thousands of balloons stranded on the city’s ceiling. Open bars operate on each side of the sidewalk. The wine drinkers gargle their wine and toss it back and forth between their cheeks as if it still matters what year it was bottled, and how the oak rounds out the aftertaste. A soccer game starts in the middle of the street. The kids get into fights and give each other bruises, cursing back and forth at each other. In the way children do, as they instantly become family. Hey-You urges his guardian to keep walking. He does not want to see all the happy families.
They move past the street corner and witness a scene of amazing carnality. Think of an orgy in a world where non-participants are executed and you get a sense of the numbers engaging in the acts. Priestesses and Priests of Dionysus were overseeing it with religious zeal and a host of pike-men.
“Is that where babies come from?” asks Hey-You.
Yozev goes to open his mouth.
In every direction Yozev looks, men and women fuck each other in the street. Some couples look happier than others. A blond and red-haired double-backed monster seems to be writing new pages for the book of love. For a second Yozev watches them with opened mouth shock. He is surprised that he can still learn anything about sex. He wonders if the woman was a gymnast. There cannot be any other explanation. He also wonders if all the women are being taken willingly.
“I’m still hungry,” says Hey You.
“We should get some food,” says Yozev, blank-faced.
A shadow that reminds the boy of his mother approaches. Hey-You looks at his feet. He will not get his hopes up. He has already seen a dozen such shadows, so he keeps the smile from his lips to keep the pain from his heart. His mind has a way of seeing what it wants to see.
“You look like a gentleman,” says a soft female voice from over their shoulder. Not his mother. Still hurts. “Wonder if you boys could help a lady out?”
Yozev turns and sees the short, sweaty woman. The fact that she is short makes Yozev more comfortable in dealing with her. He finds humans unreasonably tall when he has to stand on the ground. He wonders if she wanted him to engage in gymnastics. There are many facets to becoming human.
She is short, pretty and suppressing a lot of anger. The boy walks towards her. Yozev’s hand fondles his sword.
“Yetanna,” says the woman, holding out one hand to shake while cradling an empty blanket in the other. The empty blanket looks as if it still has a shape. Yozev looks inside expecting to see a baby.
Nothing. Do not react.
“I don’t want to sleep with you,” says Yozev sliding his hand into hers. Yozev feels terribly inadequate when the woman’s face falls at his response. Part of him decides that there might be a little more room in his chest for this woman and her blanket baby.
“That is an awfully tall assumption for—never mind,” says Yetanna. “I notice you don’t have any eyelids.” He can tell that the woman is trying to blackmail him but cannot imagine for what. Perhaps she wanted a god to help her onto the boats.
“Yes. I have no eyelids.”
“You are also quite short,” she points out somewhat sheepishly.
“I think we’ve established that. Why are you listing my characteristics for me? This is the last night of the world. I remind you much is permitted on a night such as this.” He looks at the blade strapped to his chest. Her eyes follow his and she walks back a step.
“You’re scaring her,” Hey-You says.
“He is trying to, my love,” Yetanna explains to Hey-You.
There is something in the way that Yetanna calls the boy “my love” that strikes Yozev’s fancy. “Maybe I am not trying to scare you,” he says. “Depends on what you have to say.”
“I know who you are,” says Yetanna.
“And this means?” asks Yozev.
“I need someone to protect us. We have tickets to the boats. I am not sure we will make it unescorted,” says Yetanna.
He looks back at the blanket and stops himself from flinching. He wonders what she sees when she looks into the blanket.
Does she feel its heartbeat?
“And why should I help you?” asks Yozev.
She looks at the blanket and back at the god. “Do you have to ask?”
“We should help her,” says Hey-You.
Yozev pats the boy on the head. The ache in his chest momentarily dissipates. He wonders if the human conscience existed physically inside their chests, at a point between their heart and their lungs.
Yetanna beams at the boy. “I expect my child will look like you when he gets older.”
Hey-You nudges Yozev and says, “Sons should protect their mothers.”
Something in his words makes Yetanna stumble.
“Are you going to become another thing for me to worry about?” she asks.
“You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll look after you,” replies Hey-You.
“I don’t think I could lose another hour’s sleep,” says Yetanna.
“You do look weary.” Hey-You steps forward and hugs her.
She grimaces and the bags under her eyes are pulled from either side.
“But still pretty,” says Hey-You.
“He looks like he could eat a little something,” Yetanna says to Yozev. “Children should have skin on their bones. Your little boy looks like a corpse.” She starts combing his hair.
A lot of women do such things for Hey-You. She has nice fingers and knows how to make him feel as if he might fall asleep standing up. Yetanna is like his mother, but nicer. Though at the end, his mother was not herself.
The question of who she might be during these moments had yet to occur to Hey-You. His memories had trouble making the distinction between his mother and what she had become. She was only composed of the good parts—the rest of her—the parts he could not explain, are the world doing things to her against her will and had to be kept separate. He pretended she had become possessed.
“Such a skinny boy you are,” repeats Yetanna.
“Yes, he is quite homely,” says Yozev. He notices her expression and takes note. “A face only a Father could love and I am a good father,” says Yozev. She has the longest fingers Yozev has ever seen. He wonders if she plays piano. “Do you play the piano?”
“Only when I am awake,” says Yetanna with a smile she must have used at hundreds of cocktail parties. Strange that a woman comfortable with making empty conversation with strangers can be the same woman holding a blanket she pretends is a baby.
“What is your son like?” asks Hey-You.
“Aliens dropped him at our doorstep. He hasn’t spoken yet but I am sure that he has a lot of strange and wonderful things to say. Children with eyes like that see things we don’t,” replies Yetanna.
Hey-You’s brow furrows with concentration. “What is your son’s name?”
Yetanna opens her mouth to answer and a long line of naked grandfathers prance by, smiling, looking quite silly as their genitals bob up and down. She starts laughing. This laugh is a rich laugh made of stops, high notes, drops and echoes. He automatically looks at her fingers as she laughs, his brain somehow linking the two things he likes about her.
“That is a party I would hope never to be invited to,” she giggles.
“You must be invited to all the parties,” Yozev says. “I would be offended if I was not invited. I would not choose to attend,” he adds, “but that is besides the point.”
Yetanna laughs once more.
“I will help you,” Yozev says suddenly.
The three maybe four of them pass out of the market place and find themselves on a slightly less crowded street. Saying less crowded in Basileus is like saying less stifling in hell. An old man with a fantastic moustache, thankfully wearing clothes, puts his hand on Hey-You’s shoulder. Yozev’s hand goes to his blade.
The old man lets lose a belly laugh from his oversized gut and fancily waves his hand at Hey-You.
Hey-You responds with a little bow. The old man stands with his back to a rather large red door, which offers the only color on the gray street.
“Would the young family like some soup and bread?” asks the old man. He speaks in English, the Olympian tongue, but with a strange accent. In his head Yozev’s thoughts babble on about whether he should fuck her, and whether or not the same language is spoken all the world, albeit with slightly different accents.
“I can’t take anything from strangers,” replies Hey-You.
“My name is Raphael. Now we are friends. What does the wife think about some soup and bread?” asks Raphael.
“I don’t think at all. I am a good wife,” says Yetanna.
“Will you accompany me, my lady?” asks Yozev.
Hey-You squeals with delight. Yozev feels the ache in his chest ease another degree.
“Will that stop you from complaining?” The child eagerly nods. “I over-indulge you,” says Yozev. He walks in front of the boy; his eyes keen for any approaching threat. “Oh, and no more squealing. It sounds effeminate.”
Raphael guffaws as only fat men can, and wipes his dirty fingers on his massive belly leaving large sauce stains on his white apron. “Things are going mad. The fools are going against everything they have ever known,” says Raphael with a look of distaste, before licking the rest of his fingers.
“Very profound. What sort of soup is this you offer?” asks Yozev.
“Delicious soup,” answers Raphael. Yozev grinds his teeth; he hates when he does not get a straight answer. The old man opens the Big Red Door and motions for the trio to come into his house. “The authorities gave us all kinds of food. Tomorrow we set sail. Each one of us was given three months supply on the off chance that we don’t win the lottery,” Raphael scowls briefly before breaking into his next big smile.
“There will be more losers than winners,” says Yozev.
“Everyone is a loser in this situation,” supplies Raphael.
Clichés are addictive when situations do not have words to describe them properly.
“There is lobster, smoked salmon, bagels, cream cheese, turkey, gravy, potatoes, everything you could want,” says Raphael with the pleasure of a waiter who works at the best restaurant in town. “The more the merrier.” Yozev being of a suspicious mind wonders if the old man intends to drug them and take their tickets.
“I’m hungry,” says Hey You.
“And repetitious,” says Yozev. He touches the boy’s nose. He does not know why. “Should I be more encouraging?” Yozev asks the old man. His hand is still on the boy’s nose. What should he do? He squeezes it. He analyses the old man and his smile. Honest. But hiding something.
“Why are you asking this man instead of your wife?” demands Yetanna.
“I thought polite women kept their mouths shut.”
“You shouldn’t have married me. I am anything but polite,” suggests Yetanna. She kisses his cheek, her lips lingering on his skin before disengaging. The peck of a kiss feels like it lasts for minutes, his memory trying to memorize the sensation, all of his synapses concentrating on capturing and elongating the feeling on his skin. It is the first kiss Yozev can remember. He tries not to blush. As a mortal, he cannot even control that. In this confusion he says something stupid.
“In this city it is common for men to beat their wives,” says Yozev. Yetanna lacks an adequate reply. That was the wrong thing to say. Rephrase. “So should I be nice to the child?” he asks again. Dizziness dissipates and reason returns. He should avoid kissing this woman when he has other things to do. He wonders if his own weakness to such physical affection comes from not having experienced for such a long time. One way or the other, this weakness was something he would have to watch, it could turn dangerous if ignored.
“Children are like princes. You throw away a kingdom for a prince like your boy,” says Raphael. He pats Hey-You on the head. Yozev feels a tremor of jealousy and dismisses it as an unlikely emotion for him to be having.
“Come in and meet my princes,” says Raphael. The old man opens the Big Red Door and they enter a small gray house that smells of dust and gourmet cooking.
“May I say something,” asks Hey You of Raphael.
“Of course,” says the old man.
“You have a great moustache.”
“Thank you,” says Raphael touching his flowing white moustache and smoothing out the tips. He seems to touch his moustache compulsively. Yozev suspects it is a guilty tic and then suspects he is overly suspicious. “It takes a long time to grow a moustache so full and manly. The years make us so much better.”
The old man’s house is composed of one floor with just a few bedrooms and a kitchen. The kitchen is already filled when they arrive.
Little boys and girls, little men and women, husbands, fathers, mothers, and daughters all sit around five geometrically opposed tables shoved together as if to say “the more the merrier.” There is more food than Hey-You has ever seen. “Soup and bread” does not accurately sum up this incredible feast.
Everyone in the room smiles as if someone is watching them. “Tomorrow is a big day,” announces Raphael. Introductions begin and Yozev phases it out, trusting his memory to store the relevant facts.
“Mom says she’ll tell us the bad stories. The ones she couldn’t tell us when we were babies,” says a fat little girl with pigtails.
Henceforth she shall be referred to as Pigtails because, until you are thirteen, the Olympians do not give you a name and she has pigtails—besides, it is rude to describe a girl as fat.
“My daughter asks and I give,” explains a raven-haired woman who should not have been old enough to have children. She smiles in an odd way, nervous, as if she expects someone is going to laugh at everything she says and not because she is funny. The raven haired woman reminds Yozev of a little girl waiting to be told to go to her room for wearing her mother’s clothing.
Raphael cut off fatty slabs of roasted lamb and passes the dish around the table. Turkey is next. Then chicken. He individually cracks the lobsters and passes them around. He still wears the same smile—a smile that says he would do this each and every day if he could. Yozev lets his plate be filled, feeling the beginnings of an overwhelming anxiety. What if he is still unable to taste?
“Eat little princes and princesses. Tonight we are together,” says Raphael. “Does anyone want some wine? I think I may indulge in a drink or two myself.” He uncorks bottle after bottle and passes them around. The little boys take huge gulps and hesitant sips and the parents follow in a more leisurely fashion. Conversation opens up as the cheeks redden.
“Delicious wine,” says the raven-haired mother. She laughs. Yozev had expected the shrill voice, but he did not predict the full joyousness of the laugh that followed.
“Thank you very much for the hospitality,” Yetanna says to the old man. The blanket crumples into nothing. Hey-You puts his arm on her neck. She turns and gives him an overly grateful smile.
“I am sorry you lost your son,” says Hey-You.
“I hope I find him again,” says Yetanna quietly, her soft voice now filled with the possibility of exhausting sobs and eardrum-cracking sorrow.
“Sometimes it’s too cold,” says Hey-You.
There is a short pause where they look ready erase the charcoal line that separates them from becoming mother and son, this woman with her dead child and this boy with his dead mother. Then Hey-You turns away and shoves a whole piece of bread in his mouth and begins the laborious task of chewing. The world is rarely so perfect as to replace exactly what you have lost. This is why men weep, and little pig-tailed girls get fat.
Yozev fights off the nervousness of trying something new. The biscuits look like a boring first choice while the lobster is too strange and exotic. The soup looks too light. He wants something not only light, but also substantial. And then he sees the pig. There is an apple stuffed in the pig’s mouth. The meat worries him because he is scared he will like the taste of blood. The red apple seems like a more wholesome first taste. Yozev rips the apple out of the pig’s mouth and takes a bite barely suppressing the shudder that passes through him. “It is good.”
The fat little girl dips her bread in her soup, making a yummy sound as she takes her first bite. He mimics her, and can hardly contain himself as the salty broth meets the crusty bread.
He shoves meat and gravy into his mouth until he can no longer keep it closed. The food slides down into his stomach. The feeling is so good he can almost understand his people and all their foolishness. He takes a strip of meat and examines the blood and gravy with his tongue.
Pouring wine down his gullet, he forces the food to slide down his throat. Wine tastes good. His head swims slightly. He wonders if he will lose his god-like drinking tolerance. He hopes so. It has become tiresome drinking twenty whole casks of wine just to get intoxicated. If only his god-like tolerance had come with a god-sized bladder.
“Darling, you are chewing with your mouth open,” scolds Yetanna gently. She kisses his cheek, and he feels her kiss penetrating his skin, grinding gently coming to rest in that sensitive portion of the brain we call the soul. He looks down. He has an erection! He has a body!
“Do you like sea-food?” asks Yozev. He puts a large piece of lobster in his mouth and starts chuckling and spitting out his food, the taste is so good.
The fat little girl giggles and opens her mouth. “I love see food,” says Pigtails, sticking out her tongue to display her food.
This is an important moment. This is the first time anyone in this civilization has ever heard this joke. The whole room explodes into laughter. Things are different when you hear them for the first time.
The raven-haired woman takes the child into her arms. “Don’t sicken the guests.”
The girl grabs for her mother’s fingers. “I am sorry mummy. Do you still love me?” asks Pigtails.
The mother nods. “Of course I do. I love you with all my heart. Mummy would do anything for you.”
Hey-You tilts back his glass and throws some wine back to wash down the food. In another gulp, he finishes the glass, giggling.
Raphael notices that Hey-You’s plate is empty. “Meat?” asks the old man.
Hey-You takes a large piece of steak and begins worrying away at it with his teeth. “I apologize. He is a bit of a savage,” says Yozev.
“This is no day for manners,” answers Raphael. “Enjoy. Do you like sweets, prince?” Hey-You has too much food in his mouth to answer.
“I think he is saying he hates sweets and would love more vegetables,” says Yozev.
The child looks ready to burst with exasperation as he struggles to chew the ridiculous amount of food he has crammed into his mouth.
Hey-You looks at Yozev with puppy dog eyes. Yozev nods.
`“Not until he finishes his dinner,” Yetanna tells the old man.
Yozev snickers. The boy struggles to chew all the food he has put in his mouth. The sound he makes doing this is quite disgusting and thankfully cannot be repeated in words. This does not stop Raphael from making one last toast.
“Tomorrow is a terrible day,” says Raphael. “Tonight, let us drink. And raise a toast to children.”
Yozev catches the secret in the old man’s eyes and looks down.
Yozev had not understood what the old man had been hiding until now. He can see the secret reflected in the eyes of all the adults in the room. The adults are getting drunk for a reason. They purchased spaces for their children on the boats. They gave up their own tickets to make sure their children made it on board.
“My kingdom for a prince,” the old man says to Yozev.
“My kingdom for a princess,” says the raven-haired woman, trembling with nobility. If she had not had a daughter she would be one of the kids. You can see that she does not feel grown up enough for this sacrifice. The old man kisses her brow and her eyes regain their strength. He looks at Hey-You and understands Raphael’s decision. He would do anything to make sure Hey-You would survive. No one else but Hey-You was really alive to Yozev. Yetanna smiles at him. He would try to help her too.
Yozev pours back a full glass in a gulp. Yetanna kisses Hey-You. Yozev wishes the boy had a name. “The world for my boy,” says Yozev.
Glasses clink and a god makes a promise he may not be able to keep.
“The world for my boy.”
Posted on | November 11, 2012 | No Comments
ARE WE THERE YET?
Thousands of footprints mark this seemingly endless path of snow. There should be many more footprints. Be pleased, most died silently and are now buried under the snow next to the snow men the children built.
Unfortunately even nature cannot commit perfect crimes. Many good families lie on the white road, eyes closed, giving the appearance of deep sleep, mothers with arms wrapped around their babes, their love frozen in ice, waiting for summer to come and make them rot.
“Just keep walking,” says Hey-You, feeling the numbness moving up his leg, beginning to burn like a cold fever.
“Of course, step for step,” she says, staggering forward clutching her son, pushing him on.
“Then another step,” he says.
“Are we there yet?” she asks, almost in a whisper. For some reason it’s getting harder to hear her, or see anything on the all white ground that never seems to change. “So many other families stopped here for a rest. I miss the company of people.”
“We must be close.”
He does not think she means Basileus.
“I lived for a lot of years on that street. I always thought I would be happier if I could cross the road. Remember when we crossed the road?” she asks.
“It was the happiest moment of my life. Just a couple more steps,” he says.
She stumbles and he catches her and feels his legs beginning to give way. In the snow is a rotted rust covered building that once powered the city and now an angel sits upon the machinery, watching the family.
This Angel has been resting on a rusted old machine edge, dangling his stunted legs, hoping to see something that might inspire him to care about this world he created. He has been watching people for quite some time, which was made easier since he has no eyelids, and as such blinking never interrupted his observations. He can see that these two are on their last legs.
“Aries, Yozev, someone save us,” prays his mother.
He has a terrible affinity for helping those in need.
“That’s rather unrealistic don’t you think. Plus I am pissed off that you asked for me second. What do you expect the gods to do? Snap their fingers. Make you warm. Very unreasonable,” says the Angel, from atop the broken factory.
The woman glances at the abnormally handsome stranger and his lidless eyes. Her son steps in front of his mother and reaches into his pocket.
“Do you actually think you are going to survive?” asks the Angel, dropping oh-so-gracefully from the sky.
The two stare at him in amazement. They are at the point where they are very open to the idea of miracles.
“I mean it’s clear that you are hundreds of miles away from your destination and the weather only worsens. Tell me what makes you continue on,” he asks, filled with genuine curiosity. His lidless eyes stare without the remission of blinking. She wonders if he always looks as if he is about to cry is due to his lack of his lids or if this was some exception caused by genuine emotion. She steps in front of the boy, hand against her back, ready to grasp the hammer if need be.
“I see, you obviously feel something for the small one. Love is always a good reason for delusion,” says the Angel. “Nice hammer. Did I mention that I was a god?”
She drops the hammer.
“Well played. Adorable child. Your eyes look fevered little one,” says the Angel glancing at Hey-You. “And fists clenched. Yes there is an intense affection between you. It leads you to pretend that you can help him. Clearly you cannot help yourself. When was the last time you had a good night of sleep?”
She reaches out with her frostbitten black hands and sees the Angel does not recognize the gesture and instead place her hands a little too tightly around her son’s neck. She eyes the hammer.
“My name is Yozev. I am in fact that Midget. Don’t worry you are not dreaming, you only wish you were.”
“Nice to meet you,” says Hey-You, fevered eyes taking in the eye as though the sight of a deity is a common place incident in his life. “How do you do?”
There is something fluttering in Yozev, which he does not recognize. Humans would barely notice the beating in his chest that has gotten him so excited. There is something about Hey-You that attracts his curiosity. It has been a long while since he has been curious about anything.
His mother smiles as if this is an ordinary statement for her son to make. “Why haven’t you saved my son? They are coming for him.”
“If I save your boy then I have to save someone else’s little boy and it just creates a lot of inconvenience,” says Yozev. He laughs at his own joke.
The two humans he addresses look like they have not slept in a very long time and don’t appreciate his humor. The tingling in his heart constricts. The feeling is guilt and it is rapidly intensifying.
“Make an exception,” begs his mother.
“There are no exceptions,” says Yozev.
“What it’s like to kill so many people?” asks Hey-You, sick with delirium and a chronic lack of common sense.
“Bad. Impolite question little man. I think I may have to leave you to rot,” says Yozev.
“How did it happen?” asks Hey-You.
“Good intentions,” says Yozev. “I always think I can save people. I have grown sick of such delusions.”
“My mom thinks you can save us,” says Hey-You. “Maybe you can.”
Hey-You grins, warmth spreading throughout his tiny body, buzzing in his brilliant brain, lids getting heavy and warm.
The fluttering happens again. This stupid little family is making Yozev happy, which is slightly disappointing because he would have expected it would take more to do so. The first happiness fills a small space. Each time he accesses the well of his emotions he makes it bigger and harder to fill.
“He is my boy,” says the boy’s mother, playing with his fingers, her stale perfumed hands feel more ice than flesh. “I am too tired to reach Basileus. The boy is going to die. My boy is going to die.” She turns to Hey-You. “Cover your ears.”
“Shouldn’t I have done that before you said I was going to die?” asks Hey-You. His mother nods, her arms still around her boy’s neck, from behind.
“You are right,” says Yozev, “but this is worse.”
“But maybe you can help,” says the boy’s mother.
“But-” says Hey-You.
“Cover your ears,” says his mother.
I can help. I can help. I can finally make something impossible happen which is good.
Yozev’s stubby fingers tap against the metallic blue globe encircled by laurel leaves resting on the lapel of his navy blue jacket. He wore this emblem the last time he tried to help.
“Cover your ears,” says his mother.
“I am. I can still hear you,” says Hey-You.
“Stop listening then,” says his mother. “You have to help me. We need it and gods help people when they need it.”
“What do you want me to do?” asks Yozev.
“Take him with you to Basileus,” says his mother.
Yozev finds this request confusing because he does not see how she can make it that far by herself. Then he realizes that the mother is sacrificing her life for the child. He looks into her feverish eyes, glistening with insanity and tries to memorize it. This is the face of love and all the madness it entails.
“Why do you trust him?” Hey-You asks his mother. “And you have to come too. I can get us there.”
His mother ignores the boy. Madness and love do not reply to logical questions in times like these.
“He won’t make it to the boats unless you help him. I need my boy to be alive. I am nothing without him and he’s a bright boy. He’ll say things that will make you laugh and chuckle. He’s a good son. I promise you. I wouldn’t want any other son in the world. And he can be like that for you,” says his mother, grasping one last time on the cliffs of madness, pulling herself into lucidity to save her boy.
Hey-You wraps his arms around his mother, body shaking with the desire to weep for all the misery of his young life, trying to hold onto this mother who loves him and will do anything to save him.
He is a few inches shorter than her but he seems to stretch out, to be almost big enough to be the one holding her.
“Don’t be like your uncle,” says his mother. He hugs her harder until she can barely breathe. He will not cry. That will just make it more difficult for his mother.
“I won’t die,” replies Hey-You.
“Who said anything about dying?” his mother answers. “I meant don’t be rude like your uncle.”
“I’ll do it,” answers Yozev solemnly. This is just another part of trying to be human. You make outrageous offers and you see what happens.
“Thank you,” says the boy’s mother.
She kisses her son goodbye, kissing his head all over, as if she was trying to memorize his face and draw it with her lips.
“Be careful with your heart,” says his mother.
“I have a problem with my heart. Sometimes I pass out,” says Hey-You, feeling it is important to be honest.
“Terrible workmanship. In my world we engineered people without such flaws. I have a price for taking your son,” says Yozev, because he never trusts people who do not have ulterior motives and wants this insane woman to trust him with her son. “I will need some lessons in being a mortal. I want to hear your story.”
“As you wish,” replies Hey-You.
“And on the journey you will help me collect the stories of those we meet,” says Yozev.
“He’s very friendly,” says his mother excitedly, beaming with false happiness, like a person lit on fire who says they are glad to be warm. “He’ll make lots of friends and he will learn their stories and tell them to you. Get going. I can’t bear to look at both of you any longer.”
“I can’t leave her,” says Hey-You.
“Go with him,” she says. “I’ll be fine.” She is lying and doing it better than she has ever done it before. “I’ll meet you there.”
“I promise I’ll get him to safety,” says Yozev.
The boy and the god, similar in size, vastly different in knowledge and experience, begin their journey. The god struggles to find a proper place for the boy within his arms.Having found a position half way comfortable for the boy and himself, Yozev takes the first step off the ground. The boy says “Whee.”
His mother begins to panic. Her memory absolutely gone.
“Stop that man he is flying away with my son.”
The field of frozen dead offer no protest.
“Please,” begs Hey-You, not sure what he wants, except that he wants his mother to stop screaming.
“Follow through on your part of the agreement,” says Yozev, over the sound of her cries. “Or I will have to drop you and the fall will have unfortunate effects on your human body. Tell me your story.”
Hey-You struggles to find the right point to begin his tale, not sure that he should trust the midget god or what he should tell other people about his destiny. But he speaks because he has made an agreement and heroes stand by their word.
He tries to be honest but lies about the most painful parts.
He talks about growing up without a father and how he does not trust men as a result. His mother said that his father was a bad man and that most men were. He always wondered about his father but mentioning him only made her condition worse. He imagined his father was off fighting some heroic crusades, rather than the more likely story, that he was drunk in a ditch, out of his mind trying to deaden the voices in his head, like most New Olympian men when they reach adulthood.
He gets sad when he talks about leaving his home and the goodbye party with his friends. He tells Yozev about the cake his mom made and how they pretended it was his birthday rather than a goodbye party so that they would not get in trouble. His mother made him do this because if any of his friends found out he was leaving they would go to the Priests and the Priests would kill them for leaving the city without getting a travel pass.
He forged passes and gave them to her.
He remembers the way his mother laughed when they crossed the street and went to a part of the city she had never seen, abandoning the familiar blocks she lived her entire life in. Each new street brought a fresh baffled chuckle, her eyes stretched wide, like saucers and halos dragging her out of everything she has ever known.
He said a few things about his mother but not the entire truth.
He only talked about the nice things because sons were supposed to say nice things about their mothers and incidentally there were a lot of nice things about his mother to say. Like the way her gray hair smelled like knitting yarn and the way she could get him to sleep by singing to him. She cooked fresh bread; he can still taste the warmth in his mouth.
He talks about the first cities they went to and how his mother always looked for work and ended up begging on the street. When there was no more work Hey-You would tell his mother that They were coming for them and they had to leave. She kept getting headaches and they hurt so bad that he would steal her liquor to numb the pain.
He does not talk about how he could not stop crying after Prag and how she made him feel better. Or how for a few days they lived the fantasy life that she was his mother and would look after him. She saw how broken he was and managed to be strong. Then they had to make their way to Basileus and she could not read a map. Somethings belong only to them.
Three days into the journey Hey-You asks the question for the first time.
“Are we there yet?”
In the following weeks Hey-You will ask this question four hundred and eighty times. Hey-You asks this question every time he wants to ask Yozev to go back and get his mother. It is easier to ask a pointless question when it does not make you cry to realize its futility.
Posted on | November 1, 2012 | No Comments
No One Dies
His mother’s headache developed the day they arrived in Prag.
She babbled insensibly while he pretended to sleep. She got worse with the weather as the torrents of rain became storms of snow and so too did she descend, getting colder and colder, further and further removed from her boy and her world.
For the first few days it was as if someone dragged an eraser through the decaying city, covering the dead bodies, heaps of trash and filthy buildings with a clean layer of white. Perfectly preserving the horrors in a place where no one could see them. But the snow did not stop. They were on the ground floor of the 357 apartment temple. As a result they do not hear the warnings to leave the building when the lobby began to fill with snow.
Presently she is trying to cook rats with matchbooks and doing a terrible job. Food is running low, enough that cracker crumbs have become a precious gift shared between mother and son. She holds him in her arms, unable to get their apartment door to open. She starts digging with her fingers and he helps her and little by little more snow is in their apartment and less is in the doorway. Hour by hour they slowly force their way outside, looking for salvation and finding a snow storm in its place.
Piles of snow clogged the city’s ancient streets, alleys and gutters, hiding the homeless, the wrecked tenements and the drug dens. Amidst this white palace of snow, children played. Their parents watched them closely, waiting, as they had for days, in anticipation of the Priests’ return. Loud drums announce the return of the Priests. He wonders what They are going to say about so many civilians on the streets.
“Why I never,” begins his mother, pointing to another thing she never expected to see in her whole life, tripping over her own feet. She likes exploring, it has been a few weeks since he tricked her to cross the street and began this rather hopeless journey. Usually he feeds on the joy in her eyes and encourages her to explore. Unfortunately what she has never seen is a large group of soldiers that is coming straight for them.
Hey-You’s hand goes to his coat pocket where he keeps his pocketknife.
“Are They coming for you?” she asks.
“No, be quiet, mama,” he whispers gently.
The endless column of cavalry breaks through the icy streets, horses whimpering, as their hooves seek balance, riders straining to stay in the saddle. The soldiers’ eyes are alert, as though hooks have been driven into the corner of their eyelids to keep them from closing, scared what they will remember, too drugged up to blink.
“Are they coming to save us?” asks his mother.
The nervous chuckle escapes his throat. He manages to suppress it, but it’s like trying to hold a bull by the horns. His mother smiles blankly at him and he mimics her, trying to play down his fear.
“Did I make a joke?” she asks.
The leader of the warriors comes forward armored in ash plate, body covered in red gore from head to foot arms, legs and chest and a thousand tiny cuts on his face obscuring any identifying features. Hey-You recognizes him from murals on the walls of his school. Aries is one of the living gods no one has seen in an eternity, and a god who, Hey-You has long suspected, might not actually exist.
Yet here he is.
Hey-You can see that the boys and old men who accompany him are also scarred; only he had to look at their eyes to see the wounds. In moments between inhalations, as the drugs pause in their blood stream, Hey-You can see the fear in their eyes not just of Aries but also of what they will become..
Hey-You is laughing and cannot control it.
He knows laughing is a bad idea but he cannot stop himself. It is too funny. People are smiling. They think this is a good thing. It is fair to mention that New Olympians are not known for their rationality. Priests pass out drugs to parents and children from the prayer box coming ever closer to Hey-You and his mother.
Hey-You whispers, “We are all about to die.”
“What?” she asks.
His hand massages the pocketknife. Tongues are extended and wafers filled with amephantines are placed carefully in the mouths of worshippers. The Priests are slowly moving closer, advancing on both sides. Within moments they will reach Hey-You.
“Stand close to me,” says Hey-You.
“Don’t worry,” she says, taking a series of rapid breaths, approaching hyperventilating panic.
He wraps his tiny digits around her adult hand. “Hold my hand and do not let go.”
“The gods have returned,” confirm the thousand Heralds with one voice.
“Kneel! For the gods have returned.”
“He’s just a man,” says his mother much louder than he would have liked.
Aries looks at the crowd and a tear falls down his blood-streaked face.
“Get to your knees,” whispers Hey You.
“Get to your knees,” she says urgently. “I’ll keep you safe.” She often mimics him and he pretends she said it first so that she can be the parent. Only she does not move and he has to drag her down and she is too strong.
Hey-You pulls on her arm; still, she does not move. He does it more forcefully, putting all his body weight into pushing her down and she falls to the ground dragging him with her. He has a bad habit of falling when she does.
Aries whispers, and the sound of his whisper spread and grow like a sonic wave. This is probably due to the microphone strapped to the ruins of his neck. “I have come to warn you,” he tells the gathered crowd. “Our judgment has arrived. If you wish to live you can no longer hide in these cities. You must return to our old kingdom in the Fallen Lands for safety. The journey will be perilous, but the gods have returned to guide you. Have faith in us.”
The thousand Heralds echo his words.
“He’s just a man,” his mother whispers again to Hey-You.
“Have faith in us,” says Aries, and this time his voice has a threatening edge. “You may think you see an army of tired boys and old men. You may think you see before you a man and two beautiful women. But I am Aries and these are my sisters, Aphrodite and Athena. The Gods have returned. We will save you!”
“They will save you,” shout the Heralds.
“We will bring you joy,” declares one of the women, judging from her scanty clothes, might just be pretending to be the wanton goddess Aphrodite.
The army of new recruits and insane fanatics wail in her honor.
“They will bring you joy,” shouts the Heralds.
“We will bring you silence,” declares Athena.
The Heralds, confused, take a few seconds to respond. They open their mouths to echo, but Athena shakes her finger at them.
His mother giggles sanely amidst the madness. The crowd is on its knees. The drumbeat intensifies. Prostitutes and Priests move through the crowd, touching and caressing to seduce little girls and women to join them in the march to the Fallen Lands. Aries’ own acolytes walk through the crowd, carrying basins of blood, dabbing boys and men’s faces in the holy substance, inducting them into the army.
“Face paints darling,” says his mother and takes his arm. “You have to do what they want or they will notice you.”
Aries motions to the crowd and the river of humanity again goes still. “These are not men but my very arms,” he declares. He draws his sword and the legions of boys and cripples follow suit, moving like extensions of his arms, bringing their swords up and down.
“We must make it to Basileus, last surviving port of New Olympia,” Aries tells the crowd. “Boats wait to convey this army over the sea. You must have faith in us.”
“And we need you to have love for me,” adds Aphrodite. Strangely, to Hey-You, she looks like his mother. “On your knees, to attend my pleasure.”
The crowd drops to their knees.
Athena, the other sister, says nothing. She merely smiles. Athena knows there is power in mystery.
“Come children,” Aphrodite continues in her most God-like tone. “We need your sacrifices for the journey ahead. Come to Aphrodite and be blessed by a goddesses’ love.”
Parents push their children forward. A couple of particularly stupid or brave children try to get to the front of the line. They all want to be the first to be blessed by the Goddess. She opens her mouth and blows them a kiss.
Her lush lipped acolytes begin kissing the children on their cheeks and lips, preparing the little girls for adulthood as black widows prepare their husbands for their wedding night.
“You have to go,” says his mother.
He is on the edge of the crowd of children, being pushed forward by his mother’s trembling hands. He can hear the other kids’ excited high voiced mumblings; feel their tiny bodies slamming against his own.
The Heralds close the circle around the children, blades skyward, sweaty bodies raised as barriers.
Priests begin to sing blessings that he recognizes as last rites.
Boys and girls his age push him in their hurry to get to the front of line.
The three Gods lift their hands in the air simultaneously. “All journeys demand sacrifice,” pronounces Aphrodite.
“All journeys demand sacrifice,” echo the Heralds.
Aries brings his arm down on nothing.
The Heralds bring their swords down on boys and girls with a messy cleaver crunch. The children realize what is going at the last second and try to escape. Only when they run they slip on the ice and make themselves easier targets. Hey-You’s legs slide on the pavement and scratch up his knees. A little girl in a red rain suit falls on his back and he cannot seem to get her to leave him alone.
Mom. Dad. Help Me. Thousands of voices all saying the same words.
A blade flashes past Hey-You’s head and he decides he is safer on the ground. And the little girl on his back is dead.
He crawls through bodies, dragging the dead girl with him, hoping to find some place where the swords cannot reach him. He tries to keep crawling, only she is dead weight and he is not that strong and he keeps collapsing with her ontop of him. He catches view of his mother pushing through shocked parents, as he falls deep through the screen of falling bodies obstructing his view. Aries raises his hand once more and lets it drop.
The Heralds follow his example and the swords fall once more on top of the few surviving children. Hey-You holds his breath waiting for the adults to stop paying attention. More bodies are being stacked above him. Someone is tickling his feet. He bites his lips to prevent himself from laughing.
Before the first scream can come from the parents, Aries raises his blood soaked arm for silence. The swords go up in unison and the soldiers’ position themselves facing the crowd.
“Have faith in us,” says Aries.
“Have faith in us,” echo the Heralds.
“The Gods speak alone,” says Aries. “All crimes are punished.”
The Heralds are not quick to appreciate irony and echo their Gods.
Aries raises his sword again and it falls on air. The soldiers who have been standing behind the Heralds, bring down their swords on them. Blood spurts into the air and Priests crumple. Blood spattered broken adults lie next to the children they killed as a grotesque representation of the justice of the gods. The gods ask for both the sin and the punishment. Priests speak in morality. Gods demand only obedience. They also appear to ask for Hey-You to have a rather ugly hole in his side.
He is having quite a lot of difficulty staying awake.
Aries falls to his knees. “You must have faith in us,” he whispers, a butcher calmly lecturing pigs in an abattoir. “We will not lead you into madness.” Which is a strange thing to hear from a man covered in blood from head to toe. He motions to his men and his acolytes begin distributing food to the starving crowd. “I have seen this day in a dream and the snow shall not cease to fall. Those who stay we will be buried beneath its wrath. All must make to the port of Basileus. We will save you.”
He can hear his mother clawing through the bodies, whispering his name, pushing through dead as she pushed through snow only a few moments before. He tries to speak and finds himself without a voice. Someone is squeezing his leg and it is not his mother.
His hair is sticky, now his eyes are painted in blood, and he can feel movement. She is dragging him out of the mountain of writhing bodies, past clutching hands, injuring unfamiliar children, in her hurry to get to her own.
Hey-You features are as lifeless as his companions. She stares into the blankness, grabbing her sweater, frantically dabbing at the blood on his face.
“No one has died,” shouts Aries.
“No one has died,” echoes his soldiers.
Broken parents echo the cheer, tears gushing from their frightened eyes. Like balloons their sanity slowly slips away with their children’s cries.
She kisses his forehead, trembling, praying that he will once more draw breath. Kissing his cheeks, frantically trying to shake the life back into her boy. Begging for him to come back from the dead.
Her expression changes when the children rise from the ground, bodies soaked in blood, wounds somehow healed, staggering empty eyed towards the feet of the gods and goddesses who called for their death. It is clear from expressions on their divine faces that they were not expecting this.
The children no longer look children. Even without names, childhood only ends once.
“No one has died,” wails the soldiers, ecstatic, believing their mission to be blessed. The children let out a uniformly hideous shriek, horrified to find themselves alive and in so much pain.
Hey-You’s eyes open to his mother frantically wiping the blood from his face. She touches his chest but cannot find his wound that has covered him in so much blood.
He cannot understand what is happening.
“The gods saved you,” whispers his mother in awe.
Hey-You curse is to make miracles and never know it.
Posted on | November 1, 2012 | No Comments
Chapter 2-Something New
Beneath a slowly crumbling roof within a vast blank metropolis filled with rotting gray skyscrapers, packed with men and women whose whole lives have been lived in hiding, lies the hero of our story.
His little chest rises and falls. His mouth opens and the screaming begins. His mother can allow this to go on for so long before she wakes him up. Sweat pours down the crevices of his face, down his lips, his innocent smile contorted into a survival mask as he gasps for air, fighting for the reality he knows he must find soon.
This little boy is waking from nightmares of my life to the nightmare of his own.
As always, his prematurely gray-haired mother watches over him, hoping to offer some words of comfort. Since the time when he was very little he has been unable to sleep throughout a whole night without violent fits and screams. Since the time he was little she has rarely slept at all.
“Another happy dream, my love?” asks the boy’s mother, hovering over their shared bed, cup of coffee clutched in one shaking hand and a hammer in the other. One is to protect her from sleep and the other to protect her son from anyone wishing him harm.
“I’m sorry,” answers the child, finally able to catch his breath.
“It’s okay, Hey-You. It’s not your fault.”
She calls the little boy “Hey-You” because in New Olympia, children remain nameless until their thirteenth birthday. The New Olympians believe it is a sin for a person to die so young. It is for this reason that the Priests, who rule this land, do not allow parents to name their children until their thirteenth birthdays. Without a name you aren’t a person.
“I wish that you could sleep better,” she says, smiling sadly, his eyes tracing the black and blue outline of her never-ending waking life. “You worry mommy. I hate to wake you and it is terrible to listen to you sleep.” She takes another sip from her coffee cup. “What was it about this time?”
“I was in an all-white room, bleeding everywhere. Someone told me I was in heaven and I was bleeding everywhere,” he says. Tears streak down his freckled face, covering the tiny brown planets in oceans.
“Just a bad dream. You still have your marbles. You just need to sleep better. We’ll go around the block after breakfast, keep you exercising, a fine boy in good shape should have no trouble grabbing a little rest.” She sees her words are not working. Thinking of a better lie, she snaps her fingers. “Remember your dreams. Maybe they tell you how you save the world, just like your daddy promised before he had to go away.”
She opens the curtains and the sun is directly in his eyes.
In New Olympia, there are two suns — one comes out at noon, the other at midnight and there is never a time of darkness. At the beginning of the universe, someone must have been scared of the dark. Understandably many New Olympians suffer from insomnia.
She starts dusting. She repeats this dozens of times a day. There is rarely any dust to be found. It does nothing for the smell. The walls of his home stink of dead rats and heaps of century-old trash that litter the streets and alleyways. Some days he notices the smell and the walls slowly collapsing over his head. Most days it just feels like home. No matter how clean she makes it, the stench remains.
“How did you sleep?” he asks.
“Had a few winks, my love,” she says. She kisses him on the cheek and momentarily puts down the hammer. “Don’t worry about me. I’m tough. The mother of such an important young man has to be.” She takes him to her arms and for a moment he can pretend that things are the way they used to be.
Hey-You is small for his age, which he believes to be twelve. His mother has forgotten this particular detail and he knows it’s wrong to hassle her about the things she forgets. He has prominent sleep circles under his eyes that make him look like an old man stuck in a young boy’s body. He is skinny because they never get enough rations and he always slips his mother food off his plate.
“Do you have your things packed? They may come looking for us,” she says.
As always, a small backpack sits ready in the corner with enough clothes and toys to start a new life. He has been working on weapons to protect them on their trip, but he does not much care for the idea of hurting anyone.
“Why would They come looking?”
It was a subject that arose often: They. Mother sometimes talked to herself about They when she thought he was asleep. Long ago she stopped reading him stories and began making them up. They were the people coming to kill him to stop him from achieving his destiny. She puts down her coffee cup and begins fondling the hammer.
“Don’t worry, mom. The Priests have forgotten we exist.”
“They will not have forgotten you—they know what you are going to do,” she mumbles, once more forgetting to explain what she means. He notices her breathing has accelerated and decides to pursue it at a later time.
Once she gets wound up, it’s hard to keep her from hyperventilating. He rubs her shoulders, hoping that he can talk her out of this. He will play the child and let her encourage his dreams. She acts more like a mother when he acts more like a son.
“Tell me, mother, how long has it been since snow has fallen?”
“Snow is only in the story books.”
“And the rain?” asks Hey-You.
“You know the answer,” she tells him. Usually she humors him and talks about the great adventures they are going to have in strange places and the people they will be when they get there. Now she is too tired and he is being a handful and should figure out a way to make her feel better.
Only he can’t stop.
“I want to see rain.”
“It’s beautiful when it doesn’t rain,” replies his mother.
“It hasn’t ever rained,” Hey-You points out. “I want to see something different.”
In New Olympia, different tends to mean misborn or mutant, dirty or scary. Different created the gigantic holes in the city center where buildings were burnt to dust and ashes. Different was the treason that got intellectuals and dissidents murdered by the Priests. Different is what would happen if the people of the Fallen Lands learned the New Olympians were alive in their rat holes. They would come to finish the job.
To Hey-You and a few others, different means a place outside the city, where he is not a cog in a world of clocks , where he can leave the streets bordering the building where he was born. To his mother different means being noticed and being noticed means her son dies.
“I need to see the world.”
“You’ve seen the streets on the way to school,” his mother says.
Often there are sacrifices left hanging from lampposts. His mother never fails to point this out as he is on the way out the door. His mother’s fear for his safety often makes him fear for himself.
Their block went from east to west for miles in never ending endless rows of buildings that were exactly the same. They had walked for hours before but never found the end of the road, never seeming to move even a footstep closer to their destination. They were not allowed to leave their block. Many had been killed for trying to cross the street.
“I want to get out of here.”
“We don’t have passes,” his mother replies.
Hey-You wonders if this is one of her lies, which she tells whenever she thinks the truth too shameful. He suspects she wants to keep him in the city because she doesn’t think he could survive the journey outside.
“You tried to apply?” he asks.
“I don’t know where the office is.”
In New Olympia it is very possible that there is no office. It is possible that no one had passes and everyone lived in their ratholes until the ratholes became too full and people died from starvation or disease. These bodies would never be seen again and a few foolish survivors would begin again until someone else had to hide their bodies too.
There were rumors that travel was forbidden because most of the cities had not survived the Fall that destroyed New Olympia. These same rumors said that the world outside was simply a large collection of graveyards. Hey-You’s knowledge of the world existed in rumour collected in books and half truths told by drunken Priests who ran the city blocks its occupants were restricted to.
“Do your assignment, midget,” she scolds him gently, using her pet name for him, then adds: “The Priests always find the people who leave. They think anyone who is not working for them is working for Him.”
“The other God? Across the sea in the Fallen Lands?” says Hey-You.
She kisses his forehead with the softest brush of sandpaper lips.
“Yes, The Midget,” replies his mother disdainfully. This is a very different midget: a Midget who happens to be a God, rather than a little boy. And Hey-You is not really a midget. He’s just short for his age.
The Midget ruled a perfect world known as the Fallen Lands. Today, there are many wonders of mutation in the wastelands outside New Olympia. They blame The Midget for their fate. Many people have developed diseases from the radioactivity left in his wake.
“Can things still be magical there?” asks Hey-You.
“Anything’s possible there.” She is in the mood to play with him. She cares for him sincerely, yet gets a rush from giving him hope. Like when she is okay for a little while. He starts to think she will stay that way. She is good at giving him those little rushes. Just by being good for a while. But she never stays that way.
He hears the ceiling crack and sees flecks of debris fall to the floor. The buildings are unsafe and the Priests do not believe in repairs. Gradually the whole New Olympian world will collapse of neglect. The Priests say this is the way of the world.
“Do I go there when I die?”
He should not ask questions like these. Her shaking fingernails dig into his arms until he wonders if she will draw blood. She has been hurting him by accident lately.
His mother puts on her lecturing face. “You’ll die if you go there, that’s for sure. The Midget—The Father, Yozev, whatever you want to call him—doesn’t like us.”
An alarm clock goes off.
“You have a lot to do. You have to be prepared. People are going to count on you soon.”
Hey-You is sure it is because of moments like this that he has problems with bile in the morning and anxiety during the night.
“I wish I could sleep a bit more,” says Hey-You.
“Now there’s the prayer of a lazy ass,” she says in between yawning. “Get out of bed. Welcome to the day, my lovely son. It’s been waiting for you… along with breakfast.”
She shows him the two burnt black slices of toast and smiles. As usual, he eats all of it with a smile, watching her face, hoping to give her features some semblance of peace from the act of feeding him. He can hear the people in the other room arguing as they tended to. His mother can not complain about that because Hey-You often wakes them from sleep with his screaming. There was not enough space in Olympia for any family to have more than a room to themselves.
“Someday you’ll change all of this,” she says and grips his hand. “Promise you won’t leave the block. They’ll hurt you if you leave.”
“Of course, mother.”
He gets out of bed, dresses, eats breakfast, thinks about being a hero and completes his daily assignment. He knows he must be a smart hero rather than a brute, even though the warriors in the stories always seem to get the women. The problem is that he is not very skilled with the sword his mother acquired for him, even though he practices whenever he can. He tells her he is getting better, because he hates making her worry and worries that he may have to protect her soon.
She guards the house late into the night. Hey-You often finds her on her chair falling deeply into sleep. He never mentions that he puts the blanket on her each night. In her mind, she is the guardian against They, and he is soundly asleep.
He goes to school, walking past fresh and ancient detritus littering the city streets. Rotting maggots move from piles of dried out garbage to the bodies of animal carcasses sacrificed to honour the gods. He avoids eye contact with beggars on the street, knowing they could be Priests in disguise.
At school, he answers all of the questions the teachers ask him and knows the answers to the questions they ask his classmates.
Finally it is recess and he sees the stranger who will change his life. For the first time in many weeks he ventures outside, away from the careful watching eyes of his teachers and onto the playground and into the courtyard where children with gleaming eyes wait.
These special children play on the fused steel jungle gyms, rusty swing sets and rotting teeter-totters that make up the playground. They sing prayers to Aries in voices so sweet they almost distract him from the small implements clutched in their tiny hands.
He usually prefers to stay inside. He can tell from their eyes and the powder on their hands that they have been praying, which means drugs. Temples encourage their members to become drug addicts. It is another way to keep people from caring about whether they can cross the street.
There is something about the stranger that makes Hey-You take those first furtive steps outside, past the gang of twitching children snarling as they mimic war, each one ready to pounce on him at the first sign of weakness.
The stranger, dressed all in white, stands in the center of the schoolyard, surrounded by the mob of wailing children, grinning as though they were his subjects and he their master.
None of the filth-covered children dare to look at him. Hey-You feels a strange nausea as he sees the stranger’s thin lips stretch to a smile. His eyes are chameleon green and sparkling with humour. His hands are thin, but look made perfectly to break things.
“Children are such monsters,” he says to Hey-You. “They would rip you apart at a word. Have a seat, my boy. I have been waiting.”
One of the children grabs his leg and the stranger casually kicks the boy in the face, sending the child to the ground, his cheeks caved in by the weight of impact. The stranger lowers his dramatically raised foot.
“Relax. I hate children,” says the stranger.
He cannot be a Priest. Hey-You knows this because he can smell soap on him. A palpable absence hangs around the stranger; with some people, he knows they are bad or good, but the stranger seems ambivalent.
“Why are you here?” asks Hey-You.
Laughter comes from the children surrounding him. He wonders if they have somehow gained possession of a knife. He tenses his back, preparing to feel the blade.
The children rarely laugh at funny things.
“A story I heard once,” says the stranger. “Do you have the time?”
“For what?” He wonders if the stranger is making a joke at his expense.
The stranger laughs and so do the demonic children surrounding him, slowly leaning down to silence the broken child’s screaming with their sharp pencils and shining eyes.
“I am unaware of what time it is,” the stranger explains. “It could be important.”
Now Hey-You is sure the stranger is picking on him. Everyone in New Olympia has a watch. He wonders if They might have sent the stranger. A part of him believes his mother, mostly because he loves her and it’s wrong to think she’s crazy.
“Check your watch,” he tells him.
The stranger shrugs. “I have no watch.”
“How can you have no watch?”
The stranger shrugs. “I am an evil man.”
Hey-You checks his watch. 11:44. Still? His watch is still working, but the second hand must be traveling in circles. “Sorry for being rude,” he says finally. “What does an evil man do besides wasting time?”
“Evil means a waste of time?”
Hey-You nods. “No one ever asks me if I have a watch unless they‘re angry with me,” he explains. When the Priests ask him if he has a watch, it is a prelude to punishment for wasting time. The same is true for his mother. “How come you don’t have one?” asks Hey-You.
“I do not believe in time,” says the stranger. “And I am evil for much better reasons than the amount of time I waste.”
Hey-You’s nauseous feeling gets worse, as if someone was trying to fold his brain like a piece of paper.
“I was just reading about something like this,” Hey-You says. “Do you want me to come with you to the Fallen Lands?”
The stranger nods, his grin stretching from cheek to cheek.
He knows this is not just another adult playing a trick on him; it is his own mind. “You aren’t real,” Hey-You tells the stranger.
The stranger shakes his head. “The Father is not kind enough for that to be true.”
The Father is what the Midget’s people call him. So he did not work for They. He worked for The Midget.
“Why are you here?” Hey-You asks again.
“I had some things to do, people to kill, ruin to sow,” the stranger says, offering his hand.
“We haven’t been properly introduced. My name is Michael. Some call me the angel of death. You can call me Mikey. I am very pleased to meet you. Your name would be?”
“I am not old enough yet,” Hey-You replies.
“True enough.” Michael says, adding: “Fancy yourself a hero?”
Hey-You shakes his head. “I think I am boring, actually,” he says.
“You are interesting enough,” Michael replies, looking around. “You are the only one not scared of me.” There is a short silence as the stranger smiles into the distance. “You’re a very important little child,” Michael informs him. He shoos away the grinning children surrounding Hey-You, forcing them to take a couple steps back. “You are not,” he tells the others. “Give the boy space.”
“Why am I important?”
“You are going to save the world.”
Save meant save time. “How much?”
“All of it,” Michael tells him.
His mother had been right. They were here for him.
Hey-You takes a couple of steps back, stopping when he is in the center of the laughing children.
“Don’t worry. I want you to play the game. It makes it more fun if there is a chance I will not succeed. If you succeed you will make the world a better place. So today I am going to give you the chance.”
Michael’s hand is shaking as it reaches into his pocket and touches a bulky metallic object. Hey-You wonders if he is about to be hurt and why the man’s stare looks so filled with grief. His other hands lands gently on Hey-You’s shoulder. He feels his neck tense. People are always friendly before they hurt you. What is in his coat?
“Why me?” asks Hey-You.
“I wish I knew,” replies Michael.
Suddenly, all the alarms in the town’s clocks begin to sound simultaneously. The other kids get up and scramble back into the classrooms musty with chalkboard dust from the same lessons taught without change for centuries.
As Hey-You gets up to return to class, he turns back to Michael.
“I think you are a figment of my imagination,” says Hey-You.
The evil man points at the sky. “And that is a different shade of blue,” Michael says.
Hey-You looks up. The blue is, in fact, a mass of churning precipitation like maggots in the sky.
Hey-You grins so widely, it looks like his face might split open. “Does it rain in the Fallen Lands?” asks Hey-You.
“No,” answers Michael.
“Would I get older?”
“No one ages in the Fallen Lands. Especially not New Olympians.”
“What is going to happen here?” he asks, gesturing toward the city.
“All good things come to an end,” Michael tells him.
Each building is almost five hundred feet tall, housing hundreds of rooms. There is nothing tragic or beautiful about this scene — it is almost too tedious to come to an end.
A drop of rain descends from the clouds, lazy as syrup, a little diamond against the white sun. It lands on Hey-You’s nose and slides down his face. The next drop feels like a cat licking him. The next one is like a disorienting blow, but not a knockout punch.
He is so excited he cannot close his eyes and the rain falls down his cheeks like prophetic tears, as though nature understood what would be done to him. To the boy, it feels like he is clean for the first time in his life.
He feels his head swimming away from his body. To some other place where it does not have to chase his heart.
This is life beginning.
But then Hey-You feels the familiar tightness in his chest again, a third hand waving, clenching his chest into a raised fist about to knock him senseless. All he has to do is catch his breath. Only his lungs do not seem up for the race.
“Does the pain in my chest end?” asks Hey-You. “My uncle had a heart attack when he was my age.”
Michael grimaces. “Even that,” he says, “even that. I have a gift for you.” He reaches into his pocket and Hey-You flinches, thinking he is going to take out a weapon. You can see in his pained expression that Michael might be tempted to do exactly that. Instead he takes a small syringe filled with liquid from his pocket and stabs it into Hey-You’s arm.
A second passes.
“Bet you didn’t feel a thing. And, look, you are cured.”
Michael steps on the syringe and softly kisses his brow. He bends down and takes the small child into his adult arms, pressing him to his chest.
“You have to be safe, little one. Don’t step in the glass,” Michael tells him, kissing the little boy again on the forehead. “I feel I should give you inspiring advice. ‘Believe in yourself.’ ‘Go get em, champ.’ But I have to be honest. I’d be very afraid if I were you. Men are coming to kill you. Now you must travel to the Fallen Lands. Follow my instructions precisely and you will be safe as houses. Make for Basileus, last port of Olympia. Only there will you find safety, I will give you a list of cities to visit and in the proper order so my people can watch out for you. Ignore my instructions and you will die. Come now child, I am going to show you the world.”
Hey-You begins to shiver.
“Oh and remember to smile. This is going to be fun. ”keep looking »