Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Madman

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Illustration from the 1918 edition of “The Madman: His Parables and Poems” by Kahlil Gibran

I’ve always been mad, I know I’ve been mad, like the most of us are…very hard to explain why you’re mad, even if you’re not mad…

Nick Mason has been given credit for this group of words, but in all honesty it could have been me that said these words and as a matter of fact I have said them on more that one occasion.

I am, of course, a madman. Not from across the water but from right here in this state of Arkansas, in this state of confusion. But how is it that a man becomes a madman? A madman has no apparent attachments.

The story by the author of “The Prophet”, Kahlil Gibran tells us a story of a madman it goes like this.

How I Became A Madman

You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen,—the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives,—I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”

Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.

And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.

But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief.

Read The Madman: His Parables and Poems by Kahlil Gibran at Project Gutenberg.

Introduction by Rick Bowen. CC BY-SA

Monday, August 29, 2016

Roast Goat

a_white_irish_goat.jpg
Photo by Michael Palmer - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Roast Goat
by Larry Heyl
CC BY-SA

Mikhael ran swiftly through the dawn, knees lifted high, feet barely
tapping the ground. He swerved quickly avoiding rocks and sticks
without thinking or looking. The cold air cut his lungs as he gasped
deeply.

He entered the house running through the kitchen door and was brought
up short by the table. He leaned on it unable to catch his breath or
speak. His wife, Elena, brought him some water. The children ran down
the stairs sleepybugs still in their eyes. One look at their mother
told them they’d best be still.

“I saw them. The soldiers. Over the hill.” he panted out. “We’ve got
to hide the goats. They’ll be here soon.”

Elena spoke sharply to the eldest boy. “Jackson, you and Kelly take
the dogs and herd the goats into the back woods. You know where to
hide them in that thicket.”

“Leave the old billy,” said Mikhael. “If the soldiers find him they
might not look for the others. I’ll tell them we had to eat the others
because of the hard winter.”

Jackson and Kelly flew out the door and were gone in a flurry of
waving hands, barking dogs, and running goats. Elena set the younger
children down at the table and pulled out her largest pot quickly
filling it with water, turnips, and potatos. Mikhael went out to the
barn where he hurriedly hit the feed bags and his newer tools under
the hay. He took the billy into a stall and fed him from the remaining
bag of feed what he feared would be his last meal. The winter had been
hard and the soldiers would be hungry.

Back in the house the water was barely boiling when the soldiers came
over the top of the hill. They weren’t marching smartly and looking
sharp like they had a few years back. Before the battles they bristled
with pride and spit and polish. Now they looked a ragged bunch with
hunger in their eyes.

There were less then a dozen men led by a Sargeant. No officers. That
worried Mikhael.

He met them in the yard. “It’s been a hard winter.”, he said to the Sargeant.

The Sargeant didn’t respond ignoring Mikhael and signaling his troops
to check the barn. He walked to the house and into the kitchen.
Mikhael followed.

Elena met them at the door. “You must be hungry.” she said. “I am
fixing soup for my family but you are welcome to it.”

The Sargeant snapped his bayonet off his rifle and stabbed a potato.
It was still raw but he ate it anyway. “Don’t you have any real food.”
he said. “We need to camp and recuperate.”

Mikhael thought fast. “The other soldiers wiped us clean. You know the
ones.”, he said and he spat on the floor.

“When were they here?” asked the Sargeant glancing out through the door.

“Just last week. They said they’d be back. I wish you would stay and
protect us.”, Mikhael answered. The sargeant gave them a worried look.

Out in the yard a soldier shouted, “We found this old goat. Should we
start a fire and roast him?”

“We can’t stay long enough for that.”, ordered the sargeant. “You!”,
he pointed at Elena, “Take that soup out to the men.”

“Can I feed my children?” asked Elena.

The Sargeant snapped his bayonet back onto his rifle. “Your children
can eat after we’ve gone.”, he said.

Mikhael stood by his wife in front of the children. “You’d best do as
he asks.”, he said.

Elena took the half cooked soup out into the yard and then retreated
back into the kitchen scared by the ravenous soldiers. The sargeant
went out to eat with the men.

Mikhael went and stood by the Sargeant. “Can you stay then. I’m afraid
those other soldiers will be coming back. If you want me to I’ll kill
this goat.”

The Sargeant ignored him. After the last potato was gone he led his
men out of there.

“Let’s make some time.” he shouted. “They are expecting us in
Springfield in the morning.”

Mikhael watched them leave scratching the old billy’s ears. He
whispered to the goat, “I’m glad you can’t understand what I just said
old boy or you wouldn’t be so trusting.”

Elena sent the younger children off to the back woods for Jackson and
Kelly. Then she came and stood beside Mikhael watching the soldiers
trudge off in the distance.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Scrimshaw

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SCRIMSHAW ***

Produced by Greg Weeks, Stephen Blundell and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net

Transcriber’s Note:

This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction September
1955. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
typographical errors have been corrected without note. Subscript
characters are shown within {braces}.

scrimshaw-1.png

The old man just wanted to get back his
memory–and the methods he used were
gently hellish, from the viewpoint of the
others….

BY MURRAY LEINSTER

Illustrated by Freas

Pop Young was the one known man who could stand life on the surface of
the Moon’s far side, and, therefore, he occupied the shack on the Big
Crack’s edge, above the mining colony there. Some people said that no
normal man could do it, and mentioned the scar of a ghastly head-wound
to explain his ability. One man partly guessed the secret, but only
partly. His name was Sattell and he had reason not to talk. Pop Young
alone knew the whole truth, and he kept his mouth shut, too. It wasn’t
anybody else’s business.

The shack and the job he filled were located in the medieval notion of
the physical appearance of hell. By day the environment was heat and
torment. By night–lunar night, of course, and lunar day–it was
frigidity and horror. Once in two weeks Earth-time a rocketship came
around the horizon from Lunar City with stores for the colony deep
underground. Pop received the stores and took care of them. He handed
over the product of the mine, to be forwarded to Earth. The rocket went
away again. Come nightfall Pop lowered the supplies down the long cable
into the Big Crack to the colony far down inside, and freshened up the
landing field marks with magnesium marking-powder if a rocket-blast had
blurred them. That was fundamentally all he had to do. But without him
the mine down in the Crack would have had to shut down.

The Crack, of course, was that gaping rocky fault which stretches nine
hundred miles, jaggedly, over the side of the Moon that Earth never
sees. There is one stretch where it is a yawning gulf a full half-mile
wide and unguessably deep. Where Pop Young’s shack stood it was only a
hundred yards, but the colony was a full mile down, in one wall. There
is nothing like it on Earth, of course. When it was first found,
scientists descended into it to examine the exposed rock-strata and
learn the history of the Moon before its craters were made. But they
found more than history. They found the reason for the colony and the
rocket landing field and the shack.

The reason for Pop was something else.

The shack stood a hundred feet from the Big Crack’s edge. It looked like
a dust-heap thirty feet high, and it was. The outside was surface
moondust, piled over a tiny dome to be insulation against the cold of
night and shadow and the furnace heat of day. Pop lived in it all alone,
and in his spare time he worked industriously at recovering some missing
portions of his life that Sattell had managed to take away from him.

He thought often of Sattell, down in the colony underground. There were
galleries and tunnels and living-quarters down there. There were
air-tight bulkheads for safety, and a hydroponic garden to keep the air
fresh, and all sorts of things to make life possible for men under if
not on the Moon.

But it wasn’t fun, even underground. In the Moon’s slight gravity, a man
is really adjusted to existence when he has a well-developed case of
agoraphobia. With such an aid, a man can get into a tiny, coffinlike
cubbyhole, and feel solidity above and below and around him, and happily
tell himself that it feels delicious. Sometimes it does.

But Sattell couldn’t comfort himself so easily. He knew about Pop, up on
the surface. He’d shipped out, whimpering, to the Moon to get far away
from Pop, and Pop was just about a mile overhead and there was no way to
get around him. It was difficult to get away from the mine, anyhow. It
doesn’t take too long for the low gravity to tear a man’s nerves to
shreds. He has to develop kinks in his head to survive. And those
kinks–

The first men to leave the colony had to be knocked cold and shipped
out unconscious. They’d been underground–and in low gravity–long
enough to be utterly unable to face the idea of open spaces. Even now
there were some who had to be carried, but there were some tougher ones
who were able to walk to the rocketship if Pop put a tarpaulin over
their heads so they didn’t have to see the sky. In any case Pop was
essential, either for carrying or guidance.

* * * * *
[Read More…]

Luthien’s Gamble

luthiens_gamble.jpeg

The thing that got me loving some R. A. Salvatore is that like Fritz Lieber his work reminds me of Dungeons and Dragons quests. Fritz Lieber was inspirational for Gary Gygax while he was creating D&D. R. A. Salvatore wrote Forgotten Realms novels and his work is inspired by game play.

Read a pdf of The Ministry, Chapter One of Luthien’s Gamble hosted on R. A. Salvatore’s website. Although this is Chapter One it is also a self contained short story.

There are more excerpts from Salvatore’s novels also available on his home page, including some featuring his most famous character Drizzt Do’Urden.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Gimcrack’s Cup

dragon-sintel.png
Dragon In Cave from Sintel CC-BY
© copyright Blender Foundation | www.sintel.org
colorized by Gimp GPL

Gimcrack’s Cup
by Larry Heyl
CC BY-SA

There it was, spread out in front of me. The dragon’s horde. So beautiful, all the gold and jewels. It would be perfect if it wasn’t for the giant red sprawled across the treasure snoring.

Focus, I told myself. Where’s the cup? The dwarves were paying me for one thing and one thing only, Gimcrack’s Cup, their holy chalice, and of course it was made of gold so of course the dragon stole it.

I knew from experience that I could spend through any treasure I could steal and I made my share of enemies learning this. The dwarves were offering an annuity and safe harbor. I had to get that cup.

I crept slowly, keeping in the shadows around the edge of the cave. How can I see one cup piled amongst all that gold? Sharp eyes, I thought. Stay focused. Move slowly.

When I got to the far side of the cave I was looking right up the sleeping dragons nostrils. One puff and I’d be toast. But there it was. About half way up the mound. Shining with it’s own light and cracked right down one side. If you poured ale into Gimcrack’s Cup it should leak right out but instead it stayed everful as long as you were drinking from it. No wonder the dwarves worshipped it.

But how do I get it from the dragon? I’ll draw my magic sword and cut his head off. But I’m no warrior and I have no magic sword. I’ll cast an illusion and distract him. But I’m no illusionist and I know no spells. I know! I’m a thief. I’ll creep up there and steal it from under his nose. But that might lead to a fiery death. I stood paralyzed looking right at the dragon, scared shitless.

He opened one eye. “Human, how good to see you. Just in time for breakfast. Not much of a bite but so tasty, roasted”.

“Wait!” I cried. “Don’t kill me. The dwarves sent me.”

“Dwarves” shouted the dragon. “Even less of a morsel and kind of tough. I’d rather eat you.”

Impending death and the thought of dwarves gave me an inspiration. “I tell you what. Before breakfast how about a little drinking competition? Since dwarves sent me we’ll have a quaffing contest. We can each quaff a cup of ale and then another. I’m sure I can outdrink you.”

“Ho, ho, ho.” laughed the dragon. “Puny human you will never outdrink a giant red. All that alcohol will only tenderize you. So I say yes! A quaffing contest.”

I reached down at me feet and grabbed a bejeweled chalice. “I’ll drink from this.” Walking boldly through the treasure toward the dragon I scooped up Gimcrack’s Cup. “And you’ll drink from this.” I handed him the cup.

“Ho ho ho.” laughed the dragon. “You’re going to get me drunk with a cracked cup?” He dragged up a barrel of lager and topped of my chalice the ale running down the sides and soaking my sleeve. “You first human.”

I looked him in the eye and said, “This is how you quaff. Turn it up and don’t turn it down until it’s empty.” I turned up the chalice and went glug, glug, glug swallowing most of it but letting some run down my beard for good form.

The dragon was ready. He topped off Gimcrack’s Cup not even noticing that the ale didn’t even leak. He turned it up and started pouring it down his throat. It kept pouring and pouring the fine strong ale. Some of it started running down his muzzle but he wouldn’t give up. He drank and he drank until he fell over sideways. When he stopped drinking Gimcrack’s Cup emptied onto his face.

The giant red was so out of it that he wasn’t even snoring. I carefully pried the cup from his talons. I threw it and the chalice into my pack. On the way out I added a few choice items.

Even with an annuity I’m going to need a little bit of spending money.

Exile From Space

exile_from_space-cover.png

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK EXILE FROM SPACE ***

Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net

Transcriber’s Note:

This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe November 1956.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.

[“They” worried about the impression she’d make. Who could
imagine that she’d fall in love, passionately, the way others of her
blood must have done?
]

Exile From Space

by … Judith Merril

Who was this strange girl who had been born in this
place–and still it wasn’t her home?…

* * * * *
I don’t know where they got the car. We made three or four stops
before the last one, and they must have picked it up one of those
times. Anyhow, they got it, but they had to make a license plate,
because it had the wrong kind on it.

They made me some clothes, too–a skirt and blouse and shoes that
looked just like the ones we saw on television. They couldn’t make me
a lipstick or any of those things, because there was no way to figure
out just what the chemical composition was. And they decided I’d be as
well off without any driver’s license or automobile registration as I
would be with papers that weren’t exactly perfect, so they didn’t
bother about making those either.

They were worried about what to do with my hair, and even thought
about cutting it short, so it would look more like the women on
television, but that was one time I was way ahead of them. I’d seen
more shows than anyone else, of course–I watched them almost every
minute, from the time they told me I was going–and there was one
where I’d seen a way to make braids and put them around the top of
your head. It wasn’t very comfortable, but I practiced at it until it
looked pretty good.

They made me a purse, too. It didn’t have anything in it except the
diamonds, but the women we saw always seemed to carry them, and they
thought it might be a sort of superstition or ritual necessity, and
that we’d better not take a chance on violating anything like that.

They made me spend a lot of time practicing with the car, because
without a license, I couldn’t take a chance on getting into any
trouble. I must have put in the better part of an hour starting and
stopping and backing that thing, and turning it around, and weaving
through trees and rocks, before they were satisfied.

Then, all of a sudden, there was nothing left to do except go. They
made me repeat everything one more time, about selling the diamonds,
and how to register at the hotel, and what to do if I got into
trouble, and how to get in touch with them when I wanted to come back.
Then they said good-bye, and made me promise not to stay too long,
and said they’d keep in touch the best they could. And then I got in
the car, and drove down the hill into town.

I knew they didn’t want to let me go. They were worried, maybe even a
little afraid I wouldn’t want to come back, but mostly worried that I
might say something I shouldn’t, or run into some difficulties they
hadn’t anticipated. And outside of that, they knew they were going to
miss me. Yet they’d made up their minds to it; they planned it this
way, and they felt it was the right thing to do, and certainly they’d
put an awful lot of thought and effort and preparation into it.

If it hadn’t been for that, I might have turned back at the last
minute. Maybe they were worried; but I was petrified. Only of
course, I wanted to go, really. I couldn’t help being curious, and it
never occurred to me then that I might miss them. It was the first
time I’d ever been out on my own, and they’d promised me, for years
and years, as far back as I could remember, that some day I’d go back,
like this, by myself. But….

Going back, when you’ve been away long enough, is not so much a
homecoming as a dream deja vu. And for me, at least, the dream was
not entirely a happy one. Everything I saw or heard or touched had a
sense of haunting familiarity, and yet of wrongness, too–almost a
nightmare feeling of the oppressively inevitable sequence of events,
of faces and features and events just not-quite-remembered and
not-quite-known.

I was born in this place, but it was not my home. Its people were not
mine; its ways were not mine. All I knew of it was what I had been
told, and what I had seen for myself these last weeks of preparation,
on the television screen. And the dream-feeling was intensified, at
first, by the fact that I did not know why I was there. I knew it
had been planned this way, and I had been told it was necessary to
complete my education. Certainly I was aware of the great effort that
had been made to make the trip possible. But I did not yet understand
just why.

Perhaps it was just that I had heard and watched and thought and
dreamed too much about this place, and now I was actually there, the
reality was–not so much a disappointment as–just sort of unreal.
Different from what I knew when I didn’t know.

The road unwound in a spreading spiral down the mountainside. Each
time I came round, I could see the city below, closer and larger, and
less distinct. From the top, with the sunlight sparkling on it, it had
been a clean and gleaming pattern of human civilization. Halfway down,
the symmetry was lost, and the smudge and smoke began to show.

Halfway down, too, I began to pass places of business: restaurants and
gas stations and handicraft shops. I wanted to stop. For half an hour
now I had been out on my own, and I still hadn’t seen any of the
people, except the three who had passed me behind the wheels of their
cars, going up the road. One of the shops had a big sign on it, “COME
IN AND LOOK AROUND.” But I kept going. One thing I understood was that
it was absolutely necessary to have money, and that I must stop
nowhere, and attempt nothing, till after I had gotten some.

Farther down, the houses began coming closer together, and then the
road stopped winding around, and became almost straight. By that time,
I was used to the car, and didn’t have to think about it much, and for
a little while I really enjoyed myself. I could see into the houses
sometimes, through the windows, and at one, a woman was opening the
door, coming out with a broom in her hand. There were children playing
in the yards. There were cars of all kinds parked around the houses,
and I saw dogs and a couple of horses, and once a whole flock of
chickens.

But just where it was beginning to get really interesting, when I was
coming into the little town before the city, I had to stop watching it
all, because there were too many other people driving. That was when I
began to understand all the fuss about licenses and tests and traffic
regulations. Watching it on television, it wasn’t anything like being
in the middle of it!

Of course, what I ran into there was really nothing; I found that out
when I got into the city itself. But just at first, it seemed pretty
bad. And I still don’t understand it. These people are pretty bright
mechanically. You’d think anybody who could build an automobile–let
alone an atom bomb–could drive one easily enough. Especially with a
lifetime to learn in. Maybe they just like to live dangerously….

It was a good thing, though, that I’d already started watching out for
what the other drivers were doing when I hit my first red light. That
was something I’d overlooked entirely, watching street scenes on the
screen, and I guess they’d never noticed either. They must have taken
it for granted, the way I did, that people stopped their cars out of
courtesy from time to time to let the others go by. As it was, I
stopped because the others did, and just happened to notice that they
began again when the light changed to green. It’s really a very good
system; I don’t see why they don’t have them at all the intersections.

[Read More…]

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Picography

cinema-usher-dave_meier.jpg
Cinema Usher by Dave Meier

Picography is another good source for public domain photos. I found Dave Meier’s “Heron In A Boat” photo there and I couldn’t pass up this photo by Dave, “Cinema Usher”. Thanks to Dave Meier for making his photos public domain and thanks to Picography for hosting them.

The Small Boat

heron-in-a-boat-dave_meier.jpg
Heron In A Boat photo by Dave Meier

The Small Boat
by Larry Heyl
CC BY-SA

Caution returned quickly after the heat of the battle. Medjak looked about, listening for any unusual noise. He could still smell the explosives and an awful sweet smell almost as pervasive as the powder. The smell of death.

He made his way down the valley picking through the wreckage. If he could just get back to his unit before the artillery started firing again he could make his report and sleep. Recon was good duty except for the artillery, the land mines and the snipers. Damn, theres one now. Medjak ducked behind a rock just in time. Bullets hit the gravel around him. He returned fire into the trees. During a momentary silence he rolled into a gulley and continue moving. He didn’t know if he killed the sniper or not and he wasn’t sticking his head up to find out.

When the gulley he was in petered out he found another one and made it to the river without being shot at again. His unit was about two miles upstream if they hadn’t moved. If they had he could track them. He’d done it before.

Looking up the river he saw a small wooden boat floating toward him. So peaceful and serene it floated freely down the river as if carrying aristocratic children out for a punt. Afraid of enemy troops lying in the bottom of the boat he climbed a rock on the river bank. Looking down into the boat he could see it was empty.

He didn’t think. He didn’t worry. He acted immediately out of survival instinct. He slid down the rock and when he hit the ground he kicked off his boots and stripped out of his uniform to his underwear. He wrapped his uniform around his gun and crawled to the river. Sticking his gun in the ground bayonet first his jacket sleeves hung loose and rippled in the wind. He rolled into the water and went right under swimming hard to where he thought the boat would be. Breaking water gently he took a quick breath and spied the boat. Under again and he could see it floating over him. He came up with one hand on the back of the boat his nose and eyes barely above water. As he let the boat pull him downstream he heard shots and saw his uniform jacket jump.

After the boat pulled him around the bend he risked pulling himself up into it. He lay on the bottom of the boat breathing heavily. Sometimes the tree limbs closed off the sky and he floated under a green canopy. Other times he saw nothing but blue sky. After a half hour he felt safer but he still laid quiet in the bottom of the boat. Just a month ago he got separated from his unit and went three days without food. He could do it again. In three days he would float 100 miles or more leaving the war behind. But that was still in the future. For now he didn’t move. Laying still in the bottom of the boat he prayed.

On Whetsday

whetsday_chapter_1-amy_jones.jpg
Artwork by Amy Jones

“On Whetsday” is a novel by Mark Sumner. Mark has written other science fiction including “Devil’s Tower”. He also writes non fiction and is a regular blogger at Daily Kos. “On Whetsday” is posted a chapter at a time at Daily Kos.

Fiction / On Whetsday / Part 1

The novel is also available as a podcast on SoundCloud.

On Whetsday - Episode 1

This novel is not Creative Commons. If you are interested in it get in touch with Mark. Still, kudos to Mark and his publisher, Word Posse for making the book available for anyone to enjoy.

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

special_delivery_on_bird_island.jpg
Special Delivery On Bird Island By Zach Rudisin - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

CARNATION, LILY, LILY, ROSE
by Kelly Link CC-BY-NC-SA

Dear Mary (if that is your name),
I bet you’ll be pretty surprised to hear from me. It really is me, by the way, although I have to confess at the moment that not only can I not seem to keep your name straight in my head, Laura? Susie? Odile? but I seem to have forgotten my own name. I plan to keep trying different combinations: Joe loves Lola, Willy loves Suki, Henry loves you, sweetie, Georgia?, honeypie, darling. Do any of these seem right to you?

All last week I felt like something was going to happen, a sort of bees and ants feeling. Something was going to happen. I taught my classes and came home and went to bed, all week waiting for the thing that was going to happen, and then on Friday I died.

One of the things I seem to have misplaced is how, or maybe I mean why. It’s like the names. I know that we lived together in a house on a hill in a small comfortable city for nine years, that we didn’t have kids-except once, almost-and that you’re a terrible cook, oh my darling, Coraline? Coralee? and so was I, and we ate out whenever we could afford to. I taught at a good university, Princeton? Berkeley? Notre Dame? I was a good teacher, and my students liked me. But I can’t remember the name of the street we lived on, or the author of the last book I read, or your last name which was also my name, or how I died. It’s funny, Sarah? but the only two names I know for sure are real are Looly Bellows, the girl who beat me up in fourth grade, and your cat’s name. I’m not going to put your cat’s name down on paper just yet.

We were going to name the baby Beatrice. I just remembered that. We were going to name her after your aunt, the one that doesn’t like me. Didn’t like me. Did she come to the funeral?

I’ve been here for three days, and I’m trying to pretend that it’s just a vacation, like when we went to that island in that country. Santorini? Great Britain? The one with all the cliffs. The one with the hotel with the bunkbeds, and little squares of pink toilet paper, like handkerchiefs. It had seashells in the window too, didn’t it, that were transparent like bottle glass? They smelled like bleach? It was a very nice island. No trees. You said that when you died, you hoped heaven would be an island like that. And now I’m dead, and here I am.

This is an island too, I think. There is a beach, and down on the beach is a mailbox where I am going to post this letter. Other than the beach, the mailbox, there is the building in which I sit and write this letter. It seems to be a perfectly pleasant resort hotel with no other guests, no receptionist, no host, no events coordinator, no bell-boy. Just me. There is a television set, very old-fashioned, in the hotel lobby. I fiddled the antenna for a long time, but never got a picture. Just static. I tried to make images, people out of the static. It looked like they were waving at me.

My room is on the second floor. It has a sea view. All the rooms here have views of the sea. There is a desk in my room, and a good supply of plain, waxy white paper and envelopes in one of the drawers. Laurel? Maria? Gertrude?

I haven’t gone out of sight of the hotel yet, Lucille? because I am afraid that it might not be there when I get back.

Yours truly,
You know who.

The dead man lies on his back on the hotel bed, his hands busy and curious, stroking his body up and down as if it didn’t really belong to him at all. One hand cups his testicles, the other tugs hard at his erect penis. His heels push against the mattress and his eyes are open, and his mouth. He is trying to say someone’s name.

Outside, the sky seems much too close, made out of some grey stuff that only grudgingly allows light through. The dead man has noticed that it never gets any lighter or darker, but sometimes the air begins to feel heavier, and then stuff falls out of the sky, fist-sized lumps of whitish-grey doughy matter. It falls until the beach is covered, and immediately begins to dissolve. The dead man was outside, the first time the sky fell. Now he waits inside until the beach is clear again. Sometimes he watches television, although the reception is poor.

The sea goes up and back the beach, sucking and curling around the mailbox at high tide. There is something about it that the dead man doesn’t like much. It doesn’t smell like salt the way a sea should. Cara? Jasmine? It smells like wet upholstery, burnt fur.
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Friday, August 19, 2016

Driven

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Photo by Brandon Wilson

Driven
by Larry Heyl
CC BY-SA

I met him down by the back side of the tracks. They used to call it Hobo Joe’s. Just a 55 gallon drum with a fire in it and a bunch of old bums sharing what they got. Sometimes someone would call out a tune and he’d play it for them.

We traveled together for quite a while. He could kinda make a living with that old guitar. But he was always dreaming. Lost in his music.

He said he was searching for the perfect song. He said when he found it he’d sing it at the perfect moment and time would stand still.

I always wondered why he would want time to stand still. Seemed boring to me. But he’d get all dreamy eyed and his hands would get to loving that guitar. I couldn’t go along but I could listen in. Sometimes what I heard scared me.

But we’d always come back to reality eventually. To wander on to the next town. I remember splitting up. He was heading north in the winter. Didn’t make sense to me. But he was driven by his music into some cold places.

I still think about him every day. Wondering if he ever found the perfect song. Or the perfect moment to sing it in. But I guess not. I think we would notice if all of a sudden time stood

Search Page Images

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I found the dragon image above on Pixabay. The artist is PeteLinforth. Here’s the link.

I found the science fiction image below at PublicDomainPictures.net. The artist is kai Stachowiak. Here’s the link.

I wanted to use both a fantasy and a science fiction image. Thanks to the google image search Labeled For Reuse feature under Search Tools. Both images are public domain.

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