Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 1: The Dragon (Pt. 4)

(Continued from part 3, read it here.)
(Read the chapter from the beginning, here.)

Marcus addressed Hart directly. He stood a few feet from him, He opened his mouth, “Look here mutha’fu….”

His words were cut short as a slice of apple whipped into his mouth and lodged itself. He began to gag then fell to his knees.

“Anyone know the Heimlich?” Hart asked the group in a cold sincerity. The group looked at each other incredulously and in disbelief.

Holy shit!” One shouted.

The other called out, “He’s choking, holmes!”

“You know, a great man died once from accepting food which he knew to be tainted. The idea was that it is more important to always accept what is given to you.” Hart was standing and pacing like a professor, giving some lecture to his students. Marcus was spluttering and turning purple on his knees- the other 3 were in a wide-eyed panic, flapping their arms and shouting at each other.

He’s gonna’ die, dude!” At that, the ones who expressed their concern at the beginning, fled in terror.

With his hands behind his back, Hart repeated the words of Buddha,

…Who gives, his virtues shall increase;

Who is self-curbed, no hatred bears;

Whoso is skilled in virtues, evil shuns…”

He paced between the stupefied teenagers who were trying to help their choking friend.

Hart said, “Ok, class dismissed,” he lifted Marcus to his feet. “Behold the miracle of science!” He shouted and raised his arms up.

He braced the kid then administered one deft back blow, as if he knew exactly where to exert pressure; it was somewhere between the shoulder blades but it was accurate and spot on. The apple slice dislodged itself and sailed through the air landing, thick with saliva, at the feet of the others.

A loud squelching noise could be heard coming from the pants of Marcus; fear and his extrication from death made him defecate. His body shook and tears welled up in his eyes. The others began gagging and cursing.

They reluctantly grabbed their humiliated, dazed and soiled friend who was slumped once more to the ground. Hoisting him up and throwing his arms over their shoulder, they hurried out of the park.

He knew beyond assumption that some combination of boredom, inexperience and unhappiness drove this hooliganism. “Truly and ultimately,” he thought, “…Why stoke these fires? Wouldn’t they just the same, find themselves unsatisfied at the end of it all?

He thought about the original motivation of that noisy troop and guessed it quite easily and surmised three things: the intrinsically fragile composition of popularity, how material gain makes foolish people want excessively and that vanity, public image or ego are grievous burdens. Hart removed himself from these vices as best as humanly possible. His was meditation and the peace of balance.

He had succeeded to make his life whole and fluid with his surroundings; those who passed tripped, stuttered and went fumbling as awkward mortals Prophetically, he scribbled on a notepad he removed from a pocket, “The flowers that bud with a surge of sugar and such vehemence in spring soon wither and give way to the mild browns and yellows of summer.

His hands went rummaging through his rucksack searching for something edible to satisfy his stomach while he idled on human truths provoked by the encounters of the day. “When all is said and done, after a volley of malicious remarks and after perhaps a physical altercation, no party is the better, right? Isn’t it true that violence only begets violence, Gandhi?”

He wasn’t quite convinced. His hand found what it was after. He had tossed the remainder of the apple into the bag after launching a piece of it as a projectile into the teenagers’ throat. “This chaffing tension,” he continued, “…Surely only serves to bolster an ego at the expense of the target but all things considered, what good does an overinflated ego do and what vampirism has occurred to swell such a thing?”

He heartily bit into the remainder of the apple, its juice dripped down his wrist and the acidity of the pulp made his mouth grin and tongue salivate the more.

Nothing, it’s all for naught.”

The previously mentioned Indian cultural icons inspired a natural progression in thinking. Hart considered the cheapness and baseness of all violence. Crunching and chewing away on this green fruit and moving his jaws stimulated his brain in some manual, mechanical way. He was still in the throes of pontification, “…That they give so much of themselves away in compromise… those who flare wildly also expose a soft underbelly.

He furrowed his brow in a sudden start of pity for all the shortcomings and ineptitude of his brothers and sisters. He had found himself among the wild fields, rolling hills, sweeping plains, forests, streams, rivers and the vast ocean. His questions were always answered and troubles always quelled when he looked to these marvels of the natural world. “The same nirvana could not be said to have reached most, Siddhartha” He was talking to ghosts that rose up from pages of philosophy he had memorized.

He thought about his true power, his unexposed side that was reserved for himself- his immortality and the profoundness of what he had learned form practice and discipline. He walked now to a roped-off section of the garden, hidden by tall, live oak trees. The grass was uncut and spotted with wild field flowers; it grew up to his knees.

At that moment, he decided to close his eyes. The sun was shining directly above him. He was asking favor of the air in a deep meditation to lift his body; he wished to use the petals of a flower as a pedestal.

He put one toe on a slender stalk then another till he balanced atop its colorful summit. (It was only two minute steps but in their exactness, almost infinite.) Hart defied gravity. His body for all purposes became not weightless like a floating feather or the seeds of dandelions in the breeze but supported by the elements around him.

Not a single drop of dew was disturbed. He balanced his entirety on a nary blade of grass and felt a breeze reserved for the heads of barley and wild long stems on his toes.

This skill came from countless lifetimes of experience; time and all that fill its precepts taught him a secret language that wasn’t available in any university: he pioneered the vastness of his mind and its emotion. These contemplations and reflections awarded him a mastery to manipulate the fabric of the natural world around him…

(To be continued)

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Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 1: The Dragon (Pt. 4)

(Continued from part 3, read it here.)
(Read the chapter from the beginning, here.)

Marcus addressed Hart directly. He stood a few feet from him, He opened his mouth, “Look here mutha’fu….”

His words were cut short as a slice of apple whipped into his mouth and lodged itself. He began to gag then fell to his knees.

“Anyone know the Heimlich?” Hart asked the group in a cold sincerity. The group looked at each other incredulously and in disbelief.

Holy shit!” One shouted.

The other called out, “He’s choking, holmes!”

“You know, a great man died once from accepting food which he knew to be tainted. The idea was that it is more important to always accept what is given to you.” Hart was standing and pacing like a professor, giving some lecture to his students. Marcus was spluttering and turning purple on his knees- the other 3 were in a wide-eyed panic, flapping their arms and shouting at each other.

He’s gonna’ die, dude!” At that, the ones who expressed their concern at the beginning, fled in terror.

With his hands behind his back, Hart repeated the words of Buddha,

…Who gives, his virtues shall increase;

Who is self-curbed, no hatred bears;

Whoso is skilled in virtues, evil shuns…”

He paced between the stupefied teenagers who were trying to help their choking friend.

Hart said, “Ok, class dismissed,” he lifted Marcus to his feet. “Behold the miracle of science!” He shouted and raised his arms up.

He braced the kid then administered one deft back blow, as if he knew exactly where to exert pressure; it was somewhere between the shoulder blades but it was accurate and spot on. The apple slice dislodged itself and sailed through the air landing, thick with saliva, at the feet of the others.

A loud squelching noise could be heard coming from the pants of Marcus; fear and his extrication from death made him defecate. His body shook and tears welled up in his eyes. The others began gagging and cursing.

They reluctantly grabbed their humiliated, dazed and soiled friend who was slumped once more to the ground. Hoisting him up and throwing his arms over their shoulder, they hurried out of the park.

He knew beyond assumption that some combination of boredom, inexperience and unhappiness drove this hooliganism. “Truly and ultimately,” he thought, “…Why stoke these fires? Wouldn’t they just the same, find themselves unsatisfied at the end of it all?

He thought about the original motivation of that noisy troop and guessed it quite easily and surmised three things: the intrinsically fragile composition of popularity, how material gain makes foolish people want excessively and that vanity, public image or ego are grievous burdens. Hart removed himself from these vices as best as humanly possible. His was meditation and the peace of balance.

He had succeeded to make his life whole and fluid with his surroundings; those who passed tripped, stuttered and went fumbling as awkward mortals Prophetically, he scribbled on a notepad he removed from a pocket, “The flowers that bud with a surge of sugar and such vehemence in spring soon wither and give way to the mild browns and yellows of summer.

His hands went rummaging through his rucksack searching for something edible to satisfy his stomach while he idled on human truths provoked by the encounters of the day. “When all is said and done, after a volley of malicious remarks and after perhaps a physical altercation, no party is the better, right? Isn’t it true that violence only begets violence, Gandhi?”

He wasn’t quite convinced. His hand found what it was after. He had tossed the remainder of the apple into the bag after launching a piece of it as a projectile into the teenagers’ throat. “This chaffing tension,” he continued, “…Surely only serves to bolster an ego at the expense of the target but all things considered, what good does an overinflated ego do and what vampirism has occurred to swell such a thing?”

He heartily bit into the remainder of the apple, its juice dripped down his wrist and the acidity of the pulp made his mouth grin and tongue salivate the more.

Nothing, it’s all for naught.”

The previously mentioned Indian cultural icons inspired a natural progression in thinking. Hart considered the cheapness and baseness of all violence. Crunching and chewing away on this green fruit and moving his jaws stimulated his brain in some manual, mechanical way. He was still in the throes of pontification, “…That they give so much of themselves away in compromise… those who flare wildly also expose a soft underbelly.

He furrowed his brow in a sudden start of pity for all the shortcomings and ineptitude of his brothers and sisters. He had found himself among the wild fields, rolling hills, sweeping plains, forests, streams, rivers and the vast ocean. His questions were always answered and troubles always quelled when he looked to these marvels of the natural world. “The same nirvana could not be said to have reached most, Siddhartha” He was talking to ghosts that rose up from pages of philosophy he had memorized.

He thought about his true power, his unexposed side that was reserved for himself- his immortality and the profoundness of what he had learned form practice and discipline. He walked now to a roped-off section of the garden, hidden by tall, live oak trees. The grass was uncut and spotted with wild field flowers; it grew up to his knees.

At that moment, he decided to close his eyes. The sun was shining directly above him. He was asking favor of the air in a deep meditation to lift his body; he wished to use the petals of a flower as a pedestal.

He put one toe on a slender stalk then another till he balanced atop its colorful summit. (It was only two minute steps but in their exactness, almost infinite.) Hart defied gravity. His body for all purposes became not weightless like a floating feather or the seeds of dandelions in the breeze but supported by the elements around him.

Not a single drop of dew was disturbed. He balanced his entirety on a nary blade of grass and felt a breeze reserved for the heads of barley and wild long stems on his toes.

This skill came from countless lifetimes of experience; time and all that fill its precepts taught him a secret language that wasn’t available in any university: he pioneered the vastness of his mind and its emotion. These contemplations and reflections awarded him a mastery to manipulate the fabric of the natural world around him…

(To be continued)

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Vol. 1, Branded Souls: Chapter 1 (Pt 3)

(Read Pt. 2 here) or from the beginning of the chapter: here

With the squirrel now gone, He sat alone. Silently, Hart convened with nature under her relaxed sky. She mused and offered billowed clouds as a measure of solace. The pastel colored tulips, brothers and sisters of pinks and reds, bobbed in rows, listening too to his thoughts. They swayed and rippled. Even the sprigs of cool wild lilac seemed to lend their lavender shoulders. He had slipped out of his boots and rolled cuffs into his denim pants. The grass was thick but without roughness or barbs.

He watched a bee moving along as if in a dream. It only gave attention and adoration to especially fragrant and bright flowers. Above him, a few birds could be heard warbling in the copse of the magnolia; the song and performance came direct from the pages of nature’s own play. Hart enjoyed the fare and he read along with a deft ear. He moved his toes like encroaching soldiers in the verdant turf and immediately began to feel better like a calm that comes to one after the acceptance of hard news.

Chatting idly, a couple passed along the way, perhaps taking a detour to the city that lay at the bottom of Booker Hill Park. At the sight of this shoeless, unshaven and peculiar man, looking at the sky, sprawled out along the bench, their conversation grew hushed. “Washington, D.C. is more conservative than you might expect…” He whistled between his teeth. His perspective and power wasn’t clear to a passerby or a friend because he kept it that way. It was evident enough to him. His outward appearance was maybe that of late twenties. He dressed in plain clothes but somehow, always seemed to stand out and draw attention. Hart appeared to be quite youthful but his mannerisms didn’t match his age. He moved slowly and spoke deliberately as though every word that came from his mouth had been purposefully drawn for a desired effect.

An unintended silence had pervaded as the couple walked towards him on the path; they had to fight their natural urge to set a queer eye in his direction. “Must be from out of town…” Hart smiled as their curiosity peaked. They glanced over to his direction despite of themselves. Hart noticed, smiled with one eye open, the other closed and nodded his head emphatically. They carried on just as they came, now passing Hart and taking to their course, slowly meandering down the tulip lined, redbrick path. “Good folks, good upbringing.” Hart chuckled and considered them as his eyes opened to follow the entwined figures, slowly descending and out of sight.Hart laughed suddenly, remembering the messy incident and the last group to pass by. That time it wasn’t awkward whispers or a hurrying by.

During that fantastic age of adolescences, ‘the illusion of invulnerability,’ as Hart called it, either plagued or embarrassed those having to carry its weight; to some, it emboldened ego, to others, it inspired foolishness, in the worst case, both. This group took gazing awkwardness to another level but still, Hart empathized- He couldn’t remember when he was at that age or if he ever was a victim of disillusion or vice a versa but he tried to observe everything with equanimity: “Perhaps I am just in some dream world, waiting to rouse from my slumber.”

This afternoon, as he was stretching before his nap, he could hear scoffing from across a hedgerow. A raucous youth had deemed Hart a worthy target. With his crew of equally young men, they hopped over a fence, demolishing a flowerbed. They took a few steps forward close enough to where he sat and established themselves immediately: they let fly taunts and insults meant to wound.

Sometimes I enjoy a jest- it lends itself amusement,” Hart maintained, “…But their angle could use some polishing”. They attacked and tried to undermine him as a homeless vagrant. They gave Hart the other end of it, too with a potluck of tree-hugging and homosexual clichés.

Hart rolled his eyes; his shield was iron, his confidence unbreakable. He understood, “the best medicine in the world is that of laughter.” But there was no laughter to be had with this lot, so he extended the axiom to fit.

“…The next best medicine is discipline. ” He grinned to himself, “Funny is what it’ll be, discipline is what they’ll get.

The most outspoken stepped up, “Hey, dumbass whatcha’ mumblin’ about, you drunk?”

Another shouted from the group, “You’re fucking up our park!”

Hart called softly, not looking at them, “Have you seen what you’re stepping on?”

The kid looked down at the trampled flowers and ivy and finishing a soda can, he dropped it then crushed it under his feet.

He shot back, “Well its our park and we can step on these flowers if we want- you don’t pay for em’, you fuckin’ slob!”

Hart surely passed for a vagrant or derelict at times but this he wasn’t-drifter perhaps, but not down and out; this was impossibility for a man of his talents. He considered his dress: a spotless though slightly wrinkled shirt and blue denim jeans without any holes or patches.

“My momma don’t do my washin’ boy, why don’t you go home and change you’re underwear before I make you shit your pants.” Hart began laughing to himself; he played along at their expense.

The group standing behind the aggressor snickered, “Ah, Shut the hell up!” He growled, “You want to start something, faggot or you wanna’ take a walk down to Dupont so I can tell all your friends how we’re gonna’ ruin your rainbow-lovin’ day?” Such jeers had no effect and to the vexation of the issuer, they landed without punch.

“Ease-up partner, it’s the 21st century we’re living in and my friends, in Dupont, would be equally upset if you ruined my day as I would be if you ruined there’s.”

“Wise guy, we’re gonna’ beat your ass stupid, right here.”

As he said this the 3 others stepped forward to join the ringleader.

“Look guys, I apologize, you’re a bunch of nice lads- you want an apple or share some of my sandwich?” He sat up and reached into his rucksack at his feet and proffered a green apple. The group looked incensed and was swearing menacingly as they began to approach Hart.

Meanwhile, Hart was unaffected and cutting an apple into slices. The motley crew took this unsheathed knife with suspicion and two stopped approaching.

“Hey man, this guy is out of his mind- I’m not about to be shanked.”

The other agreed and called up the ranks, “It aint’ worth it, Marcus, we’re in D.C. you don’t know how crazy fools are around here.” Hart stared at them emptily; his nonchalance unnerved them.

“…Those kid are bright.” 

(Continued here: pt 4)

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Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 1: The Dragon (Pt. 2)

(Read pt. 1 here)

Hart tried to rouse from a hypnotic state. He felt it as a dream that he could not return from without a fight. With his eyes closed, He drifted around a field of death as the mighty dragon itself. Watching from a sky to ground perspective, he saw men as carrion or prey. He was unable to express his emotions and felt like a corked bottle under pressure- he saw colors and felt burning through his veins as the a volley of arrows tried to curb him.

The dragon is on the hunt!” cried the friar from his belfry. The blacksmith screamed, “Get to shelter!” The friar churned the bells again with a long rope. People had all but fled the fields, leaving farm equipment and sheaves of wheat. Hart had no appetite for the town’s folk- the contents within the castle is what he pined for. A delicate voice clung to his mortal fiber and cried, “Save me,” from some dark recess.

It drove him mad- he was unable to think clearly and he was acting from an involuntary aggression. He sprayed fire into the archer slots carved into the castle; people could be heard screaming inside. An explosion blinded him temporarily and drilled a percussive ringing into his brain.

He slammed himself into the bulwark and dug his claws into the stone while repeatedly smashing his weight into the impregnable defense. The clang of alarm was heard and all had fled into their homes or into the castle. The army had regrouped and began packing explosives for another searing shower. He took to his wings, damaged and bleeding, roaring in defiance as he retreated to the opposite mountains.

Harts thoughts drifted as he distanced himself from the fire and frenzy. His sharp vision as a beast of preternatural ability waned and grew blurry. Hart felt disembodied.

His thought moved upwards as the dragon disappeared into the hills and grey mountains. His perspective moved still upwards and away from the village it centered the castle in his direct vision, he saw the battlefield fading and the dragon departing. The scene was no more and the boiling in his veins slackened; upwards he went towards the infinite depths of the cosmos.

Some gravity of another, beckoned him to reenter a sharp precept but he resisted for a time by keeping his eyelids closed momentarily; reds and blacks that painted the inside drew a somber canvas. Hart considered his increased strangeness and morbidity as his conscious floated in meditation. A gnashing darkness and gore-filled destruction sickened his thoughts and tolled heavily on his, willfully simple nature.

He yawned aloud and stretched his arms aloft. He moved his shoulders in a rolling fashion, flexing and hunching his shoulders intermittently. “Damn that bench is a tough bastard.” After stretching out his rotator cuff and shaking the numbness out of his arms, he began the method again with his legs. Stiffening and pulling his legs in front then together, he raised his feet from the grass. His quadriceps bulged like knots of thick ropes. He then gently rolled his ankles in his hands then let out a gush of air from his mouth, “Whew, can’t handle much more of those kind of naps…” Hart blinked and rubbed his eyes he knew it wasn’t just the medium he slept on that made him sedate, “What a curious dream,” He contended in an attempt to dispel the hanging haze.

At the far end of the bench, a squirrel was busying itself by digging out a patch of turf around a tree. The black critter ceased it’s labor, sniffed the air then drew a brown acorn from his hoard and set about to lunch; it cracked open the acorn with skilled digits. The innards of the acorn became reduced to crumbs at its dexterity; the husk was all that remained. When it finished one, it decided that its hunger was great and began this exercise once more. Hart looked upwards. It was a bright day but westward, distant, brooding storm clouds were on the horizon.

A beautiful poplar with its white and orange blossoms shaded him. That familiar tranquil breeze that rustled its leaves also stirred an imperceptible and undefined heartache; it froze up any fire of sudden activity that he may have wanted to do on this fine day. He fell back into a lazy stupor at the sweet smell of the flowers on the wind. He was ensorcelled by a memory that clung more dear to him than his very life but it was a memory that he could barely recall, a memory that came to him in fragments, like a hurtful puzzle that was relentless with its entreaties and its infinite madness.

“I loved her…I loved something.”

He placed his hands on the back of his head and slipped into an exceedingly casual position on the bench. He recalled a faint wisp; a lost, similar spring afternoon; it came floating back to him on the wings of the scented wind.

A soft and warm breeze tangled her locks of blonde in a playful caress. Wavy strands of gold fell across her brow. He saw a longing gaze; a half covered, sparkling green eye-

He felt a pang in his chest. He troubled himself willingly and tried to ignore this natural thing that feels like loss and weighs like stones in a heart. He attempted to ignore the pain of emotion because he wanted more. He wanted to find her, this woman who had been haunting his daydreams, nightmares and waking days. He wanted to answer why a memory was lashing from the depths of his mind and raking old coals.

Hart searched. First he searched in his mind. He cast a line of inquisition into its depths: He drew a net like a fisherman but at each stroke in these swirling waters, he missed his target. “It had been so very long.” As he thought hard on the emotion and power she conjured within him, he sat up as a man suddenly struck on that head. The net seemed to grapple something and this powerful something flailed hard in his eager clutch; an image sprang forth from across the sands of time:

Here came an impish grin and a childish titter lifted like a chorus by rosy cheeks. He recognized her and another. It was a stranger, himself, as recognizable as any but a stranger. This stranger was swathed in a forgetful cloud, holding some goblet as he whispered into the young woman’s ear. She beamed so bright that it illuminated the memory around her like a candle held to a dusty photo album.

She had rouge on. “No.” he sighed to his recognition, a deep scarlet blush. She was seated, facing towards him but her gaze was now bashfully away, towards the ground. She absently plucked petals from flowers, smiling all the while. The stranger’s thoughts then whispered into Harts mind:

…Perpetual innocence, kindness and truth…” It picked up and trailed off into a murmur.  This is, he thought, is the way he’d known her. Her smile faded to an outstretched, delicate hand wrapped in the lace of white silk, offering to him a ring of purple and yellow flowers. He reached for the bouquet but it was snatched away by a foul gust, the wind kicked up and a strong piercing rain sprang from dark clouds. The young women stood as if a forced puppet and floated backwards into a dark fog that grew around her. Her eyes pleaded though her facial expression was mute. Her hand remained outstretched as if trying to hold on to something. He struggled to grasp her precious white hand but the force of the storm pressed on him so violently that he was rooted. She grew into the blackness then the scene was blackness itself; he had lost her once more.

(Continued here: pt. 3)

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