Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Assassin – chap 1.1-1.7

He sat on the thin bed mat on the floor in the whores room naked and hard for his part, she bare breasted cloyed his erection to putty missing her fault.

“If you lay back I can bring you out.” The whore, who had a name, spit again, staying at his thin almost brittle waist.  She bent to use her mouth forgetting.  He reminded her, cringing from the nearness of her face.

“Just your hand.”  He said.   She began to speak but he hushed her.  He relaxed himself to her forgiving the curl in her manner and placed his hand on hers.  He pushed at her breast with the other and dug at the nipple with a warm finger.  She turned away from him and he leaned into her, smelling in her hair for something, anything but the whore had no scent but what her life left her, sweat, fear, dirt, sex.  He would find no arousal in her so conjured dark images of rape and death, something his mind could leap to but none answered.

The whore spit again, her hand not without its pleasures, he in search of something inside himself moved his head subtly about to find it.  His fingers found and traced a knot in the seam under her breast.  He pulled his fingertips across its length and knew what it was, what their torpor hid.  He traced back and forth and the whore who lived a life of acting upon unexpressed needs knew the association of what he touched and what came over his face.  With more spit now she worked him for her coin.  Her other breast was free from wounds.  He kept his hand hidden in that wealth of flesh and he came.

“Lay with me for another coin and let me hold it still.”  The whore complied.  His breath returned and he rolled over on top of her, heavier than he looked hunched and soft only moments before.  The whore laughed, holding him steady upon her.  When he drove his forearm down onto her throat she had no idea.  She disbelieved the attack until the pain of her crushed throat kicked panic into her but he was already up and straddling her.  Her tits near her chin were horrid, comical and stole the seriousness of her dying from him.  Her screams however where material and flat.  Her fists thudded into his chest and he bared it.  She mashed his flesh in her hands and he hit her again in her throat, this time with his fist.  Her arms leapt in front of her face, tardy in their reflex.  Her head lolled sleepily, childlike.  Her body worked out the fog of movements that suffocation expressed.  Her vigor clouded, he put his elbow on her throat and pressed firmly until he felt the peculiarities of bone, tendon and hard pallet adjust beneath.

With her dead he sat there longer than he would have, amusing himself with the rude scar below her breast, some keepers punishment for who knows what grievance a whore could lodge.  Hidden, but what wounds weren’t.

Downstairs his clothes were cold on him.  He did not drink, instead, crossing the floor of the common room he took a cup from atop the water barrel and filled it moving to a window where the storm brakes were pushed and he watched that rain mix into mud.  There was a fire on the west wall surrounded enough by men of certain types, it was still early.  He smelled the water, swirled it and waited.

The skin of his waist was thick and pulsed with his heart’s heat for the damage the whore had done.  A hurried man entered and moved upstairs then returned disappearing back into the kitchen from where he had come.  The assassin thought of the corroboration death required.  Place your hand on me.  Feel the misplaced bones in my neck.  Feel my cool skin now fearless.  Tear my lips with your teeth and no warmth left in my breath to excuse the taste.  He supposed her calm as if awake, refuting them, moving on now and more beautiful to watch herself as a ghost made equal to the men she had obeyed by death.  Come in.  I am here.  My body still a work unfinished even for me, a death come too quick.  How they would nod seeing her, apart, better now.  Not being so, she was less to them yet in faults too vague to evade she had found some rest.

A large man entered led by the first and the two disappeared upstairs.

“She’s not sleeping.” He said too low then drank the water he had held until then, its clay taste an earth returned to himself.  When the two of them had returned and come as near to him as the common water, he could hold back his smile no more.  I am the one.  But did he say it out loud?  Did you do that?  A question with eyes seeking only so much but the assassin only smiled and when the mans anger was no longer enough and the heat of his voice fell from a low sky like a dying arrow shunned by its own zenith to miss the target directly, and the finger on his chest provoked no more truth than could be guessed at by wishes the assassin reached out and put his arms around the larger man, holding him and lay his head upon his chest if just for the briefest of moments and tried to welcome the man home.

When they had beaten him to their own weakness he reached and found a leg of one of them and held it to himself with much of what remained of his strength, trying not to be gotten rid of but he was.  They untied his sword belt, removed it, broke the sword against a beam.  He thought of the work of it, the sheer house building work of breaking a man down, of killing him with fists and feet.  Someone spit.  Another stomp to his chest.  More bones amiss.

His arm fell across a foot and was kicked back over himself.  He wanted to sit up not to fight, did he accidently?  Warm hands grabbed his cold bare ankles, over the wood transom, hands on his feet, you cannot destroy all the time.  He fought open an eye to see the man holding his ankles, how like kindness, not being hurt by a touch felt.  Out and off the back steps and onto and over a rock, rocks and finally cold water and a welcome mud.  He rolled over onto his stomach but could not pull his arms up to pillow his face from the wet and all the while the shouts of his body, an ignored clamour and the shouts of the men who made them ignored, all of them.  Of all of it his strength had left.  It exhausts them to die he thought.  He continued the roll, over to his other side.  To think he could hear the scrape of his shorn ribs.  In his mind the lane was fair, the land green if cloudy gray, the field open, the field empty.  They tire he thought, and then they are just there, with you, keeping them from living.

The coins he had brought to be taken for her life had been taken for her life and his cheap sword, bought cheaply but bought because it should be, gone, in pieces and against the wall it was broken against, left by them all and there in the wet waste of his vitality he huffed at them though gone, and he now alone and face up in a rain he could feel only with is feet wandered.  There were still those that helped him.  Stood him or tried to, carried him when he would only fall.  Where do you live?  He took it in like the clayed water, a gift to himself before dying, a gift he would return as water spat and he did.  He woke in a room of a home of people.  He learned their faces absently.  Names have never meant anything, ever.  And then he left before he could, a young girl chasing.  In a day he would find his way back after the Cane and thank them with cruelty.  This takes the light away, but he fell.  This or nothing does.  But the blood he spit to say so dizzied him or the ground it spun towards, or the voice of the girl against him and when he fell complete he did not get back up and when the deep that he had seen or thought he had seen and the comforting gray that he had felt but not really felt engulfed him, he went.

“Your bones will heal.” His ribs creaked as he laughed.  He thought the Cane away.  He had the best bed in their house.  She lanced his eyes.  I will be rolled and wrapped, he thought.  He was.  No one is ever careful enough.  Awake.  You will reach out your hand and though I would I will not.  Not yet.  Food.  They will not give water alone.  He ate.  He could see but wouldn’t.  Singing and more food.  But he is a dragon.  I’ll have another go, will you?  A sheet over the pantry covered nothing, the hearth hid cooked roots over a sidling, sly fire but all he wanted was water, or honeyed water and all they thought of was food with the Da a leg short of full work.  He was begging.  Sleep.  If you cannot hide it with your eyes, do not hide it at all.  Waking before walking he stayed asleep and when walking was all there was left he crawled out of that home towards what he called his and so the girl took him there alone.

Bones herself a crutch without complaint, wondering at a home and he thought too, freshened enough by others he felt afraid to trust as though he was weakened in agreement, even the kindnesses only coins purchased, sitting there at last, and her a shift of needs now unbent yet he drank not the Cane though guessing by healed skin ten days had distilled his ruin with pains as unnecessary as they were needed.  She brought water knowing he drank from a skein.  Head bowed, she had either not gotten tits or had them starved flat.  He drank again.

“Food?” she asked.  The assassin shook his head no.


Tiny hole, get it? Ha!

To answer your question; No, I am not the one driving you crazy.  Had I been, speech would have been one of the inaccessible motor functions for communicating the craziness you would have been experiencing “by my hand” as it were, brought on no doubt by various “end Stage” psychosis scenarios on both practical, medical and metaphysical levels.  Further evidence to preclude the need for affirmation of the cause of said “crazy” affliction would have been a rare muscle fatigue brought on by extensive, un orderable self mutilation / damage in an ad-hoc form to be further defined by a calamitous area of effect as “anything within reach” leaving largely, yourself.  The extent of injuries would be a collage of wounds inseparable from each other, and so, all somewhat the same through a degeneration of the causal relationships until, not unlike an abuse cycle, the beginning being ancillary to the behavior of the cycle itself, usual relationship i.e., the cutting of a bruise or the shearing of lacerated flesh with lacerated fingernails, should it be determined that the nail can be, in fact, lacerated, supposing of course, the nail remains on the finger at all, would render all wounds, coincidentally family.  This would contrast the even, measured strokes left from an ordered mind that “cuts” on oneself, in rows, neatly, to engage an endorphin cascade for intended, though arguably subconscious results.  Hair would be missing like grass from a prairie over grazed by sheep.  (It is suggested that a mild amount of research into the grazing habits of sheep vs cattle be done before reading further)  To further complicate said communication of the redundant, or as you put it; “Are you the one driving me crazy?” would be the bruised, exacerbated and quite possibly “hyper extended” vocal chords preventing anything but a rasp.  I say, not even a moan would be evidence of the level of damage self inspired to cope with the level of “crazy” that you would be experiencing and hence render mute the desire to verify its cause as no doubt I would have been turned into something, metaphorically speaking, akin to an Alien abducting you, or the space ship where you were taken to for, no doubt, a battery of rectal examinations, by your subconscious mind, and so further eliminate the possibility of a corroboration with me on the subject for any reason, in anyway, by anyone, most of all you.  Do you hear me.  You would not be hoarse from untenanted screaming, instead, your voice, or the capacity to, would be disengaged, removed, litteraly, from a caliber of energy funneled through that means so overwhelmingly beyond its cabability that I can only think of Hard vacume, and a spacestation full of atmosphere moving through you, at all costs (and taking you with it no doubt) through a “tiny hole” (pun intended) in the wall of the space ship you would, no doubt, think you are still in, by comparison.

The Assassin – chap 6.8-6.9

“Don’t call him Elli, Don’t.  Let him find you.  Let him find you after.  Elli, he can’t stop me and I don’t want him dead.”


“Oh Elli, your heart will call him faster than your voice.”

“Go away.”

“No, Elli I have to move you on.”

Elli cried.  He had pulled her up on his lap.  Her sickness tore into her and she had to relax upon him in her fatigue.  Similarities.

“Come on now, help me do it.”


“Elli your tired, your sick, you’re a burden.  Your loved but you are a burden.”

“Go away.”

“Elli, I came because others would have been harder.  They would have broken you, parted you, it would have been terrifying, and painful more than I think you can imagine.  Elli, help me do it.  Help me.  Tell me what we can do.”

“I hate you!”

“I know, and I will not take your hate from you, but I want it to be something you want.  I can send you as peaceably as I know Elli.  You don’t want that do you?  You don’t want a blade in your heart do you, a brick against your head?  How can I help this pass for you Elli, tell me?”


“Elli, if we wait he will come home, he and his.  And I will have to kill them Elli, I wont be able to talk to him like I am you.  I will have to kill him violently and quickly.  His kids, I will need to chase them down no doubt, the older one might stay and fight, the older one is a brave young man, he might stay and help his father and then what Elli, which one do I kill first?  I don’t want it.  If you help me they will think you left in your sleep or fell from bed in a fit and froze.  You see?  I don’t want to hurry your decision but if you fight it, if you fight me, well, that would be terrible, it would be wrong, those boys have not lived, there father loves them, share your death with me, let me help you go.”

Elli was sobbing now and exhausted.

“I am not lying Elli, the day is moving on, you need to decide, please Elli, for them.”

She was holding his arm now.

“Its ok.”

She nodded.

“Pull the sheet up Elli.  Pull it up to your face. Bundle it, let me help ok, ok there, I know you are scared but you have left so much in the Gift.  More than you have taken elli, more than you have taken.  That’s good now, that will work Elli.  Just tell me when, then breath out, it will be better Elli.  I have done this too many times and it will be so much better for you if you breath out first.  Ok.  It’s ok.  That’s good, deep breaths, prepare yourself, let go, say goodbye.  I am going to stop talking now, think of your family.  Think of them happy, don’t be scared.  Ok.”

He sat holding her on the bed.  He looked out the window and into the barn where he had dragged their bodies into the shade before he went in to her.  The horses were not scared and it surprised him.  He couldn’t even saddle a horse.  If he could have he would have taken the brown  colored one.  It was beautiful.

Her breathing had calmed.  He waited for her, then she nodded her head.

Ohern – chap 2.1-2.8

Gable was standing outside near the coral when Ohern returned leading the dead men’s horses.  The men he had killed were on them.  Gable was smoking a short pipe and it sat in his fist like a spell.  Others Ohern could not make out were there standing around Gable, a covey in the failed light.  Ohern had been a rider for the Bar and Cross Guards for three years and he still had not met all of Gables rostered men.  Gables nod to him was somatic.

“Who’s that?”  Gable asked him, his arms crossed, crutching his smoking fist.

“Ones I was after.”

“You know ‘em”


Gable walked towards him, the others pulled after as though they were leaves tied to his heels by less significant string.  Ohern had not covered the bodies and they lay face down over their own horses like drunks led home.

“They gitcha?”


“You should have let someone go with you.”

Ohern got down from Shimmer and led her and the others into a large corral that half circled the lodge ignoring his question.  Shimmer moved to a trough of water, the other horses went with her, forgiven their affiliation without a word or a thought.

“That bays a good horse.”


“Probably isn’t theirs.”

“Probably not.”

It was well into the night now and a wordless reckoning passed between them.  Brighton was a large hamlet but spread over many farms, trade houses, stables and homes.  He was Bar and Cross.  He was the good word of the king until the king decided he would be his own good word again.  Gable had four lodges that Ohern knew of, not to include the spring camp near the yellow door.  Theirs was the smallest.  Gable ran it like the others, they were his buildings and his horses mostly.  He loved the Light back when it was shining and now, well now he and a few others were all that was left who’d remember it if it showed up to shine again.  They pulled their men mostly from the families that rode with them already.  Some came from the south, the war, and were found before they lit on the greeds and hungers of the north.  Ohern wondered if he too had been saved in this way, from drowning upon blood and egress.

“Get ‘em down, come on.  Put ‘em over there, get some light on ‘em.”

Ohern watched them drag the men off the horses by their feet.  They dropped heavy.  They were drug onto a privy board then slanted up against the middle rail of the coral by two men he still could not remember or see clearly.  Torches were brought and staked, their hot tall flames jerked to free themselves, distressing the men’s faces, hurrying their secrets.  Ohern looked away. The bodies were cut about, not from sword play.  Teague removed their shirts?  They were pierced, many times and shallowly.  Ohern knew, Ohern had done it.  The group of them, even Ohern, looked the men upways and around.  Their mouths were hurt, their faces untenanted, their forms straightened in a way death felt was natural, belying the violence and frustration of their last moments.  All of the men looking on were quiet and still like a single witness to the disaster of those bodies.

Finally, “These them?”

“Yes.”  Ohern answered.

“I see it.  Are there others a part to the killin of Dane?”


“Nope.” Gable thought.  “Well that’s it then.  You’ve done right by his family Ohern.  Light take and keep ‘em.  You’re not held party to gain nor held in want for this deed.  I see it full and done with.  Burn ‘em.”

There was a pit for them, for the bodies.  Ohern had looked at it once in the daylight, it was different then, like a story from a far corner of the war in the south.  It looked like a nameless harrow, a ruin of some frontier keep all burned, half buried and empty of duty or life.  Four men could byre in it.  A stone wall circled it hip high and older than the lodge stones.  It was a good three paces on each side.  Inside that wall was ash and bone that Ohern hoped did not go down too deep.  It looked full then in the light those months ago when he had seen it last, chambered away even then from the full gaze of that days light like a black sacked witness fallen in grief, veiled against such a ridiculous light, an empty light for what it could not clarify there.  Now in the sundered torch glow of that lost evening it looked different.  It was darker, in need of something as deceptive as the body that death makes out of a man.  Wanting and if not wanting then worse, Ohern felt it waiting.  He felt the men they placed there were being given back to something darker still, darker than the deeds that brought them all there.  A progenitor perhaps, welcoming them back from the arms of their killers, back from his arms, Oherns arms.  Ohern often wondered if burning them was helping the wrong people, spreading a different kind of that same darkness or healing as it were, the victory of his right and blade.  The pit walls caught and threw the torchlight back at them.  It settled on Ohern alone like a reflection off a lake and though he had been careful to avoid it’s shine on the torch he was helpless to avoid it’s recurve from the spell of the pit.  It stuck to him like the truth.  They called it the light of the dead.  The others with him were as dark as ghosts.  Still it was too dark to see their faces.  Ohern burned brighter in that light than the bodies would when on fire.  He did not stay for the ritual, he was not asked to and walked away from them like a witch.

Inside the loft he washed and changed his shirt.  The light had gone scintillating off into mug handles, a buckle over there, the abraded head of a nail on the rough wood floor.  He sat on his bunk and looked at the cut on his arm that he had bandaged.  It needed sewing but he dreaded it.  Instead he looked in the wound for poisons or a piece of blade or cloth.  It was clean.  He wrapped it back up, took up the sack with his dirties and his cleans and went back down the rope hole to find food.  A rider was downstairs in the hall, shut out or hiding from an act of men.  He could not tell if he was one of those that were with Gable when he rode in.  He thought him an Aspect for a moment then cleared his mind from foolish devilry of the night come deep and he went down to him.

“There’s food.”

“Alright.”  Ohern said, moving to the table and picking up a dirty wooden bowl that sat there.  He drew up some of what settled and cooled in the small pot.  He laid the cloth back over it when he was done and sat opposite the rider, putting his back to the small fire in the hearth that the rider looked into so vaguely.



“It’s good to see that you did it.  I am not the kind to, but I would have done it right nice too.  Dane was a friend of mine.”  He said.

Ohern nodded.  The stew was saltless and cooler than the pot he took it from.  He sipped at it, leading chunks of root and horsemeat into his mouth with still shining hands.

“Were they hard asses?”

Ohern thought about it.  He thought about how he went into the building and put his sword through the strongest one while he slept, right through the stomach.  He thought about how drunk the other one had been, how slow to rouse even when his blood was brought forth.

“Well they look it.  Two of ‘em.  I’ve never done two.  I’ve killed before, just not two at a time.”

Ohern thought that eating the cool meat of the stew would put him off but it didn’t.

“You in the war?” the rider continued.

Ohern nodded his head.

“Yep, that’s a mess.”

Ohern looked up at him.  He took the man in.  He was poorly dressed for a rider.  He was Oherns age or nearly but he seemed younger, and not desirous to hold Oherns gaze.  Ohern studied him none the less for it.  This rider, this guard was not yet a man.  It must have passed him up or he it.  Ohern thought about the war in the south.  He wondered at the rider’s fortune or lack of it and eventually he asked him, “Where you ride?”

“I don’t ride.  I’m not a rider.  They put me at a watch, Gable did.  I do it all night, I should be there now but I missed my supper and couldn’t go on watching all hungry.  Did those two say why they did it?”

“I didn’t ask.”

“It’s just as well.” he said rising.  Ohern pitied him in a way that took and watched him leave.  He finished his stew, rested and felt on his back the only gift of Peytah that he would take from her willingly; the warming and softening of him.

Gable came in alone.

“Well, they are no longer a part of the gift and that IS the truth.”

Ohern nodded, he was tired.  He would not look at the shadow craft the fire made of him on the far wall.

“You get that tracker I told you about or did you sniff out those bastards yourself?”

“Tracker.” Ohern said back.  He was done with the stew.  He sat the bowl down knowing no one but he should clean it, but that it would get cleaned, by another man, a weak man like the rider that just left.  Ohern felt that weak himself and more so.  What did they all fear about him.

“They work quick, I will say it.” Gable offered to the silence that too easily grew around Ohern.

“It’s like they know.” Ohern offered.

“How’s that?” Gable asked him.

Ohern shrugged.

“Yep.  You think it’s like they say?”

Ohern looked at Gable still tasting in his mouth what had to have tasted better warm.

“Do I need to send some men out that way to get at the place?”

“Probably.  Don’t know whose place it is.  It’s west a ways past that mill, the old one.”

“I know the place.” Gable said.

“On sraight west again there’s not but four places in sight, it’s the one on the ar left.”

“Alright, siply brothers ride there.  They’ll be here near dawn, I’ll get ‘em on it.”

“I’m done Gable.”

“Yep.”  He said not knowing what Ohern was referring to and so his eyes did not match the expression his mouth made.

“This is it.  I don’t want it anymore.”

“Shimmers yours.  I thought it right you have her.  Not to ride but to keep.  Two of you went back a fair bit.  Do right by him and take the horse.”

“Alright.” Ohern said, hurting that already ruined part of him by saying yes.  Everything he had was a gift, a hand out, a hand down, a loner from someone with more, with better.  From someone who had more than they needed but still did not want to give away completely, knowing though it be worth nothing to them it would be worth something to someone else and in that way alone was salvaged from uselessness.  Ohern thought for a moment how his need gave worth to something worthless and also kept it from him.

“You can keep her here till you get something figured.”

“I have something figured.”  He didn’t.

“That gives you more spend Ohern.  Things ought to look up sooner now.  I know that boy is hard on you.  I wish you’d let my wife take him.”

“It’s not the spend.” But it always was.

“I know, I just don’t want you leavin.  I don’t have a man that can ride like you, straighten a way like you can.  You’ll get on up out of that loaner and get some gear, get it done up and you’ll feel different about it, I say it.”

Ohern knew he was right but it was something else.

“I have to do something alone.”

“Yep?” Gable questioned and would talk again but Ohern tried to warn him against it with a look.  Gable was not cowed.

“Yeah well, I saw it in you when you came up.  You need the steel for it?  You don’t have a rock to throw at a bastard.”

“I don’t need it.”

“Your a fool and an old fool Ohern.  Them out there was easy.  You just got that kid scratch.  You go rollin in the dirt with a knife man and well be burnin you out there.”

“Well see.”

Ohern rose and went back up into the loft and Gable left.  He dressed his bed then laid his borrowed mail shirt and his borrowed steel upon it in the dead way.  He had no stable of his own but his place had a yard that would do if he could keep Deal out of it.  Deal would tear it up “playing” so he quit trying to grow things in it.  The boy wrecked everything.  He had a thought to make his place better but he found he rode more and more and was always out straightening a way as Gable put it.  He was not ready to keep a horse yet and now one was being thrown at him but it was the boy that saddled him and he was sore with the desire to be rid of him.  The boy was not even his.  Ohern felt the right thing to do was to die.  It should be his turn at least by now he thought.

Ohern felt his mood swing hateful.  His ride was light for the lack of gear, Gables gear, that he left at the lodge on his cot.  He stopped in a clearing and stretched in the saddle.  There was a good place here between where the land got thick and where it emptied out again of people and their things.  It had been a dairy.  All the rock was now cannibalized by other growers and steaders, all the wood burned but this white pole on the path he rode towards his own place.  He leaned out from the saddle and touched it.  It was just a pole.  In the ground were rumors of walls and rooms, picked clean and moved away by scavengers or builders to become parts of other homes.

He was tired.  He had killed today and its repose in him was a stiffness mirroring the fatigue that dried the dead like mudbrick and broke them when they would not rot.  He longed to be home and then heard it, a fast rider coming up from the same way he had ridden.  He turned Shimmer and reached for a sword he did not have.  The rider stopped fast.


“Who says it?”

“Vern, I ride for Gable, I’ve met you.”

“What’s needed?”

“Gable sent me.  A rider came in from Whaleslake, theres a witch.”

“They still at the stable?”


“Come on.” He said and kicked shimmer into flight east through the rubble of the dairy yard and then on north to Whaleslake.  The ride was over quick as most rides at a gallop are.  Out at the gate to the stead, a woman waited with four horses.

“There just on in a bit past this gate, they just went!” she said.  She did not care who they were, they were help.  Ohern felt at times like this, the great weakness, the great fragile throat of his kind; the trusting of strangers.

He leaped off Shimmer as tired as he was and for fate, landed right and soft.  He took her to the rail some space from the other horses.  Vern stood by him like a servant, a young man Ohern could now guess.  They walked swiftly in and to the huddle of dark on the field that was Gable and the men that had come with him.



Ohern saw the men around him.  How the comfort of another’s strength was carried by cowards.  Not in the face, and not in this dark, but the way the bodies pointed to the one they would follow.  He had already torn cloth from his shirt and was now trimming it with some difficulty using his teeth.  He turned to the stead.  “Who’s there.” He finished at Gable.

“A boy.  Don’t know his name, doesn’t hear people.  Got her in a room.” Gable told him, following Ohern towards the stead.


“Jakes, his wife Labell, not sure about the other kids, he has a few.”

“They moved past a stockyard and through luck or fate again he found a grass fork leaned against fodder and took it and broke the tines off with his boot leaving more or less a jagged ended pole.

The sound of their moving onto the woodened porch emboldened the younger ones, Vern and now Ohern guessed two others.  Ohern sickened at the idea of their collective strength.  He opened the doors that had been shut presumably and unreasonably by the old woman now with all of their horses.  Inside a fire lit the room but halfheartedly, knowing they had come to take the witch away.

“Build that, light everything.” Ohern said and two moved to it quickly.  He could see the boy they were told of, leaning against a narrow door.  He moaned.

“Over there.” Vern called them to see a woman, dead on the floor past the fire near an open window, dead for the blood around her.  Ohern stomped hard on the floor and the boy turned around, Ohern ready to push that pole haft clean through his head were he spelled.  The boy moaned, his face wrecked from tears and whaling.  He looked at them awkwardly, pushing still with both hands to keep the narrow door shut.  What he said no one needed to understand.  They rushed over and took his place, Ohern, Gable and another he knew only from the burning earlier at the Lodge.

“Get him to that old lady.” He said, his own voice as words underwater for the oil cloth in his ears.  He leaned with his left shoulder, gable his right as they looked at each other’s old, sweaty faces.  Ohern’s hand could not grab the bar well and so Gable took it.  The others were near again now with torches lit and but for the mutiny of the flames Ohern could have seen well enough to mend his own shirt.  He held the busted fork in both hands then stepped off from against the door and Gable having already unlatched it while braced, swung it outward.

They all had caught her eyes and she theirs as men and women do.  Ohern lunged striking her mouth with the sheared haft of the fork, A strike that could not be blocked or avoided.  It was only when he fell upon her that he realized he was the only one who had looked away quick enough.  She swatted at him without strength as though they played then whined and fell under him.  His hand on her throat pushed by his whole strength pinned her body and pushed out her tongue and all that filled his mind was to stop and enter her.  Her legs wrapped around his waist as he choked her.  He struck her mouth with his gloved fist then, until it was near torn free of her face and still without looking, he pushed her eyes out, a difficult thing for anyone, and then grabbed them from her face like new apples, arose, went to the fire and looking into its disgust, he fed it her eyes.

All stood as if watching the breaking of a horse while the witch wailed and contorted and kicked in the narrow room.  There was no waking them now that they were spelled, they would wake on their own or not at all.  He was thankful she had not succored them or surely he would have been dead now or broken and bound as she had clearly thought he would seed.  He moved passed them into the narrow room where she agonized and pulled her by the hair out of the house and off of the porch and felt helpless as his loins began to gorge.  He pulled her whaling and writhing towards the stockyard and when she tried to turn or bring up her legs he let go of her then stomped her still again.  He reached into his pants repositioned himself.  She was in too much pain to kneel and so lay with her wrecked face drinking at the sky.

He could not see the gate he had come in at nor the entry to the stead from where he stood now in front of the stockyard he was dragging her to.  It would be hours till the others would unfold themselves.  He kicked dirt onto her sticky face then went to her and picked her up by the hair again and pulled her into the stockyard and heaved her upon the second bar of the corral, pushing against her as he tied her hands to her feet with reins as she sobbed.  He leaned over then lay on her back, the both of them on the rail she was tied to and he, tired, fumbled at his pants to undo them and pried at the back of her dressing to find a way into her sex then he slipped and rolled aside and having cleared in his mined crawled away from her for his very life.  Rolling over and gasping he lay still, breathing, his face wet with shame for feeling more love for anything from her witching than he had ever felt.

He thought about going back to the stead but did not trust her being alone and yet did not trust himself with her.

He looked at her shape under the faded blue dress that no doubt belonged to the wife.  When her sobbing slowed he stood and walking to her, brought the heel of his boot into the small of her curved back with as much force as he could afford, then took the pieces of his shirt out of his ears and dropped them.

Moving to a section to each side of the section of fencing where she hissed and sucked for life, he kicked out the beams of the fence to separate its wood from where she was lashed in case the fire they would make would catch the stockyard.  He took the six freed rails and leaned them against her.

He looked back at the stead and the light that bleached the darkness at the front of the place to burn a single, still shadow of a man onto the dirt there.  The one who took the mute should have been back but was no doubt afraid to return to the quiet of the stead now having been tricked to cowardice by his mind alone.  Ohern kicked at the dirt then looked back at the witch.


…and soon there will be no one else to keep telling me that it isn’t.

The first time I shot someone I was five.  It was a dream.  It stays with me.  I articulate the death with cheerios and milk, mourn the villain with a flower jerked like he was from life, cry because I wet the bed again.  In class I do not act out, I do not rage against an inflated menace nor tare the face of a child who is like me, innocent, alive and yet somehow still unborn.  I do not look at the bullies with crazed empty eyes, I am pushed down and do not rise up with a rage too distilled to be contextual, I do not stand in front of traffic lost behind a face with no tears or will.

I am ten before I hold one.  All of them, even the small ones are heavy.

At fourteen I kill something with warm, red blood.  And when I kill myself I tell myself, this is different, this is not a dream, but no matter how many times I say it I can’t take the gun away from my face, I can’t remember anything else because this is a dream, right, this is still just a dream…

Hoax – chap 6.6 – 6.12

…so he took his form back and picked up his pouches and walked to his pony and patted the bags for the moans they created and found them all still alive and he let himself out the gate and past the fear and the begging empty faces of men, some middle aged and they became the want their eyes could no longer express for not being there and their bodies begged the salvation he would not give them for they heard his pony and nothing lived here like that and they knew he was coming and going.  And some had known him from before and he patted them and he said goodbye as if to a friend and pretended he did not understand their situation or their need or their eyelessness nor the ropes that held them in their reek and he asked if he could bring them anything back and walked on without waiting for their answers.  Rose watched him go through the thick dirty glass in the window of the house he just left and she combed her hair red again and cleaned her nails with her teeth and he was not the only one who could fake and she looked out into the courtyard at the upturned faces of the stars and wondered if she’d take.

And when he was gone she left the house and she let her eyes turn black as she desired but kept her face pretty as a woman and her young body white and her red hair long and straight as blood dripping because it pleased her and her witches gathered and she brought out Deal and they loved him and touched him and pulled off his clothes with kisses and there in the star light they sat in nakedness around the boy and all of them touching his sex made seed and shared it on fingertips and made more and he laughed and they held him with breasts and kisses and legs and drew again from him until he was red and he hurt and they used their mouth and then Rose stopped them and drug him back into her house and there she thraled him until the day had passed and the night came again and so they repeated this and they fed him pig fat and eggs and they for their weeks had his seed and they took who could take and when their moon came that was Roses moon and only a few had not taken she walked him to the pen where she kept her miners and she told her witches about the lie of belief.  They tied him there and the miners she had dig agate or so she told them for there was no agate in that cave and those that survived were only the Kords as the other kinds died quick.  And she beat them for what they could not know for there was no agate and she had taken their eyes and yet some she rewarded for bringing her the agate that was not real and they created in that mine something more powerful than she could through her womb, they dug and drug and fondled and put rocks in their mouths and tried to tell agate from stone though only stone was there and she at the end of their day rewarded the ones who had done what she asked and beat the ones who refused to bring her agate and it was her art to know when and who to reward and when and how to destroy but yet none battled her refrain like those miners, stalwart and hurried in their umbrage.  Eyelessly they toiled and dug and drug rocks from that hole in the cliff, with every effort some wild hope against all reason or possibility and yet they lived and believed and found and created truth and she took it all from them and the mine was her secret heart and what she drew from it was nothing less than Light itself and all of it she devoured and it never shown again.

Their corral was a mess of filth, offal and regurgitated meal as the Kord’s stomachs couldn’t suffer milled grain, but bread they were given in plenty.  Bits of wood and sometimes metal were thrown in to make or blame with.  They spoke and it was allowed but only if whispered and so they would fight and growl and bite and be whipped red with sticks until they cowed and shivered against each other.  And she knew their tongue and listened long hours to it, hovering near the mine or walking in the tree above them teaching herself evil.   And it was here that, when spent and bruised and crying Deal was thrown without his eyes, after the coven had taken their weeks of him, and his seed had grown in those who could take.   And he felt about the corral and was wroth with his leash and pulled at it even to hurt himself.  And the miners bit at him when he crawled over them and he grabbed onto their legs but their teeth, though rotting and dulled still tore and his skin, unlike theirs opened easy and he sat at last in his terror and pain on a spot of ground that was the only thing left to him that was real and indifferent and he clicked with his tongue and felt with his dirty fingers where his eyes should be until the holes hurt then he just waited for the men, one that would never find him and the other who would never return.

And she rewarded him every day though he never dug.  The others would drag him into the mine with them as they were all tied, small Kords, red divers, and he would fart from the porridge and push them down as they knelt and laugh and pee on the rocks for the water they had enough of and the Kords would dig and meditate on the small smooth stones in their mouths to know what she wanted  and wonder if the agate had run out and she beat them and she loved Deal in front of them and gave him dead birds though he would not eat them but the red divers could smell it and his waste but she would not let the red food get to the other miners and she accused them of their lessness and this happened and deal moaned and pulled at his rope.  And in the night they came to him after a hand full of days and they bit open his throat and ate him after drinking the salt of his blood right there at the end of his leash and they ate his leash too, that which had his blood on it and Rose laid on her branch in the tree above them and was utterly unknown to them and she watched them move back to their corners and squat and belch for the nourishment and be full of the boy and sleep with their sharp heads tucked between their legs and in the morning she pretended the boy had never come to them at all.

In The Gap by Glyn Maxwell

“The road was dark and wet and red

I never went, I never was

It was an insult what you said

and you shall bleed for it because

I am the stranger up ahead”