Monthly Archives: May 2007

Chicken and Mushrooms

 
            "See before you are seen; strike before you are struck; eat before you are eaten."
                                                            –The Exile Law

                       
            Cheryl listened as the water moccasin slithered through the slime coating the cool, dark shaft. 
            She plunged her hand like a spear thrusting toward the sound.  Her prize wriggled under her grip.  The steel razor duct taped to her right index finger swished through the air, arced across the snake, one centimeter below the head.
            "Rabbit," Cheryl hissed, "I’ve got dinner."  She used her razor to skin the snake.  She dropped the skin into her steel bucket to save for mending her skirt after eating.
            A pale, bald head hanging upside down peeped from a shaft leading heavenward–upward to the surface.  "What’cha got?  What’cha got?" A raspy whisper.
            "Get down and find out." Cheryl growled, and then caught herself.  Rabbit was valuable, a commodity, sharp eared.
            Rabbit jumped down.  He was only a meter and a half and barely over a hundred pounds, with that nervous quickness that never forgot his mortality.  "Mmm.  Lucky, lucky.  Snake, my favorite.  Tastes just like chicken.  Gimme."
            Cheryl caught his eyes in the phospho of her hand lamp, "Chicken?  When’d you ever have chicken?  That’s surf food."
            Rabbit jerked his head to the side.  "Someone’s sneaking, sneaking’ and creepin’.  Jack, probably.  Got that slow step, stutter step."
            "Rad sludge," Cheryl cursed.  "I’ve only got one finger taped.  Slime’n’sweat fouled my stash.  What’s Jack holding these days?  He still exile?"
            Rabbit nodded, then giggled.  "Too much for you, pretty brown eyes." 
            His laughter told Cheryl, Rabbit knew more than he said.
            Cheryl took hold of her temper.  You couldn’t blame Rabbit for being Rabbit.  She patted him on the top of his cold, bald head.  "All right, Rabbit.  It’s okay.  We’ll just have to give him our dinner, that’s all.  I know Jack; he’ll take the food as part of a sleep truce.  He doesn’t need any more enemies."
            Rabbit moaned, "Nooo, I like chicken." 
            Suddenly Rabbit grinned, baring brown teeth and bloody gums as he cupped his long fingers around his lips.  He shouted, "Hoses coming!  Hoses coming!  Surfs coming to clean out the dead weight, rad weight!  Hoses coming!"
            Cheryl’s heart instinctively started pounding; she almost leapt to her feet as an intense urge to escape mingled with a sudden thirst for clean water.
            Scrabbling, sloshing, jangling, and pounding feet erupted and echoed from either end of the shaft as sewer dwellers grabbed pails and tin cans before scuttling and crawling behind grates and holes pounded out of the cement.  Rabbit laughed and clapped his cold hands together with glee.
            "Now, we eat," said Rabbit, suppressing a giggle.  He reached for the meat, but stopped short as Cheryl’s index finger touched his throat, softly leaving the threat of a stainless steel razor.
            "Ow, Cheryl!  Don’t cut me.  Just want some chicken."  He stretched out the words, whining for mercy and food.  "I can getcha smokes, surf quality, fresh and new, plastic wrapped.  Gimme some chicken, please Cheryl."
            Cheryl tore off a two centimeter chunk of snake meat and tossed it to Rabbit.
            Rabbit popped it in his mouth, crunching on the spiky ribs, vertebrae and meat indiscriminately.  "Mmmm.  More."
            "First, you tell me.  Tell me how you’re getting surf stuff." 
            Rabbit giggled.  "Clean water, good water, no water in three.  There, I told you.  Gimme another piece."
            "What’s that supposed to mean?"
            Rabbit shouted, color rushing to his corpse white face, "True answer.  I swear on clean water.  Pay.  Pay.  Pay!"
            "Easy, Rabbit, easy."  She tossed him another chunk.  Rabbit was crazy like most exiles from the rad commune that congregated another two kliks heavenward, just beneath the surf’s sewer system: crazies all, except for herself, Cheryl told herself that, again and again.  She kept to the law; the law kept her sane.
            "Rabbit," Cheryl spoke softly, "Rabbit, I want an edge."
            Rabbit swallowed hard, choking down the meat.  "Getcha razors?  Surf quality."
            "How, Rabbit?  How?"
            Rabbit pointed up.
            Cheryl asked, "The commune?"  She tossed him another chunk of meat.
            Rabbit snatched it with one hand; the other jerked spasmodically toward the ceiling.
            "Farther heavenward?  The heavy water tunnels?"
            Rabbit giggled.
            Cheryl handed Rabbit the rest of the snake, slowly, hesitantly.  "Rabbit, you haven’t been to the surface?  No."
            "Yehf."  Rabbit mumbled with the tail end of the snake sticking from his mouth.
            "Show me how you get there.  Take me with you."
            Rabbit finished gobbling down the snake; then, tenderly, he leaned forward and kissed Cheryl on the forehead.  "Only for you.  Only for you.  You’re my friend, my only friend."  His pale body trembled; he cried.
            "Yes, Rabbit."  Cheryl held him in her arms, though it felt unnatural.  Rabbit was cold and bony and needy.  Friendship with another exile, ludicrous.  Need, need, need: That was the law behind the law for exiles and Rabbit’s shivering spoke the truth of it.  All this yammering for a snake, and this crazy knew a way to the surface.  She rocked him back and forth, back and forth until he ceased shivering. 
            Cheryl spoke softly, "If you are my friend, Rabbit, you’ll show me how to get to the surface."
            Rabbit jumped from her arms and started clambering up a sewer shaft.  He looked down and beckoned Cheryl with a bony arm.  "To heaven, to heaven," and he was lost from sight.
            Cheryl scrambled after him.  Despite his small frame, Rabbit was true to his name, a fast darter.  But Cheryl knew these shafts well and kept pace until her breath ran through her lungs.  Finally, Rabbit stopped and began scratching into the muck on the wall of the shaft.
            Cheryl smudged some new fungus between the concave mirrors above her wrist and shined the fresh phospho lamp above her.  Rabbit’s eyes glinted back a soft green in the light.  She climbed the ladder the rest of the way to him.  He wasn’t even tired.
            "Rabbit, you’re heading straight for the rad commune."
            Rabbit grinned and pulled his arm from the muck.  Two small rectangular packages were in his hand.  "Smokes," Rabbit said smugly, "One for you, one for me.  Rad commune gets packages dropped from surfs, but I know angels."
            Cheryl returned his manic smile just to keep him calm, but the smokes were proof that Rabbit had some secret in his addled head.  She followed Rabbit as he hopped onto the ten meter diameter shaft where the rad commune held sway.  Sure enough, a bravo was there: thick in the chest covered by that horrid coat of rat pelts that the commune raised for extra food and clothing.  Worse, he had a hunting knife.  Too much for the sliver of razor on the end of her finger.
            Rabbit moaned, "Going heavenward."
            "Again, Rabbit?" the man said, "You sure are a thirsty bugger.  Who’s this?"  He pointed his knife toward Cheryl.
            Cheryl said, "We’ve got the price, rat eater."
            Rabbit whined and quickly held out the packs of cigarettes.
            The man grabbed them while keeping an eye on Cheryl.  "One more," he looked at Cheryl, "for the rats, exile."
            "Nonono," Rabbit said, "no more smokes."
            Cheryl lunged at his arm and slashed his wrist; the hunting knife fell from his hand.  The guard fell to his knees. 
            Rabbit pulled at her torso, "Go, go.  It’s fair enough."
            "Greed wants death: That’s almost as good as the law, Rabbit."
            Cheryl took the knife and slit the guard’s throat.  She grabbed Rabbit by the arm and hurried along the shaft.  Ten meters farther, they came to another vertical shaft and Rabbit scampered up with Cheryl following.
            Rabbit started to cry and his pace slowed.
            Cheryl pinched his backside, hard.  "Keep moving.  Stop crying, Rabbit.  You don’t have to worry; we’re not coming back.  We’re going to be surfs and eat chicken every day, right?"
            "You shouldn’ta killed him.  Rad commune’s ok." Rabbit spoke as he climbed.  He crawled onto the next horizontal shaft and curled up in a ball.
            Cheryl prodded him.  "Rabbit, Rabbit, we’ve got to move.  What’s wrong with you?  We’re almost to the heavy water tunnels.  Don’t be scared."  Cheryl wanted to slit her own throat for following and believing a crazy like Rabbit.  It might take days to go around the rad commune back to where the snakes and algae were plentiful, not to mention a clean water shaft.
            Rabbit sniffed and said, "Hoses coming."
            "Rabbit, if you’re lying–"  Then, she heard it: a deep whooshing and pounding.  She looked at Rabbit, almost left him, but grabbed him and dropped back down onto the first rung of the vertical shaft.  The water was coming–clean water, but just too, too much.  She pulled off the chain belt that held her snake skin skirt and lashed their wrists together; then wrapped the chain around the bar of the ladder.
            Cheryl cried out as the water cascaded over her, clear death moving too fast to drop down on her as it raced through the heavy water shaft.  Her ears rang at the deep thrashing sound a few centimeters over her.  Rabbit whimpered.
            The torrent lasted no longer than ten seconds.  It ended in a last rain of water, dwindling to a trickle.  Cheryl wished she had a hand free to grab her pail and catch some of that clean water.
            She started working on the chains when Rabbit pounded on her shoulder and hissed, "Nonono.  White, bright angels near."
            It was dark; that last stream of water had washed the phospho from her hand lamp.  Cheryl wished she could tell if he was lying or even what he meant, but this was Rabbit’s home ground, not hers.
            "Rabbit," Cheryl whispered, "we could go back now.  The rad commune’s going to be busy grabbing up the clean water that’s falling now."
            "Quiet, quiet, quiet," Rabbit hissed.
            A voice boomed through the shaft: "Attention Farming Quad Three: Heavy water test number two-ninety-six in holding tank.  Junior Rad and Bio Tech harvesters report to holding shaft three for sampling."
            That voice thundered everywhere.  Cheryl asked, "G-God?" and she shivered as if she were Rabbit, for she felt that small and helpless.
            Rabbit pounded his feet on a lower rung with glee.  "Yesyesyes!  No water in three!  Let’s go."  He tugged the chains loose.
            After clambering to the shaft, Rabbit danced and shouted, "To heaven, to heaven!"
            Cheryl hissed, "Quiet."
            Rabbit said, "Nonono!  We’re near heaven!"
            Cheryl rapped him hard on the shoulder with the hilt of her hunting knife.  Rabbit cried.
            Cheryl said, "What’s the law, Rabbit?"
            Rabbit sniffed and sulked.  "Not here."
            "I’m not going to let you get me slagged.  I’ve lived longer than any exile, ’cause the law made me live."  She raised the knife.  "Say it to swear it."
            "Not here."
            Cheryl pushed the edge of the knife against his ribs, drawing a drop of blood.  There was no light, but both were used to that.  "Rabbit, I’m not kidding."
            Rabbit spoke through muffled sobs and sniffles, "See before seen; strike before struck; eat before eaten."
            "Good," Cheryl whispered, "and keep any phospho wrapped tight.  You lead the way; I’ll follow the sound of your feet, noisy Rabbit."
            "Huhn," Rabbit pouted and tried to walk extra quietly, just to make Cheryl strain.
            But Cheryl followed him easily; every sense closed down, except hearing.  She crept without thought, her mind open only to sounds.
            They travelled for two days like this.  Occasionally, Rabbit would pause and sniff the air, and Cheryl would mimic, but the air was only cold and clear, unnerving Cheryl.  She was used to the body odors and muck of the exiles just hellward of the rad commune.  Here, the crisper air made her nose run and the flesh in her nostrils raw.
            Cheryl heard a metal clicking coming from Rabbit.
            Suddenly, Rabbit shouted with delight, "I rang the heaven bell.  Angels’re coming!  They’re coming!"
            Cheryl cried, "Damn you, Rabbit!"
            The wall magically disappeared with a soft sliding sound to reveal a new shaft.  But it was the light that burned into Cheryl’s eyes.  Brighter than any phospho fungus.
            "Damn you, Rabbit," Cheryl thought, "see before you’re seen."
            But she heard them: They were four, heavy footed with arrogance from catching her off guard, no doubt.  Cheryl lunged, twisting her body to the side to present a slimmer target and stabbed outward with the knife with her first shot, always the strongest.  It pierced some tough cloth, but Cheryl was rewarded with a muffled groan.  They must be wearing helmets, so no head strikes.
            A muffled popping sound erupted in front of her.  Her chest hurt.  Someone had stabbed her, she guessed.  She threw the knife toward the sound; fell down across the door; died.
            These angels had no wings; they were covered in big, white crumply suits with shiny big boots and little windows over their faces.  One stood next to Rabbit and peered at him through the window over her face.  Her face had funny blisters and welts and her hair was all in patches.  Rabbit didn’t like to look.  The angel had hollow eyes.
            Rabbit shivered.
            The angel spoke, "Why did she want to hurt us?"  Her voice was hollow, too.
            Rabbit shrugged and pointed hellward.  "That’s the law."
            Another angel spoke: "Get her body upstairs for autopsy.  I want a full immunopsy run.  Check the rad levels on her.  Not a welt on her.  Start a T-cell clone, stat, before cellular degradation sets in."
            Rabbit asked, "Are they taking her to heaven?"
            One of the angel’s picked up Cheryl’s body and muttered more funny words, "This ‘shroom’s a good harvest.  No sign of rad poison.  What magnificently pale skin!  Don’t harvest many from down deep.  They’ve got the best immune systems.  Top grade clone cells.  Good job, Rabbit."
            "Belay that, asshole." And the other angel looked at Rabbit as if words could hurt Rabbit.  It almost made him giggle.
            "Is the law in heaven?  Can I go to heaven, too?"  Rabbit asked.
            The lady angel said, "Of course, Rabbit.  You can stay with us.  But, what law are you talking about?"
            Cheryl’s body dissappeared behind sliding heaven doors.  Rabbit watched the magic doors with big eyes as he repeated the law for the lady angel.
            "No such law like that in heaven." and she patted his bald head.  "We’ll give you chicken again and let you bring your friends to heaven for even more chicken."
            Rabbit saw her eyes go hard and cold, like Cheryl’s eyes whenever the law had breathed within her.  Rabbit felt stupid for asking.  The angel was just trying to make him feel safe, like when Cheryl used to hug him.  If the law was in his angel’s eyes, the law was everywhere, which Rabbit had half suspected all along, anyway.
            He didn’t really care.  Rabbit understood the law and he reached up to the lady with his bony arms.  The lady angel lifted him out of the muck and carried him piggyback to heaven.  Rabbit’s long thin tongue licked his chapped lips; chicken would be nice.  He was going to like heaven.
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Susurrus

 

            In the darkness on the new moon, in the midst of the still night, gaze lonely through the spaces between stars and find within the harbinger of intellect, the dawn of awareness–susurrus.

                        –Anonymous from a scroll found in catacombs beneath the mosque at Alexandria

  

            Fresh from the calm desert, Timothy gazed at Las Vegas on a neon night.  Industrial punk slammed sonic hammers from a tiny boombox, fighting for his mind’s time against the honking, the backfire–or was it gunshot?  Whatever.  Both were common enough on the strip.  It was a sweet cacophony to Timothy’s hungry ears.  Even the expletives of the jilted prostitute in her brightly painted reds and shiny plastic blacks were a welcome companion to his too conscious mind.

            Anything was better than the lonely howl of the coyote.

            Timothy scratched his scalp in nervous anticipation.  He had arrived: civilization.  He sucked on his Marlboro and almost coughed.  Tobacco was still a new vice, but it helped him, helped him to look like the others.

            He approached–sauntered was how he thought of it–toward two men, clinging to the few shadows on the glowing Las Vegas strip.  Timothy could watch through the brightly neon chilled air around him: Las Vegas people were together, bound by the allegro tempo in their chaotic progressions across the paved strip.  He could join their chorus.  Timothy was sure he could.

            The two men spoke in strained whispers with their backs to the street; Timothy caught what he could as he walked closer:

            "Fifty?  For two rocks?"

            "High grade, no shit.  I’ll do you right.  Shit, man, you can break each rock into three hits."

            "Okay, okay.  But forty, I only got forty."

            "Uh-huh.  Then you share the first hit with me.  You gotta prove you’re not a narc."

            "Hey, hey, no problem—-"

            "Hi, my name’s Timothy."

            "Fuck!"

            "What the fug you think you’re doin’ man?  You crazy?"

            "Back off, man.  He’s gotta be a cop."

            Timothy replied, trying to be like them, trying to like them, "Fug, no.  I just want to be with you, man."

            "Look at his eyes!  Look at his eyes.  He’s wired to the gills.  Let’s roll ‘im."

            Then, the pain came.  They were fast; that is, their fists were fast, whirling back and forth across his gut and over his face.  Timothy’s blood stained their hands.

            Timothy didn’t mind the bleeding.  It was a dance of pain, binding Timothy to them with his pain and their anger, a brutal language, but a communal one.  Yet images whirled through his mind, images that brought back ancient memories, things he didn’t want to remember, things he had forgotten: listening to the solemn echo of Tibetan chants against the stone walls of the cold monastery, dripping down through the cracks between the quarks as the monks stole quiet breaths, blossoming back up through a tingling wave of probability, and singing with the coyote, whose howl threatened to bring back all the other memories.

            "Enough.  I don’t like this dance." Timothy said, but the blood in his mouth slurred his words.

            "He’s too stupid to fall."

            "No shit.  My arms are getting tired.  You hold him; I’ll get his wallet."

            Timothy felt a pressure against his backside, touching hard, grabbing, pushing.  Touch was the best; touch was real motion, going away from the self and to someone, anyone else.  But when he had cleared the blood from his eyes, he saw that his friends had abandoned him.

            "Betrayers!  A pox upon you!" Timothy shouted and coughed up blood.

            This would never do.  People hated ugly people and feared diseased people.  "The black death." Timothy mumbled.

            Boils welled up under his skin, across his arms, inside his mouth.  "Nguh–nguh—-" Timothy mumbled.

            That was stupid.  He hadn’t meant to summon the plague.  Worse, it was a lonely pain.  But Timothy had forgotten just how much he could do, had wanted to forget who he was.  Now, this body was too far gone.  Timothy knew that he would have to start again.  But he feared to release his hold on this body, feared the absence of flesh, feared to be utterly alone without eyes, without ears, even for a short time.

            He released the quarks, dissolved the glue.

            The self tried to whisper to him, but his mind raced through numbers and equations; moved quarks, then protons, then atoms, then molecules–anything to distract him from the whispers, the voice that threatened to teach.  He knew it instinctively, his name, ageless, unique, alone: Pro—-

            "No!" Timothy screamed and was rewarded with the sound of his voice and the sight of fresh, firm flesh, surrounding his thoughts, aching to mingle those new senses with other people.

            Immediate reward: The banging music was still there, still cracking, raping the night with its furious and unique identity, an identity that was not Timothy’s.  That was the sweet part.

            ***

            "It was a freak accident, Lieutenant.  The lighter exploded while they were heating the bowl of the pipe.  Found some heroin in the room, too.  Could’a been freebasing, I suppose, and then didn’t seal the bottle of ether.  It was a fast, intense fire.  It caught them stoned and the whole room burst.  Better write a citation: The blankets in this ratbag weren’t fire retardant.  Poor bastards, they must’a been too tanked to get out."

            "Sorta like two cats in a microwave."  Officer Johnson tried to smile, but it was a poor joke that failed to stop the bile that rose in his throat.

            ***

            The music man climbed into a dented, red Triumph and sped away, leaving only the background traffic to delight Timothy.  It wasn’t enough.

            He had to go somewhere, somewhere with lots of people.  The hotels were brightly lit.  The clothes he had stolen were bloody, the epitaph of his former body and first mingling.  Still, people enjoyed accepting the images he sent into their minds almost as much as he enjoyed giving them the visions.  Timothy made sure that every eye saw him as a rich man.  Everyone liked rich men.  He made himself smell like stale tobacco smoke, a pervasive odor within old casinos.  Timothy wanted to blend perfectly with the other audience members.  He entered the softly lit ballroom where the big star was singing.  Only, it wasn’t a star.  That was a disappointment; stars sang so brightly in the night heavens, so long as you looked at their light and not at what patiently surrounded the stars.

            "No." Timothy muttered through clenched teeth, "Must’nt think of that.  Must’nt think of the before times.  People are the answer.  Motion is the answer."

            But it only got worse for Timothy.  The singer crooned softly like a coyote; the people were massed in the giant room with the plush carpet and idle drinks with melting ice cubes, but these people were alone, too, all silently listening to the coyote voiced man.

            Timothy turned to leave, but there was a real coyote barring his path.  They were pursuing him, had found him, even though he had lost himself.  Another ancient memory forced itself into his mind: They were as mighty as he on the new moon nights.  Timothy shouted, "Go away, green man!"

            The coyote smiled.  "So, you do remember.  Good.  But I’m not the green man today.  We’re in the People’s lands, so I’m the Coyote."

            The audience sitting around the back tables turned and stared at the man in the tux who shouted at air.  Some shushed him.

            Timothy heeded their command.  That was how companionship worked, wasn’t it?  You listened to others when they told you to do something so that when you were doing what they asked, you were actually them and not yourself.  He spoke softly and Coyote laughed at him when he saw that Timothy obeyed the people.

            Timothy said, "Go away, Coyote.  Go.  Go."

            Coyote sniggered, lewdly lolling his tongue toward a woman in a blue velvet dress, who showed slightly more generous cleavage than traditional decorum allowed.  Then, he said casually, oh, so casually to Timothy, "You’re much too confused to banish me, but suppose I told you some of your names, hmmm?"

            That would bring the memories back, all of them.  Timothy shuddered.  He couldn’t be human then.  Timothy said, "Then I would remember who I am, and I would be very angry with you."

            "That’s fine.  It’ll make for a grand game."

            Despite his best efforts, Timothy remembered that Coyote, the green man, loved all word games and tricks.  Coyote knew that his presence would be enough to break the silken barrier that blocked the ancient memories, that allowed Timothy to be a man.

            Timothy growled, "Then perhaps I’ll withhold my gifts."  Timothy didn’t remember what gifts he could withhold; it was a gamble, for he knew he was rapidly losing this confrontation.  Point in fact: Timothy remembered that Coyote had been his friend, his companion in his journeys to Earth on the new moon nights.

            But Coyote’s ears flattened against his skull upon hearing Timothy’s threat and he whined, "You wouldn’t."

            "Hah!  Got you, Coyote.  Go, go, go!"

            Coyote ran from the hotel with his tail between his legs, ran all the way into the desert and up the invisible rays of the new moon and slipped into the darkness.  The others waited for him in Timothy’s vacant house, where the invisible fires in the silver braziers burned precariously low.  It irked Coyote’s pride to admit he had failed, but something had to be done about their rogue compatriot.  The others were less than pleased with Coyote’s results, but when he announced Timothy’s threat, even the three hags of grief, misery, and guilt were frightened.  And when the Furies were frightened, when their snakes twined in braids and hissed too fervently their false bravado, all the others were silent; and none dared to tell Timothy who he really was.

            Timothy left the casino.  The coyote singer wouldn’t stop howling, and the appearance of Coyote only made it worse for him.  He had won, but he had also lost.  His mind was timeslipping, remembering ancient memories.  Fire gazing poets, long since dust, whirled through his mind.  Timothy wanted now, and Timothy wanted others.  That would help banish the memories.

            Sex, hot and sweaty and grunting, would be the perfect thing to force his mind to think of another, to be with another.  There were prostitutes aplenty, too.  The jilted one was not too far down the strip and he ran to catch her.

            "What’chu want?"

            Timothy smiled.  Smiling was always a good way to attract others.  "I want sex."

            She laughed.  Timothy savored the sound.  It was a small laugh, laced with mockery, tinted with jade.  Timothy enjoyed her mockery; she was communicating; it was subtle, something to ponder, something to share.  It made the heat rise to his face.

            She said, "Nice and blunt.  How long do you want me?"

            "Forever," Timothy blurted.

            She stared into Timothy’s eyes.  Timothy savored the puzzled and dubious expression on her face; it was unique, new.  The prostitute watched as Timothy savored her fear.  She palmed a key into her hand and poked the tip between the fingers of her fist.  "Back off, friend.  You don’t have enough money for me."  She had seen enough of her competition go with johns who acted weird.  Sometimes, they ended in the morgue.

            Timothy told her to see a fistful of money in his hand and her eyes lighted.  But she was like a doe, curious but wary: still innocent enough to consider and fantasize friendship.  Timothy heard all her thoughts ecstatically: This was companionship, interaction.  She looked at the money, looked at him, at the money again and gnawed her lower lip.

            Another woman approached, wearing gaudy stockings and stiletto heels, garish face paint and too long lashes.  She spoke calmly as if her voice never changed, could not change, "It’s alright, sister.  I’ll take care of him."

            Timothy’s friend (He already felt wonderfully close to her.) turned with flashing eyes toward the newcomer.  "Who you callin’ sis—-"  She stopped abruptly upon locking eyes with the other woman.  Timothy watched, but he was outside again, not part of this new conversation.  Timothy’s prostitute said, "Alright, he’s yours.  You’d better be careful, though.  He’s strange."

            "Thank you, sister.  Your womb will be fruitful."

            Already walking away, the prostitute muttered sourly, "Great.  That’s all I need."  She went back to her dingy room, where she knew at least Thoreau would be waiting for her.  Some nights were just too weird to turn tricks.

            Timothy stared into the newcomer’s eyes, but he found no companionship there.  Her eyes were cold under those long eyelashes, and she refused to meet his gaze.  Still, anything was better than being alone.  He asked, "Who are you?"

            "Erda will do for now.  Come, walk with me.  I know who you are."

            He knew he was trapped.  It had worked with Coyote: "Leave or I’ll withhold my gifts."

            Erda replied, "I don’t care.  Maybe that would be for the best."  She laughed, deep and powerful, but not so complex, not so quick and fresh like the laughter of people.  Her long red fingernails glimmered under a flashing orange sign advertising twenty-five cent slots.  She looked at her nails, brought them close to her face.  "I’m just curious for now.  I wanted to meet you at least once, and this is probably my only chance.  Why did you do it?  Why did you abandon who you were?"

            Timothy heard something in that.  Whether it was threat or predator caution or some trickery, he wasn’t certain.  He could dissolve his body, could start over again.  The new moon night wasn’t over.  That was all he needed to return to–to–where?  Timothy said, "I don’t remember why I did it; I only know I wanted to be with people.  I wanted to do what they do.  I thought I could laugh with them.  Is it so terrible to want to be someone else?  I just wanted to march with them."

            She said, "That was never your way."

            "No, it wasn’t." Timothy agreed.  How did he know that?  His heart started racing; he was remembering.

            She stopped walking and Timothy found himself standing next to her on the top of a lonely, green hill under the leaves of an oak tree.  It was dark.  There were no city lights, no car headlights, no wonderful music, save the chilling wind, moaning into his ears.  Timothy cried, "What?  I was in Las Vegas, around people.  How did I get here?"

            "You walked with me, and I am more sure footed than you upon the world."  Timothy heard no arrogance in her tone; moreover, her voice slipped wistfully into his mind.  "I wanted to see if a mask could work.  Humanity pains me and I can’t seem to shrug them off.  Of all the new moon spirits, you would know best.  If you could enjoy wearing a facade of flesh, anyone could.  I thought I might try it myself, but I can see that it’s just a mask and not a very good one.  The face paint just peels away."  Erda stood before him without make-up in a long and flowing woolen dress of shifting greens and browns and white.  She smelled of rose petals.  "I shouldn’t be friendly with you, you know.  You’re always prodding the people to new ideas.  It’s not so much the ideas as their haphazard constructions that I mind.  Still, I should just stop your game now.  You might be able to make humanity more bearable, if you carry the susurrus to enough of them.  Prometheus and Abraxes: Those are two of your names."

            Timothy said, "I still have my mask; I don’t have to remember; you can’t force me.  As long as I want the mask more than my name, I can block the ancient memories."

            She smiled and it was both feral and tender.  "I guessed that you could.  But you must know that the mask will always be a torment for you.  Masks are your opposite: the full moon, enchantment.  Besides, humans want you, or at least they think they do."

            "Am I so important?"

            She laughed again.  The sound mixed well with the biting cold wind in his ears as she said, "I don’t think so, but the others do.  You really beat the green man, but then you always did show up his tricks.  Still, he loves you dearly.  You have forgotten him for a long time, haven’t you?"

            Timothy spoke.  He could just keep the mask and answer the question by pretending to talk as if he were someone else, forcing his thoughts into a furious dance of denial and revelation.  "It wasn’t my fault.  The people became rational to an extreme, forgot Coyote’s tricks, and tried to summon me with meditation or physics or some such formula.  A few heard me without his trickery.  People are odd.  Even after this night, I still don’t understand them.  Without Coyote by my side, I was lonelier than–Aahh!"

            "What is it?" Erda asked, but her voice had no compassion, only curiosity.

            "I–I remember why I left my home.  It was the loneliness.  I am loneliness in too great a part.  And all the people who have heard me have tasted that loneliness.  It would be better that they don’t suffer me."

            Erda said, "Perhaps you are right.  Perhaps you should keep the mask."

            Coyote’s silhouette poked from behind the wide trunk of the oak.  He was taking a piss.  "Fah, go away, Mother Earth.  Rocks and stones, trees and tigers are all you care about.  You cannot advise him.  And don’t talk about me.  I have no need for pity from you.  You have nothing to do with us.  Though you gave birth to us all, we have outgrown you."  Coyote pointed a paw toward Timothy.  "He has separated humanity from you.  Don’t deny it.  You’re just as lonely as Prometheus in your manner, because he has lifted their thoughts from nature."

            "Is that such a good thing, jester?"  Now, her voice was wholly feral; and her eyes, tiger eyes.

            Coyote watched Mother Earth.  He fawned with his head down between his paws, but his voice was defiantly happy, "It’s perfect for me.  And for him.  But you?"

            "I don’t have to suffer you, jester."

            Coyote sniggered, "That’s just your problem."

            Mother Earth stepped toward him.  Coyote leapt up into the tree.  Timothy watched him carefully crawl onto a low and crooked branch, frantically trying to escape the lean tiger Mother Earth had become.

            But Timothy saw Coyote’s eyes sparkle in the darkness and shift to the right, quickly and with intent, as if there was a secret to be found next to him.

            Coyote sniggered again as he watched his friend take the bait in his eyes.

            Wondering what fascinated Coyote’s gaze, Timothy looked to the right of Coyote up in the tree, and there was a space between the limbs, a space that looked clearly into the night heavens.  The winds quieted; the sounds faded from his mind.  At that moment Timothy was utterly alone as he heard the sweetness whispering without sound through the loneliness, but not touching the loneliness, not disturbing the darkness: the susurrus, the echo of the I.  That ephemeral whisper fanned the ember in his breast into a warm, invisible fire.  Timothy crumbled and it was Prometheus who looked into the emptiness between the stars of the night sky and heard, so faintly, the echo of himself, contrasted by the bleak void: almost too soft, but so clearly and uniquely himself.

            Floating into the night sky, Prometheus looked to his heels and saw Coyote following him.  "Trickster, I was foolish to doubt myself.  The loneliness isn’t so terrible, after all.  I had forgotten the sweetness, the serenity within the susurrus.  Why did I ever wander through such a ludicrous masquerade?"

            Coyote laughed and nipped at his heels.  "Because I suggested it to you, of course."

Bread of Life

 
"
[51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

It is God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity Who says this. Holy God.

And the following words are not in contradiction as they are so often misinterpreted to be, rather they reinforce the promise and Christ’s recognition that some would not accept this promise, for the spirit working in you gives you the grace to accept this miraculous promise:

"
[63] It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life."

Looking at Christ’s word’s as only symbolic is failing to see Christ’s promise for eternal life; the followers who left were looking at his words not with eyes filled with the spirit–which acknowlege that such a promise from God is quite a real promise, but with eyes that saw only the flesh in his words.

Christ emphasizes that we rely on God to grant us the grace to accept this incredible, incredible promise from the Saviour:

[64] But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.
[65] And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."

first step

 
God is love. Becoming a Christian is an interior disposition first and foremost. You make a conscious decision to turn outward instead of inward. You turn toward God who is the finest expression of love and turn away from desires that are less than the most perfect desire, love.

This love is for everyone around you. Your happiness will permeate their happiness. And when the rain falls God’s love will shelter you.

Essentially, you make a choice for the finest thing there is: the love of God and this will lead you, according to your strengths, to glorify Him and spread love to everyone.

It gets more complicated I think but that’s the most important first step in my opinion.

 

Contemplating the Trinity

Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

My atheist friend asked me about why I was so motivated to be a Christian.   He is a genuinely good friend of mine.  I’ve known him for about 20 years.   Well I was enthused at a chance to evangelize and so new to my faith being woken I was like a puppy.  But I had to hold him off, because I had not really thought about why I wanted to be a Christian–at least not seriously thought about it since the short time since my faith really burning with love that started with the Rosary.  So I had to sit back and think.  I knew he would take any personal testimony about sudden escape from sinful habits and my prayer experiences as psychological hokum.   My personal testimony would be chalked up to wish fulfillment, no matter I had felt a theophanic experience that fundamentally changed my outlook–that was more than I could have expected or dreamed, really. 

 

Of all the religions anywhere and everywhere, only Christianity is the religion that demonstrates God is love.  Miracle of miracles, God became Man.  So amazing a feat it stymies the belief of Moslems.  Yet even more so, God sacrificed Himself for me.  Was Scourged for me.  Was crowned with thorns for me.  Was spat upon for me.  God.  The King of Kings.  Was crucified for me.  He emptied his body of life for me.  Gave up His body for eternal Manna for me.

 

In all my faith life and all my stumbling in sin and each time He lifted me out and broke my chains, in each episode of my faith life what was the central truth?  Love.  Love or lack of love to God.  And perfect patient Love from God.

 

It is so radical it is so utterly unique.  So astoundingly profound it must be true.  So perfect–a perfect love offering to redeem a sin against a perfectly Holy God–no religion anywhere has anything that even approaches God’s Truth, because God is so amazing in His Love–that no false religion could conceive it.  The spotless Lamb took all for me for Love.

 

God is love.  This is the essence of the new covenant, demonstrated perfectly by Christ.  But what is love?  Can one love?  Can you love yourself?  Can you give to yourself?  No amount of wishy washy self-esteem Pablum can convince an honest man he can engage in the act of love as a single entity.  Love requires an otherness.  To love means to give of yourself to another and in that giving, receive love freely and unasked.  It is ultimately a free will offering.  You cannot make a freewill offering to yourself, because you are already you: You already have all that you can give.  Love is an action of the heart to a heart.

 

God is love.  We are not God.  Who could return to God the Love he gives?  Who could wholly understand it?  No created creature could.  We are not infinite.  But The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father to The Son, plunging into the depths of God’s love.  Jesus, the Eternal Word, offered Himself to the Father as the redemption of the offense of our Sins against the Father’s perfect Holiness.  Perfect love.  One Person to the Other Person.  God is One.  God is Love.  Each Person of the Trinity is Love that gives and receives, appreciates and rejoices fully and completely.  Only One nature that is completely perfect could completely comprehend infinite love and in His three persons He completely gives and receives it eternally to the joy and rejoicing of all His creations who would but turn to Him: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Trinity is the ultimate expression of love and in that expression gave rise to all of creation.  Praise be to the Triune God.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.

Hell

 
"Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell and lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy"  –a prayer from fatima that I always pray when I am praying my Rosary.
 
A state of mind is a place. Turning away from God is putting oneself in a bad place. Turning toward God is putting oneself in a good place.

I’ve got to live by faith.  When I read of all these "definitive" interpretations of scripture and the Bible I get uncomfortable. Words have many meanings. I look to the Catechism for guidance and avoid ideas that try to be more specific about Scripture and Tradition than what Scripture and Tradition actually state–which is always filtered through our imperfect intelligences anyway.

 
God wills all men to be saved.  To have love, though, neccesitates free will and the possibility that love will be rejected.
 
I believe in the Divine Mercy.  I believe Jesus calls out to souls at the end.
 
The Church canonizes Saints, but makes no defintive statement of who may or may not be in hell and I trust in God’s mercy, but I also do not presume on God’s mercy.

Intercede for each other for love of each other

 
Mary is alive.
Moses is alive.
The saints are alive.

Jesus Christ is the Way and the Truth. None come to the Father but by Him. That is how He is the sole mediator.

Mary and the communion of saints are subordinate to Jesus, but through His grace and His merits, they are allowed to cooperate with His plan of salvation, and so are we allowed if we pick up our cross and follow Him.

Not only is Jesus God of the living, he also is not a lonely God. He surrounds Himself with His mother, angels, saints for His glory. "Give us our daily bread" Does this sound like a God who does not want us all to cooperate in the salvific plan together?

From the cross he gave humanity His mother. When soldiers are wounded they often cry out to whom? Their mother. This is about love. Love asks us to empty ourselves for God and for our neighbor. How much more can Christ’s plan be made more clear that we are a community before God? Love is a communial emotion, not alone. The Trinity trumpets the Truth of communal love.

Of course we should pray for one another and pray to our spiritual mother and the saints in heaven to intercede for us and our loved ones. Of course we should worship God and God alone.

Both truths are beautiful and complimentary.