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

To read the beginning of Chapter 1, The Dragon, click here, (Part 1)

To read the previous section in chapter 1, The Dragon, click here. (Part 4)


 

…The will of the elements was a collective thing and the way he asked for their assistance could be described as democracy; all elements had their own, “free will“. In his meditation, he had to present a persuasive case with the world around him for protection or support. But it wasn’t a case of eloquence in speech it was a discipline of will. To enter this mode, he must slow down his thought and channel his thinking to the fractions of a second that make up that world. If he was too fatigued, or mentally indisposed his connection with the elements could fail and leave him exposed to a dire situation.

As he would make his case, he would garner the support from a few parts of the natural. They would unify to grant what request he asked. When these natural elements felt inclined, Hart would be granted and thus given the aforementioned ability of, for example, balancing himself atop a long stem of wheat, the most petite of flowers, a light zephyr or the wisps of clouds.

Hart breathed through his nostrils, filling his lungs, than exhaling a gust from his mouth that rippled though the air around him. Hart held a cache of rare and valuable tokens and baubles of the psyche for Nature was his greatest teacher and in this respect he was forever a humbled student.

Indeed, he claimed a godly mastery and it is true he did tower over men with what he possessed. “It’s easy enough for me.” He clicked his tongue and thought about those teenagers who would turn into bones and dust in a coffin, his lesson and their future was but the glimmer of dew in the morning before his first cup of coffee.

He smiled at what he was given but shook his head- inside Hart wished to expire like the rest. He didn’t want to feel any more pain, emotional, physical or likewise. He walked back down to where he was seated before but he noticed a glinting aluminum can that was left behind.

It was unnatural and it strained his concentration. He knelt down to pick it up, plucking it from the broken flowerbed then crushing it in his hands, he tossed it effortlessly into his open rucksack. By the freshly painted bench he sat. He pulled a pen from his breast pocket and a pad of yellow paper and thought about that setting so long ago. He began to recreate a setting made of prose:

“Lo, there is a country meadow where broad acreage holds in its clutches sweeping fields of golden barley. The wind, I do recall, is sweet and its hushed melody caresses the summer’s day. Mother Nature exhales a deep, contented sigh and the fields undulate under her breath; the coarse wisps of grain brush against one another. When I listen closely, I hear a rhythmic harmony.

I can hear her whispering, “I love you.”

Lo, the brook, how it babbles amongst her children, those smooth gray and red stones. Leaves are set adrift in these refreshing waters, too. They and I enjoy this gentle rocking that is the ebb and flow of life, of love. An infinite lazy stream follows a near endless border. Along its sandy banks, willows bend low, dipping themselves in this cool splendor. Then over yonder, where the brush does bathe, my feet do take me.

Lo, the butterfly, how it flits past to see what nectar the tiny bumblebee has discovered. A grasshopper sits, pausing in reflection on the petal of a noble violet. The smell of rich earth and fresh blossoms sensuously mingle. The aroma of daffodil and honeysuckle are most noticeable and seemingly cling together as friends do on a long stroll.

A sensation of ease and comfort greet those whom chance serenity here. The afternoon is quick to part though. I am left with a growing twilight, a melting sun and a color-seared sunset. At long last, the sun winks goodnight to head westward, past rolling hills, then further down into the valley on its ceaseless journey.

He chewed on the cap of his Bic. “This will do.” He thought.

Events of Foreign Sojourn, Collage

Events of Foreign Sojourn, Collage

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[Untitled Western]- Chapter 1 (pt.1)

She whispered under her breath, “Where you been all night?” “…You stink like perfume, Hobbie.” She stated then finished her breath. Her eyes were glassy, auriferous and green. Her hair was smooth, wavy and full from being brushed and washed.

He caught her words in one ear and pulled the door closed behind him with a slam. He turned to her as he walked into his home. A loose board caught his boot heel and he stumbled forward. He couldn’t catch himself; instead, he threw himself onto the field green upholstered divan a few paces ahead. It lay backed against the wall. The wallpaper was a satin like design, with stripes and deep hues of red. “Just making sure the parlor…the patrons weren’t tearing up the place…you know, Margret. That’s where all the action is.” She looked at him as he adjusted his position and took off his hat. She stared into his eyes that were the color of crushed copper. “I mended these socks for ya.’” She looked away, blinked as if to disrupt a connection and then, her eyes fell to the socks in her hand.

“Here ya’ go, dear.” She tossed him the woolen pair. Hobbie put his hand up but they missed his clutch and it hit him harmlessly in the chest. “Dang it!” He muttered through grit teeth.

“Are you comin’ to bed anytime soon, or does duty pull you away from a goodnights rest once again?”

He tried to stand but couldn’t get to his feet. “Shit.

“Yeh, darlin’” “I’ll be right there…” She nodded briefly and blew out the tallow candle at the desk she was seated at. Her feet floated to the second floor of their house, making her way up the short flight of steps like a ghost passing through on the strides of wisps.

The cockcrow at the crack of dawn made Hobbie jump like a cat on a frying pan. He had rolled off the divan and onto the wooden planked floor during the course of the night. He thrust both hands on his holster and searched for his 38’s. His eyes were red and his chest heaved in and out as he jerked his head around. A familiar and disarming setting greeted him benignly. He relaxed his arms and rubbed his face. “Ok, pal- easy does it, you made it home last night.” His chin was stubbled with coarse auburn hair. A pair of freshly mended woolen socks lay on the ground. He sat down on the edge of the divan holding his head between his hands. “Christ almighty, there’s a damn train in my head.

The smell of bacon, roasting coffee and freshly burning pinewood from the oven coated the house in a morning reverie.

“Hobbie, hope that floor didn’t give you to much of a problem last night.” A soft and even voice floated in from the kitchen. Silence. “Have a seat and get some coffee in ya’, the town needs its sheriff fit for the day.”

He cleared his throat. “Yeh, Margret,” he called. “I’m gonna’ go out on the porch, could ya’ bring it out’ fer’ me?”

He stood and went to the toilet to wash his face. He tucked in his shirt, straightened his pants and holster, wet a comb and dragged it through his thick hair. He walked back out to the main room and picked his hat up from the divan and walked slowly, with straight legs to the porch.

Margret was already there, sipping coffee, using her two fine hands to grip the mug. She was seated at the little, rough-cut table on a stool. Her back leaned against the house. She looked out into the prairie and to the red bluffs that rose up from the arid landscape. The sun had just come up from the bluffs and cast a red and yellow towards them and the house, painting the scene angelic.

Hobbie looked towards the bluffs, too. He watched the rabbits dart from brush to brush in the morning cool. A kitty hawk screeched above looking for any lingering rodents or a fat lizard to sate its hunger.

Hobbie wrapped his hand around a fork and shoveled hot eggs and bacon into his mouth; bits of eggs stuck like snowflakes in his mustache. He pulled the coffee to his face and looked towards Margret. She hadn’t met his eyes this morning. He gulped the coffee and rested the mug on the table then rose. “You’re a good woman, Margret.” He leaned over the table and kissed her on the head. She didn’t move or blink or smile. She looked at him momentarily, for the first time that day then back towards the scrubland. She had noticed the socks were still on the floor by the divan.

He took a loaf of bread and cold meat wrapped in paper and wrapped in twine and placed it into his satchel. He saddled and mounted his red roan and met the morning with a breath full of bacon, steaming coffee. He wiped his face with a leather glove and held the rain with the other. The pony had strong legs; they were long and brown but red in sun. It’s veins and muscles flexed and shinned like a well-oiled machine dancing in motion. He galloped into town by a meandering path from the rear of his house. Margret watched him till he disappeared down the hill. She pulled a break-action 12-gauge from the rack in the bedroom and went to the yard. She loaded two brass-headed slugs into the chambers. Her eyes narrowed at a distance beyond the wooden fence. There was no physical target but her eyes focused and a linear point in front of her; it was just the emptiness of a blue, cloudless sky under the backdrop of a cracked and broken land, studded with yellows, browns and coarse greens.

Damn you, Hobbie! She screamed into the desert. She pulled the trigger of the weapon and ripped through the peace of the morning. The explosive crack made her shoulder give; it exhaled gray smoke. She broke the barrel and stuffed two more brass shells inside. She cried, “You no good piece of dirt!” She fired again. The butt of the gun dug into her shoulder, she ground her heels into the dirt. A cloud of dust whipped past her. She lowered the gun and brought it towards her side while wiping her forehead. Strands of onyx black had come undone from her kempt bun and matted itself to her brow. She brushed her blouse with her hand and turned towards the house. The shotgun glinted in the sun and her ruffled skirt blew in the breeze.

As his pony got to the main drag, there was little life to be seen on the dusty strip. The saloon of course was always open and the general store’s clerk, Jim Daugherty was pouring buckets of water on a puddle of vomit that loitered on the shop porch. The degenerate was still around who had issued the offence and just below the step is where he was laid up: “Oi, Hamish, git’ up.” The body did not rouse and the sun was beating down on his naked, ruddy face. Hobbie, dismounted from his saddle and walked forward with the reins clutched in his glove. He walked over and kicked the incapacitated man hard in the shoulder.

The man shook and gasped awake like a colt at birth. He yawned, “Ye’ loosy’ piece of shit, I’m up, I’m- stop bootherin’, me.” The casualty of a night’s debauchery rolled over onto his stomach, placed his hands in front of him and pushed himself up. He fell on to his backside, “Christ broother’, why’s it so bright?” What happen to the night?” He belched, then, gurgling, sick welled up into the man’s gullet. Jim yelled, “godammit, shove off Hamish, go back to somewhere and get away from my porch.” Hamish retched into the dirt then spit the rest of the dribbling mucus from his mouth.

“Ay, just tha’ time anywa’.” He said casually, wiping his mouth with a dirty palm. He braced himself on the wooden rail and lifted himself up. He swayed on his feet and staggered over to a trough of water for the animals. Leaning over to bring a draught to his cracked lips, his knees gave. He was bent too far forward and fell face first into the trough and slid, helplessly into its contents almost completely. His boots were raised up in the air. He spluttered, rolled over onto his back and pulled his head up. A chorus of laughter came from the apartments above. A young blonde girl in a tight bodice held her sides and laughed, the other prostitutes joined in.

Coughing Hamish answered, “Ay’ tis a good’ morning to y’all too!” He called out and doffed his water soaked hat cordially to the ladies on the balcony of the saloon. They were smoking and eating corn bread and fruit preserves.

“Hamish, you ass, git’ out that tub!” Hobbie called bringing Hamish out of his revery. The sheriff rolled his neck, rolled his shoulders and stamped his foot on the ground. The pony skittered but Hobbie held the rein tight. He secured the horse by tying a loose knot with the reins around the wooden rail. Hobbie grabbed Hamish from the trough with two hands; one on his belt and the other at his collar. Hamish was absently squirting water through his teeth, up into the air.

“Git!” He threw Hamish to the ground. “I said, go on, git’!” He kicked him hard in the buttock with the point of his steel-tipped leather boot.

Hamish bleated. Holding his butt cheek, he yowled like a pup that got his foot stepped on. “You’re an awful bastard!” Hamish called out, lopping down the street. He turned a corner then disappeared. Jim had just finished mopping and shook his head, “That brother of yers’ is gonna’ wake up dead one of these days, lord forbid, sheriff.”

“I know, Jim” He tipped his hat and looked around. The town was beginning to awaken at the commotion Hamish had stirred outside. A few Window shutters were opened and some men had stepped down on to the sheltered boardwalk to view the commotion. They smoked, wore bowler hats and chatted about nothing, or what the sheriff heard or cared for. “Fuggin’ bankers.” Hobbie spat and walked towards his little office down the block. He withdrew a canteen from his pocket and took a long emptying guzzle of fresh spring water. He wiped his lips and pulled once more to completely drain it. He tossed the canteen to the side of his desk and sat heavily in his chair.

He pulled his feet up onto the desk, took off his weather-beat straw hat and laid it down on the desk. He looked to the rack on the wall where hung a quality rancher hat. He never wore it. He took it as part of a bribe. That white Stetson on the wall, reminded Hobbie every day of his life of a crooked dollar and all the corruption in the world; It defiled the sanctity of his office, of his station but he made that pact. “This place is horseshit.” He pulled a little, sweet cigar from his desk drawer and lit it with a flint and spark. The blue smoke he exhaled, mingled with the breath of his own desperation. “I’ve wasted my life.”

Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 2: The Beautiful, The Awkward

She pointed her thoughts towards the many visitors while she unwrapped her Italian hoagie sandwich from its white deli paper. Lest, she be absorbed in her own thoughts she mused for a time at the awkward ensemble of typical tourists ambling about; waist packs, visors, too much sun screen, brightly colored city shirts and aggressively styled hiking boots. It was drizzling outside but still, the sun shined. The light rain speckled the dusty foot lanes. The tourists walking here on the National Mall’s strip of turf and gravel lanes were prepared as such. Many paused for photographs, a few jogged by fresh from a business meeting across the bridge, several sat leisurely pointing and striking up conversations while children went on laughing and chasing about to the tune of dogs barking and pigeons softly pecking at crumbs.

To her left was the Capitol building and its reflection pool that had been drained for renovation and to the right was the National Monument, as white and phallic as ever. She gave little thought to her left and right for what she held in her hands was an excellent creation of man and it was lunch time. She looked down at the baguette; it was a freshly baked hard-roll and it was stuffed with all the traditional fixings that encompassed an Italian sub sandwich: Capicola ham, Genoa salami, Provolone, hot peppers, sun dried tomatoes and thinly sliced red onions- to her great satisfaction that little Sicilian sub shop in Cleveland Park always topped their creations with a healthy amount of virgin olive oil, barrel aged wine vinegar and oregano.

She had to restrain herself, she was famished. The Italian sub sandwich was halfway finished before she could even take her eyes off the thing. She paused and dabbed her mouth with a napkin and resumed the airs of that dainty beautiful thing that had not missed breakfast and lunch. The sun was sinking low and in the setting sun, the monuments glowed regally. “This is what spring is all about- the sunsets, the smells and tastes and equally the distractions.” She lovingly thought but a shadow darkened her brow. “It had been a long winter with little income and heaps of depression-all that is beyond me now and what lay ahead, I will greet with open arms.” Seeing so many bright, optimistic faces on a satisfied though very full stomach rejuvenated her.

She laughed to herself at a group of Segway motorist whirring by with guarded self-importance. “What a peculiar site.” She took the last bite of her sub and was pleased as always with the sheer brilliancy of her favorite meal. She smiled at herself through a pocket sized cosmetics mirror and touched up her foundation, checked her teeth and applied red lipstick. She glanced at her watch and snapped from a food induced daydream. It was just reaching 5:45 in the evening. “I’m late for the group meeting tonight.” She let out an audible breathe, stood, brushed some crumbs of her skirt and departed.  Pulling a cigarette from her purse, she pressed it to her lips, lit it with a match that was fired after a quick strike from a matchbook and walked across Constitution Avenue.

“What is wrong with me?”

“No, nothing…” He stopped himself. “…still, I cannot get a grip on my unorganized, scattered thoughts.” “They seem to come from everywhere…not to mention those urgent and pressing, flights of fancy.” He toyed with that peculiar word and thought about how much he wanted to prove himself, to show everybody- to be capable. He pushed along these self-deprecating thoughts that were picking at him like a cloud of gnats.

“The doctors said, that drugs would help, those calming blues, and perky reds but I doubt that likely.” Scowling, a mistrust of society and authority sat on his chest. He was running his hands through his hair, twirling black tight locks around his finger. “I’m not so different than any others in my grade, I’m sure of it.” He wasn’t sure of it. The skinny teenager paused his thought, than inwardly expelled the rest. “I believe that throughout the whole bleeding history of humanity, everybody who had once crawled then walked has felt the slights and vexations that come from, ‘having to conform’- to fit accordingly.” “I’m not alone and this is natural, right?” He sat shaking his head. Why have I always felt confused and uncertain? He began to shout at his reflection in an advertisement framed in glass under a bus shelter.

I can never explain myself-even to myself!”

A gray wolf spider moved across the carpet into a ventilation system that lined the Metro cabin. His eyes absently followed it. “It’s a shame, a damn shame that ease of mind cannot be found in the young, let alone me.” He drummed the backs of his long, boney fingers on the window and tried to still his ceaseless mind. “Alas, question marks dot my life, that’s just the nature of things, I suppose.” Pillon Rehavya continued but this time, voiced himself with the ink of a pen. He thumbed through a cloth journal that he retrieved from a cargo pocket in his shorts and began to write:

I am no exception. Within the cogs of time and the machinations of men and all that is esteemed of sex and desire- I am no exception.” “Desperation and confusion have played as a rule in my life.” He mumbled as he wrote. “Wouldn’t it be great to masquerade about with such a mask of opulent confidence!” He peered over at the seat to his left. “Look at that guy, look at his coiffed hair, his 5 o’clock shadow and look how comfortable that girl who sits with him is.” He sighed shallowly as the girl of 20 or so wrapped a caressing and affectionate arm around her intimate. Pillon’s rambling broke off into another tangent “Wishes seldom come true and success is subjective but who gives a shit about a wish?” He tried to reassure himself that this was a temporary reality. He ruffled his black curly hair with a loose hand and scratched at an itch on his nose with the open palm of the other. His blue clothed journal remained balanced on his lap and the ordinary black pen with a chewed end rested in the center of the binding.

He stretched his fingers and thought dejectedly of all the beautiful women that would be destined to pass him by if he could not find resolution within himself.

I’d love to be romantic, and heck, If I could just relax.” His hands began to shake and his heart grew tremulous at the mere suggestion he had made. “These notions wouldn’t have to just remain in dreams but wrapped in the silk of sheets.” He wrote that down and shut the journal and returned it to his backpack at his feet. He put the pen behind his ear.

His eyes darted around him; he could have sworn someone was looking over his shoulder and reading along but that some shadow had retreated.  He looked out the window breathing a momentary fog onto the pane. As he readjusted his glasses, he sat longingly anticipating his first girlfriend.

He leaned his head against the window and gazed out at the gray rainy day. “During my slumber and during late, listless evenings, I see a deep, life affirming truth.” He tried to describe this glowing vision to himself, to put it to pen but he failed. He reached for the journal once more but stopped himself. It weren’t a goal or a path but some shining golden thing akin to the warmth of the sun. “To find and have a single truth and depend on and toil all of my days in its peace, watching its growth; the sprouting of a stem, the unfurling of a new tender leaf…” “That is my desire…with this, I imagine, everything else would fall into place.” He was worried and weary. He glanced over his shoulder once more then slouched on the bench and extended his feet in front of him.

His feet had felt heavy, but now rested and near the end of his excursion, they felt much lighter. He wanted to go for a walk. Deliberately, his shoes crossed. The scuffed brown leather that canvassed his feet began to wag to an unheard tempo. They continued in this fashion intermittently.

Strangely, Pillon felt the carpet shrug. It drew his attention downwards. The thin covering of the Metro cabin floor was indifferent to the abuse it was subjected to and consequently, designed to handle. Through its dereliction it seemed to tell an interesting story, a hazy recollection of itself and all its abusers. The pink-orange, faded and striped floor was pretty beat up. There were spots of gum, the guts of a cheap cigar, half eaten animal crackers, black scuffs and a variety of strange and sordid stains. The floor, with all of its proof, had a sort of indemnity against those who have crushed its dubious youthful beauty. Pillon could’ve sworn he heard it sigh.

“It is decidedly odd to have this connection with an inanimate object.” Pillon agreed to himself as oft times he had when an object decided to reveal itself to him. He concentrated on looking out the window of the cabin though a black tunnel with service lights illuminating dirty subterranean tracks were all he could see. Details wanted to speak to him at times, like some strange fever that came on- an irrational fit or stress based anxiety he concluded, parroting the thoughts of his psychiatrist and mother. He had an oddity that he couldn’t quite understand or get his mind around. It felt more or less normal to him though he was used to fighting it with trained mental exercises. What resulted was a view of life from very peculiar perspectives. Descriptions came like narratives from all manner of inexpressible things at what could be guessed, random times. For Pillon, it was almost a normal occurrence, an occurrence that professionals had recommended a cocktail of strong pills.

He pushed the stories and tedious analysis that plagued his beleaguered mind past and into the back of his mind. Eventually, the clamor of what was around him died away. Pillon could almost forget the situation until he chanced the next fever and the next shouting park bench or down-and-out crumpled tin can would command his attention.

The train had stopped at Metro Center and the normal rush of people surged on board. He was still to himself and his thoughts and declared aloud,

If there were powers beyond mortal ability, then I was given the damnedest and most frustrating!

He drew glances from the stranger that just alighted and a passenger to his nearest left who, perturbed, shifted uncomfortably giving Pillon the sanity check, that is, eyeing him discreetly. His extreme youth was a saving grace. As the metro car lined up at the next platform it lurched forward, rattled a moment then stopped abruptly with a squealing sound of grinding brakes.

A beautiful woman grabbed Pillon’s attention as she stepped from the grey marbled platform into the cabin. Her presence just socked him in the face and his mind reeled from the concussive force of the strike. Her stunning presence crossed the threshold of the two sliding doors and moved towards him and the open seat adjacent to him. She seemed to float over the filth of the floor that seemed all together silenced. She calmly sat down in the seat next to his.

Pillon’s mind raced. He could feel himself sweating like an awkward Robert Crumb sketch but a black and white cartoon this was not. The Metro cab jerked forward and began to speed along towards the next stop. He felt his heart beating like a hammer and was convinced that everyone could hear it. Perspiration built on his forehead and his cheeks turned red. “It feels like bombs are going off inside me, this is way too much!” He was frozen in anxiety.

As does a person who is on fire, Pillon jumped from one place to another, in his mind that is. “She doesn’t notice or doesn’t care; is it relief that she doesn’t notice or is it dread to think that I’m not even a blip on her radar!” He turned his head mechanically towards her and flashed a toothy smile but he couldn’t sustain anything more than that. Before she could reward the gesture with the brilliance of her own pearls, the dimples on her cheeks and the gold of her sparkling eyes, Pillon shot his eyes towards the floor. It laughed at him. That piteous carpet with such a sardonic attitude lay as smirking witness to his frustrations. Pillon drove the heel of his foot into the floor.

I’m drowning on land!” He yelled inside his head.

After practiced breathing exercises a strange quietness came over him. He took several more deep breathes to control himself; to wash away this biting and harassing anxiety. He managed to get his heart rate down from an Allegro to Moderato; Damned if it didn’t feel like thunder and damned if ol’ John Henry weren’t tearing up a mountain with a hammer inside his chest.

She was wearing a silk and cotton sundress that seemed to shimmer about her. Her black hair hung loosely about her shoulders, it radiated and filled the air with the aroma of honey and oranges. Her waist was slim and her legs were long dressed in black stockings. Pillon gawked as he hadn’t an inkling of subtlety; obviously she noticed. Smiling to herself she scanned the current issue of the Gazette newspaper. She flipped open the style section with a routine precision. Her skin was of fine alabaster, not in paleness but of a pure, blue-veined whiteness. She appeared as the ivory statue of Pygmalion but keen, modern and chic.

In his naiveté and hot-blooded excitement, Pillon gave birth to a half-baked epiphany:

“This woman is a walking testament that real beauty is truth!” He brightly concluded this idea in his head that, “It’s alive, wild and loose in the women who pass alongside mortals.” He divined her goddess of truth and love-insomuch as Pillon had ever known. He suddenly knew what he needed to do in order to battle and contest his dramatic and youthful outpourings. His ramblings formed new meanings and clarity came to him as if amidst a natural clearing. What he had to do was simply to speak but alas, his courage skittered in retreated back into the woods.

Doors opening, this is Farragut North” a tired, heavily colloquial voice buzzed in from a speaker above him. He drew his eyes away from the hypnotic trance of the woman. He gathered his coat and stood quickly but he lost his footing. The snickering floor broke his fall. He jumped to his feet once more before the train stopped and it threw him violently again but this time, against the metal bracing pole. “Fuck!” He grabbed his face in pain and his eyes darted around the train.

To Pillon time had completely stopped and for him the worst thing that could have happened came to pass: everyone was staring at him. After what had felt like a lifetime of embarrassment and pain the car halted. The doors slid open and he hurled himself of the train and onto the platform, cursing himself all the while.

His heart was about to leap out of his throat and blood was streaming out of his nose. He sat down on a gray stone step, removed a handkerchief from his coat and held it to his face. Onlookers smirked or shook their head as they remarked to one another. He muttered profanely to himself for a few minutes before standing upright on the platform. He collected himself and exited the underground station. A sad inspiration came to him and he pulled a scrap of paper from his journal and jotted down his thoughts:

“Emerging from that dark tunnel,
To be defeated by this evening mist,
The clouds are too heavy
The clouds are too low,
Moving upwards,
Slowly forwards,
The escalator screams nonsense,
Car exhaust meets burning rubber,
Crisp and clean as it may seem,
That while these people beam,
I stand here and bleed,
…Bloody obscene.”

“Oh, you never cease to amaze me…” He sighed dejectedly. Unsatisfied, he folded the paper into his pocket and stepped off the escalator.

Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 2: The Beautiful, The Awkward

She pointed her thoughts towards the many visitors while she unwrapped her Italian hoagie sandwich from its white deli paper. Lest, she be absorbed in her own thoughts she mused for a time at the awkward ensemble of typical tourists ambling about; waist packs, visors, too much sun screen, brightly colored city shirts and aggressively styled hiking boots. It was drizzling outside but still, the sun shined. The light rain speckled the dusty foot lanes. The tourists walking here on the National Mall’s strip of turf and gravel lanes were prepared as such. Many paused for photographs, a few jogged by fresh from a business meeting across the bridge, several sat leisurely pointing and striking up conversations while children went on laughing and chasing about to the tune of dogs barking and pigeons softly pecking at crumbs.

To her left was the Capitol building and its reflection pool that had been drained for renovation and to the right was the National Monument, as white and phallic as ever. She gave little thought to her left and right for what she held in her hands was an excellent creation of man and it was lunch time. She looked down at the baguette; it was a freshly baked hard-roll and it was stuffed with all the traditional fixings that encompassed an Italian sub sandwich: Capicola ham, Genoa salami, Provolone, hot peppers, sun dried tomatoes and thinly sliced red onions- to her great satisfaction that little Sicilian sub shop in Cleveland Park always topped their creations with a healthy amount of virgin olive oil, barrel aged wine vinegar and oregano.

She had to restrain herself, she was famished. The Italian sub sandwich was halfway finished before she could even take her eyes off the thing. She paused and dabbed her mouth with a napkin and resumed the airs of that dainty beautiful thing that had not missed breakfast and lunch. The sun was sinking low and in the setting sun, the monuments glowed regally. “This is what spring is all about- the sunsets, the smells and tastes and equally the distractions.” She lovingly thought but a shadow darkened her brow. “It had been a long winter with little income and heaps of depression-all that is beyond me now and what lay ahead, I will greet with open arms.” Seeing so many bright, optimistic faces on a satisfied though very full stomach rejuvenated her.

She laughed to herself at a group of Segway motorist whirring by with guarded self-importance. “What a peculiar site.” She took the last bite of her sub and was pleased as always with the sheer brilliancy of her favorite meal. She smiled at herself through a pocket sized cosmetics mirror and touched up her foundation, checked her teeth and applied red lipstick. She glanced at her watch and snapped from a food induced daydream. It was just reaching 5:45 in the evening. “I’m late for the group meeting tonight.” She let out an audible breathe, stood, brushed some crumbs of her skirt and departed.  Pulling a cigarette from her purse, she pressed it to her lips, lit it with a match that was fired after a quick strike from a matchbook and walked across Constitution Avenue.

“What is wrong with me?”

“No, nothing…” He stopped himself. “…still, I cannot get a grip on my unorganized, scattered thoughts.” “They seem to come from everywhere…not to mention those urgent and pressing, flights of fancy.” He toyed with that peculiar word and thought about how much he wanted to prove himself, to show everybody- to be capable. He pushed along these self-deprecating thoughts that were picking at him like a cloud of gnats.

“The doctors said, that drugs would help, those calming blues, and perky reds but I doubt that likely.” Scowling, a mistrust of society and authority sat on his chest. He was running his hands through his hair, twirling black tight locks around his finger. “I’m not so different than any others in my grade, I’m sure of it.” He wasn’t sure of it. The skinny teenager paused his thought, than inwardly expelled the rest. “I believe that throughout the whole bleeding history of humanity, everybody who had once crawled then walked has felt the slights and vexations that come from, ‘having to conform’- to fit accordingly.” “I’m not alone and this is natural, right?” He sat shaking his head. Why have I always felt confused and uncertain? He began to shout at his reflection in an advertisement framed in glass under a bus shelter.

I can never explain myself-even to myself!”

A gray wolf spider moved across the carpet into a ventilation system that lined the Metro cabin. His eyes absently followed it. “It’s a shame, a damn shame that ease of mind cannot be found in the young, let alone me.” He drummed the backs of his long, boney fingers on the window and tried to still his ceaseless mind. “Alas, question marks dot my life, that’s just the nature of things, I suppose.” Pillon Rehavya continued but this time, voiced himself with the ink of a pen. He thumbed through a cloth journal that he retrieved from a cargo pocket in his shorts and began to write:

I am no exception. Within the cogs of time and the machinations of men and all that is esteemed of sex and desire- I am no exception.” “Desperation and confusion have played as a rule in my life.” He mumbled as he wrote. “Wouldn’t it be great to masquerade about with such a mask of opulent confidence!” He peered over at the seat to his left. “Look at that guy, look at his coiffed hair, his 5 o’clock shadow and look how comfortable that girl who sits with him is.” He sighed shallowly as the girl of 20 or so wrapped a caressing and affectionate arm around her intimate. Pillon’s rambling broke off into another tangent “Wishes seldom come true and success is subjective but who gives a shit about a wish?” He tried to reassure himself that this was a temporary reality. He ruffled his black curly hair with a loose hand and scratched at an itch on his nose with the open palm of the other. His blue clothed journal remained balanced on his lap and the ordinary black pen with a chewed end rested in the center of the binding.

He stretched his fingers and thought dejectedly of all the beautiful women that would be destined to pass him by if he could not find resolution within himself.

I’d love to be romantic, and heck, If I could just relax.” His hands began to shake and his heart grew tremulous at the mere suggestion he had made. “These notions wouldn’t have to just remain in dreams but wrapped in the silk of sheets.” He wrote that down and shut the journal and returned it to his backpack at his feet. He put the pen behind his ear.

His eyes darted around him; he could have sworn someone was looking over his shoulder and reading along but that some shadow had retreated.  He looked out the window breathing a momentary fog onto the pane. As he readjusted his glasses, he sat longingly anticipating his first girlfriend.

He leaned his head against the window and gazed out at the gray rainy day. “During my slumber and during late, listless evenings, I see a deep, life affirming truth.” He tried to describe this glowing vision to himself, to put it to pen but he failed. He reached for the journal once more but stopped himself. It weren’t a goal or a path but some shining golden thing akin to the warmth of the sun. “To find and have a single truth and depend on and toil all of my days in its peace, watching its growth; the sprouting of a stem, the unfurling of a new tender leaf…” “That is my desire…with this, I imagine, everything else would fall into place.” He was worried and weary. He glanced over his shoulder once more then slouched on the bench and extended his feet in front of him.

His feet had felt heavy, but now rested and near the end of his excursion, they felt much lighter. He wanted to go for a walk. Deliberately, his shoes crossed. The scuffed brown leather that canvassed his feet began to wag to an unheard tempo. They continued in this fashion intermittently.

Strangely, Pillon felt the carpet shrug. It drew his attention downwards. The thin covering of the Metro cabin floor was indifferent to the abuse it was subjected to and consequently, designed to handle. Through its dereliction it seemed to tell an interesting story, a hazy recollection of itself and all its abusers. The pink-orange, faded and striped floor was pretty beat up. There were spots of gum, the guts of a cheap cigar, half eaten animal crackers, black scuffs and a variety of strange and sordid stains. The floor, with all of its proof, had a sort of indemnity against those who have crushed its dubious youthful beauty. Pillon could’ve sworn he heard it sigh.

“It is decidedly odd to have this connection with an inanimate object.” Pillon agreed to himself as oft times he had when an object decided to reveal itself to him. He concentrated on looking out the window of the cabin though a black tunnel with service lights illuminating dirty subterranean tracks were all he could see. Details wanted to speak to him at times, like some strange fever that came on- an irrational fit or stress based anxiety he concluded, parroting the thoughts of his psychiatrist and mother. He had an oddity that he couldn’t quite understand or get his mind around. It felt more or less normal to him though he was used to fighting it with trained mental exercises. What resulted was a view of life from very peculiar perspectives. Descriptions came like narratives from all manner of inexpressible things at what could be guessed, random times. For Pillon, it was almost a normal occurrence, an occurrence that professionals had recommended a cocktail of strong pills.

He pushed the stories and tedious analysis that plagued his beleaguered mind past and into the back of his mind. Eventually, the clamor of what was around him died away. Pillon could almost forget the situation until he chanced the next fever and the next shouting park bench or down-and-out crumpled tin can would command his attention.

The train had stopped at Metro Center and the normal rush of people surged on board. He was still to himself and his thoughts and declared aloud,

If there were powers beyond mortal ability, then I was given the damnedest and most frustrating!

He drew glances from the stranger that just alighted and a passenger to his nearest left who, perturbed, shifted uncomfortably giving Pillon the sanity check, that is, eyeing him discreetly. His extreme youth was a saving grace. As the metro car lined up at the next platform it lurched forward, rattled a moment then stopped abruptly with a squealing sound of grinding brakes.

A beautiful woman grabbed Pillon’s attention as she stepped from the grey marbled platform into the cabin. Her presence just socked him in the face and his mind reeled from the concussive force of the strike. Her stunning presence crossed the threshold of the two sliding doors and moved towards him and the open seat adjacent to him. She seemed to float over the filth of the floor that seemed all together silenced. She calmly sat down in the seat next to his.

Pillon’s mind raced. He could feel himself sweating like an awkward Robert Crumb sketch but a black and white cartoon this was not. The Metro cab jerked forward and began to speed along towards the next stop. He felt his heart beating like a hammer and was convinced that everyone could hear it. Perspiration built on his forehead and his cheeks turned red. “It feels like bombs are going off inside me, this is way too much!” He was frozen in anxiety.

As does a person who is on fire, Pillon jumped from one place to another, in his mind that is. “She doesn’t notice or doesn’t care; is it relief that she doesn’t notice or is it dread to think that I’m not even a blip on her radar!” He turned his head mechanically towards her and flashed a toothy smile but he couldn’t sustain anything more than that. Before she could reward the gesture with the brilliance of her own pearls, the dimples on her cheeks and the gold of her sparkling eyes, Pillon shot his eyes towards the floor. It laughed at him. That piteous carpet with such a sardonic attitude lay as smirking witness to his frustrations. Pillon drove the heel of his foot into the floor.

I’m drowning on land!” He yelled inside his head.

After practiced breathing exercises a strange quietness came over him. He took several more deep breathes to control himself; to wash away this biting and harassing anxiety. He managed to get his heart rate down from an Allegro to Moderato; Damned if it didn’t feel like thunder and damned if ol’ John Henry weren’t tearing up a mountain with a hammer inside his chest.

She was wearing a silk and cotton sundress that seemed to shimmer about her. Her black hair hung loosely about her shoulders, it radiated and filled the air with the aroma of honey and oranges. Her waist was slim and her legs were long dressed in black stockings. Pillon gawked as he hadn’t an inkling of subtlety; obviously she noticed. Smiling to herself she scanned the current issue of the Gazette newspaper. She flipped open the style section with a routine precision. Her skin was of fine alabaster, not in paleness but of a pure, blue-veined whiteness. She appeared as the ivory statue of Pygmalion but keen, modern and chic.

In his naiveté and hot-blooded excitement, Pillon gave birth to a half-baked epiphany:

“This woman is a walking testament that real beauty is truth!” He brightly concluded this idea in his head that, “It’s alive, wild and loose in the women who pass alongside mortals.” He divined her goddess of truth and love-insomuch as Pillon had ever known. He suddenly knew what he needed to do in order to battle and contest his dramatic and youthful outpourings. His ramblings formed new meanings and clarity came to him as if amidst a natural clearing. What he had to do was simply to speak but alas, his courage skittered in retreated back into the woods.

Doors opening, this is Farragut North” a tired, heavily colloquial voice buzzed in from a speaker above him. He drew his eyes away from the hypnotic trance of the woman. He gathered his coat and stood quickly but he lost his footing. The snickering floor broke his fall. He jumped to his feet once more before the train stopped and it threw him violently again but this time, against the metal bracing pole. “Fuck!” He grabbed his face in pain and his eyes darted around the train.

To Pillon time had completely stopped and for him the worst thing that could have happened came to pass: everyone was staring at him. After what had felt like a lifetime of embarrassment and pain the car halted. The doors slid open and he hurled himself of the train and onto the platform, cursing himself all the while.

His heart was about to leap out of his throat and blood was streaming out of his nose. He sat down on a gray stone step, removed a handkerchief from his coat and held it to his face. Onlookers smirked or shook their head as they remarked to one another. He muttered profanely to himself for a few minutes before standing upright on the platform. He collected himself and exited the underground station. A sad inspiration came to him and he pulled a scrap of paper from his journal and jotted down his thoughts:

“Emerging from that dark tunnel,
To be defeated by this evening mist,
The clouds are too heavy
The clouds are too low,
Moving upwards,
Slowly forwards,
The escalator screams nonsense,
Car exhaust meets burning rubber,
Crisp and clean as it may seem,
That while these people beam,
I stand here and bleed,
…Bloody obscene.”

“Oh, you never cease to amaze me…” He sighed dejectedly. Unsatisfied, he folded the paper into his pocket and stepped off the escalator.

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

A pause in the atmosphere hung suspended like a shroud that pointed an intangibly heavy question. It was incomprehensible to most except for those intimate with the proceedings of death. It was quietness, weight, the absence of movement- animals knew these tidings, all survival was dependent on this.

The birds in their roosts stilled and the creatures of Terra, skittered into their warrens except for a black squirrel. It chattered on the far end of a wooden bench; it was busy stuffing a large piece of stale bread in its mouth. A gnawing malaise dawned on the squirrel as it was eating; its ears quivered and pricked up with a cautious fear. The creature dropped its crumbling snack and surveyed with large, dark eyes. It ceased moving and froze in utter terror. The judge was thundering his gavel with a verdict.
A golden eagle sped downwards, screaming like a banshee leaping from hell’s fissure in broad daylight. It saw its query and it knew that it belonged to an order classified as prey. It grabbed the hapless creature in a single, lightening-swoop of its razor-sharp and crushing talons. The raptor moved upwards with it’s squealing prize. The squirrel had paid a dear price for its infraction.

A roaring thunder came from an opening in the graying cumulus above. At first it was a glinting shadow against a sun full of rays. Then the vision grew into reality as it descended; it blotted out the sun with vast crimson leather wings that stretched the length of a stadium. Screams of terror and bells issuing deep, resonating alarms rang out through the valley, electrifying the once peaceful afternoon air.

The legendary wyvern of old radiated with dazzling color like fine glass and jewels and its eyes were as brilliant as carbuncle gems that were imbued and veined with topaz. From its maw came a rumbling so profound it was as if the gods were holding a debacle in the sky. Magma glowed in its ruby scaled throat now and it volleyed liquid fire in short bursts in all direction. The dragon was dominant in all feats of strength and agility and it displayed its prowess recklessly. The eagle and its entire splendor could not out-maneuver this thing of wanton destruction- it was caught in the wake of death.

Black smoke fell from the sky; the eagle and the rodent were both reduced to a mass of char and were sent as a smoking package, tumbling back down to the Earth. A roar of triumph shook the rafters of heaven. The houses of man below shook; great vibrations and the percussion of wind gusts ripped the roofs of thatched houses. It flew towards a giant castle with a furious roar and perched on a staggering tower, flinging the archers up into the air and catching them in snaps of its enormous jaws.

The clouds huddled together, turned an ashen gray and wept. Angry lightning bolts arced across the sky; the ferocity and violence between nature and the parties of man came to a head. There became no perceptible weather except a picture of hell above and hell below. A winding mass of black armored men snaked down the path from the mouth of the castle; artillery, soldiers and cannons poured out from the open drawbridge like hornets protecting the nest.

The sky crackled with a horrible mischief; this new player of devastation were the incendiaries; man had grown wroth at this cruel tyrant and retaliated with explosions of violent color: Ochre and crimson, blacks and blinding whites, yellows of sulfur and billowing smoke. Bombs, mortars and blasting ripped the sky asunder as the flock sought blood for blood. The indignant cries of human warriors, like tiny voices were unified in chorus that reached to the creature as a goading insult to its pride. Each shelling was greeted and returned by a frenzy of tearing, flinging and burning; bodies were strewn across a scorched and broad field underneath a ruinous castle looming among steep, jagged mountains.

(Continued: part 2) 

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