"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

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.

25 September 2012

Coming Down

Even as she walked, she could feel her fragile grip on reality fraying. Outside of the evangelical church, a missionary spoke in doomsday tongues of how these were the End of Days; the rapture had occurred when things fell apart and now the final judgement was at hand. When Cynder turned to look at him she saw his face melting into something sinister and demonic. It caused her to shriek and run blindly through the twilight streets.

Everything was twisting and warping and reforming in upon itself. She felt disoriented. Every so often, she thought she heard an alien, yet familiar, voice guiding her, but she couldn’t be sure. Noting was real anymore. Her body ached, and, despite the chill in the winter air and the biting wind, she was sweating, heat radiating from some inferno deep within her. Part of her wondered if she was going to die, or worse, plunge into a psychosis of never-ending hallucinations and pain.

She had no idea how she found the alleyway. Even as she came upon it, it bore the countenance of a gapping maw with gore dripping from rows upon rows of jagged teeth. Still, she crawled into the belly, finding herself surrounded by the familiar graffiti and scents of trash. Desperately, she looked to see if there would be the familiar non-human figure she met the last time she was here, but perhaps that was just a hallucination too.

There was itching on her arms, she reached down to scratch and saw maggots chewing their way free. Even as she started to scream, the meager contents of her stomach burst forth in the form of sewer water and blood. She could feel wetness in her crotch and a stickiness from her backside. Her legs buckled under her as she began to shake. Cynder spied a pile of garbage she figured she could crawl into to hide, but found she lacked the strength to move. Finally, a low moan escaped her frame.

A set of arms wrapped around her, pulling her close. Clawed nails caressed her scalp. She looked up into a pair of serpentine blue eyes. Scarecrow’s forked tongue flicked out into the cold air, almost touching her fevered brow.

“Easy. Easy,” he said. “Cynder sick. Not good. Easy.”

“Withdrawal…” she managed to say. “I’m crashing.”

She might have said more, but a spasm shot through her body. Suddenly, she was twisting and turning, thrashing violently. By this time she realized she no longer has control over her own body. Part of her regretting not staying at the temple with the lama, but she also wondered what could’ve possibly been done for her at this point. The seeds, the addiction, was having their way with her, as she tried to purge it all from her system.

As the spasms wracked her body, she felt Scarecrow’s grip tightening. His mind brushed against hers, letting her know he was close. The sensations of comfort helped calm her a little. It was only as the spasms subsided that Cynder noticed he had wrapped her in webbing from her shoulders to her knees. She opened her mouth to scream, but he placed a clawed finger to her lips.

“No!” Scarecrow hissed. “Easy, easy. Cynder not food. Promise, promise. Easy. Trust me.”

Slowly, she nodded. It was the only thing she could do. Her mouth was filled with ashes and she couldn’t trust her body to do much of anything. Slowly, Scarecrow lifted her over his shoulder. The hallucinations were still happening and the heat she felt made her wonder if she was going to burn alive from the inside out, but, in the arms of the hunter, she knew there was at least one real thing left.

“Cynder sick,” he said as he began to move into the growing shadows. Then, with his mind; …I will keep you safe until you are well...


The decaying silo stood at the far edge of the city. One of those places even the most criminal of elements would not go. Beyond stood the desiccated wastes and iron-colored mountains. Cynder felt the structure resembled a watchtower. Something that was perfect for a hunter.

She had no idea when it was she arrived, or how long it was she spasmed and hallucinated. Her body, and its ability to keep its contents to itself betrayed her on more humiliating occasions than she could count. The whole time, Scarecrow stayed with her, cooing assurances, giving sensations of comfort. When she thought she could take no more, she found his gaze locked with hers, his blue eyes glowing brightly.



When Cynder opened her eyes again, she was alone. A blanket was placed loosely over her bare body, and a tub of steaming water had been drawn for her. Next to the tub were fresh cloths, and her soiled ones were drip-drying in an open doorway.

The water felt wonderful on her aching and battered frame. She wondered how long she slept and then wondered if it really mattered. Outside, she could hear the wind, and, from an open window, she could see a few flakes of desperate snow. It looked like it might be late afternoon.

Finally, she pulled herself from the water, which had become lukewarm. The fresh clothing was a little brighter colored than she preferred, but at least it fit. The building she was in was surprisingly warm for being an abandoned looking structure with open windows. She somewhat wondered if it was an after effect of her withdraw. Perhaps a residual fever.

Cynder began to explore her surroundings. Many of the chambers in the silo seemed abandoned. There were webs everywhere, which seemed fitting, given her host. She called out his name, but there was no answer. With her mind, she tried to sense for him, but wasn’t exactly sure if he was nearby.

Finally, she came upon a room filled with cocoons of various sizes. Cynder felt herself grow cold, knowing what was inside those bundles. There were what looked like piles of ash on the floor. One cocoon looked to be opened. Her curiosity getting the better of her, she approached it. What she saw made her scream.

The mummified husk had to distinct puncture marks through the top of the head. A great deal of the remains was little more than ashen dust. Whether it was the sound of her scream, or her footfalls so nearby, but the rest of the body disintegrated into dry ash almost instantaneously.

…What are you doing in here?…Scarecrow’s voice came from out of nowhere. She turned just in time to catch the back of his hand across her face, sending her flying. “No! No! No! No look! Cynder bad! No look! Bad! Bad! Bad!”

Before she could even stand he had grabbed her by the nape of the neck and dragged her from the room. There were scratch marks down the side of her face. She wondered if she was bleeding. Forcefully, she pushed against the wall of another chamber.

“Bad!” Scarecrow hissed. “No look! Not your food! My food! No look!”

“I’m sorry,” Cynder whimpered. “I was looking for you.”

He said nothing, his tongue testing the air. She could sense he didn’t enjoy striking her or admonishing her. Still, the sensation he gave was clear; that room was off-limits to her. It was as though she wanted to protect her from the sight of his preferred food source.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll stay away from there.”

“Good,” he said. “Cynder hungry?”

“I think I am,” she replied, unable to remember the last time she ate.

“Good,” Scarecrow said as he began walking in the opposite direction of the room with the cocoons. “Come.”

“Where are we going?” Cynder asked.

“To feed,” Scarecrow said over his shoulder.

23 September 2012

An Education

The air was that of incense and the chanting of prayers. Esoterica and enlightenment. Butter lanterns lit the room, casting ominous shadows across the brightly colored murals, which covered the walls. It was a large chamber; the figures within seeming so insignificant in its scope.

The lama listened to Cynder’s tale with rapt attention. His and then’s and please continues placed at the appropriate times. She felt bad; when speaking of Scarecrow, she couldn’t bring herself to speak his name. Her descriptions included words like it and monster, neither of which she truly felt about the white-skinned creature that was so kind to her in their brief encounter.

“And then it just disappeared,” she concluded. “I wonder if I’ll ever see it again. I mean, it said so, but who knows?”

“You will,” the lama said softly, in an almost distracted tone. “Were you given a name?”

“Scarecrow,” Cynder replied, almost feeling like she had just betrayed a secret. The lama merely chuckled.

“He’s always been choosy about his simians,” he said. “That’s what they call us; simians.”

She started to open her mouth; thousands of questions clawed their way from her throat, begging to be answered. The lama merely smiled gently. It was then she began to receive sensations of familiarity, images of reptilian eyes and flicking forked tongues. Part of her was comforted that someone else in this world possessed the same ability as were, but another felt frightened and betrayed, like she should’ve been told earlier. Perhaps she should have been warned.

“You…you knew?!?” She exclaimed.

“You weren’t ready,” the lama replied. “And just because you have the gifts that you do does not guarantee a hunter might take a liking to you. Most people go through their entire lives without any real knowledge of them. Others, end up in the hunter’s webs.”

“Hunter? That’s what something like Scarecrow is called?”

“It’s the most apt term, but they’ve been called many things since they first appeared; rakshasa, barghest, windigo…”

“Vampire?” Cynder interrupted and the lama’s eyes narrowed.

“Only if you want to insult them.”

“Where did they come from?”

“It is said they first started appearing when things were falling apart, back around the First Great Famine,” the lama said. “Some believe they were an experiment that turned upon their creators; the amalgam of a spider, a komodo dragon, and perhaps a hyena twisted up into something sort of humanoid, but not a human being. It is thought whoever created them did so because humans had no natural predators, other than themselves, and after what we’d helped do to the world, perhaps we needed to be kept in check.”

“But Scarecrow didn’t want to hurt me,” Cynder argued. “I could sense it.”

“Of course not,” the lama agreed. “People like me and you, who can sense things, are able to communicate better with the hunters than other people. They sometimes choose us as companions; their simians.”

“You mean pets? Like a dog?”

“More like a cat, I’d say. The hunters like how human beings can have an independent streak, that we sometimes fight back and ask questions. It might be hubris that our species exacerbated what happened to the world, but it’s that sometimes stubborn refusal to just go with the natural cycles, which at least amuses them.”

“Are there others here besides Scarecrow?”

“Two more,” the lama replied. “Even in the most populous city, there is usually no more than three or four hunters. It’s all a matter of their food, after all. Since Scarecrow’s chosen you, you’ll eventually meet the others.”

Cynder said nothing, instead trying to make sense out of what she was being told. Until a few days ago, this sort of thing was just a spook-story. Something a parent might tell a child to keep them in line. Now, she was faced with the fact there was monster of sorts in her world, and it was very real.

She stood up to leave. The urge to walk aimlessly while she processed the information held appeal. Even as she stood, a wave of nausea swept over her. Suddenly, she felt very hot. Sweat beaded upon her brow and she fought to stay standing.

“How long?” The lama inquired.

“Since what?” Cynder asked back.

“Since you took the seeds.”

“Three days, I think,” she replied. Another wave of nausea soaked her frame. She desperately wanted to get outside, into the cool air.

“You’re starting to go into withdrawal,” the lama observed. “Perhaps you should stay here. We can help you through the worst of it.”

“Thank you, but no,” Cynder said. “I’ll be okay. I just need to walk.”

It seemed like she was walking through tar, but she made it to the door. Out of the corner of her eye she thought she could see little flashes of light, like fireflies. The hallucinations were beginning. If she could at least make it to her alleyway, she’d be safe. Part of her mind uttered Scarecrow’s name almost like a mantra.

“Be careful,” the lama said. “If you crash out there on the streets you may fall prey to something worse than a hunter.”

“I’ll be okay,” Cynder repeated, knowing she was lying, but she couldn’t stay at the temple. It was too hot and the images in the murals were leering at her, whispering evil things. “Do you think I’ll see Scarecrow soon?”

“I would wager he will find you soon enough,” the lama replied with a concerned smile. “Just as he promised.”

21 September 2012


Maybe at some other time, Cynder would have been frightened, but there was no fear at all. She stepped forward without really even thinking about it. The figure, this strange tall white-skinned creature, ran his talon-like hand over her head, pushing her hood away, gently. The long black nails scratching softly and playfully through her amber-colored hair. It got her to smile. She could feel it; there was no malice in his touch. He wanted her to trust him.

“Good,” he cooed. His inhuman voice of hisses and clicks as comforting as his touch. He brought her in closer. There were times when the words faded into that sound, and he would make an amused sound before resuming in simple words. “Easy. Good, good. Easy.”

“Wha…who are you?” She finally asked.

He started making a series of hisses and clicks. Once more, he made an amused sound. She could sense he knew of an obvious language barrier. Words didn’t always exist, so there were the simple terms and sensations she was getting. Slowly, he stooped lower and pointed upward to the rooftops.

“There,” he said. “Up.”

She followed his clawed finger to one particular rooftop. Once, during the day, she remembered seeing it; a rooftop garden. It was a simple thing, which made her smile. A bit of hope in such a hopeless world. She could sense his gaze was focused on a silhouetted figure standing silent and still amongst the covered plants. He then pulled her attention back.

“Me,” he said, placing a hand on his chest. “Am Scarecrow.”

“Cynder,” she said, and he nodded with the expression that looked like a smile.

“That your boyfriend, chica?”

They both turned to see the leering shaved-head man with lime green eyes. Two other men stood on either side of him. Cynder felt herself growing cold. Scarecrow’s black tongue flicked out in an almost annoyed fashion. Slowly, he stood up, placing his arm in front of her.

“Behind me,” he ordered. “Now!’

He took a single step forward. Upon doing so, Cynder began to get a scope of just how tall he was, towering over the men who were all easily over six feet tall. He was more muscular. What seemed out of place was how he was shirtless on such a cold night, but that was a triviality; she noticed how his legs bent backward, like the hind limbs of a dog or a cat. She noticed how his mane followed the full length of his spine, ending at his waist, but how it trailed behind like a sort of tail.

“Cynder mine,” Scarecrow said coldly, his tongue testing the air again. If his appearance, his strange voice, rattled the men, they weren’t letting on.

“We just wanted to talk to her,” said the shaved-head man as he pulled a whip from his belt.

He cracked it once, as a posturing gesture, then snapped it at the tall creature in front of him. Scarecrow caught the weapon with impossible speed. Even faster than that, he was on top of the shaved-head man. His talon hands moving in a frenzy around his quarry. From the clawed fingertips, something white and stringy emerged.

In seconds, a cocooned bundle fell to the ground. The other two men were already running, but Scarecrow was so much faster. Cynder wanted to scream in horror as she saw him cocoon another of the men. The last, he grabbed, slamming savagely against the pavements, blood and screams of surprised pain flying wild everywhere, before dragging him back whimpering.

“Cynder want?” Scarecrow inquired as he held the sniveling mass in front of her.

She wanted to vomit. She feared she was going to wet herself. Scarecrow regarded her for a moment and then shrugged.

“Just fed,” he said, webs beginning to ensnare the last man. “Not hungry.”

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry,” the man was sobbing as the strands wrapped around him. “Please…”

“Stop!” Cynder screamed. Scarecrow’s head snapped up, a snarl on his face. “Please?”

“Why?” He asked simply.

Her head was suddenly filled with images of what the men intended to do to her. Her body felt the sensations. The urge to vomit returned. She looked into his cold blue eyes and felt tears welling up in her own.

“No mercy,” Scarecrow said. “Hunted, hunter.” Then, clearer, his voice resounded in her head;…It is the way…

Now, she really wanted the seeds. She could all put taste them. Sensing this, Scarecrow’s eyes narrowed.

“No more! Bad!” He snapped. It was then she realized what he was saying in her mind earlier.

“Okay,” she said after swallowing hard.

He turned away to gather the cocoons. Cynder shut her eyes, trying not to imagine what would ultimately happen to the men trapped inside each one. There was a sudden wave of comfort when she felt nails scratching into her scalp. His touch was so soothing. It was safest she’d ever felt.

“Must go,” he whispered. She opened her eyes to see the three cocoons slung over his shoulder. “Hungry. Feed.”

“Will I see you again?” She asked, her voice was small. He cupped her cheek, and the expression, which looked like a smile appeared again.

“Soon,” he replied gently. “Promise.”

And he was gone. Disappearing into the dark and cold of the night with the same unimaginable swiftness she’d witnessed when he was dispatching the three men. In that moment, she felt herself feeling lonely, but, this time, it was different; this was an aching loneliness, as though a piece of her had disappeared into the shadows. As if sensing this, Scarecrow’s voice touched her mind;

…Do not worry, Cynder…I will find you… 

19 September 2012

Prologue; A Voice in the Dark

Cynder awoke from her jade-colored dreams of lotus perfumes to a head full of cobwebs and stale smoke. There was a dry and decayed sensation in her mouth and throat, and her youthful frame ached in ways she imagined more appropriate for someone many, many years older than her. She didn’t remember falling asleep, but, in some ways, that didn’t surprise her; when she had the seeds, her memory would slip away.

The last shards of her dreams faded as she opened her eyes. Outside, it was dark. Night, and it had been for a long time. She struggled to remember when she left the gaming-house with her handful of seeds. Certainly, the sun still shone in the sky. It was all so dubious now. Just like the dream that had been consumed by smoke and cobwebs in her head.

There was no escaping it; she was down. Back in the world now. A dry and foreboding place beyond the city’s walls. There were stories that world was once much different. Greener. The rain and snow would come with more frequency and the wind was not always so ferocious, the heat and cold not so extreme. It was a time before The Horsemen had been so thorough; reducing the world’s population by billions. Even now, it was said Death and Famine lingered behind to play sadistic games with the survivors. There were too few left for War and Pestilence to have any fun.

Was it any wonder why people wanted to escape? It seemed even the well-to-do were miserable. It felt like the world was dying and those left were only hanging on out of habit.

These dark muses played through Cynder’s head as she pulled herself up. Rationalizations and arguments she had tried on the lama over at the temple. She knew he would be disappointed at her use of the seeds. He always was, telling her it was greater suffering to hide within the embrace of intoxicants. There was beauty to be found in the moment, not in the strange hallucinations brought on by the seeds.

A sensation arose in her belly somewhere between sickness and emptiness. She realized she was hungry. There was no food where she was. That meant she had to go out again. Out into the dark.


It was later than she anticipated. Colder, too. At least the wind wasn’t bad. She hugged her jacket close to her frame and pulled the hood down low over her eyes. Her breath followed her in clouds of tiny iced barbs.

On some of the busier streets, there was still activity. She was able to find an open food-stall, and what it was serving was warm and filling. It was spicy and sweet smelling. The way she attacked her food, it was as if she hadn’t eating in days.

Had it really been that long? When did she take the seeds? It was only earlier in the day, wasn’t it?

…No more!…

Cynder’s head jerked up with a start. The voice was so close it may as well been right next her, but there was no one, just a lamppost with a flickering bulb. As long as she could remember, she would catch snippets of voices, of images, in her head. It frightened her, and she used that fear as part of her rationale for indulging in the seeds. Although, she never told anyone, not even the old lama about the voices. That could get her locked away. Or worse, sent off to one of those camps where criminals were experimented on.

She looked around to see if she could find the author of that voice. Nothing. There was something different about this particular voice; it carried a strange hiss, an almost clicking sound to it. Something not quite human, but making an effort to communicate with her none-the-less.

That was an unsettling thought. There were stories when the world was falling apart that things were created in labs and those camps. Monsters and nightmares, which walked with earthly feet. Perhaps they were just stories told to discourage travel in the wastes between cities, but on a cold, dark night with a strange voice in her head, Cynder began to wonder.

Quickly, she finished her meal. The gaming-house would be open. It always was. She wanted more seeds. Needed them. Once she had them, this alien voice and fear of old stories would be gone. Erased from her psyche. She was sure of it.

She began walking. The night seemed suddenly colder, the people around her more distant. There would be warmth within the walls of the gaming-house. The warmth of a body to get her the seeds if she didn’t have enough to purchase them outright, but perhaps she needed that warmth to fill the void of distance. Another rationalization, one she’d used before.

…No more!…The voice came again, and she quickened her pace.

“Hey, chica! Where you going in such a hurry?”

The author of that voice was a pale shaved-headed thing with a leering smile and lime green eyes. He stood surrounded by a pack of hangers-on. Not something she needed to be dealing with now or any time for that matter. Cynder pulled her hood lower and began walking quicker, hoping they wouldn’t follow.

“Hey, chica! We just want to talk to you!” He was calling after her, his voice, uncomfortably hot and close.

She ducked into an alleyway she knew. More than once she’d been this way as a shortcut and escape route. It had hidden her and kept her safe sometimes when she took the seeds. As long as she’d been aware of the alleyway, despite fresh garbage and graffiti, she had never seen anyone else in it.

The figure standing dead-center shattered that delusion. He was far taller than anyone she had ever seen and his skin was far more than pale; in fact, it was white, like fresh-fallen snow. From under a mane of ink black hair that ran the length of his back, she caught a glimpse of his eyes, and as if his presence and white skin was not enough, his eyes unnerved her. They were cold blue that appeared to glow in the low light and the pupils were slitted, like a serpent’s. Any question of humanity was removed when from out of his thin lips flicked a black forked tongue, testing the air. Something, which may have been made to resemble a smile, formed as he looked at her. The expression was strangely warm.

She wanted to back away, but found herself frozen in place. The figure reached out to her, offering a hand that bore more of a resemblance to a talon than any hand she had ever seen. There was something comforting in this gesture. Despite herself, Cynder felt herself being drawn to him.

“Good. Easy.” She shuddered when she realized his voice was the same hissing and clicking voice she’d heard in her head just a little earlier. “Come. Come to me."

17 September 2012


There are certain differences between Sabina and I, most certainly. Notably, is a matter of height; she is five-seven without help. Stubby, as she would say. Whilst, if my twisted spine were straight, I would be over seven feet, instead of only being close to six and a half in a set of boots. I am also a bit more lithe than her-and by lithe I mean I can make a stripped-to-the-bones-and-beyond-skeleton look absolutely gluttonous. And then there's the obvious anatomical difference.

Other than that, we're fine. Just about the same. Safe as houses...

But a big difference between us is how we deal with the leaves changing. I enjoy the moment. The colors. She sees it as a harbinger; an omen of winter; cold and bitter and dark times. Once, I got indignant about this difference, speaking like my father about the fact;

"Woman, the cold hurts me down the very marrow sometimes, whereas it's just something for you to piss and moan about...."

What an ugly thing to say. Yeh, I've got a twisted skeleton, strung together by bubblegum and baling wire, I suppose, but that's hardly the point. I felt bad for it.


As far as ski resort towns go, I dig Breckenridge. It started out as a mining town back during antiquity and still has some of the older structures. Therefore, it's got some funk, and you got to have the funk. There's also a spice store, a distillery, and the shoppe Space Cowboy, which I like for buttons, pins, stickers, patches and the occasional CD. The last time I was there I picked up a green bandanna.

I once told Sabina I wear bandannas to show solidarity to my strong Tuareg brothers, like those in the band Tinariwen, wandering the African Sahel and beyond. Never mind that my African heritage is several millions of years removed from my more immediate ancestry of Scottish, English, and Italian, we are all from Africa, it's just a matter of generations. Homo sapiens got their first big break in Africa. The stories began in Africa.

There's also the fact I refer to our narrow rift-like valley as a Sahel, but that's another tangent...

We were in Breckenridge for Oktoberfest as volunteers for a local conservation center. Aside from doing a good thing, we got a couple of free drinks out of it. Altruism and mercenary all at the same time. Fantastic.

As we wandered through the shifting crowds of humanity, gentle cool breezes blew, causing the leaves to rattle and flutter like multi-colored coins. The demographic of tourists; the try-too-hard-cowboy and his plump wife, the Latino family, the couple in east coast casual-looking like they had just seen someone married off or put in the ground-the hipster kids, and outdoor gear label-whores, would stop and marvel at the colors. Here was a form of magic made manifest that did not involve spells and fireballs and thunderbolts. Being a sucker for those moments of simple humanity, I could not help but smile at their innocent reactions of simple wonder.


A few glasses of wine, a stop at the distillery for a tasting, and half a roadie later, we stood atop Loveland Pass. We decided to walk up one of the trails just a bit, even though we were both in sandals. Miguel Loco one told me one of the trails followed a great deal of the spine of the Rockies and another was a back way to Grizzly Gulch across the summit of Mount Sniktau. I looked up the steep grade and took a moment to anthropomorphize with a growl.

"I fucked your mother last night. That's right. I shanked her pink ass and she looooooooooooooooooved it!"

And I marched up the mountainside. Getting to our stopping point, we took in the Roof of the World and surrounding tundra, Tibetan in its iron gray and rust colored countenance. A friend of mine once led a dinner toast with the mantra; we live where others come to vacation! Taking in the view I was reminded of the cosmic truth of that statement.

"We live here because so few have the spine to," I said to Sabina as I embraced her and collected a kiss. The only person crazy enough to jump off the end of the world with me. I try to let her know how grateful I am often.

The breezes were far cooler at twelve-thousand feet. The atmosphere thinner, That's just the way of it. We made our way back. There was a roadie to finish and we were grilling. The sun would be setting in an hour. Below us, we could see tiger-striping amongst the aspens. The peak of the colors so close it could almost be tasted.

"I reckon the changing of the seasons doesn't bother me that much," I mused. "I'm going to miss summer. I like riding my bike. But I've got a parka and snow-boots. It's all part of the cycle."

Sabina said nothing. She just smiled. Our viewpoints of the seasons, of the colors, balance one another out. And that's the important thing; balance. Everything else is just a detail.

11 September 2012

First and Last and Always

A few days back, I mowed. I'd been putting it off, actually. Despite rains and warm weather, the grasses around the house seemed to have slowed down in their growth rate. At one point, I wondered if I was done for the season. Then looking out back, I begin to realize if I didn't do mow at least one last time, that first time, next spring, would be an exercise I'd rather not contemplate.

"Of course, if you weren't some whack-job with a pushmower," my neighbor might, and has, chided.

Hey, it builds upper body strength. I get to listen to music of my mountains instead of the roar of a mechanical engine. No liquefied fossils are used in the process. I just have to keep up on the yard work with a little more diligence then someone with a motorized mower.

I saw my father for the first time since early summer the other day. He played some new songs for us. It's one of the last times he and his lead guitar player are able to get together, the young man is moving on to Nashville.

We drank whiskey in belated birthday toasts and listened to the blues. My father, like me, considers stopping aging on his upcoming sixty-fifth birthday. Time was, despite it being years since I abstained from smoking cigarettes, I'd have a social one with my father. As I watched him have a few, I realized once again, I no longer even have a I've-been-drinking-and-someone's-smoking-a-fag-and-I-want-a-nostaligic-one-too interest. Any former smoker who says they've not done it at least once is most likely lying. The last time I socially smoked with my father-with anyone, come to think about it-has been nearly a year ago now. The fact I find the scent of smoke acrid instead of just there or that I have no interest in the practice perhaps means something more profound than I realize.

My father would speak of the weather, and how unnaturally hot it has been this summer. There's a strange bit of twisted symmetry with the last few hot days that meteorological prophecy speaks of the first true frost of the season in our Sahel in the coming days. Sabina and I prepare to cover our community garden plot. Some of our tomatoes and my peppers are not ready yet.

In the ebb and flow of mountain tourism, the last of the bus tour groups pass through. By month's end, they'll be over and done with. The first leaf lookie-loos have begun to appear, wishing and hoping for some brilliance amongst the aspens. My dimestore guess is things will really start to pop and peak once the cool comes through and warms up again.

I rode my bicycle down-valley to check on an out-of-town friend's cats as the last of the morning sun was swallowed by the first clouds of the coming storm. There was a slight scent of rain in the air, and there were ting pinches and pains within the framework of my twisted skeleton as the barometer shifted. I might be in some of the best shape of my life, but I still have a twisted spine and skeleton that sometimes feels as if it's head together by little more than bubblegum and bailing wire. A flaw and a limitation, certainly, but I have never allowed myself to held in the thrall of my limitations.

Despite the cloud cover, it was warm. The rising humidity made the air feel a bit heavy. Shorts and t-shirt weather. These are some of the last days I might be able to wear shorts, meteorologically speaking. Yesterday may have been the last day I was able to wear sandals and go barefoot outside for awhile, but I won't know for awhile. The sense of finality and new beginnings in the coming days, these moments of transition, are profound in ways, which language fails to describe.

Riding home, I heard a sound unmistakable as the changing of the leaves marking the last days of summer; chainsaws chopping wood for those first days of autumn and winter. Although I hoped to dodge any rain before I got home, the first cool drops began to fall within a mile of home. Mei fei tsu, I have a hardshell for such occasions.

Higher up the mountainsides, I could see gold and a little flame intermingling with the emerald of the aspens, which seemed to give a little bit of credence to my prediction. If the temperatures foretold by meteorological prophecy come to pass, what with the showers, I couldn't help but think we'd see our first dusting of the season up around a eleven or twelve-thousand feet. The snowbums will get all kinds of aroused, but that's just the way of it.

The rain passed by the time a got off the bike path. I rode home, threw Live's Secret Samadhi album in the stereo, the whole time wondering how it could be so secret if it was on an album that sold millions of copies, and set about making myself lunch. East African lentils being my go-to filling meal on my free days. The things I needed to do for dinner whirled around within the confines of my skull as I got lunch ready.

With a young afternoon, a full and happy belly, and a dry outside, I meditate upon a walkabout. The Lair of the Boogieman, perhaps. A milkrun, from which I can hear the sounds of the narrow-gauge as it wends its way through the canyon. This is a time of firsts and lasts, but always part of the cycle, and I always take time to meditate upon it. With that in mind, I look down at Whistler.

"What do you think?" I ask. "Want to go walking?"

He looks back up at me, his ears slightly raised, and chomps. Chomping is his way of expressing excitement, happiness, and approval. I smile, and start over toward my pack.

08 September 2012

"Mother is the Name for Dog..."

They come from all over, as they all do; travelers and pilgrims. I am paid in paper and metal to dispense directions and information. It is something I take great pleasure in; telling people where to go and what to do when they get there.

This set were on their way to Meeker. There was a dog show. Herding trials, to be specific. One of the breeds mentioned with frequency, of course, were Australian Shepherds.

The fact during interactions I sometimes had to fight back breaking down might have been seen as a sign of weakness. Even and especially when I'd mention having grown up on a farm, with a kennel, which raised Aussies. I'd mention Whistler and Chevy, the Grumpy Old Men, pedigreed champions, two close quadrupedal friends of mine, my metaphoric monkey's paws.

It was polite to mention the hounds, and I am so to a fault. Some have accused my sense of decorum as being anachronistic, despite my punk-rock sensitivities. Then again, I supposedly excel at paradox. Another parental gift.

Of course, I thought about her. I remember her traveling the wide world and beyond for her dog shows. Sometimes I questioned her sanity. There were times I envied all the places she had stories for that I'd only read of in books. I suppose it hardly matters now.

Although, it's good thing I didn't see one of her dog showing compatriots. I'd have probably just lost it. And, sobbing like a bitch in public, even if it would've been in context, would've been unsightly.

06 September 2012


The trouble started with blue jeans. One does not usually think of any sort of trouble being involved with pants, unless it is the removal of such, but there it is. For the first time since the community melodrama, I found myself in jeans. For the last little over two months, I had been living in shorts and found it good. Part of this circumstance I can place blame on sempi under the auspice of obligation.

"It's not cold yet!" I protested. "And you said I could wear shorts, Sir."

"The season's over," he said. "We'll revisit wearing shorts next summer, but, until then; wear pants."

No, I was not thrilled. I have a hard and fast belief that the perception of clothes making the man-or woman-being a sickness, but that perhaps comes from being fucked with for my appearance long before I grew my hair long, got piercings, or the drawings upon my flesh in black India ink. Being too tall, too skinny, with eyes too big for the rest of my face will do that, I suppose. I do not take well to even being suggested how to look.

Be that as it may, sempi's directive became perhaps the second reason; despite the warmth of the days, the overnight temperatures have begun to dip into the high thirties. I noticed what looked like frost upon the grass. My breath appeared in clouds of vapor. For the bicycle rides down valley, I've been wearing my soft-shell, and the breezes have carried a bite. I hope to be able to continue to ride at least through the month, if not longer, but I know that's at the whims of meteorology. The idea of reteaching myself to drive after a summer of not seems alien and vaguely annoying.

Fucking great, I'll have to start budgeting for petrol once more. Come to think of it, if there's frost, I'll have to start budgeting for pellet-stove fuel. An inevitability, certainly, but still something of a strange shock when it starts to appear upon the event horizon.

The barrier fence, between the bike path and part of the Road, which is erected between the holidays that bookend the summer tourist season for cyclists, has been taken down. It is a little unnerving at first, riding briefly by speeding vehicles without the day-glow orange plastic to give the illusion of comfort, before hurtling down along the canyon rim at the speed of pure inertia. I know that barrier would not stop a hunk of metal and plastic from smashing into me if it came down to, but not having it there takes a little bit to get used to.

I have mentioned recently the leaves have already started to change up here. The theories abound from the dry winter and spring, to a decent monsoon, to omens of the End of Days. I think one friend of mine is spot on, though; no one really knows for sure, and it's just one of those mysteries. Although I am more inclined to want to solve a mystery than let lie, sometimes, hypocritically, I just let it go, not finding the answer so all-consuming.

Meteorological prophecy foretells of a one day cool-down. Nothing horrific. No flakes flying. Maybe not even any rain. Just enough of a shift to give a clear sign that autumn is coming and really kick-start the aspens into their myriad of colors. It's a given the scent of wood smoke will perfume the thin mountain air. A scent that may start to become more of a regular occurrence as the days shorten. Another omen in the dynamic of the seasons. This is the Tao of the High Country. So it goes.

04 September 2012


When I was but a wee lad, barely able to walk, my mother was not very good at yard work. The flowerbeds would become overgrown with weeds. My father, muttering curses and thoughts of murder would take care of them. Of course, the gardening guru at our community garden once said a weed is merely a plant you do not want.

Because of legalities, my mother never did anything like smoke a joint. This is almost queer, given my father has danced with Mary Jane since he was sixteen. When my mother was sick, sick, my father suggested she just sit in the room with him whilst he had a toke or two as to help lessen the pain not even morphine could completely erase. She refused under the auspice of marijuana's status within the eyes of the law.

"Then just suffer!" My father snapped at her once toward the end. It was a stressful time.

By virtue of my mother's side of the family, we have been in this state for over a century and a half. Some of the first ones, when it comes to the paler-skinned settlers. Invasive weeds, encased in the animal flesh. This makes my family a little more ancient in this part of the world, I suppose. It also makes it nearly comical how my mother could not readily identify plants she grew up around.

Back when I was but a wee lad, barely able to walk, a particular plant appeared in the flowerbeds my mother would never weed. It was tall and thorny with a brush-like purple flower. She did not readily recognize this plant and asked my father if he knew.

"My, god!" He exclaimed in his rich and thick North Carolina accent. "That's a hash plant! Woman, we're gonna be rich!"

My mother ran outside to weed the flowerbeds. Quiet throughly, it should be added. My father stayed inside to watch a baseball game. It was only much later he would tell my mother that particular plant was not a hash plant, but a Russian thistle.

As one can imagine, the language was colorful. I'm certain my mother's response was sponsored by the letter fuck. But, as my father would put it, it broke her of sucking eggs, and she became much more helpful with yard work. It was also the beginning of a family joke still told to this day.

Over the years and lifetimes, my father, my siblings, and I have mentioned seeing the purported hash plant, and spoken of making our fortunes with it. In recent years, my daughter has gotten in on the joke, saying this was her meal ticket to university. Back when my mother was still alive, with an ancient sidelong glare toward my father, she would groan out a good-natured hey! at the circumstance.

Despite the already changing leaves in our Sahel, there has been a reappearance of some flowering plants; columbines, clovers, and dandelions. Messianic second comings of flora. In the last couple of weeks, I've seen another plant come back; the Russian thistle.   

I see it and chuckle. I smile bittersweetly. I reach down and give this weed just the slightest touch. After all, its existence gets me to think of my mother, and, in that way, simpy as it sounds, it almost makes it that she's not so far away.

02 September 2012

Forty Orbits

"What are we waitin' for?
I'm gonna live to be a hundred and sixty-four-

Fuck it
let's go!"-Live

I am not a fan of the Beach Boys, and I never was. Perhaps this means nothing, except the fact my mother remembered the time of my birth by virtue of a Beach Boys song, even though she sometimes forgot the actual date, much to my mockery. Every so often, she'd sing me the paraphrased verse;

"[H]e's real fine
my 409..."

Fucking perfect...

My father has told stories of how I was screaming before I'd fully emerged from my mother's birth canal. Apparently, my birthcries woke up every whelp on the ward in those small hours between late night and early morning. I do not remember. After all, I was extraordinarily young at the time.

That was forty years back now...

In coming up upon my fortieth birthday, I could say I've been rather introspective, but, then again, I am something of an introspective cat to begin with. It certainly helped with my philosophical and theological studies. I am constantly reevaluating and reassessing, coming to different revelations as the psychic incarnations progress. Still, standing upon the precipice of a decade, and one, which, by virtue of the social construct of reality, is the stepping stone into middle age, I think that one cannot help but get a little meditative.

About a year before my mother got sick, right before my last trip to North Carolina, the two of us waxed venomous nostalgia about that stretch of geography, and the three and a half years we lived there. Neither of us liked the place that much, but my father's side of the family was there as was his way of earning a living at the time. Be that as it may, my mother postulated the question of whether or not I was grateful for the experience. The auspice of diversity, differing cultures, and perspectives. It's taken me a little over half a decade to truly understand the profundity of what she was saying.

I've run with pagans and punks. Taken my refuge vows from a British monk in saffron robes. I would drink coffee with a mad mathematician, speaking in the tongues of Sun Tzu and tantra whilst he broke it down in the tongues of Ann Ryand and quantum physics. On a half-remembered Wednesday night I was ordained as a minister. Studied the mystical and the scientific, sometimes simultaneously. Debated-sometimes violently-with skinheads and scholars. Attended festivals and cooked meals, which, depending on one's bent, might be considered ethnic and exotic. Published a book and hung around with a couple artists of which I didn't want to stab outright. I've kissed a gypsy and seduced a vampire. A girl in a mask once said we all have our Africas, which is so much like my concept of Kashmir; and I found mine nestled up high in the Rocky Mountains, in a valley I refer to as a Sahel. I have danced with the dead for money, helping with the last act of altruism, and am involved with historical preservation, dysfunctioally fulfilling my archaeological aspirations.

Not bad for forty trips around the sun, I think. I begin to remind myself of these things anytime I fear falling into mundanity and becoming Captain Suburbia. And I know my story isn't over yet. After all, I've come to realize life is but a constant state of becoming, and, when that stops, it's lights out.

I have no time for such silliness. It's not death if you refuse it, only if you accept it. I'm not feeling overly accepting of the concept. So it goes.

I think this is going to be the last birthday I really make any kind of deal about for a bit. Perhaps I'll just stop aging altogether. Forty seems like a decent place, that bardo between youth and the golden years. Although, I once mentioned wanting to live until at least one-hundred twenty, I'm thinking of going on until 2145 in Gregorian timekeeping, and then seeing how I feel about life and whether or not I've accomplished all I've set myself out to do and see.

By that time, me being me, I'll probably be insisting on at least another couple hundred millennia...