history, Short Story

The Gexoterra

de_las_Casas_p71

“The Gexoterra” is a draft of a short story from a collection I am writing on the cruelties and physical tragedies perpetrated and faced by people throughout history. “The Gexoterra” is about the life under the Spanish in the “West Indies” after they were “discovered” by Columbus (Cristobal Colon) and his men, and as such it depicts some harsh, unpleasant moments. If this bothers you then don’t bother reading but, remember, I try to depict what happened as realistically as possible, and the event depicted here is based on evidence from Columbus/Colon’s own journals. Make of that what you will.

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There is little, if anything, the Colombian expedition could have done to mitigate the blight Eurasian microbes brought upon the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean Islands off the coast of the Northern segment of the equator sprawling North & South American landmass (Canal Zone notwithstanding). Though, one suspects that if Colon (and he was Cristobal Colon, not this Columbus tomfoolery) had any conception of what he was bringing with him on his journey, he would have tried to find a way to make it an even more deadly weapon then it already was. As it was he did not know which part of the planet he was on.

These people were animals to him, a natural resource, like gold or silver or spices, another check he could put in his ledger. The males could be worked to the bone clearing the land and mining for the precious ore that would make this horrid trip worth the while, the women could be used as concubines and as washerwomen, cooks, and agricultural labor. Even the children would serve a purpose; they could be used to clear rubble and debris and could fit into the places in the mines, the female ones could be used as concubines if they had seen their first blood, and the stupid ones could be used to feed and entertain the dogs. A few had to be kept alive so they could be taken back to Spain, to show off to the investors and to prove that he had in fact reached the orient (or wherever this was). The poor beasts were so frail, though, and not at all used to the rigours of proper labor. They broke like Cathay porcelain, and they were so very sickly (again, if only he had known what caused this frailty…) that each worker usually only lasted a week, two at most, before he expired in a sweaty, bloody heap. The dogs were starting to grow fat off of this excess of heathen flesh.

The Basques were having a gay old time of it, running about the beach, prancing about in the surf like silly little children. There was nothing for them to do that the Indios (that is what they were calling these people…it certainly wasn’t Japan, where they had landed so India would have to do. They did have a similar skin hue…) could not do for them. Every man was now a lord, or else what passed for one in this new world.

The poorest of the men, some son of a dog from Getxo, even he had slaves now, three of them, two women and a man. The man was put to work doing the most menial and stupid of tasks, emptying the latrine, fetching water, cleaning his master’s boots. The Getxoterra had a short, leather strap that used on the dogs when they misbehaved, and it was with this that he administered his orders to the Indio wretch. As the savage could not understand Basque or whatever it is they speak, he would point at what he wanted the Indio to do, and then punctuate the order with a blow to the head with the strap. the poor savage looked as though he could not believe he was being so ruled and by such a lowly sort of fellow. The Getxoterra paled in comparison to the men he now treated like a dog. Where the Indio was lithe and trim the Getxoterra was flabby and round, where the former was beautiful and young, the latter was old and ugly as a Frenchman’s sin. That the Getxoterra ruled over the Indio and not the other way around was merely an accident of history and circumstance. There is no justice in nature, because there is no intellect, no mind. There is only a living mass acting and being acted upon. If there were any justice, it would be the Getxoterra of the world who would be slaves…but then again would that not just serve to make the Indio the Getxoterra? The Getxoterra was not endowed with a mind that was able to contemplate such lofty questions. All he knew was that now had property for the first time in his life. And like most people, when they are given exactly what they always wanted, they misuse and squander it all.

It took only a few days of labor under the lash of the Gextoterra before the Indio expired from exhaustion. The dullard Getxoterra had neglected to feed and provide water to the Indio. He was left with the two female slaves, one old, perhaps 50, the other young and quite beautiful. It did not take a debauched mind like the Gextoterra possessed long to find a use for the young woman, but the elder was really more of an annoyance to the Getxoterra, with her constant weeping and screaming. The young one tried to calm her elder but the Getxoterra would not leave the poor young woman alone long enough for her to be really effective. He defiled her and abused her brutally, satisfying the the stunted and profane desires of a brute, and it was not a week before the young woman lashed rocks to her ankles and swam out into the surf.

The Getxoterra was now left with the old woman and having no use for her and growing tired of her weeping, he cut out her tongue and tied her to a stake out side of his tent, leaving her to starve. Blessedly this did not come about. Another Indio soon came by and brazenly, in full view of the entire encampment, caressed and kissed the old woman before slashing her throat with a sharp shell. The Getxoterra did not mind, as he had already moved on to a new pursuit: taking a flaming brand in hand he terrorized and deprived Indios of their trinkets and idols, thinking that they were somehow transformed by witchcraft from gold to dull stone and could be turned back the other way again.

The Getxoterra had been a tanner’s apprentice back in the motherland, and a slovenly, slothful, and stupid one at that. He had spent all of his weekly stipend on booze and cheap women and so had to sleep on the floor of his master’s shop. He had what he would have known as the French Disease but what we would call syphilis. He was a wretch of the worst sort. Now he was master over the fates of hundreds of people who had only been going on about their lives before the three ships appeared on the horizon of their world.

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Short Story

The Horse

horse

It does not have to be this way oh god above me god above me. God who I have so elegantly killed. There was a horse in the road and he was being whipped and I cried and cried and came to the poor beasts aid. Why whip a horse? Why not whip me? Why not whip A stack of my writings? Do not waste the lash on an animal that can do no more than trot and winny! I can recite poetry in Greek, I can write prose in Latin! I can read you a passage from Virgil verbatim from my mind! So much more could be gotten from whipping me!

Watch as the amethyst sky rain. Terminate the afternoon with clouds and storm and fickle atmosphere. I was reading Hugo, only Hugo, nothing more profound than that. I wanted nothing more than to read, but the horse needed my attention. I can no longer read, no longer speak. I am in a bed. The linens are white and well starched. A parade of sycophants coo at me and ask my bitch of a sister for my ersatz autograph. She places a pencil in my hand and drags my limp digits across the inside cover of “The Birth of Tragedy”. Why did I write the pathetic excuse for a manuscript anyway? Ah… it was that student who was self-righteously tossing meaninglessly circuitous questions about my lecture. I felt like throwing Socrates for a loop… I carried away from there.

Oh how I could use Dionysus now! Oh god of libations and witless mirth send me a euphoria that will part the reeds of this marsh that holds me prisoner. I only want to write again… If only to denounce myself. Oh God of Jacob you of all beings should be happy that I wish to use my pen to excoriate myself. I’ll crucify myself and save you the trouble! I have already expedited my descent into hell. What is hell if it is not your sister feeding you soup and spooning your admirers lies about your oeuvre? Give me fire! Give me hideous imps! Give me endless wrenching torture! But deliver me from this literary rape my own flesh and blood is perpetrating on me and my memory! It is intellectual incest! Her fingers, let alone her mind, were never meant to touch my ideas. I will banish Baal from my thoughts is you strike her dumb and blind and give me another month to get my affairs in order! I will resurrect you for a bit if it helps me be remembered for more than my demise.

The world has changed since I fell into the stupor. It has gotten so much more… rapid. Or is it rabid? I the church bells themselves seem to ring louder, quicker, and the men are beginning to speak oh so very knowingly, as though some great question had been answered. And the women! There are so many more women about. So many of them visit me. I have no idea why. I was no friend of theirs, or at least that is how I was perceived. Suppose truth was a woman? How ironic would that be? And now the women in whom truth is personified have descended upon me in my most dire hour and corrupt the truth I tried so hard to speak. Or maybe I am too proud. Perhaps my words where lies and this foul muse has come to my bedside to correct the egregious errors of my ego? So many questions. The answers left their card at the door but never did come in to pay a visit. They had to pay their respects at Schopenhauer’s grave I suppose.

I have written 3 manuscripts, a small book of poetry, and 15 essays since I feel into this torpor. Alas they cannot be committed to paper. They will die with me, but that is no real tragedy. So many ideas have died with their creators in ignominious silence. So will I. That is inevitable now. I am enfeebled and infantile again, I have completed the cycle, albeit much sooner than I had anticipated. Well, I suppose it is a cycle, or not. Perhaps it is a ferment and I am near the peak of my vintage about to be drunk up by some great inebriated deity. But that would imply that I would be expelled at some point… unless the deity has an endlessly expanding bladder. But I digress… from something I suppose. Perhaps not. The sun is falling and those speedy little church bells are striking six. Time for my  sister to bring me my supper. Oh how I hope tonight is the night when she slips some blessed poison into my broth. She must be tiring of dealing with my crippled husk. I am no pretty sight In this, or to be honest any, condition. I am a hard man to deal with healthy and hearty, let alone drooling and murmuring. Let her kill me… although I did always want to out live that hag Victoria over in England. I don’t want to die a “Victorian”. Bah. How droll that would be.

I have a very blasé attitude to death. You would as well if your were essentially a well coifed bed warmer. I no longer care if I end up in hell or heaven or in Prague. I just want to be able to stop thinking about death. That is the true bliss that comes with passing on: no longer having to think about passing on. So many terrible books have been written about how/why we die. Not enough have been written about how we should live. I hope that my works have subtracted from that deficit in some small way. Living is a wonderful thing, if by life one means the ability to live without pain. I stopped living long ago. So I no longer care if I do live or do not.

The cat is on my legs again. That infernal cat that my sister insists on letting loose in my room. It smells, and it makes no end of trouble for my allergies, not that anyone could tell: I have so many fluids oozes from my frame that one some more coming from my congested nose will raise no worry in my caretakers. I hate cats. Their smug little smiles remind me of  how my publishers look before they strike some vital passage from one of my manuscripts: “This is much too abstruse of a passage for the pedestrian reading public Friedrich… how about another one of those nice aphorism of yours instead?” Publishers, like priests, seem to believe they have the ear of God, or at least of the prevailing market trends.

But the cat! Oh the cat! That whining little creature. It lies there, smelling of cod and spoilt milk as it sucks the very warmth from my body. God above how a hate these little creatures. Oh, and my sisters knows it I am sure. If I had a aversion to blue you can rest assured the walls would positively bleed the color. That bitch. That… but what is the use? She will not poison me tonight, or tomorrow, or ever if she was her way. I am her only means of procurement for the two things she loves most: pity and money. The first she gets quite readily, obviously, and the second she fortunately receives very little. I am not a popular writer, and for once in my life I am thankful for my unctuousness persona and its dampening effects on my literary bottom line. She is living as high as she can off of my bottom Mark… Her needs are modest, at least her financial needs. I am sure she gets no end of attention and praise from those trumpet tooting nationalists who claim to see a Pan-German manifesto in my writings. How did I so quickly become the new Wagner? Has my entire life been one long lead up to the punch line “Nietzsche est Wagner?” Again… not that it really matters to my sense of pride, but I had hoped that the dear old hag would at least preserve the underlying meaning of the words I spent my entire life forging. And now she has gotten her greedy little hands on my notebooks… lord only knows what she can do with my unfinished thoughts!

But I grow tired. The broth dribbles from my lips like water from a clogged fountain. I’ll pay the nurse a favor and pretend to sleep. Perhaps I shall really sleep after a while. Maybe I will dream of that horse. Maybe I can ride alone in the countryside for a bit. In my dreams I am sure I will not have to apply the whip to his hide to make him gallop like the breeze.

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short fiction

Sana’a

sanaa

The backstreets of Sana’a are not places for happy fairy-tales, or reckless dreams of escape and boundless possibility. 1001 nights spent here would be something of a hell if it was spent in the gutter or the trash heaps; where the children play with old bullet casings and wear dirty linen on their heads to protect them from the sun. Such deprivation, such the albescence of the sand blasted walls soiled by a filthy rain tainted and corrupted by the offal and the rot of a large metropolis in the heyday of its splendid decay. Sons and daughters tend to fathers who have melted in the fetid pavement. Their heroin spitting syringes unholy minarets calling the disappointed and pathetic to a worship that will never end. Squalor is a language. It speaks in the gesture of a mother feeding her child tainted milk, in a dog fighting a fox for a old burger wrapper. It has its literature. Written in graffiti and in obscenities shouted at the foreign missionaries. “Fuck your USA” they scream, but they are actually saying “fuck”, just a simple endless “fuck” to everyone and everything. Not least of all themselves.

They are lizards, forked tongued limping serpents the endless poor. They are filthy, tragic and destroyed, wrecked and listless. They are wretched and cruel and stupid and ugly. But they are so very beautiful in comparison to everyone else. The shit wallowing pigs, pigs, I do mean pigs who walk the streets stepping over the corpses they never see, stepping on into a Armani clad future of decadence and well hidden misogyny. The women of the towers, and the apartments and the condos lay down and take it, their husbands never looking at anything but their asses while on another day soon they will be looking lovingly into the eyes of their Russian mistresses. Bear me a son whore, or at least get fat, quiet and learn to cook better.

There is not time for such niceties in the streets. A man who has a woman is a lord and a slave. He must feed himself and his family… but that is all he must do. Beat her, fuck her, hate her, love her. Women are added every day to the refuse. Discarded like a coffee lid. But at least they had the freedom to die of dysentery. There are no women in the middle east. Just… bodies waiting to be used. Oh how we weep for them… collecting out tears to show the world we care. What a perfume… what a decoration. The tears of a liberal. At least they cry. The conservatives and the capitalists laugh and pull out to ejaculate on the ample ass of their harlot. It was the white-man’s burden now it is everyman’s burden. Your burden. But not yours. You have no stake in this tournament. Take your chips and go home to your book of choice.

Sana’a does not exist. Neither does New York or Cairo. Only Ur exists. The first city is the only city. Everywhere we are Babylonians. We have just learned to write, but he have nothing to say. No stories to tell. Gilgamesh is a communist. He is against the market spirit. Better we cast our eyes to the Ziggaruts that seem to be extensions of the sky. Beer and wine and fountains of vodka and oil mixing into a brew of almost orgasmic profligacy. Poured onto the silicone balloons that pass for breasts in New Valhalla; all expenses paid, all checks cashed. Pygmy assassins wander the streets and pick at the eyes of the wasted and the obscene. Every optic nerve severed is another notch on their unbuckled belts, privates and privations exposed to the whispering mob who seem to float on the rain drenched sidewalks; the only thing that smells good in the city is wet pavement.

We hurt our children. We hurt them so deeply. We want them to hurt and to scream and to cry and rend their hair with their little bony fingers until they can no longer breathe for the tears. We are all warmongers when it comes to the future of our own spawn. They must not be weak. They must be strong or they will not survive on the mean streets of Sana’a/Ur. We must teach them Zionism, and Jainism, and Buddhism, and Fundamentalism, and Veganism, and every other things to can stick an I and an S and an M at the end of.  Butcherism, Golfism, Joblessism, whatever you can think of. Speak to the sky about your obsession and become a prophet. Create a religion. Do you have a brother in law you hate? Create a schism by declaring him your successor, or by ignoring the wishes of your children. Deny yourself. Impale a Buddha’s head. Open a little shop of horrors… or a bakery. Do something to be noticed. You will be noticed for awhile. Above all make sure your children DO something.

There is no room in the world for our fears. We must banish them into our minds; the only place where there is unlimited space. Lose them in that jungle of synapses and nerves. Cut loose into dreamscapes and intoxicating illusion. Fear the soldiers marching through your nebula, your realm, your foreground. Cast your sadness to the wind and it will blow away into so much sand. Sand enough to fill the desert again after the storm. Enough of reality. It is so hard to let go of fantasy.  It is so seductive to remember things that never happened or will never happen. Such carelessly emotive our lord less inequities. Force your impossibilities onto the whole of your community. Create a force to be contained. Whisper to the earth a way we can be free from freedom. The once was an Imam who said “Sana’a must be seen”. That is impossible because because there is no Sana’a. There is only a dirty little boy playing with his rain sodden toes in a dead end alley.

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Short Story

Prince Cyril & the Wolf: Part I

wolf

The winter was cold as it is wont to be in the east, but Prince Cyril was girded up in mink furs against the chill and frost. A days’ trudge from Perm the forest was vast and green and silent. No more than a few dozen men dared to make their living and stake their claim in this forest. Prince Cyril was one of these men, his great estate the Blue Palace took up the land to the North of the deepest wood. Cyril claimed as his hunting grounds all he could survey from the mighty Kama river on to the foothills of the mighty Urals. He prowled his domain like a feral cat looking for mice in the loft of a barn. There was deer, mink, rabbit, bear, fox and peasant in these woods, a rich bounty for any man intrepid enough to venture into its depths and take his share. The Prince was known to ride out from his estate with 500 men at arms and 1000 horse. He would take them all on hunts the likes of which had not been seen since the days of the Tatar Khans of the Far East. A great ring they would form around a stand of forest, and bronze horns would be sounded and half- starved dogs would be loosed. From the east, the west, the south, the north the hunters would march inward towards the darkest center of the forest, horns louder than the winter wind, beating stretched skin drums that sounded out louder than the thunder over the steppe. Animals from the lowliest mouse to the mightiest elk were startled and ran towards the edge of the forest, falling unexpectedly into the waiting nets and arrows of the hunters.

Each man would get his share of the bounty, but Prince Cyril always reserved the proudest stag for himself, and he would forbid any of the hunters to keep him trapped in a net or entangled in ropes. He would salute the beautiful beast and allow it to run away into the wild as fast as its legs could carry it before spurring his white stallion Ghost into a gallop. He would set an arrow into his Tatar bow, a gift from a barbarian General captured at the siege of Kazan, and grip the flanks of his horse with his long legs. As soon as the stag was visible against the setting sun on the horizon he would let fly the arrow into the neck of the noble creature. Dismounting he would whisper a quiet blessing and dispatch the animal with his pearl handled hunting knife. He was a master of the chase, a severe but fair leader of men, and chivalrous in victory even over a beast. At the end of the hunt a feast would be held out in the open around bonfires as large in circumference as the base of an ancient elm. The wives and mistresses of the men would arrive and the group would feast, dance, and carouse for hours and hours until the sun rose and fell over three days. Such was usually the case when Prince Cyril took to the hunt. He was a proud Lord, but he was lonely in his glorious surroundings. No man can live on the adoration (and fear) of his servants and serfs alone. He must have a peer, a companion in love, someone with whom to share the bounty and riches that surrounds him. All the treasure in the world is worthless when you are alone. It is one thing to realize this, but it is quite another to live your life in the pursuit of true happiness. Prince Cyril had a more ephemeral pursuit in mind for this day however, a new trophy to add to his lonely halls, and this time he would hunt this new quarry alone.

She was the wolf-maid Rani Svetlana, the mistress of the Eastern forest, and she had stolen the heart of the Prince. He had seen her from the balcony of his private quarters. He spied her baying at the icy moon, shockingly white fur blending with the fresh evening snow. Her eyes red like dying coals in an ancient samovar, and her fangs as sharp as the peaks of the Urals. Hot breath billowed from her flared nostrils like jets of steam, and as she howled every other creature took notice and paused where they stood. She was beautiful beyond earthly estimation, and Prince Cyril would have her at any cost. For the Prince could not be satisfied to behold the beast, he must possess it as a trophy, for in its worth he saw his own reflected back. Rani Svetlana’s hide would be the prize of his collection, and he would make from it a coat that would set the Czar’s heart ablaze with envy. It would not be an easy task though; many brave men had set forth in hopes of claiming her pelt, but none had as yet succeeded. Not a few had met their end in the attempt. Rani Svetlana was a huntress without peer, and she knew the forest like a baby knows his mother’s breast. No man of weak constitution or feeble mind had ever attempted to best her without catastrophe befalling him, but Prince Cyril was not weak, and feebleness of mind was a condition he was quite unfamiliar with. His mind was as sharp as the Tatar arrows he meant to pierce into the gorgeous flank of the wolf-maid. No beast, no matter how proud or celebrated, would best him while he drew breath. The sun rose over the snow laden land, and Prince Cyril harnessed his horse and rode off towards the wolf-maid’s domain.                                                                                         The snow was up to Ghost’s knees by the time the Prince caught the first sign of Rani Svetlana: her elegant paw prints leading towards the safety of the hills. He jumped down from Ghost into the snow so he could take a closer look. The tracks were fresh so she had been here no more than an hour or so before, but for a wolf like Rani Svetlana an hours head start was enough time to disappear forever into the trees and underbrush. He grabbed the reins of his horse and followed the tracks up to the edge of hills. Now these hills were known for their many caves and alcoves, well stocked with small game animals and a small fresh water spring, a place where a beast could rest safe and secure for days and days without having to venture forth into danger. A hunter could be five meters from his prey and never see hide nor hair of the creature. This disheartened the Prince a little because as good a tracker as he was, even he would have a hard time in the hills, and it was growing dark out. But his brief bout of doubt soon passed away with the setting sun, and he lit a torch he had brought with him, hitched ghost to a sapling and plodded onward into the hills.                                                                                                                                                                              The torchlight did its level best to pierce the darkness of the newly born night, but to no avail. The forest was the abode of the black and formless dark, and most of the creatures liked it that way. Man is not a nocturnal creature; he likes his sun, and his moon and stars, and even more his lamps and roaring fires. Like moths to a flame man is drawn to light if only so that it may illuminate the things that he otherwise would fear for not seeing them. He could see no more than a few steps to the left, right, or forward. The rest was a mystery, and in every shadow or dark corner a lupine trap could be set and ready. He did not fear the possibility of death or grievous injury, only the possibility that he may fail in his quest brought a hint of terror to his otherwise tranquil nerves. The snow laden boughs of the pine trees brushed his face, which was covered in nearly a weeks worth of beard. The hunt had been a long one and he was tired, but not defeated. He knew he was close to his mistress, close enough to smell the blood on her fur from her latest kill. He had found a mangled deer less than an hours trot from from this very spot. It had all the hallmarks of a wolf kill and it was not yet frozen so it was recently deceased. He knew that an alpha hunter like Rani Svetlana would not abandon such a fresh kill. She would be around and waiting for her chance to go back and pick at the remains. She would not do that while Prince Cyril was around though.

Cyril heard the sound of a grouse or a rabbit darting through the fallen pines boughs and the brush. He paused for a moment and knelt to the ground. The world returned to silence and the air picked up a bit from the north. He pulled his ermine collar up against the rising chill and rose slowly to his exhausted feet. Things do not move in a forest unless they are compelled to, by hunger, by need for a mate, or by fear. He walked back to Ghost, careful to make sure each footstep fell upon snow only and not on a branch or a pile of leaves. He came to his horse and reached into the leather satchel hanging from his side. He pulled out his bow, a powerful weapon purchased from a Tartar princeling for 100 fox pelts. It was worth the steep price; the bow was accurate up to 200 yards and could bring down a bear with a single well placed shot. If he got within range of Rani Svetlana he knew he could end her wild reign in this forest.

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Fiction, Literature, Muses, Mythology

The Birth of Callidora

pan

Sing to me muse a tale of Pan and his ebullient and motley melodies. The shepherd prince was sleeping in the mint green fields in the Olympian hills. The flocks of a thousand nations lay bellow, all chewing the grass sprouts and lulling quietly and contentedly like flocks are want to do when the wolves are away and the sun is high in the sky. Pan lays upon a goatskin on a rock in the shade of an oak tree. He is the very picture of self-indulgent relaxation and coy passion. Beauty: his haunches solid as the marble of the quarry. His hair stolen from the storied stock of golden fleece. His swats at a fly with hands that could paint an eggshell with a lambs tears while the other is choking the life from a great she-wolf. He looks down upon his flock with eyes that could cause the moon to look away for their brilliance.

            Even exquisite and self-possessed Aphrodite has been known to fall for his charms… one winter day they met in a Thracian garden and made love for three nights and three days without end… Their ecstasy brought forth an early bloom of flowers in the winter months and Pan proudly renamed the site “The Garden of Winter Passion”, so it is still known to this day by the mortal inhabitants who come to admire its early flourishing blossoms. He was Pan. Pan of the Fields. Pan of music pure. And what music! The flock would sway to the melodies, and the lambs would skip to every honey sweetened note. There were five that he was especially fond of playing. One note brought to the sky the birds of all the world. Sparrows, jays, gulls, swifts, swallows, even the ferocious hawks, ravens, buzzards and eagles could not resist the enigmatic note. The doves would land about him and add their voices to the sharp whisper of his breath dancing upon the edge of the pipes. What so sharp a note can all but tame the wildest birds of the four winds? Pan has found it and Pan will hold fast its secrets ‘til the end of ages.

            Pan stirs from his perch upon the rock. He thinks he sees a creature prowling on the edges of the pasture. Dark and leering the shadow of this beast. ‘Tis a mountain lion looking for an easy lunch. Pan shows no fear in his handsome face. On the contrary! He smiles at the fun that will come for him. He lives for the times he can fight to protect his flock. He grabs his club, throws his goatskin onto his broad shoulders and runs like a spring breeze down the side of the steadily sloping hill. He puts his pipes to his lips and sounds a note of warning to his flock. The loud whistle resounds through the  valley and the sheep, goats, and cattle all take note. They turn towards their master and they run like Cerberus himself were on their tails.

            Pan continues to blow his note as he finally reaches the plain. He sees the lion pouncing upon one of his prized rams. Pan throws off his goat skin and charges at the growling creature, whose teeth are as long and sharp as daggers and whose hide is as strong as a soldiers shield. Pan grabs the beast by its muscled neck and throws it with all his might off of the ram. The lion roars in rage and swings its mighty paws, narrowly missing the God. Pan merely laughs and smashes home his mighty ash limb club. The skull of the mighty lion is crushed like an over ripened olive between the fingers of a young boy. The lion fell limp against the ground and Pan felt a thrill dance along his spine. He pulled forth his pipes and sounded a note of triumph to his flock. So proud the Lord of all nature! He plays his note for all the hear! As loud as a war drum, sharp as the tip of a spear. The flock was comforted by this martial note and came with heads held high back to their protector.

            Pan walked amongst the animals, looking for any more threats to their well being. Finding none he was able to rest once more upon the honor and the laurels of battle. He skinned the lion on the spot and used the pelt as another layer of comfort for his recumbent frame. The chief pursuit of the immortal is always comfort and pleasure, but on occasion even the perpetually blessed must tend to his duties. Tend to his duties… and to his needs. There was a sudden stirring in the loins of the god. The rush of war had given way to the rush of lust. Thus was the way of all immortal flesh. Man is truly a model of the gods, but where man composes poems, odes, and songs to celebrate the eternal yearning for flesh. The gods have the advantage in the pursuit however; the immortal hand may forge from the dust a greater art then any to soothe the burning passion of their desire.

            And so Pan in the misty thrall of delight did deign to make an opus worthy of his companionship. From the flock that in eternal trust and love did stand close upon his every step, Pan did seek the fairest lamb, the bravest and the most playful. It did not take long to find a little lamb that skipped and cried with unyielding abandon. He looked into its lively eyes and  saw an inner life a life that seemed by its very nature to be striving for a greater expression of itself. When found he took the little beast and pressed it to his sun kissed skin, and lifting hence from his breast did present the offering to the sky. At once the metamorphosis was done, and Pan let fall to earth the most nubile form that that ever blessed the fertile plains of earth. Her hair the richest russet, alike the deepest womblike dirt of the valley. When she stood unsteady upon her grass stained feet Pan could see his composition for the masterwork she was. Her frame was enveloped in the most splendidly dark skin, dark like the ripened olive. Her hands, now searching her own form in wonder at its constitution, oh her hands forged of mercury bleeding from arms that so sweetly frame the most succulent bosom that ever did grace the eyes and fancy of a fruitful being. With buds alike the rose in winters thaw placed upon the softest fleshly hill, a neck did rise like an oak to stand twixt to sloping peaks, the proudest shoulders ever seen upon a woman. Her eyes finally turn from the task of admiring her own new born form to survey the world around her. They flash the gayest green when they fall upon the person of her creature.

            For the first time the woman found the use of her tongue. It was a strange sensation to her newly minted mouth, but she spoke with the eloquence bequeathed to her by Pan. “My creator, I am humble in thy presence. I am most pleased by my creation, and to you I pledge my honor, my mind, my body, and my eternal gratitude. I am free from the flock that kept me safe, but also kept me estranged from the world. A flock is a warm, safe place, but therein lies the poisonous comfort that makes it a warm, safe prison for a form such as mine waiting to be made free. You looked into my eyes and saw the transformation within me lacked only the act to be made a full expression of life. I thank you so much God of all nature and living things, God of inescapable beauty, God of song that transcends all mortal melody, God who sang to me when I was but a lamb amongst lambs, who sang to me in a voice of mighty Olympus high above in the clouds, who protected me from the scourge of thunder, drought, and ravenous beasts. I salute your splendor and I confirm to you my eternal debt.” With reverence born of the bond between artist and creation the maiden fell to her knee. Pan laughed and immediately bid her stand.

            “Do not bow to me! For it is I who is enthralled, indebted to you.; your beauty is a gift I will never be able to match again. Do not worship me! You are forged of the sturdy, breathing stuff of earth, out of life and all its beneficial color. I am born of chaos, of harmony betrayed, of lost and ill framed emotion flung into a forge of fearful imagination. I am a haphazard concoction of eternal rage and incestuous starlit meanderings. You my dear are made of much more human stuff. Do not praise me! I am nothing more then the sum of creations, and you my dear confirm that in my finest moments I can reach true transcendence. I am reborn in you my dear! I am reborn anew! Into sunlight! Into a dawn of elation that should not ever see a dusk of fervor. You are my pinnacle… what is the use of being an immortal if one cannot use that divinity to create a beauty that needs no immortal justification? Take my hand and I will give you a gift worthy of your splendor.”

            And she looked at him, and he looked at her, and she knew what this gift would be.

Pan placed his hands upon her warm face, cooling her mortal fever with a divine chill that soothed her newborn frame. “I brought you forth, but I cannot truly claim you as a creation. I was given a gift by the earth that I so humbly tend. Allow me this loving indulgence though: allow me to give to you a name. You are Callidora. You are a gift of beauty to this world. I treasure you, do me the honor of treasuring yourself.”

Callidora did take a step into his arms. She felt her heart sing and her body move to its deep music. Twas the melody of passion playing upon her emotions and her form. Art met artist, expression met act. They met in the embrace that all lovers practice. A kiss to be remembered in poem, caresses to soften the most mordant heart. Between her legs a cloven fig, red and ready for the worshipful tongue of her god, her creator, her playmate. The nectar spread upon his lips as he brought her to the brink of possible bliss. To the heavens it sounded! To the air! To the clouds! What can ever feel so true as the truth that a man feels in a woman? Lust fully consummated, passions fully cooled, they lay together like to children caught up in some foolish game.

            With their caper complete Pan rejoiced at his new companion and played for her a song of love upon his pipes:

I sing a song of Callidora

Of pleasant fields and verdant flowers

In bloom

Alive

In spring a birth of ecstasy

A nymph as soft as the purest wool

Anointed with my kisses

You are spirited towards the sky

To Olympus

To the very vault of heaven

My heart a soundless song upon your lips

So did Pan bring the world Callidora, and so did Callidora first feel the pulse of the living world.

 

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Erotic, short fiction

Smoke

There is something about those little flaming protuberances that look so alluring in a woman’s mouth. Simple, so much potential violence. Burn a cross onto your flesh and it is agony, but it creates a story worth wasting ink on. Action is just literature not written down. Scratch and moan and burn all you want… give me a passage on it. Give me a character. Show me not how a woman screams for the pain but what screams from inside her despite the pain or even, god forbid, because of it. Because I know she is screaming. From across the bar, the café, the bordello, wherever we are whatever we are doing I still see her and she is still a woman. And I still see her smoking, and sucking in the ashes that would otherwise disfigure the wooden floor. Oh let me extinguish those little fires on my tongue. They’ll hurt so very little and so very briefly, but the memory of the pain will never abate and will grow ever stronger as I grow ever more in need of pleasure. Breath them out, those ashes, onto me. I weep for them. I cry.

Smoke. Drink. Dry alcohol and even more desiccated conversation. So many businessmen and so little business. Oh every time you ignore them they grow ever more attached to you. Like a grasping, leaching weed that thrives on those dripping from your eyes, and your armpits, and from the crumbs that fall from your teeth. They cling to you without touching, and send out their invisible but inescapable vines and shoots into every crevice that they cannot touch but through their thoughts and eyes and nose. I am not enough of a Narcissist to delude myself into believing I am not one of these men sending out his roots to search and possess you. I am just not a businessman.

One of said businessmen, one with a mustache, he whispers something in your ear. I somehow know what it is he said. You should slap him for that. Not how you talk to a lady. But you don’t slap him. God forgive me I am disappointed for the man. I had wanted to vicariously experience his rejection. I know I will not be rejected. I can’t be rejected. You already accepted me in oh so many ways. Remember? You do remember… You smile and you flick your cigarette into the trash. You light another one. Not three seconds pass between the last puff and the first drag. Oh damn. I want to smoke, but it is so very, very filthy. I enjoy filth, don’t misunderstand me, but I wish to experience such grime through the lips and spittle of a beautiful woman. No man needs to smoke who has a woman who smokes. The taste, the sick, the retched addiction. All the existential sensation without the cancer, the yellowing teeth or the wheezing cough. It is sweet irony: The partaking in such an insignificant ill leads to such an unparalleled cure for wanton ardency.

Yawn! Yawn! I do see you yawn woman. Your mouth open, braving the moths that float about the fluorescent lights, beckoning the tongues that will not have you, but will lick the very blood from your bones in their dreams. Is it such a painful bore to be a woman? Is it such an ordeal to stand and attract the attention of men and boys and dogs? Let them all sniff your scent. Push them to frenzy. Order a cosmopolitan and dump it on the floor. Watch as they order you another one.

It is a cruel truth that all sensation leads to sin. I can lust for you through my ears woman. I hear the breath feed the fire that burns the weed behind the filter on your cigarette. If the world were quiet enough that breath would bellow through the ether like the raging furnaces that belch for the fires of hell. Your breath would burn bodies, consume souls, roast the hopes and dreams of a billion hearts, including mine. For I listened to that breath, and was transported to the deepest, the darkest realm of Sheol. I want to go to hell darling. Send me to the pit. I would gladly burn in the fires of your miasmic exhalations. What about your habit moves me to such dark profundities I spew? I just enjoy the smell of tar mixed with a lady’s sweat, the rest is just my artistic nature. I told you I was no businessman. But… No I have not told you that yet. But I will. When we talk again for the first time.

I finally catch your jaded eye. You smile that smile, that smile that lies like a fornicating politician. I scowl because I do not feel like lying to you. But I do take a deep breath, and you see that I do, and you breathe some smoke in my direction. I cough, and grow ever more aroused. You can tell and I think, I think it disgusts you just a little bit. I walk towards you, finally ready to receive what was always mine. You bite your lip in such a post-ironic way. It almost turns me off… If I had wanted the truth from you I would have taken you against your will in the alley earlier that night. I want to be lied to. I want the only truth that matters: the truth I choose to believe. You extinguish this, your second cigarette in 20 minutes. I reach into my pocket and give you another one, a different brand, but still a cigarette. You ask one of the businessmen to light it for you. Of course they do. You inhale. I ejaculate. The businessman gives you his card.

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Ancient History, art, Crossbow, Fiction, history, Medieval, Weapons

The Bowman Part I (A Short Story)

Gian stepped up to the wooden fence lodged in the pavement. He knelt and closed one eye, looking out over the expanse between him and the thatch bundle that was the base of his target nearly 2 meters away. The target consisted of a circle with facing out with a horizontal tower of cylinders stacked smaller upon bigger until it jutted out to a bulls-eye about 10 centimeters in diameter. He squints and he mentally fires hundreds of bolts toward that tiny bulls-eye. Some hit dead on, most miss the exposed edges on the other cylinders and even more miss the target altogether. Another man took his place next to him 5 yards down the range. He was using a much more efficient iron cranequin to pull his bow taught. Gian did not begrudge him this, but he rather liked the feel of the windlass. I made him feel connected to the power of this formidable piece of weaponry, and to its history as a weapon of tension and strength.

Gian believed that if you choose to use a tool of this precision and engineering you might as well make yourself as much part of the thing as possible. The more the weapon was thought of as an extension of yourself the more devastating the power of it was against your foe. A warrior does not kill with a weapon, he kills with his mind. The mind sees the target, the mind judges the wind and the light, the pitch of the field and the distance, the mind calls upon the arms to use the windlass to pull the bow taught, the orders the hands to hold the weapon steady and the mind calls upon all of its instinct and experience as it aims down the length and pulls the trigger.

Gian was the scion of an old family from a tiny but proud nation, San Marino. He, like every man who comes of age in his nation, was ready to take his place in the armed forces. He simply had to prove himself physically fit to join the Great Guard of the rock but he strove for a much more prestigious post. He wished to join the famed Crossbow Corps, the greatest assemblage of marksmen the world had yet born witness to. He longed to follow his father, his grandfather, and forebears going back over a century into this corps of esteemed heroes. Only the best hunters, arrow-smiths and archers even bothered to try out, and only 5 out of the 30 men who made the effort actually were accepted into the unit in the end. Gian’s pedigree in no way promised him a spot, but he did inherit his forebear’s skill with the bow.

The man next to Gian knelt before the fence and brought his weapon up to his right shoulder. He placed his bolt in place on the shaft of the weapon, which he had already primed with the aforementioned cranequin. He leveled the bow and took a deep breath before pulling the trigger. The weapon jerked almost imperceptibly to the left, and the bolt shot out and just barely grazed the upper left edge of the inner bulls-eye and lodged deep in the straw bundle support. In spite of himself Gian felt bad for his opponent. He had made the fatal mistake of exhaling while firing. Never exhale until the bolt is firmly stuck in the target. The very act of breathing sets off every mental calculation you make, and throws your aim off by that fatal centimeter that is the difference between dead center and missing completely.

The fact that his opponent did not seem to know this fact showed him to be a rank amateur at best with the weapon; probably someone who hunted with it on occasion but never practiced it as an art. That is what separated Jan from the rest. He was an artist with the crossbow. He had been practicing since the age of 8, and before that he had watched his father fix the bow and string it. He knew how to take apart and reassemble the weapon long before he knew how to shoot it at all. His father had long been commissioned by the Crossbow Corps to build and maintain their cache, and as an apprentice to his father Gian was often brought along to the arsenal. These trips made a huge impression on the young man.

As his father went about his business inspecting the bolts and restringing the bows Jan would wander about and look at the ancient weapons and marvel at their beauty and elegance. He would imagine himself as a soldier on the front line of some distant conflict, marching under the blue and white banner of his nation, and caparisoned in his colorful martial finery. Once during one if these boyish reveries he was snapped back to reality by the voice of his father calling him over. The old man had wanted to show Gian a new bit of technology that he was employing to improve the accuracy of the weapons. He pointed out a small nodule at the tip of the shaft and told his son that “this is where you will now place the head of the arrow Gian, and it will fly truer and straighter then it ever has. All of our bows will now have this innovation, and San Marino will have the most feared bowmen in    all of the world!” At the time Gian barely understood what his father was telling him, but now as he stood as a young man attempting to make some part of his childish dream a reality he recalled that day and smiled. That little bump at the end of the bow would keep most of the bolt from dragging against the stock of the crossbow, reducing drag and improving the flight of the bolt. It was as Gian’s grandfather used to say to him: “The sparrow does not fly with his belly scraping the earth. He sours upon the wind.” This coupled with his natural ability made Gian confident of victory. But confidence is not a currency he could trade for his space in the corps. Only action would do.

A few more men had sauntered up to the range, some holding 2 meter high pavise shields, other with incredibly ancient family heirloom weapons made entirely of wood and animal sinew. All were quick to load their weapons and take shots at the target. A few had rather good form, even fewer had excellent form. None so far were proving to be a master with the weapon. The Captain of the Corps arrived just as the last bowmen were stringing their weapons; Giovanni Lorenzo Pecora was a family friend and as good as an uncle to Gian. That being said, Gian was not foolish enough to think that his cordial relationship with the man would have any positive impact in his favor regarding his entrance into the corps. On the contrary, the Captain would surely scrutinize Gian with that much more vigor, and expect the best from him as the son of an acclaimed bowyer and former corpsman.

The Captain picked Gian out of the lineup and walked over to him, an enormous grin brightening his battle scared face. “Ah! Ah! Gian Bernardo Spada. Yet another one of you Spada boys trying out for the Corps, eh? Just yesterday you were running around naked as a plucked chicken in your father’s parlor. Now you are a strapping man with an eye towards being a hero, eh? Blessed Virgin how time flies.” Gian smiled and leaned his crossbow against the fence so he could turn and face his friend and hero. “Oh how that is so Captain. I only wish my father were alive to see his eldest son try to take his place in the family profession. Oh how he would weep with joy!”

The Captain slapped Gian on the back and bit his lower lip in a manly effort to hold back tears.

“Well…ahm…Yes. He was a good man your father, and his father before. In fact it was your Grandpapa that taught me everything I know about the art of archery and shooting. He was a genius was Bernardo Spada, and your father took after him. It remains to be seen if you exhibit that same acumen and greatness that seems to run with the proud blood in your family’s veins.” The Captain cleared his throat loudly and frowned seriously. “Oh! Enough of this womanish squawking! We must get this test underway! Good luck to you young Spada.” He clicked his heals and walked away towards the small viewing stand where the other members of the Corps sat evaluating the prospects. Gian saluted the spectators and turned back to make last minute adjustments to his bow. He wanted to make a real impression on this group of Sammarinese dignitaries.

Trumpets were sounded, and the blue and white banners of the Republic were unfurled. The small crowd stood and bowed their heads as the flag bearers marched in front of the stands with the national colors. With choreographed poise and dignity the Senior of the two Captains Regent stood up on a small dais set up facing the archers. We wore a blue and white cape and a medal bearing the likeness of the patron St. Agatha. He cleared his throat and went into his brief prepared remarks. “Assembled before us today are young men who wish to honor their Republic and themselves by joining the storied ranks of the Crossbow Corps of San Marino. I salute you all for making the attempt, and even if you are found wanting your efforts will not be seen in vain. You are the sons of the Republic, and there is no shame in failing in the pursuit of serving your nation.”

He paused to allow the crowd to applaud politely, and then moved on to the rules of the tournament. “Whether you realized it or not you have already been, and are still being, judged by the members of the Corps. They have been making notes as to your form, care of your weapon, and general fitness for duty along with sundry other things. You will not proceed to make your final attempt at impressing your betters: you each get one bolt, and one attempt at hitting the target. A misfire counts as a shot, and whomever hits closest to the bulls-eye wins the tourney and the prize of 15 pieces of gold. The captains will then make their picks, if any, for the corps. There will be no arguing with their decisions, just except their judgment like the men you are. Thank you my young fellow countrymen, and good luck to you.”

To be continued in Part II 

Note:

The work of Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey in his book The Crossbow: Mediaeval and Modern

Military and Sporting- its Construction, History and Management with a Treatise on The Balista and Catapult of the Ancients (republished in 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing) has proved invaluable in the creation of this story.

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