"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

28 December 2012

The Resolve of Exploration

It's been looking and acting a bit more like winter up here the last couple of weeks. Not enough to totally alleviate the drought concerns, but at least enough to make the snowbums happy and have a decent snowshoe. It gives our tiny corner of the world a different perspective, and that is always a good thing to have.

The other day, Sabina, my daughter, a friend of ours, and Sabina's sister went on a snowshoe along the way to the ruins of Waldorf a bit to the side jog that leads back to Pavilion Point, midway up the Argentine trail. It was grand for a change of perspective, the snow having made a tried and true trail new and exciting, and our approach to a familiar destination. From Pavilion Point, my daughter and I took off back to town via a route of pristine powder snow whilst Sabina, her sister, and our friend headed back to the vehicle, stopping to investigate a snow-covered mine along the way. This mine has been tentatively earmarked as a ruins hike come summer; one, in which we may continue on past Waldorf to Argentine pass perhaps.

Despite being rather sore that night and the day after, Sabina was satisfied with the trek. It was her birthday, and her sister said our walkabout was perhaps the best present ever. I am inclined to agree.

Walkabouts, sex, good wine and/or whiskey, and a fine meal-not in any particular order-are the stuff of a great birthday, I say, an endeavor to put into practice...

I pore over maps, not just of our part of the valley, but of other regions of our Sahel, a territory of nearly three-hundred ninety-seven square miles. So much of it is hemmed by national forest and wilderness area that our civilization, if it can be called that, is something of a dubious proposition. Although I've never been one to do one of those piss and wind empty as a politician's promise resolutions for the new year-other than not becoming a serial killer...yet, and so far, so good-I have resolved to explore other parts of this pocket of nowhere.

Another thing I've never been big on is having a reputation. The cats I've encountered who live and die by such things are the ones who've never graduated high school on the mental level and are probably possessed of several other inadequacies too numerous to bother listing here. Be that as it may, there are a few who have decided I'm the one to talk about when it comes to trails in our area. This is queerly flattering, but also disheartening. After all, being accused of having a reputation is something I find insulting, because then you're expected to live up to that, and, well, to say I don't do well with doing what's expected is right up there with pointing out the sun sets in the west.

I could joke with the trails I know that maybe if my eyes were pulled from my head, I was drugged, turned thrice widdershins, and given a concussion, I might get lost, but then I bring up how Miguel Loco makes Sabina and I look like wide-eyed flatlanders that get rescued because of  prideful overestimation of prowess. It's from him I've heard the names of other trails than the ones I know so well and received the inspiration to go explore them. After all, our Sahel is nearly three-hundred ninety-seven square miles, and we've only trekked across a fraction of that, becoming quite intimate with that fraction almost to exclusion of the whole.

Well, I do so dig on being balanced, well-rounded, and otherwise inclusive. The snow making a tried true trail look new, and taking it in from a different perspective help to motivate this seed of an idea germinating within the walls of my skull for a bit now. I mean to trek beyond places I can merely walk to. Although, the fact I even have that option is nothing short of fantastic. The upper west end of the valley is what I know fairly well, and, no matter how many times I wander those bits of outback, I can find something new in which to remind me of what an amazing stretch of geography I live in.

Be that as it may, there is another pass, just a ridge away, and whole wilderness area surrounding a fourteener. Both of those places are as filled with magic and stories as the places I regularly walk. And I made a promise to myself as I came up here when in the context of adventures and stories; I mean to find them all, and I will.

See if I don't...

25 December 2012

100 Words; Services

When it comes to the services, religion ceases to matter. It is more about community. It's dark, it's cold. The impetuous snowshoe and cross-country ski to that old church. Snow falls oh, so softly, we get a white Christmas, and, after such a dry time, a bit of winter's blessings.

The boys who run the show are ordained through the Universal Life Church, which, I suppose, makes my own heresies forgivable. Then again, this doesn't have a have damn thing to do with religion. It's community. Those simple moments of humanity, which get me to beam like a chesire cat.


I was introduced to the 100 Words concept from Mister London Street. Although he's since decided to stop blogging, go check out his stuff, it's nothing short of fantastic.

21 December 2012

Conspiracies on Lovely Days

It really was a lovely day; clear and mild, the temperatures heading over forty quaint 'merican degrees on the fahrenheit scale with only the slightest of breezes. People were pleasant to one another. There were laughs and well-wishes and stories. The realization that slowly there'd be more light on the days following was enough to illicit a smile of wicked joy. It was beautiful. Perfect. Well, as perfect as it could get without being boring.

One of my volunteers wrote a bit of snark on a white board about the end of the world being rescheduled, and my daughter made some existentialist crack-as a former philosophy/theology major, I was so very proud. Given what some thought was suppose to happen, I suppose this couldn't be helped. And I did laugh. After all, it was really fucking funny.

Back during my roaring twenties, when I hung out in diners and coffeehouses, reading far, far eastern philosophy and getting entirely too impressed with my own intelligence, I had occasion to share my company with a few conspiracy theorists. At, first, it was interesting, but the novelty wore off. Quickly. Like religious zealots, there's no reasoning with that ilk, no matter how irrefutable the facts. A younger and more impetuous me did try once or thrice.

Be that as it may, on such a lovely day, I found myself remembering a few of those cats and something my father likes to say sprung to mind;

"Who's stupid?" 

18 December 2012

Powdery Blessings

Perhaps I should make documented worries of no snow more often. Shortly after bitching about dry summer conditions, in which half the state had caught fire, the rains finally came, and we had an okay monsoon. Years and lifetimes ago, Sabina, seeing that I was purging words from my skull, asked me if I was casting spells. I gave her a quizzical glance, and she said my words were incantious-yes, it's a word, because I fucking say so-but she was probably just trying to score a date. Both the gypsy and the bruja had at one time or another remarked my words had power.

Those girls, all of them, give me far too much credit. Strange luck and roll of the bones chaos equate my stories coinciding with shifts in the meteorological pattern, not any kind of mojo. Seriously. I don't think that's how magic, if there really is such a thing, works.

Snow has been falling in our Sahel, across the mountains, for the better part of four days. At a guess, I'd say there's between four and six inches of fresh powder around the House of Owls and Bats. It's a given the snowbums are touching their no-no places in absolute glee. Travelers have told tales of slow progress and harrowing moments atop the high points along the Road. I find myself able to legitimately wear my snow boots. So it goes.

"We went about a month without snow," I told a shaken traveler. "It's a little macabre to drive in, certainly, but we're all grateful for it."

The me who lived in the middle of a city, years and lifetimes ago, would look at the me who lives in the middle of the mountains like a madman for that statement. There are a few from back then I still speak with whom would verify that, some who most likely figure I'm insane anyway. Even and especially were I to up and wax philosophical about the phantasmal nature of you's and me's. What do you do?

Meteorological prophecy foretells of these series of disturbances and strong storms getting near their death-rattle. A couple of days of calm at least before another potentially powerful storm, although, that one's still too far off to speak of in anything other than speculative tongues. Even the most hopeful of weather oracles seem to know that. 

I look out my window, taking in the freshly blanketed world. Inside, there's hot tea, a fire, and loud music. Part of me considers a brief and solitary walkabout, just to enjoy the snowbound silence. There might just be a chance for a decent snowshoe yet. And, who knows? Maybe a storm, which will finally justify that last infusion of Nepali black tea I've been holding on to for so long.

I am hopeful, and, as I've often said; hope is a very good thing to have...

16 December 2012

Levity Amongst the Chaos

Despite the gaily decorated evergreens and carolers, and even though there was the annual Christmas Market and I've had tourists ask me about a particular forfuckssakemutherfuckingJohnfuckingDenverfuckingfilm, the full implication of the time year hadn't start to settle in until a few days ago. I was at a party for the narrow gage railroad, and 'merry Christmas' and 'happy holidays' were more commonly heard than 'see you later' or 'have a good night'. Someone who knew I was Buddhist asked me what my ilk did this time of year. Not having been the first time that inquiry's been posed to me, I merely smiled, mentioned Rohatsu-which I didn't even realize happened until three days later, remember, heretic-and going to family gatherings and parties out of respect at the very least.

"Happy holidays, or whatever it is you celebrate," a tourist said to me the other day, I was wearing my fleece vest at the time, and there is an Om patch on it. I merely chuckled.

Sempi has harassed me for not at least having a tree. Never mind our tiny house, we should have one. He even went as far as saying it didn't have to be a Christmas tree; it could be a Bohdi tree, or, in my case, an exotic tree.

And, yes, insubordination be damned, I did call him a pigfucker. Twice. Wouldn't you?

With the socially acceptable excesses that accompany this time of year, I could joke that it's all gay and fine for me to indulge in great amounts of wine and/or whiskey at gathering instead of hanging back in a corner, trying to look comfortable next to a potted plant. Of course, I'm not given to attending to many parties. My paradoxical misanthropy, see? Something, which Sabina thinks has gotten a little better since we've come to the mountains, but, sometimes, I wonder if it's not gotten worse.

This is the time of year when I oscillate between depression, anger, apathy, and the occasional smiling at moments of simple humanity. I could, for the uncounted time, wax venomous about the commercialism or the theology, which spending three Christmases around southern evangelicals did nothing to help, that I am not a part of. There are the recent psychic scars of my mother and the bruja and other small tragedies, affronts, and unmentionables over the years, resulting in emotional baggage that bubbles up to the surface during a time of socially constructed peace and goodwill.

With my mother walking on this time of the year, I've been able to get out of some Christmasy things. Once, I mentioned feeling like I was moping too much. Of course, sempi reminded of something he told me back when we first became acquainted;

"That's your mom, you get to keep that." I guess at the end of the day, he's not always such a pigfucker.

Whistler has been showing growing incontinence since the last walkabout he took with me. Time was, as a champion show dog whom had traveled the wide world with my mother, he could stand to be in a crate for twelve to fourteen hours and not even blink. Lately, eight hours is pushing it, and I often try to let him out every four to six. When he has an accident, I wonder what sign I missed. I get frustrated; not at him-I cannot call him growing old his fault on a clean conscious-but at my own impotence on the matter. After all, this is the same dog that went up my Kilimanjaro with me.

I recently mentioned the First Noble Truth, and along with the realization of suffering comes the realization of impermanence. Nothing lasts forever. Forever is that fairy story lie we perpetuate to keep from screaming that one day it's lights out, and there's no way to escape it.

Whistler and Chevy, the Grumpy Old Men, my monkey's paws from my mother are not going to be around that much longer in the grand scheme of things, and the thought troubles me, as though another link to her memory will be lost to the belly of oblivion. Then again, Milarepa, the cats, and ferrets will one day be gone as well. Sabina and I don't get a forever, because, if one or both of us does not tire of our shared company, then one of us is going to be on the other side of dead, and that's just the way of it.

Such horrific black-shaped thoughts ricochet through the walls of my skull with the ferocity of summer lightning out on the tundra and across the highest peaks. The knowledge that all there is a series of moments and no happily ever after is terrifying. Understanding that even the stars die, therefore, proving as the old song goes, that we are only immortal for a limited time.

Wisdom from a celluloid sangha;

"There's no point to any of this. It's all just a random lottery of meaningless tragedies and a series of narrow escapes. So, I take pleasure in the little things..."

Perhaps this time of year, I find myself focusing more on the tiny details, lest my cynicism and baggage gets the better of me. I understand the reality of chaos, and just ride its storm winds, making note of those simple moments, which get me to smile. Whether that's a sweeping view or the stars overhead, the smile from a stranger or a hug from my daughter, I revel in it. This time of year, despite the socially constructed auspice, I seem more prone to notice the unremitting horror of a cold and indifferent universe, and I work especially hard to find those little bits of levity, as to keep myself from screaming.

This almost makes that crappy Toto song bearable as an example...

11 December 2012

One of Those Days

Gales of Chomolungma ferocity whipped down from the Roof of the World, sending snow devils to dance and frolic across the tundra high peaks and my wind chimes to sing in their bluster choir of cacophony. I brewed my lapsang souchong tea for the Himalayan motif and made a grateful note the temperatures had clawed out of the teens for the first time in two days. It was with resignation that for the first time in a season, a walkabout was right out for my agenda.

I hopped down valley to the winery. My friend and I talked politics and I helped her reach some things she could not without the aide of step stool, or a freakishly tall friend. I got to pour my own glasses. Fantastic.

Rented DVDs at the library. Picking up washer fluid for Old Scratch. It was there I lamented my lack of inclination toward a walkabout. Rain? I've got my hardshell. Snow? Layers and snowshoes. Mud? Got a certain pair of beat-up hikers for just such an occasion. Wind? Walking in a wooded area makes it not as bad, but during a winter's bluster, it's still not terribly favorable.

"It's that time of year, you know," the woman handing me my washer fluid said. "That biting wind."

"Yeh," I muttered. "One of those days." 

09 December 2012

White Wake Up

I wake up to winter. Not the dull brown of the badlands of eastern Colorado in January, or the rust still-quite of a North Carolina forest in February. No, winter. The things one sees on postcards and calendars or thinks of when Colorado is mentioned; towering peaks and snow. Just a few inches, grass still peeks above the powder in some places, but after a month without it, it's a lovely sight to behold.

It's cold out; single digits, fighting to get into the teens on the fahrenheit scale. The cold sun makes the snow glimmer like a blanket of diamonds. Mercifully, there's no wind. Wind would be cruel. It is enough to justify my parka, the one I just purchased not too long ago, the one that's too hot if it's much more than twenty-five degrees out. Looking up at Pendleton and then over to my personal Kilimanjaro, I find myself thinking the day has certain Himalayan motif, which I use as justification for brewing lapsang souchong for my morning tea.

Chakchouka is on the menu for breakfast, something spicy and north African. A big pot of three bean, two meat, Jamaican jerk style chili burbles in the crockpot. Both meals in perfect context for a cold winter's day. Sabina makes us mochas as a pre-breakfast drink. We speak on smacking one of the coffeehouses, down valley a little later.

Even tough it's the last day of Christmas Market, with the cold and snow, I don't suspect there'll be much in the way of crowds. When it snows, the down below meteorologist speak in doomsday tongues and only the bravest-and/or stupidest-of the snowbums brave the Road. Want to hear a loco merchant rant? Mention a metroplex meteorologist foretelling snow in our Sahel.

Prophecy does speak of a few more shots of snow. Even though flatlanders might stay out of the mountains if even a flake is mentioned, up here, amongst the locos, there is a collective sigh of relief. Hopeful prayers that this might be a beginning. It's winter, after all, and it should at least attempt to look like it.

04 December 2012

Pull of the Alpine

Perhaps it's been the strange state of the climate, but maybe it's the urge to do something different, or it could be I'm pregnant and have a queer craving-and no one would be more shocked at that circumstance than I-but I've been finding myself drawn toward the outback of our Sahel a bit more as of late. Screw the nearby trails I could reach on foot for a walkabout, I'm wanting tundra. Those mountain badlands.

The alpine calls upon banshee-howl winds in a siren's sing-song voice. My sense of curiosity, which has either gotten me into horrific amounts of trouble or led me to grand adventures in the past, gets piqued by this geo-environmental pull. My feet itch as I pull on my boots and start to grab my pack.

Part of me questions if I want to be up there before the snow gets flying-if it ever does. Just one of these possibly fleeting last times. After that, it's harsh winds, bitter cold, and reading the slabs for omens of avalanche. I could make it there, I've got the gear for it, but I guess it's all a matter of what I want to carry and be ready for. Perhaps that's prima donna of me, which would be addle-brained; there's neither time nor place for prima donnaism in the outback.

I grab my pack, stuffing it with things to eat and water. My layers are chosen under the auspice of weight and warmth, knowing the divinity of motion. The hounds watch me, knowing one gets to accompany me on my trek. One of them gets to get lost with me for a few hours out in the nameless places.


Up top, chilled wind caresses us as we stop for water and our snacks. Milarepa curls close to me, not because she's cold, but because she enjoys being close when we stop. She slurps her water eagerly and eats her treats as though it's the finest of meals. After that, she leans against me for company whilst I somewhat absently stroke her coat, surveying my surroundings.

We stand upon a primeval lake. In the summer, it's been joked, one would expect to see a t-rex, or perhaps some variety of velociraptor. This time of year, perhaps a mammoth or a smilodon. It is a place that exists out of time in the context of human understanding. You could tell someone there were dragons or yetis out here, and, most likely, not be lying.

From here I can see a formation called the Citadel. There are stories of deep winter backcountry skiing from its summit and full on climbs up it in high summer. From my vantage point, it's just a neat piece of geography to behold. A signpost in this stretch of never-never.

Were we so inclined, there is a trail, which starting in Mexico, cuts through this territory, along the Roof of the World, all the way up to Canada. The other day, Sabina and I half-joked about doing the whole thing. It's only thirty-one hundred miles, after all. Someday.

A gust buffets us, and I pull away from Milarepa. She looks up at me expectantly, wondering where the next part of our adventure will take us. I smile warmly as I re-shoulder my pack, letting the enchantment of the alpine wash over me like a half-frozen mist, patting her head in the process.

"Time to head back down, sweet girl," I say to her, and then toss her a final treat before we start walking again. "Thank you for keeping me company."

30 November 2012

Khaki Fears

Usually, by this time of year, between the first snows, the temperatures, and the fact there's no direct sun on the house from it being the long dark, we have our base-coat of snow out back, which lasts until spring. It makes it all the more shocking that on the precipice of December the remnants of the first snows of the season, the first snow of winter, that there's really nothing in the way of snow out back. A walkabout up Grizzly Gulch the other day met with encounters of frozen water crossings-good thing I took my crampons-but little else, and I ended up in the krumholtz at the foot of Grizzly Peak.

"You been over the passes lately?" An older regular traveler from out of the Babylonian wastes surrounding Viva! Las Vegas! asked me.

"We did a loop the other day," I replied. There was a new vehicle to play Hansel and Gretel in. Roadies and roadtripping. Something to do on a breezy afternoon.

"There isn't enough snow up there to make a snowman," he snorted. "This is bad. Real bad."

"Preaching to the choir, Sir," I said. "But it's early yet. We've still got some winter left."

"Pray you're right," he said. I couldn't bring myself to tell him the only time I prey is in the context of the food chain.

A little over a month ago, whilst returning home from a walkabout, I was taking note of the gentle autumn sunlight filtering lazily through the trees. Insects danced in this glow. The air was warm and the breezes kind. I suddenly found myself filled with dread.

"This is going to be repeat of last winter," I whispered to myself. "That was part of the beginning."

Years back, the idea of mild temperatures and no snow would've pleased me. Perhaps I was selfish. That was another life. A past one. These days, whilst not overly thrilled with bitter cold or having to dig out of a blizzard, I do understand that the snows of winter are not just for the snowbums. Farmers need the runoff for their fields and it certainly helps the mountains from catching fire come summer. All things are connected and that's just the way of it.

There is something macabre about walking in a dried out riverbed that just a couple years back was swollen past capacity with runoff rapids. Of standing on the tundra in early winter and seeing more khaki than white. Hearing that this pattern does not look to be abating anytime soon, doomsayer fears that it may be the way it's going to be for a very long time. The new norm.

"Keep doing your snow-dances," an oracle with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said in a correspondence.

Meteorological prophesy speaks of a possibility of snow in the coming days, though the amounts are not as clear. Prophets do not know everything and oracles can be wrong. Other diviners state the drought, which has gripped a good deal of the country, will persist through at least deep winter. One of my deepest fears is a drought like what drove away the Anasazi.

Average snow would be nice, and it'd look like a bumper year after the last one. I hold out a bit of tepid optimism; it's still early in the season, there's still a bit of winter to come. Perhaps, in a few weeks, these fears will be shown to be unfounded. I cannot dance to save the soul I'm not sure I have, and I only prey in context of the food chain. Be that as it may, I wonder about sacrificing a chicken, or a virgin-if I could find one-for just a little bit of fluffy frozen water.

26 November 2012

Old Scratch

Upon the initial glance, the burgundy paint looks quite eye-catching for a vehicle coming up on its thirteenth year. It is only upon closer inspection does one notice the dings and faded spots. Diabolical countenance. The way of the Devil. Perhaps the driving reason I named it Old Scratch.

It's not been in our possession a week and I've already slathered it with stickers. Such is the way. My Free Tibet one is the closest I really come to advertising my politics.

Sabina and I have spoken of one day getting what the matron calls a beep-beep jeep. Something to cover with stickers and take on the dusty outback roads of our Sahel and beyond whilst rocking out to some Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. That's someday. For now, a Devilishly named Subaru will do quite nicely.

20 November 2012


Every time I visit Clifford Griffin I find myself wondering why he chose to shoot himself at one of the windiest locations in the upper valley. Maybe it was the wind, and not a woman, as some of the stories say. He never answers when I ask. Of course, the fact he's been dead the last one-hundred five years probably has something to do with that.

It wasn't as blustery as it can be at there, and, like last winter, there wasn't a lot of snow on the trail. Milarepa and I sat by the monument enjoying the view, the sun, water, and an apple. She was very excited; the last few times I've been up to hang out with Clifford, Whistler's been with me, but those following along at home know how that's played out.

"You know I'll still see other puppies," I told her. "But out here, on the trail, it's just you and me, kid."

18 November 2012

Letter to a Phantasm

"And I miss you
 like the deserts miss the rain..."
-Everything but the Girl

The girl on the bench had long, thick flame-red dreadlocks. I could hear her laugh as she spoke into her phone. I had to double-take, then a triple. I knew the truth even as I scanned her features and listened closer to her voice, her laugh; it wasn't you, just a cruel trick of the light, memory, and a fool's hope.

I fucking swear, mon ami, your phantasm haunts me more than that one x of mine, visions of my mother, my grandmother, or even Jibril. Part of me considers disliking you-strongly-for it. But can I really blame you? You've been dead and gone two years now, and I cannot imagine you wanting to unintentionally torment me with your ghost at every other turn.

It's not like I've not dealt with death before. I grew up on a farm. I began to understand the First Nobel Truth, the realization of suffering, of death, by the time I was six. I danced with the dead for money once, hearing some horror stories of the reality of disease process-some of the drinking nights I had from those tales border upon mythic.

Jibril had four kidneys in his body, and not one of them worked, despite my efforts to help him get a new one transplanted. My grandmother tried an aces over eights bluff against mythical death gods with an experimental surgery instead of accepting the sentence delivered by the aneurysm slowly chocking her eighty-one year old heart. My mother was devoured by a rarer strain of cervical cancer by no other reason than bad things happen to good people, even if good and bad are constructs invented to make sense of the roll of the bones chaos.

All three of those deaths rattled me profoundly. You know that. Be that as it may, when it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts, I can say I saw them coming.

But, you, dearheart, were Hell and gravedust, and cobwebs, and razorblades, and maggots. You were the surprise. Right the fuck out of nowhere, wrong place, wrong time, surprise! you're dead! You know how much I loath surprises.

I suppose if you'd survived the experience, you'd probably had been far more upset about it and I'm just being selfish. After all, I only lost a friend. You lost your unborn son in the deal too.

The First Noble Truth is the realization of suffering...

It's taken me years to reconcile my heretical faith, it seems. That had started with my mother's death, the year before. We were just starting into corresponded discussions of our theological evolutions shortly before your rollover. Even though the first Noble Truth of Buddhism speaks to the chaos inherent in the universe, I confess, I was getting a little nihilistic right after we all put you in the ground. It took some time for Humpty-Dumpty to pull himself back together again.

I remember that tarot card oracle you cast for me, four months after my grandmother died, when you said I would find enlightenment. You once referred to me as your mountain bodhisattva. Both statements I found a bit ballsy, and giving me far more credit than I might want or deserve. Although, amusingly enough, Lee agreed with you about my enlightenment once, by virtue of how and where I choose to live and who I choose to share my life with.

Of course, I've often maintained that the cat who says they're enlightened clearly isn't. The only way I could really accept your mantel of being enlightened is if enlightenment means I don't know every fucking thing and content myself with the mysteries, knowing for every question answered, like weeds, ten more spring up in its place. Every time I think I know, that I've arrived, as the buzzword goes, I find more riddles and set off to solve those, because ignorance leads to suffering, which perpetuates samsara.

I'd say it's because we stand upon the date of your accident, and those five days your family kept your shell alive on machines after the fact that is why you've been within the mathematics of my thoughts as of late, why I saw your phantasm in the shape of a traveling girl in a set of dreads. That would be a lie. You're within the walls of my skull a lot. I think of you as the one friend who didn't think I'd completely lost my mind when I announced I was over and done with the city and moving to the mountains and if anyone got in my way I'd eat their fucking liver. Slowly.

"Ah so. And you find why I disappear into the mists of mountain tops and people who breath the word zen as deeply as they breathe the air," you said.

It endeared me to you. But there were so many tiny things you did to do that. I could get so angry with you I'd want to spit coffin nails-you fucking up and dying on me is a shinning example-and you'd go and do something and I'd remember why you were my friend. Why you've always meant so much to me.

You didn't wear your seatbelt, and I can never forgive you for that. But, you very well know I do not believe in forgiveness. Forgiveness implies that it never happened, when, oh, but it did. That is denial, and not in the context of the great African river.

I believe in acceptance. The understanding a thing happened and cannot be made to unhappen. So it goes.

I accept that you're gone. That we'll never finish those theological discussions we started. That we'll never have that teahouse date we always spoke of. That your son will never address me as Dirty Uncle Bob. That we'll never swap any more stories or I'll never get to skeptically harass you over the tarots. I accept that all I have are the memories and the stories.

And, although it rattles the fuck out of me every time it happens, I accept seeing your memory ghost superimposed upon the flesh overcoats of strangers. Were I to allow myself a moment of superstition, I would theorize it's your way of letting me know you're about, perhaps making sure I'm still reptile zen as ever. Even if that isn't the case, I find myself grateful for it, if, for no other reason, it keeps me from even trying to forget you.

Not that I could, even on a bet...     

17 November 2012

Growed Up

"It's my jam!" You proclaim when I put this on...

Would you like to explain to me how this happened? Well, okay, there was the obvious; once upon a time, your mother and I were young and in love and when two people love each other very much they might do what the hip kids on the street call knocking boots. That's not what I mean.

You're eighteen now. Muthafuckingeighteen! An adult in the eyes of the law and the growth rate of the species. What?

Did I miss a meeting?

It took me a couple years to start seeing you past being ten. You were kind of stuck in the temporal loop of being fifteen in my mind's eye, despite the fact you've been driving to visit me for a bit. So, you must understand, this comes as a bit of a shock.

Of course, you know full how well how time is a dubious proposition for me, even though, paradoxically, I possess an innate sense of punctuality. Fuck, sempi is convinced I stopped aging at fifteen, not forty like I decided. Queer. Although, biologically, at fifteen I could've sired offspring, even if when around girls at that age I only wanted to drink lemonade and read the bible. Maybe play some Parcheesi or rummy.

And you better not be snickering to that statement, young lady. Just because you're all growed up now doesn't mean you're not still my little girl. I can still ground you or give you a beating or something, I just can no longer sell you off for a dowry. Not that I'd do that, the whole dating thing you've been doing for a bit is another subject I have a hard time approaching.

Despite my liner shell shock at the state of the chronological union, I am proud of you. I know you've got some big dreams, and I'm confident you'll pull it off. After all, look at your father when it comes to going after what he wants. It's in your blood. Blessing or curse is a matter of mood, aspect, and the day. As long as you're following your tao and not baring your jugular to anyone, you know I've got your shadow.

Happy birthday, little princess...

14 November 2012

Chasing the Sun

The rocks favored a north face, so it really wasn't surprising there was residual snow and ice on them. It slowed my progress, but the climb has never been of technical flavor that favors ropes and belays, and that's not the kind of climbing I do anyway. Despite the snow and ice, it was a nice scrabble, which I knew was the last one I'd be doing for awhile. I've never learned the discipline of ice climbing, and, like skiing and/or snowboarding, I cannot say I've ever had much interest to give it a go.

At the top, I was afforded a vantage point that stretched up and down the valley. The funky little mountain township I think of as my Kashmir spread out below. I could see the final shards of direct sunlight upon the House of Owls and Bats. In just a few days, that would no longer happen, and the long dark would be here. An involuntary shiver passed through my frame.

It's part of the price of admission; to live where I want to live, I must endure six weeks of dysfunctional Alaska. So it goes. The world's axis is the reason for the season. After so many years up here, I've gotten to the point of just regarding it as a harbinger of winter and look forward to the days when direct sunlight shines on the house once more.

I sat back on the rock, surveying my surroundings. The sun was warm on my face and crisp early winter breezes teased the tendrils of my dysfunctional calico hair. I could sense it; for a bit, my walkabouts were going to favor the southern faces, less snow and more sunlight. Unless we get struck with a particularly impressive blizzard, I know I won't even attempt to snowshoe until deep winter. That's just the way of it.

It was not until coming to the mountains that I truly understood just how much influence that celestial nuclear furnace held over us. Differences in wiring is why, despite my wonky sleep patterns, I am not as nocturnal as I once was, whilst Sabina is only up at dawn if she's not slept. An interesting dynamic that makes the prospect of an early morning walkabout with her a dubious proposition.

In the time I sat up top, watching my tiny world go by, I could see the sun dancing along the ridge line of Mount Pendleton. Incrementally, I watched the direct light fade from the row of houses along Rue Maji, the House of Owls and Bats being amongst the first. In just a few more days, there would not be that kind of light at all and that's just the way of it. Mei fei tsu.

With a shrug I started to make my way back down. I was heading into the shadows, but that didn't bother me too much. After all, it's part of the price, and all things for a price, that's the deal. I might be living in perpetual shadow for a bit, but I know I'll be chasing the sun.

11 November 2012

Goose-Down and Gore-Tex

And so, with acceptance, I declared yesterday the first day of High Country winter. My parka and a beanie were pragmatic-and, dash stylish, I might add, though I'm more anti-fashion than fashionable-Miguel Loco would've been proud. The wind carried that bite to it, which cuts through exposed skin clear down past the marrow. Flurries passed through in the manner of soft floating feathers or stinging barbs of ice. Mist clouds coiled about the mountainsides, Chinese dragons swooping down the jetstream from the Roof of the World and beyond; it was said the storm was borne from the Gulf of Alaska. Later in the afternoon and into the early evening, as the temperature dropped, and the ice solidified upon the Road, it became remedial day as, once more, travelers reacquainted themselves with winter driving.

Sabina did not take my declaration with relish or even mustard, but fished her own parka out of the back room. We spoke of hopping down valley and smacking a coffeehouse for something to do. Some of our first dates were at a coffeehouse near the Temple of the Jinn, in that historic district, where I used to live. We've not gone for a coffee as much up here in our Sahel, but that might just change, and a cold second day of High Country winter is as good an excuse as any.

I was out back with the hounds when the wind kicked up, Tibetan in its countenance. The breeze buffered against my parka and a thin dusting of snow kissed the soles of my boots. I found myself thinking of the Snow Queen, Yuki-Onna, and her particular coldness.

It has been a long time since I've made allowance for the concept of an anthropomorphic deity as anything other than fiction. Be that as it may, I considered reminding the goddess of winter that I am in possession of goose-down and Gore-Tex. I thought of mentioning I have acclimatized to the meteorological whims and whiles of this landscape I call home. I kicked around requesting at least one decent snowshoe for the coming winter since last year was a bust in that aspect.

Whether or not my considered dialogs were heard is a matter of one's superstition. With a shrug, I went back inside for the fire and the last of my morning tea. Along the way, I thought of getting my snowshoes ready just in case.

06 November 2012

Drop-Out Day

Not a day goes by that I do not find myself grateful for not owning a television. I can get my documentary geek on through a few streams along the spider's web of cyber as well as news and weather, and the 'puter does have DVD player for the odd film. This has been the paradigm for years, and I do not feel bad about it, even if Sabina and I have gotten a concussed look of genuine confusion from people we've told when they've asked if we've watch the latest hot telly show.

However, this day, I find myself especially grateful. After my daily keeping up with correspondences and otherwise checking in-'making sure the world ain't blowed up yet', as my father would say-I have resolved to drop out for most of the rest of the day. I have my reasons and if you have to ask, you'll probably never fucking know. Certainly, it could be considered apathetic, but I cast my lot a bit ago and have no desire to be ringside to the dogfight I'm sure is going to ensue.

My grandmother, were she still alive, would be all but glued to her television set. So it goes. This, along with Colorado frontier history, was one of those things she lived for. I've always found those who can eat, breathe, and sleep a thing to exclusion of all others interesting, though, it depends on the day and my mood whether I regard those cats with fascination or disdain.

And, at some point during the day, she would've been tracking me down. She would've wanted to know my thoughts-'tell me what's new and interesting', was her preferred method of starting a conversation. Chances are, she'd ask if I knew my friends opinions as well.

In the last few years of her life, love and respect her though I did and still do, I found myself disagreeing with my grandmother more and more. The rhetoric on her side was becoming increasingly hateful. More xenophobic. More fanatical. I like to believe I am pretty easy-going when it comes to one's beliefs and philosophies; I become indignant, at best, when someone tries to tell me what to do or how to live my life, so why do that to someone else? Those who do try to impose their will upon others can get the demon that hides behind my eyes to come out, and, if they're lucky, I just growl no thank you and stalk off in the general direction of away. Otherwise, if I'm feeling gentle, they might get to limp away with just a few scars.    

So, I checked the PBS site to verify a couple episodes of Nature I was interested in were accessible to watch as well as Austin City Limits so I might hear a particular song from the Civil Wars I often hear within the walls of my skull, but cannot recall the title to. These are things to do once the sun disappears behind Pendelton's ridge line. Already, it's begun; the growing shadows. In just a few weeks, we will have entered the long dark. It can be a bitch living at the lower border of a north face.

The streaming of documentaries was not to be until later. There were other things to do. Thus, I went for my pack. The hounds watched me intently as I packed my water bottle and grabbed my trek pole and slid my fleece vest on. Chevy, having been sentenced to arthritis for over two years now just gave me a resigned look, a walk to check the post is usually too much for him. Whistler's gaze was a little more expectant and forlorn.

"Even if you weren't deciding to slow down on me, not this go 'round, mon ami," I said. I looked over at Milarepa, who eyed me with youthful expectant excitement. "You neither, I'm afraid."

The four of us went outside for a run before I left. I wanted to do this walkabout alone. It was going to just be along the narrow gage tracks down valley, so nothing overly technical. The solitude would be nice before I wandered into the off-season weekday crowds, if such a description could be apt. I was hoping Miguel Loco would be in at the very least.

Heading along the tracks turned into a dysfunctional game of cat in mouse; train employees getting things in place for the upcoming Big Horn Sheep Festival this weekend, and me not wanting to get caught trespassing walking along railroad tracks. None of the parties involved were neither caught or hurt. I did discover that my bicycle riding had gifted me with the ability to jog fairly well. Owning up, I cannot run, between the last visages of asthma and awkward movements. However, it looks like I can jog when I need to move fast on my own two legs, instead of just walking briskly. Whenever I did it, I reminded myself why I stopped smoking, oh, so long ago.

Seeing Miguel Loco was a twofold mission; the first, as he wanted me to watch his shoppe on a Sunday-will work for gear!-the second, was to get my parka I'd been working on paying off from him before a prophised coming of cool weather. Sales did not dictate the requirement of my services, but I did get my coat. We spoke to the divinity of snow for the wellbeing of our Sahel at this time of year and our respective livelihoods, and to living without televisions.

Having my parka and snowboots at home, all I could think with the worst of the snow and cold was; muthafucking bring it!

I swung by the winery to see another friend and help her through the snake's tail of a bottle of reserve wine that had been open a few days for tasting. A horrible thing, really. But, for my friends, I will drink expensive wine. It's no trouble. Honest. I do it for the team.

Stop fucking snickering...

My reason for seeing her was to bring up an upcoming historical talk on the Anasazi. Both of us having an appreciation for those cultures, it was set as a date. I sat and listened to her tales of travel in the American Maghreb, and of seeing cliff-dwellings firsthand. Something I've yet to do, but it's on my metaphoric list. Something I will do.

Later in the afternoon, my walkabout home was not fraught with the French-film complications of dodging railroad workers. It was a leisurely trek back up-valley. The sun, falling faster behind the valley walls this time of year, glinted warmly off the summit of my personal Kilimanjaro, raging against the dying of the light. I smiled at the sight, my mountain lighting my way home amongst the dimness of the canyon forest.

The walkabout began and ended in the town's cemetery. Time was, I was terrified of necropoleis, fearing where the dead sometimes slept, and sometimes, if stories were to believed, wandered. I was much more superstitious back then.

"You have all those skulls in your house, and you've kept tarantulas!" The bruja said once on the subject. "And yet you're afraid of a few gravestones? You?!?"

I've never made any illusions that my hypocrisies knows no bounds...

Perhaps it was the bruja calling me on my bullshit. Maybe it's sempi's husband, once having oversaw Oakland Cemetery back in Atlanta, and telling me stories. It could be my superstitions have evolved, and I find myself more inclined to be more frightened of the specters clad in skin and bone and the ghosts of memory then any phantasm bugaboo from beyond the veil.

These days, when coming back from certain walkabouts, I smile when I see the first gravestones, which mark the far eastern edge of town's necropolis. I do not see undead monsters coming for me with malign intent, but the gentle voices of those who have been here before; ancestors of different families, as it were. Seeing those markers means I am nearly home, and, in that, I find profound comfort.        

30 October 2012

Atop the Bull's Head

I sat atop the Bull's Head under a big turquoise sky, contemplating emptiness and everything. Next to me was Whistler, enjoying the bits of apple I tossed him to snack on, his own treats already consumed. I was much more contemplative.

I am presently in the bardo between motorized vehicles. Muses of what to make for dinner, and, more immediately, lunch equated to the mathematics of my thoughts. Lazy mental meanderings, much as part of the walkabout had been a physical one.

There was a slight bite to the autumn breeze, but, as always, the views were magnificent. Someone once told me there were those who became complacent living in the mountains. I offered to hunt those poor souls down and administer euthanasias. After all, I am a big believer in euthanasia, as well as youth in Africa and other places of the world.

The youth are our future are they not?

I could say I'd not a care in the world, but that would've been a lie. Whistler, sitting so companionably beside me with a shared apple, had difficulties reaching the the top of the Bull's Head with me. In fact, I had to carry him up the rocky natural steps. I noticed how he occasionally lagged a little further behind me as we walked the trail.

Were I to anthropomorphize, I would say his canid gaze carried a bit of an apology. That he was reminding me he is nearly fourteen years old. Twice my chronological age in his lifespan. An active senior.

I am the one who refuses to age any further. To get old. Over and done with that noise, I say. Whether or not one of my favorite walkabout companions can achieve the same feat is another proposition. With a resigned sigh, I sat back, scritching Whistler behind the ears as we finished the apple. I couldn't help but wonder if this time atop the Bull's Head might be one of our last. 

25 October 2012

The Aspects of Snow

Meteorological professionals down below called it the second snowfall of the season. I suppose such an event is a matter of aspect. True, there was about an inch of powder on the grass back at the beginning of the month, but, aside from documentation, that almost doesn't count. Besides, there were dustings up upon the tundra a week or two before that. As I shoveled my walk in the pre-dawn light, I was willing to call it the first real snowfall of the season. Then again, depending upon your philosophical bent, real can be a dubious proposition. A matter of aspect.

Because I'm committed, or perhaps should be, I am still being a footwalker and a bike rider. We've all but sold my vehicle and are in the process of procuring a new one. One without the metaphoric albatross of payments. I'll start driving again then, or during the coldest of January, whichever comes first. Then again, me being me, I'll probably catch myself coming up with rationalization not to burn fuel, and still be riding, walking, or perhaps even snowshoeing to where I want to go. I have layers, and I'm not afraid to use them.

That's how I ended up on the bike path in the snow...

If you think about it, a bicycle is essentially a rear-wheel drive vehicle. Like driving a mechanized vehicle in the snow, one needs to be mindful of conditions. Under dry conditions, when riding down valley, I hurtle down at the speed of pure inertia. It's fun! The vertical feet whizzing by like that. With the snow, and a thin crust of ice beneath, I was more inclined to use my breaks, moving at just a bit more than walking speed. There was still the wind of motion, threatening to leave ice crystals in my beard. Next to me on the Road, things with combustion engines did not move much faster. Snowflakes swirled around us. Low hanging clouds coiled about the peaks in manner of serpents and Chinese dragons. Our Sahel looks strangely beatific in those first snowfalls.

A wise man of my acquaintance once noted that winter isn't bad, just different. I brought this up to a preservationist I know when she mentioned the sense of mysticism in the the first snows, the preludes of winter. Living within the bosom of the Rockies, I've come to see that snow is not bad, just different. Even with my twisted skeleton, I find myself not dreading the coming of winter. After all, I have layers, and I'm not afraid to use them.

17 October 2012


An autumn bluster raced through the valley, sending my wind chimes spinning and flailing to a soundtrack of cacophony with a roaring backbeat. My daughter, visiting for a few days on her fall break, but fettered to obligations down below, helped me heft boxes full of books into her vehicle. Donations for the library. It was a conflicted feeling; I'm all about acquiring books, reading books, sharing books, giving books as presents to fellow bookworms, but this donating books that haven't made it out of their boxed time capsules since moving to our Sahel is a different proposition. A subject I struggled to approach.

I oscillate from packrat, holding onto fliers from special nights at juke joints and art gallery openings, ten years or more gone now, because of mastery of its composition or a particular memory, convinced I may one day have a use for it, to bing, purge, and burn nihilistic minimalist, remembering excavations from after my grandmother and mother walked on, bemoaning with other relations all the shit they accumulated, swearing to never inflict that on someone else. Sabina suffers from a similar bit of packrat, or perhaps she enjoys it, I've never been one to pry. Then there's the fact we live in a cozy little former miner's cabin-molted-into-a-Victorian that's not even six-hundred square feet. We share this domicile with three dogs, three cats, six ferrets, and my daughter on occasion. Not to mention the occasional spider stowaway I will not allow Sabina to kill.

One can see where packratisum-is that even a word? It is now, fuck you-can present a problem...

"We better do this before I lose my nerve," I told my daughter.  Something I said to Sabina a few months before when I purged another number of boxed books to a thrift store.

So we hopped down valley two miles to the library. The woman behind the desk, a smiley thing with a nose stud, wolf-blue eyes, and dyed black hair helped us in and thanked us for the donations. Apparently, I was not the only one unburdening myself of tomes that day. I returned one documentary I'd checked out and renewed the two David Attenborough ones I was still working on. Mission accomplished.

"Want to do lunch?" I asked my daughter as mountain breezes tickled out thick manes outside. "It's before pittance, so we'll have to go dutch, but I know where we can get tacos for pretty cheap."

"It's a date," she said and I grinned like a cheshire cat.

So we ate tacos, chips, and salsa. Drank dark Mexican beer and soda. We spoke of the divinity of the Beatles and Bob Marley. Eviscerating hipsters for sport and dissecting tourists for curiosity-these are a few of our favorite things. My daughter asked if I'd mind her company in the next few days for supper, which was probably asked more out of courtesy than anything. She wanted to bring her boyfriend of nine months up again, and he's not too terrible. I was gentle upon our first meeting, and I'm sure after some therapy, reconstructive surgery, and a new central nervous system he'll be able to walk again. He did survive, after all, and that should mean something.


As an aside; I told Jezebel of my first encounter with my daughter's boy, and I was accused-quite baselessly, I might add-of being melodramatic. Me! I informed her of the impossibility of this; I might be in touch with my feminine side, having gone as far as to shave it, but I do not have a drop of estrogen in my physiology, ergo, negating the possibility of me being melodramatic. She said some who shot john about me being a storyteller, and how storytellers, by their very nature, are given to drama, sometimes worse than midwestern housewives, goth royalty, and/or drag queens. At this point, I mentioned what I'd recently done to her mother involving midgets-you've got to have midgets-and marionette puppets, and she just giggled, as if I vindicated her slanderous assertion.

But that story is not this one...


So, I bid my daughter farewell under the last bone-rattle aspen leaves of breezy autumn day. I shouldered my backpack and headed to the general store for a bottle of clam juice. Etouffee was on the evening's menu, and I required clam juice. The proprietor and I spoke in the easy tongues of High Country off season on a weekday, with wistful half-prayers for a good winter. A certain simplicity made manifest in the human affliction, which left me with a warm feeling, as though the sun were in my belly, even if I am far too skinny to contain the daystar therein.

I still needed to get home. There was tea to drink, David Attenborough documentaries to watch, and etouffee to make. I had a busy relaxed day ahead of me and wanted to get moving. So, I cut up the canyon, occasionally wandering the narrow-gauge tracks. This time of year, the train only runs on the weekends, so I didn't have to worry about getting run over. Even then, I'm pretty familiar with the schedule. My route brought me to a boulder field, meaning I was going to have to do some scrambling.

Climbing on rocks? Along with walking in woods? Oh no! Madness, I say, sheer madness! Please, don't throw me in that brier patch!

You believe me, right?

I cut through wind and season stripped groves of aspens, including the Lair of the Boogieman. Past great boulders and along a very, very, very low river. The walkabout was meditative. I would stop for periods to allow the breezes flowing through the trees to was over me. It was perfect, or as close to perfect as it can get without becoming boring.

Thoreau was once quoted with the mantra of simplicity. There are those who said he ate his mother's cookies and fucked Emerson's wife when he was supposed to be living the life of an ascetic. Still, I like dig the quote. Besides, which of us is perfect? Perfection is boring. It's the quirks and flaws that make things truly interesting.

Gunpowder tea is good for afternoons; light and simple. As I put on my whore-red kettle I contemplated the concept of simplicity; the purging of years boxed books and walking up a mountain canyon with belly full of taco and beer. Watching documentaries in the lazy afternoon light and creole dinners. The rhythm of the seasons and the friendly conversations in that context. I couldn't help but think I was having a wonderful day, simple though it was.       

14 October 2012

Epilogue; Under the Blanket of Night

Her wounds had healed, though she looked liked she’d been burned in places all across her body. Scalded droplets of scarred flesh. If queried, she would say someone threw acid at her once, leaving the scattered marks across her skin. Her hair covered the scaring where fangs had once punched through her scalp.

If withdrawal hadn’t gotten her away from the seeds for good, then nearly overdosing certainly did. Sometimes, she would tell recovering addicts at the refugee shelter she’d overdosed once and went through withdrawal. The one thing that helped her through was the vision of an angel. She never mentioned that the angel she spoke of had the eyes of serpent and spun webs like a spider.

The wind had taken on its cool autumnal bite. Once more, Cynder found herself wearing a coat at night. On some mornings, there was a thin layer of frost.

It was a warmer night and they all were gathered at the silo. Poison cradled Eclipse in his arms whilst Cynder leaned against Scarecrow as he occasionally ran his talons through her hair. All four of them were looking at the stars, marveling at their cold diamond brilliance.

She realized that she loved him completely. It was a sense of love she had never felt for anyone or anything in her life. She could not imagine her life without him, that part of her would die if they were to ever become separated.

Yet, although she knew she loved Scarecrow, it wasn’t like love girls she worked with at the refugee shelter would describe with songs they heard or poems they were given by suitors. The love she felt wasn’t like that between child and parent or siblings. It wasn’t like the emotional attachment of very close friends. It was far deeper, stronger than that. Something Cynder sometimes wondered was a different emotion altogether from love, but love was the only word she could find to describe it.

Whatever it was, Scarecrow felt it too. She could sense it. He had helped her through withdrawal and protected her when she was in danger. When she had been poisoned in more than one way, he worked desperately to save her life. He was always elated when she came to watch the stars with him. When her gaze met his cold blue eyes, the emotion she could only describe as love was evident.

Being there at the silo, in the company of the hunters, looking up at the stars was perfect. Nothing existed beyond the moment under a blanket of night. She truly relished these times. Scarecrow’s company, Poison’s odd humor, Eclipse’s games of chess. This, along with her late night walks and her work with refugees, was her life now. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

At one point, Cynder felt eyes on her and turned to meet Eclipse’s gaze. It was for only the briefest of moments before the hunter’s amber eyes once more drifted upward toward the night sky. In that moment, Cynder sensed a sort of longing mixed with a little bit of envy. She realized the bonded pair missed the lama. They still hadn’t found a simian, and Cynder’s company was the closest they were getting to that, even if she had been chosen by Scarecrow.

She looked up at him, almost desperately. Poison’s anger over the lama’s murder had subsided somewhat, and was replaced by the dull ache of not having a human companion. Eclipse just seemed genuinely heartbroken. Cynder felt for both of them, even if she was unsure of what to do.

“When do you think?” She started, unsure of how to further word her inquiry. Even sensations and images seemed inadequate.

What looked like a smile formed on Scarecrow’s face. His tongue tested the night air as his mind brushed gently against hers. She could feel his talons softly working through her hair.

“In the fullness of time,” he said. She leaned against him with a slight smile, returning her gaze to the stars. His answer was all there was, and, right then, it had to be enough.

12 October 2012


She was swept into a vortex of rainbow colors. Lightning clawed across her field of vision. The one reality she knew for certain was the burning within her. Tendrils of smoke wrapped around her like the tentacles or some otherworldly beast.

Her heart throbbed within her chest and her breathing felt labored. Whatever the feral did when he put his fangs into her was obviously causing the burning. It had briefly caused paralysis. It was hard to tell if what else was happening was because of that as well or the three handfuls of seeds she took. She was pretty sure she’d overdosed.

She was going to die, she realized. Whether it was because of hunter’s poison or the amount of seeds she wasn’t sure. As the hallucinations flashed before her, she figured at least she’d die on a fun high. She just hoped it wouldn’t be too painful.

…No!…Scarecrow’s voice ripped into her mind…Cynder, stay with me!…

His cold blue eyes came into focus. He was holding her close, not breaking her gaze. She could feel the hallucinations, but it was as if he was using his mind to keep them at bay, a maelstrom in the background, threatening to drown her. The burning became more intense and she cried out in pain.

“Trust me?” He asked her.

She tried to speak, but her mouth and tongue worked for little else than whimpers of pain. She reached out with a shaky hand, the venom had made it look as withered as an old woman’s. With great concentration, she strung her thoughts together and reached his mind.

…You know I do…

What looked like a smile formed on thin lips. His tongue flicked out, testing air. His embrace on her tightened. She could sense how worried he was. Whatever he meant to do might not work.

“Good,” he said. “Hold on. Stay with me.”

He placed his mouth over the wounds in her scalp. She could feel his forked tongue probing into the punctures. It was curiously soothing. Then, she felt him start to suck at the wounds. The heat began to abate a little.

Scarecrow pulled away briefly. Cynder heard him spitting, fighting back the urge to retch. Again, he placed his mouth over the punctures, repeating the process.

The smoke dissipated first. Looking at her hand, it didn’t look so shriveled anymore. There were still some open wounds where the smoke had escaped, but she no longer felt like she was burning inside. She even felt the effects of the seeds were lessened.

Eventually, Scarecrow pulled away for the last time. This time, he allowed himself to vomit fully. Cynder looked beside them and saw a pool of thick black fluid. The realization that that was what was inside her made her sick to her stomach. Scarecrow looked into her eyes and another smile formed on his inhuman face.

“Cynder better?”

All she could do was nod. Tears began to flow freely from her eyes. Scarecrow pulled her close as she sobbed. She could feel his talons stroking her hair.

“I’m sorry,” she wept looking into his cold blue eyes. “I’m so sorry.”

“No need,” He said. “No need.”

“But I ran away!” Cynder cried. “I took the seeds again! You must be mad at me.”

“No, no,” Scarecrow said gently, hugging her tightly once more and stroking her hair. “Cynder clever. Very, very clever.”

10 October 2012

Bad Seed

As the feral began to close the distance between them, Cynder began to think malice might not be as fitting as she initially thought. It was as if he wasn’t really concerned with her other than as prey, and as a means to an end. He didn’t even really seem to care there were other hunters in the city; he wanted territory with a steady food supply. The others were an obstacle to overcome, nothing more. His goal was to be well fed, and being the only hunter in a city would insure that.

She brought her hands to her mouth, as though to stifle a scream, and swallowed hard. It seemed unlikely she could talk to the feral or that the hunters would have any interest in doing such. Perhaps this was unfortunate. She swallowed hard again as the first webs began to shoot from his clawed fingertips. She was going to die, and she found there was no way she could bring herself to accept it.

“Stop!” Scarecrow’s voice barked out of the darkness. “Now! Enough!”

He emerged from the shadows flanked by Poison and Eclipse. All three carried themselves in the manner of being ready to pounce, their eyes blazing in the low-light. The feral made a sound, which came across like a satisfied chuckle. With a quick snap of his wrist, he pulled Cynder closer to him. She swallowed hard one last time before moving her hands from her mouth, setting her jaw. Eclipse cocked her head quizzically, as his noticing what may have been some black staining around the young human’s mouth.

“Cynder mine!” Scarecrow hissed, stepping forward. “Stand away!”

The feral hissed loudly, holding out a hand to stay the other three hunters. There were hisses and clicks, sensations that Cynder could not make out. Strange images and sounds. She wondered if they were trying to negotiate.

“How it is,” the feral said finally, looking down at her. “Accept it.”

His mouth opened wider and two very large and cruelly shaped black fangs dropped forward. Briefly, Cynder wondered if that’s why the hunter’s speech carried the clicking sound it did. Not that it mattered. She tried not to let her fear show as the feral brought her closer to him.

“You’re a fucking coward!” She spat.

The fangs punched into her scalp, past flesh, muscle, and bone. The pain made her yelp, despite trying not to. She could feel some sort of liquid seeping into her. Instantly, a new pain surged from deep inside of her; it was as if she was burning, smoldering from within. She tried to scream again, but found herself paralyzed. It was then she noticed what looked like thin wisps of smoke surrounding her. She was able to get her eyes to move in their sockets enough to see a split that had formed along her left forearm and the smoke emanating from it. Her eyes turned helplessly toward the scowling hunters, who were now slowly advancing; if they couldn’t rescue her, they would avenge her.

The feral suddenly stopped, his red eyes wild with anger and confusion. He pulled away from Cynder quickly, tossing her aside like a soiled rag doll. She found she could move again, though it hurt to do so. There was still smoke coming from newly formed wounds on her skin and she still felt as though she was burning away inside. The only comfort she found was the slight flashes of light forming on her peripheries, an old sensation from just the past winter, and the feral’s reaction as he leered at her.

“Was it something you ate?” She asked, noticing her voice was somewhat slurred, something she had expected to happen.

“Bad!” The feral roared, desperately trying to spit out what he swallowed. “Rotten!”

“Cynder?” Scarecrow’s voice got her attention, she turned to see him coming quickly toward her, his voice touched her mind…What did you do?…

She opened her still free left hand. It was stained black, as though she’d been holding onto tar. Three small black objects rolled out to the pavements.

“Seeds,” she said weakly. “Three handfuls, and whatever was absorbed into my skin. Probably overdosed myself.” Then a wave of hallucinated light and color washed over her as she spasmed, causing her to laugh wildly. “Plaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ball!”

The feral, still spitting, and trying to fight the effects of the seeds himself, prepared to spring. He was still going to kill Cynder, though, not in the same manner or for the same reasons he intended. Even as he launched himself as her, the back of Scarecrow’s talon caught him in mid-air, sending him flailing back, spurts of purple hunter’s blood spraying into the night. Poison and Eclipse started to move closer to the feral at greater speed.

Scarecrow reached Cynder, who was still smoking away and staring blankly ahead. There was no time to figure out what she was seeing or whether or not it was real. He pulled her close to him and cast a glance toward his fellows.

“Cynder sick. Very sick,” he said to them…I must help her…

Both Poison and Eclipse nodded, their understanding obvious across their features. The feral was attempting to get up, but was fighting with his own effects from ingesting some of the seeds. He spat to the side to try and purge the drug from his system. Looking up, he could see the other two hunters. The smirk forming across Poison’s lips as his multicolored tongue tasted the night air was anything but whimsical.

“’Will you walk into my parlor?’ said the Spider to the Fly,” he hissed as he advanced, the sensation emanating from him was that of retribution.

08 October 2012


The temple decided not to report the lama’s mysterious death to the authorities for their own reasons, which suited Cynder fine. She did not relish the idea of having to speak with someone in uniform on the subject. The excuse she gave the refugee shelter was the lama had always been a friend, but was even more helpful when she was quitting the seeds, so his death, a heart attack, she told them, was devastating. She needed some time away from work. Because she was good at her job, she was placed on leave, no further questions asked.

Scarecrow saw to it she was made comfortable at the silo. No one knew how long she would be staying, but it was made plain to her none of the hunters wanted her to be the feral’s next victim. Out of the three of them, Poison seemed the most upset, almost spoiling for a fight. From what Cynder could understand he ranged and raged far into the city searching for the killer of the lama. Prey became an afterthought to normally whimsical hunter.

Despite the danger, the first week or so was not so bad. Certainly, not being able to stray very far from the silo carried a sense of annoyance, but she understood why. It was after that she found herself starting to get edgy, wishing the feral would either appear or go away so she could resume her life again. She missed her late night walks.

Eclipse would come and play chess with her, in an attempt to assuage the growing sense of cabin fever. Cynder would indulge the hunter in playing, but her heart was not in it. She wanted action. To do something, anything. She knew she was being kept at the silo for her own safety, but now it was beginning to get to her.

That was why one night, almost a month from when the lama’s body was discovered, she slipped out. She felt she had to. In her mind, she kept projecting assurances to the hunters, especially Scarecrow, the whole time hoping that would also help them locate her if needs be.

Being on the streets again was liberating. The silo had been simultaneously a sanctuary and a prison. She let the presence’s, the thoughts and emotions of the crowds of people wash over her like warm water. The burritos she purchased were the best she had tasted since her first meal after withdrawal.

Sometime later, after being by the gaming-house, she realized she was being followed. It was a hunter, but not one of the three she knew. Cynder concentrated on Scarecrow, his mind, his presence, and kept walking. Her alleyway was not far off. Jamming her hands deep into her pockets, she picked up her pace. This new presence followed briskly. There was a sensation of savage amusement and outright cruelty. There was no mistaking that she was in danger.

She was halfway down the alley when he dropped down in front of her. The feral was taller than Poison, and almost half-starved looking in his build. She remembered when Scarecrow was trying to explain the feral, he used the term malice. Looking into his burning red eyes, she couldn’t help but think that was an apt name. Nowhere in his psyche was there any sense of compassion.

“Frightened?” He asked her, his tongue flicking out menacingly. Cynder set her jaw defiantly.

“Next week is my twenty-fourth birthday,” she said plainly, bringing her fists from her pockets. “I’m afraid to die. But of you?” She spat. “Never.”

06 October 2012


When the calendar turns October, I find myself owning up to the reality of autumn. The aspens have peaked, and what is left is but tattered opulence of what attracted the the lookie-loos but a week or two before. The last of the wildflowers, battered and defiant, hold on and the highest peaks carry the first slight powered sugar dusting of snow upon their northern faces. When the wind and rain come, there is a bit more of a bite, and fires become a regular occurrence, the woodsmoke cologne still a novel scent in the thin mountain air. The first real cold hits in October.

October is the kissing cousin to April by virtue of being a time of limbo. We pass between summer and aspen and ski season. Sempi refers to it as falling off the cliff in terms of business, but he's constantly half-convinced we're all going to starve, even during days of milk and honey.

Miguel Loco shutters his shoppe for two to three weeks out of the month for backpacking trips in canyonious regions and perhaps some high peak in South America for something to do. Sabina wants to drag me to lands of canyons for us to get our Edward Abbey on-deserts, of course, fascinating me, as the mountains do. Dragging me out of the mountains, when I feel there is still so much to explore, even within spitting distance of my own backyard, however, is a different proposition.

Chalk it up to the somedays. I'll get to it. Trust me.

I have learned to appreciate the beauty of all the seasons. Though this was not always the case. Quite some time has passed since I disliked a season or a particular meteorological occurrence. Be that as it may, there is something about autumn that makes it my favorite time of the year. When I'm willing to go by white-man's time keeping, October is one of my favorite months, and Samhaine/Halloween really has nothing to do with it. At least not any more.

There is magic and mystery to be found in the deathrattle of warmth and the birthcries of the cold. The shifting casts of light, the scents in the air. Those moments of bardo transition have often held a sense of fascination for me. The changes I bear witness to in autumn do not threaten to fuck with my allergies the way changes within the context of spring do.

October is when I begin to hunker down. Truly, albeit begrudgingly, putting away my sandals and shorts for long pants, trail-runners, and boots. Stuffed roasted chickens, chili, and lasagna replace fish and grilled fare on our menu. We pull up the plants at the community garden plot, thinking of what to plant the next year. I watch the sky, noting the clouds, not looking for rain, but wondering when the first flakes will fall, and whether or not they'll stick. Heavier coats are moved to the ready. These are the songs of October.

I listen to the sound of neighbors splitting wood, hearkening to winter's calling. It's on its way and will be here soon enough. However, here and now it's still October, the avatar of autumn. In this time of transition, the very heartbeats are filled with halcyon magics. If you stop and pay attention, you might just spot on to what I'm on about.

04 October 2012


I had the nightmare again. You know the one. The sounds of break-in violation, shattering glass, disrespecting home and hearth. Your voice, slurred by alcohol, mania, and tears screams it cannot be over. You'll not allow it. My proclamation of done and over does not apply to you. I can almost hear Queensryche in the background;

"You're through with me?
I'm not through with you!
We've had what others 
might call love..."

This time, I'm able to grab your arm before you grab the glass shard. This time, my father is there instead of the constabulary placing me in manacles, demanding to know what the fuck is going on. I tell him and he scowls. He tells you if he ever sees you again he'll shoot you. Twice. Three times would be excessive.

You scream obscenities at me. Saying things about my daughter and the memories of my mother and grandmother. Things meant to hurt. Things spoken from a sewer water tongue when one is not getting their way.


My eyes open to darkness. The small hours. I'm soaked in sweat. It takes me a bit to realize I'm years and miles away from that night, which still haunts me so. I look over at the clock and chuckle ruefully that it's closing time at the juke joints. About the same time you'd try phoning repeatedly after the incident, begging for my forgiveness, hoping I'd forget that I've never believed in such a thing. After all, if to forgive is Divine, there'd be no Hell. I never answered those calls, and the voicemails went from pleas of forgiveness to gin and tonic and anti-psychotics laced rants of venomous hate. I curse my memory when those words once more enter the mathematics of my thoughts.

I try to close my eyes and sleep again, I have obligations in a few hours and I could use the rest. It's a futile effort; the image of your feral contorted face and the things you said-both remembered and dreamt-strobe through my skull. I know the truth; I'm not sleeping again.

I had the nightmare again. You know the one. You fucking gave it to me.

02 October 2012


Cynder ran almost blindly toward her alley. The heat of the summer night weighed oppressively upon her as she cut through the crowds. She struggled to make sense out of what had just happened. The last few minutes seemed more like a bad time on the seeds, but she knew better. It was all horrifically real.

She knew something was wrong before she even reached the temple. Since winter, she’d gotten to where she could sense the lama before she actually saw him. Sometimes, he was reaching out to greet her, which she found comforting. This time was different; there was only silence. A cold void she could not traverse no matter how hard she strained.

Slowly, like static, the thoughts and emotions of the others whom resided within the temple walls began to seep in. It was like a sort of subdued bedlam; something terrible had happened, but no one was quite sure what to make of it. There were questions of calling the authorities or covering it up. Riding as an undercurrent to it all were the sensations of overwhelming sadness and fear.

She reached the muraled room where she often met the lama and almost screamed. There were webs everywhere. On the floor was a set of robes covered in ashes save a desiccated skull with two puncture marks through the scalp.

…Cynder! Cynder!…

Eclipse’s voice grabbed her attention. There was a sense of desperation to it, which bordered upon panic. Concentrating, Cynder reached out.


…Good! Cynder good. Come! Come now…


…Come now!…

And she was running, following Eclipse’s mental calls. This was important. The desperation was still there, but Cynder sensed other emotions as well; loss and an almost blind burning rage that burned hotter than the night winds.

Poison and Eclipse were waiting in the alleyway. Eclipse was crouched down, hugging her lower legs. The sadness was obvious in her amber eyes. Cynder wondered in that moment if hunters cried. She reached out, but was greeted with only the absent flicking of a tongue.

“Eclipse? What happened?” She asked.

“Our simian,” Poison hissed, his anger barely contained.

He was standing next to Eclipse, his arms folded squarely across his bare chest. It was from him that Cynder sensed the rage. His purple eyes seemed to blaze in the low light, the scowl on his face bordering upon demonic.

“Our simian,” he said again. “Not food! Wrong!”

“Who did this?” Cynder asked. “And why?”

“Feral,” Eclipse replied softly. “Kills simians. Simians not food. Wrong.”

“Cynder come,” Poison said, reaching out with to her. “Danger. Come now.”

“Wait,” she said. “I want to know who this feral is. I want to know why.”

“Cynder come,” Poison hissed, his impatience becoming apparent.

“Answer my questions first.”

“Stupid simian!” Poison snapped. “Leave you! Let feral feed!”

“Enough!” Scarecrow snapped as he emerged from the shadows.

“Scarecrow, can you tell me what’s happening?” Cynder inquired.

“Feral,” he replied. “Malice.”

“I don’t understand. Not completely”

Scarecrow crouched in front of her, locking his gaze with hers. Slowly, images and sensations began to play out. The ones hunters called feral were often lone ones of their kind whom decided they wanted a particular territory. In order to do so, they needed to be rid of the other hunters. The quickest way to draw another hunter out was to go after its respective simian. This is what was happening now; a feral had come to the city. The lama was its first obvious target, meaning Cynder was next.

“Now understand?” Scarecrow inquired as he pulled away, and she nodded. “Good. Come. Keep you safe.”

“But if I’m with you than this feral will come to you,” Cynder protested.

There was something like a chuckle behind her. It was wild and maniacal. She turned to see Poison. He was smirking.

“Hope so,” he said.

30 September 2012

Amongst the Living

The summer wind brought blast furnace winds from across the wastes. Even the coming of night seldom offered a respite. Cynder’s shirt stuck to her back as she wandered the streets. Many things had changed since those cold days of winter when she first became aware of the hunters and death and resurrection of seed withdrawal, but the wandering the streets at night had not. In fact, there was a new dimension she found amongst the crowds as she walked, her mind brushing against theirs, the sights and smells, the briefly passed words; she found herself feeling more of a connection than she could ever remember. She knew the lama would smile if she mentioned it, which she resolved to the next time she visited the temple.

He was her ever-patient teacher with her mind, in dealing with being one of the hunters’ simian. It was because of the lama that Cynder was taught how to communicate with them better. Although, there was still a spoken language barrier, and one existed in thought and emotion, it seemed like she could almost have what passed as a conversation with one of them.

The hunters certainly had their distinct personalities. Poison was the trickster, although it was difficult to always understand how his sense of humor worked. There was one thing he could say in the human languages with eerie accuracy; “’will you walk into my parlor?’ said the Spider to the Fly.” Although he never said it in a malicious way to Cynder or the lama, and it was probably an attempt at a joke, it would still give her chills.

Eclipse was a scholar of sorts. It seemed like she was always studying something, whether it was the behaviors of the creatures she either had as companions or preyed on, or a random rock she found. The game of chess fascinated her and she was delighted when she discovered Cynder not only knew how to play, but was fairly accomplished at it. Strangely, Eclipse never took winning a game well.

“No! Wrong!” She would snap. “Cynder clever! Again!”

Out of the three of them, Scarecrow seemed to a leader of sorts. He was also a stargazer. There were plenty of times Cynder would find him standing atop his silo staring pensively into the night sky. It always pleased him when she would sit with him. Once, while running his talon through her hair, he gave her the sensation that the stars were the thing that equalized them.

After the last of the addiction left her, it was implied that she could live at the silo, but Cynder declined. She still wanted her own space. Shortly thereafter, found employment at refugee shelter, liking the work, although the pay was not very much. Every so often, when she saw one of the hunters, they would give her money, obviously acquired from one of their victims, to help her get by. Scarecrow would even attempt to bring her clothing, even if it didn’t always fit or was not a color she liked. Despite having been away from the seeds since winter, she found she still liked gorging herself on burritos occasionally, finding it reminded her of when she returned to the world of the living.

It had been so long since she walked by the gaming-house, she’d forgotten it was even there. At first she avoided it for fear of falling back into old habits. Then she just lost interest in its existence. Walking by without really noticing until after it was behind her she felt was a big step.

“Cynder!” A familiar voice, one from some time ago now, called after her. “Hey! Where’ve you been, girl?”

She turned to see Bigsby Tran, her former source for the seeds. Once upon a time, she might have rationalized she was his friend, but the truth was more he was her dealer and either occasional lover or pimp. She felt a part of her become excited at seeing this tall, dark-skinned, well-dressed man, but another aspect, the one that had been away from the seeds and the gaming-house for so long, felt uneasy. There were sensations of betrayed abandonment and lecherous hopes of reestablishing something sordid coming from him.

“Hello, Bigs,” she said coolly. “It’s been awhile.”

’Awhile’?!?” He snorted. “Try like six months. You going to tell me where you been?”

“I…um, met someone,” Cynder said, slowly edging back.

“Must be someone special,” Bigsby winked slyly. “This someone keeping you in seeds?”

“I quit.”

“You what?!?”

“I quit,” Cynder repeated, she was almost to the alley adjoining the gaming-house. If she needed to, she could make a break for it. “Crashed, burned, and came back. I came walking this way without really thinking about it.”

“Well, you’re here,” Bigsby said, reaching for her. It was then she backed into the alley. He followed effortlessly. “What the fuck, Cynder? After everything we been to each other? You’re just going to walk away?”

“You would sometimes sell me for seeds and a little extra money in your pocket,” she shot back. “I’m not your property anymore.”

“Shut up!” Bigsby roared, drawing back his hand.

It was only in the heat of the moment that she realized something else had been watching this exchange. With savage and impossible quickness, Scarecrow sprung from the shadows, pinning Bigsby to the ground. He hissed, his forked tongue tasting the air with its scents of fear and desperation. From his talons, he began to spin his webs.

“Don’t do it, Scarecrow,” Cynder said with incredible calm.

“Why?” He didn’t even look at her. “No mercy. Remember?”

“Seeds,” she replied.

Scarecrow stopped spinning his webs. He leaned closer to Bigsby, his tongue flickering out, brushing the terrified man’s sweating flesh. Scarecrow sniffed the air loudly. Then, with a disgusted hiss, he pushed Bigsby away.

“Rotten! Bad! Not food!” He spat. “Cynder good. Thank you.”

“Holy shit!” Bigsby whimpered as he pulled himself free of the webs. He was reaching into his jacket, both Cynder and Scarecrow could sense what for. The hunter drew himself up to spring once more.

“I wouldn’t, Bigs,” Cynder said calmly.

“Why the fuck not?”

“Because I got him to spare your life once,” she replied. “I might not be able to do it again. You better just get away from me.”

Free of the webs, Bigsby ran back to the street. He didn’t even look behind him, which was probably for the best. Feeling Scarecrow’s talons running through her hair, Cynder heaved a heavy sigh, watching a part of her past better left dead running from her.


Even as the lama emerged from his meditation he could tell he was not alone. He reached out with his mind, trying to discern the identity of the presence he felt. It was worrisome when he realized it was no one he knew. The intentions he sensed were nothing like the hunters he was familiar with.

He turned to see a hunter watching him from a darkened corner. His mane and talons were as white as his skin. His tongue was black as it tested the air. His blood red eyes leered at him maliciously.

“Frightened?” The red-eyed hunter inquired as webs shot out, ensnaring his prey.

“Of you? Terribly,” The lama replied as he was drawn closer. “Of death? Never.”

27 September 2012

The Others

She was led to the very bottom of the old silo. A great iron boiler roared with hungry flame that both warmed and illuminated the room. Cynder could feel sweat beading upon her brow. In the center of the room was a long table. At it sat the familiar figure of the lama. He smiled broadly at her as she approached. In his hands was a bag of something spicy and sweet-smelling, a scent she knew well.

“It’s good to see you again,” he said. “I was concerned when you left.”

“How long ago was that?” Cynder asked.

“Three twilights,” Scarecrow replied, before motioning to the bag. “Cynder feed.”

“I was sent to get this for you,” the lama said. “Scarecrow saw you eating this the night you first met him and he figured it’s your favorite because of how you devoured it.”

Cynder smiled weakly as she took the bag and opened it. Inside were burritos filled with eggs, cheese, black beans, and shredded pork, slathered in green chili and hot sauce. It was something she almost always found herself eating after she took the seeds. Her come down food. With having gone through the physical portion of withdrawal, she wondered if this might be the last time she ever had this particular meal.

“Thank you,” she said to both the lama and Scarecrow.

It was almost amazed her how ravenous she was. Certainly, she hadn’t eaten in three days, but the last time she had anything in her digestive tract, her body was being treacherous. These thoughts soon became lost in the need to fill herself as full as she could. There was a sense of disappointment as she finished the last burrito. Although she felt as though she could burst, she wanted more. After what she’d just been through, it was like she was returning from the dead, and she wanted as much of life as she could get. If in the heat of the moment life equated to gorging herself on burritos, then so be it.

“Good appetite,” another voice said from the shadows. “Getting better.”

Cynder turned in the direction of the voice to see two other white-skinned creatures standing off with Scarecrow. The one she heard speak was taller and more slender than the hunter she had first been acquainted with. His hair, the nails of his talons, even his forked tongue were every conceivable color thrown together in a whimsical fashion. He regarded her with purple eyes and what could best be described as an almost maniacal smirk.

Next to him was a female, whom, like Scarecrow, had a mane of long black hair. Her amber eyes held a quality beyond that of aloofness; Cynder at first thought she was being scrutinized, but realized that wasn’t the correct sensation. She was being studied.

“Those others you told me of?” She asked the lama.

“Yes. Poison and Eclipse,” he replied. “They are what you might call bonded.”

“Shake!” Poison said excitedly, offering his left talon. “Come! Shake!”

Gingerly, Cynder reached out. Even before she got close, he drew back with that quickness she’d seen when these creatures were ensnaring their prey. Something, which may have been a chuckle resounded in the back of his throat.

“Too slow,” he smirked.

“Trickster,” Scarecrow said with an almost dismissive gesture to his fellow hunter.

“Fuddy-duddy,” Poison shot back with an equally dismissive gesture and a mocking tone. His shorter fellow made an amused sound.

“Eclipse,” Cynder began. “Nice to meet you too.”

“Charmed,” she responded coldly, her tongue flicking out dismissively.

“She takes some getting used to, but she means well,” the lama said as he walked up to Eclipse. The female hunter ran the back of her hand across his head in a way that probably was meant to be affectionate. “I am their simian.”

“Watch Cynder,” Poison said to the lama.

It was then the hunters exited the room. She could hear them communicating in a series of hisses and clicks. Not all the sensations she got from them made sense to her, although she could sense none of them had any interest in harming her. The lama took her hand and led her back to the table.

“Where are they going?” Cynder inquired.

“Hunting, maybe, I don’t know,” he replied. “But come now, stay with me.”


Cynder didn’t know how long she sat with lama by the roaring fire of the boiler. Her sense of time was still horribly skewed. They spoke of her nightmares of withdrawal from the seeds and how Scarecrow stayed with her through the worst of it. She told of coming upon the room full of cocoons and being punished for it. He merely listened, only saying something when she threatened to lapse into silence.

They felt the hunters before they actually saw them. Scarecrow’s talons teased Cynder’s hair playfully and Poison rubbed the lama’s shoulders. Eclipse hung back in the shadows, her amber eyes giving off a soft glow like that of the butter lanterns at the temple.

“It is time,” Poison said to the lama. “Come.”

“I’ll see you soon, Cynder.”

“I should leave too,” she said.

“No!” Scarecrow hissed. Suddenly, she felt him grip her arm tightly.

“But…”she started to protest.

“Still sick,” Scarecrow stated. “Stay with me.”

“It’s for the best,” the lama said. “He’ll keep you safe.”

Cynder could sense the sincerity from both her fellow human being and white-skinned creatures around them. They were all concerned for her, which she found odd, but comforting. For the first time in a very, very long time, it seemed there were others who cared for her, even if three of them were of kind that preyed upon others of her species.

Scarecrow stroked her hair again and she relaxed. She knew he would do whatever he could to watch out for her, even going as far using his mind to comfort her from the residual demons left within her psyche from the seeds. It was then the felt another hand, another talon touch her. Cynder looked up to see Eclipse looking at her in an almost matronly fashion.

“Cynder get well,” she said softly.