exponentiation ezine
exponentiation en ezine

exponentiation ezine: issue [6.0:literature]

"Cabins in the Fog"

Here, the shadows, restless dwelling
are besotting and compelling.
Darker dangers? Nothing compares
to these cabins of our nightmares.

Thatched roofs are crumbling inward
where those shadow figures lingered -
still they linger! in decaying
wood - a grim scene so dismaying!

Approach where logs and planks collapse,
where glassy eyes are, by mishaps
destroyed and look as jagged tears:
recalling sharpened woes and fears.

The doorway, but a feeble serf
invites us from the dampened earth
and foggy air of dusk and death -
a sky as bleak as dying breath.

Darker, thicker now, the evening
fog descends, betraying meanings
that this rotten, dreary dwelling
shall unveil in whispered tellings.

Darkened azure, bloodied sapphire!
Pall'rous glow of wintry maidens
are the hues, the evening's fire
here imbued and burdened, laden.

Madness lingers in the framing.
Wand'ring through the halls one harkens
evil whispers thrilled in naming
everything that blights and darkens

men whose deeper natures, lacking
fortitude to see, unclouded
simple truths. One's mind is racking,
damned, muddied, and self-shrouded.

The cabin's walls now groan aloud,
they bend and warp - oh! sight and sound!
are tortured here as fog rolls thick
so flesh is whitened to the quick

with tremors that no sense abates
until the body, all its hates,
revolts against the crippled host:
the body rots, the soul a ghost.

Now, the shadows, ceaseless growing,
serve the cabins, ever-knowing
all the lower souls they shall consume
that fail to wrench their wrists from gloom.

Still, not all are here devoured.
You and I? we've overpowered
obstinately, that which towered
o'er the weak who trembled, cowered.

Though this blued and gloomy structure
threatened to collapse and rupture
screaming doom, pronouncing terror,
screaming evil, sin and error.

Lo, what foolish geists assemble,
how they failed to make us tremble!
'til our forms were nothing more
than putty ripe to drink and pour.

To you, I say, my merry friend,
come with me from door to door.
These carcass homes will never rend
our essence. Through this fog: explore!

All structures insalubrious
shall want in nightmares and their skill,
shall never quash the light from us
who stand apart from good and ill,

defiant of the wills who call
toward the sigil or the star.
Cabins in fog, they all shall fall
in these adventures broad and far. - Risc


"The Death of Elise"


There was shelter under the slanted roof of a small transit construct. Here, poking around in pockets, cigarette package elusive, Ike waited. Can't do much else when the bus isn't around. Fumbles inside his shirt pocket. A-ha. Crumpled globs of the day’s news, massive balls of industrial mucous, cluttered around the pillars and glass. There was a smell of old rain on the concrete, a dishonest smell at odds with the violent torrent streaming before him. Less a patter, more a crackle. Infinite blades of thunder; gleaming, street-lit bolts. "Could you do me a favour?" a woman's voice inquired, "can you pass me a cigarette?" She sat featureless on a bench darkened with sourceless moisture. After-effects of rain. A heavy coat, to the knees and black, and heavy, shining ebony hair made erratic by the downpour.

Ike took a stride to her and held out the pack, an american style 10x2 case. The woman drew the cigarette that was protruding, and Ike closed the case.

"Y'know this stuff'll kill ya" His flame breathed oxygen and kissed the cigarette with luminous combustion. He leaned against the glass, his coat tied around his waist by the sleeves. "Funny thing to say" she remarked, simulating her acquaintance's method. Ike shrugged.

A genuine flash of natural light, their contours mimicked by jaunty, demonic shadows. He, with the curving, angelic ringlets of hair, dark as bear's fur. An unholy counterpart jeered at him from the shadow and certain cold eyes not unlike his own pried through abysmal caverns of bone and flesh. A gaze of brooding, half-mad calm. And then, only the impression, carved out with the flash and eroded. Sad attempts at recreation by the street lights. Water bubbled from the drains, inner city rapids swelling up, lacking an allure of danger and excitement in its putrid, murky foam. When the rain cleared the streets would reek of human excrement for days.

The smoke from their cigarettes mingled under the safety of the shelter. Clung to their damp garments. "When's it gonna get here?" the woman inquired impatiently, mostly to herself. Possibly attempting conversation to bide time. Ike checked his watch. The silver band clattered as it rotated a small degree around his bare and slim wrist. "A few minutes still. These things are precise. Also - " index finger aimed at the stop sign across the street. Signs bleached in sunlight marked the epitaphs of many businesses that had once possessed the now derelict building "it'll stop there. Not beside us." She didn't answer but for a small unwilled vibration of her vocal chords, as though she was trying to control very light breaths. She bit her lip, shifted. Her arms crossed, she leaned against the glass, hair falling back from her face.

"Not from here, are you?" Ike looked at his butt, which was running close to the filter. Orange tobacco embers peeked through clinging bits of ash. He took another drag.
"No...I haven't been here long. The school year's just started..."
"Ah, yeah. High school?"
"No, university." she faced him, but Ike continued to stare off. "I'...I'm Pallas."
"Ever hunt?"
Pallas shook her head, her hair rustling and drifting. She looked at him with cautious interest. Her arms remained folded. The rain became thicker, and distant thunder rumbled the streets. Tiny vibrations make your hair stand on end. It's enough to ruin an otherwise normal (which may just as well mean, all jokes aside, boring and pointless and uneventful) day. "I'm Iké."
"It's a foreign word. Means 'pond'." He paused. A smirk drew from his lips and he glanced at Pallas, "I guess our parents were idiots, huh."

Dimples beamed, she chuckled softly. The small triangular shadow-to-light gradient of genuine amused tremors in vicious darkness. She averted her eyes. The air was static warmth, the wind passive and mild. The rain blazed before the eyes like signal static on a distant screen. Furious. Hissing calumniously against paved and raised sidewalk - like boiling, like steam, like sizzling meat - the rain was accompanied by a dull throb, now louder, nasal.

Ike dropped his cigarette - it rolled to the bevel of the sidewalk where it sizzled, a juvenile mimicry of the enormous storm - Eyes ahead. Pallas stood and brushed off the back of her coat. The darkness swelled, ether pregnant with motorized light. The rain was shards of crystal and diamond. A drenched figure exploded in light, a dove fluttering from a deep abyss of suffering. The bus screamed and squealed, chimerical bat-snake of weaving and hellish sonar. Ike left the shelter, stepping cautiously to the front of the bus. The driver wore a large, thick coat, blackened by the evening rain. He stood over a disfigured woman, her blood washing away in congealing tendrils, spraying up in the ripples of the rain like tiny fountains. Her arm was mangled, her thin clothing soaked through. The driver looked up at Ike. "Didn't see a damn thing. She was just there."

Pallas stood a few steps from Ike. "Is she alive?" Ike knelt down and moved the matted strands of the woman's hair. "Well, not for much longer." "Should we help her? I'm calling an ambulance." Ike shook his head vigorously, the rain spattering from his hair, "Elise was suicidal. Don't worry, driver. This wasn't your fault. She wanted to die, and now she's almost there."

Pallas maintained her poise as she instructed an operator on the receiving end of a silver cellular. She pressed a button and pocketed her phone. "How can you say something like that? She's dying!" Ike stood and shook his head again. "No, she's not." His neck was arched and the rain battered his spine. And it fell, and fell.

"People ask me 'who are you?' and I tell em 'I'm Mr. Nobody! I'm everybody!' Haha, I'm not quite God yet. Eh? I'm not quite God yet."
"Huh, oh, yeah."
The old man obstructed the glass paneled door to the coffee shop. Ike looked at the sky, bright blue, with soft loose clouds like torn balls of cotton wisping east. Impatient, Ike lit a cigarette.
"Spare a smoke?"
"Will you get out of the way?"
The old man bared his teeth in a yellow grin of poorly emulated childishness. The fangs of senility cut through his brain as he scrambled for the thrown cigarette - a perfect toss. "How precarious."

Ike raised his eyebrow and returned his gaze to the sky. An airplane loomed silently, jets a murmur against the clogged arteries of the city. He finished his cigarette on the concrete steps of the cafe and entered silently. The old man yelled and charged a flock of pigeons in his smoke-scented armor, the worn coat of pathetic homelessness. The idiot birds scattered and descended lazily on the sidewalks of neighboring stores. Their feet pattered against the drying pavement.

The cafe's inner walls were solid panels of wood with simple lathe-work and a dark stain and varnish, so that even the nicks and scratches glimmered after being buffed effortlessly with a damp cloth. Ike saw Nolan at a booth and sat across from him. "Gee Nolan, you look like shit. Ever hear of sleep?" "Ever hear of consoling grieving relatives? Thought not, you damn loner. Matt's freaking, probably slashing his wrists or something. I tried calming him on the phone but his tone was pretty dead. I wouldn't be surprised if he was dead. I'm not too keen on dropping by his flat. 'Lise's parents aren't doing so hot either." He recited a lengthy phone ordeal, like a great tragedy, like the suffering of grand heroes. Only the first few acts were missing from his account. Hands streamed through hair like ocean liners in calm seas, spilling and contaminating. A strand of oily, pubically thick hair fell into his coffee mug. "Ah, shit."

Elise's parents yelled at Nolan for a solid hour, using two phones in two different rooms. Occasionally they would yell at each other, and then one voice, and then the packing of flesh. Like baseball bats hitting mud. Crying. Nolan hangs up and has a shot of whiskey. Enough consolation for that night.
"I always knew that family was a little touched." Ike muttered. The windows were fogged in streaks of salty and dirty water. He examined a deep ridge in their table, spinning his coffee cup by its cracking handle.
"Hhf. I hate sharing even some of their genes. I'll probably be senile by forty."
"Not much longer to go..." Ike grinned. His coffee was pleasantly bitter.
"Either way this is a mess..."
"Need any help?"
"Maybe planning the funeral."
Ike shrugged.

"I know you can barely afford to eat. Fuckin’ freelance journalism worked well for you, eh. I'm not asking for money." the waitress refilled their cups. Tan rings stared up at her, like demanding eyes of a past, how do you say, aggressive lover? (Poor turn of phrase...) "I'll be able to cover it, I think. 'Lise's parents don't seem like they're gonna do a thing, and for all I know Matt's ODed or something. Anyway I'm just looking to make sure things go smooth. You remember what it was like when Heidi died, and the Colonel."
"Some soldier's funeral." Ike warmed his numb fingers against the freshened cup, his thumbs like flags of surrender. He stared into Nolan's eyes, averting the distraction of bloated sleeping bags. "Sure, I'll help out. Anything else?"
"Feeling weird at all?"
"Nah. I've seen worse." Ike shrugged.
"Right. Well, I'll talk to you tonight at Sam's."
"He didn't get shut down?" Blinding someone with moonshine is bad for business. Ethyl alcohol is for cuts.
"Oh yeah shit. Whatever I'll call your pad tonight. Later." And Nolan was an apparition in a seat.

The cup of coffee was like a black, hypnotizing mirror. Many torments of many lost spirits scried in the reflection - laughing disfigurations of death and anguish. Thoughts played in Ike’s head like short experimental film. Montages of death and loss, bitter memories blending together in superimposed frames. Sneering face of death in Heidi’s pallor. "Iké?"

Faint ripples in the mug, a dark sort of silhouette, too dark for mirrordom. Patrons chattered idly, the vapors of conversation rising and falling, condensing into empty matter. Wallowing geists of self-importance-deceit. Conversation amidst prying ears should refrain from intellectual aspirations. Discuss family gossip, shallow successes to justify destructive habits, sports. They rise like soap bubbles in the summer sky, cleaning no conscious of its accumulating filth. The reality of the being is displaced by ground coffee beans filtered into a rejuvenating nectar. Female fingertips, unpainted nails, spread themselves on the table. A figure leaned over the table's width and shattered Ike's void mind. "Oh my, Iké? Remember me? From last night?" "Pallas" he smiled to himself "your hair is in my coffee." Pallas blinked and shifted her eyes. "Ew! Geeze...I'm so sorry. Gross..."

Ike handed her a napkin, "sit down. This'll do for now. I'll get the waitress to get you a hot towel"
"You don't - "
"I know the people here." " - have to - " "It's no issue." The waitress brought Pallas a coffee and Ike made his request. She walked away, acceding.
"But I didn't o-" "It's on" "-rder an-" "the house," Pallas was blank. Ike glanced out the window, "If you're a friend of mine, or my friend Nolan - he just left - almost anything you want to drink is on the house. We know the owners well."
Customers chatter, the door opens and closes. A mother and her child leave the lavatory, bundle up, exit. Pallas plays with her mug percussively, eyes wandering, fixated on objects of little interest; drifting, feline caution. "Iké."
"Just Ike. I hate how exotic Iké sounds...so Spanish, and it's not even Spanish."

Ike glanced at her, clearer now in the radiant haze of the filthy windows. The sun illuminated her splendor and her flaws. Her freckles rose from her cheeks like staring down at multitudes from an airplane, or a bombarded surface of a distant, lonely planet; small nose, inconsistently colored eyes, different shades of the oceans and freshwater lakes. Traces of pale, swollen pimples lingered on her forehead; tiny blackheads fortified her nose. "Did you...know that woman?" Ike nodded. "Was she a...were you two together?" "Nope. Mostly an acquaintance - too hard to get too close to. Never tried."

Pallas shivered, a tingling ripple shot through her body. Blood and water streamed together - and coffee. Thick oil coats an unreceptive throat. It attempts to shut, but is willed open through to the stomach via a scalded esophagus. Pallas sputters helplessly. Looks around, embarrassed. "I, have never seen anything like that before. A...well, a woman dying. Someone hit by a bus like that..."
"I don't really know anybody here...I don't really have anyone to talk to. It was so intense. I mean, I've had relatives die, but I've never...seen death."
"It's nothing special." Ike rose. "And I have no interest in being your counselor. Enjoy your coffee." the doors swung. The wind hit him like a vengeful foe. He heard the door squeal.
"Hey!" Pallas sprang at him and tugged his shoulder; he spun and stared down at her with thinned eyes. "If you don't want to be my 'counselor,' then could you at least by my friend?" she gave him a small card. He examined it: a small typeface: Pallas 902-941-9991

Card out of field of view, he saw Pallas walking in the opposite direction, her long coat buoyant and gay. "What's the difference..." he muttered. He probably dwarfed her by almost a decade. On his way home he disposed of the little card in a recycling bin on one of the street corners.

"Hi. You've reached Ike's answering machine. You know the trick. Beeep."
"It's Nolan. Pick up, man."
Ike dropped the pot he was scrubbing into the frothing sink "Hellooo? Iiiike." and dried his hands. The phone was screwed to the wall. He picked up the receiver. "Bad timing. I was doing dishes."
"Is she hot?"
Ike scoffed. "I see you're in a better mood."
"My day was easier than I thought. Uh, anyway I've taken care of most the arrangements. She's being embalmed, prettied up, and placed into a decent casket...the funeral home offered to be pretty lax on the payment. I have no idea who's gonna be her pallbearers, or what cemetery to put her in...before this, I didn't think I'd ever have to plan the...transportation or burial of a dead body."
"I suppose you and I can carry her out of the church..."
"But who else?"

Ike rubbed his eyes and stared at the swelling foam of his sink. Nolan was stretched out on a discount couch from a recycle shop, the only light in his apartment a dim halogen lamp against walls a yellow of domestic beer and lemon. Grating buzzing of lights like immortal trans-flies. Androsophela. They burned as they swarm the bulb, silhouettes collecting against the glowing white-stained glass.

"She's gonna have a small funeral..." Nolan stretched the muscles and tendons of his ankle in different directions. "I dunno..." Ike bounced up to his counter and sat there, taking a swig of cold beer, the condensation chilling his hands tremendously. He held it balanced on his knee. "You still have a suit."

Ike examined the label "Yeah, probably the same threads from...Heidi's funeral." Warm ichor poured from her gaping wounds but she was oh so cold, like death, who already stole her, her breathes consumed by the ether. Stale air filled her lungs and Ike wallowed in her, in her essence, in confusion and loss. In radiant, glistening ichor.

"Alright. Funeral's in two days. See if you can contact any of 'Lise's old friends. I'll see you at the cafe in the morning." Ike recalled Pallas. "Yeah, see ya"

Quiet dirges and silent lamentation. A house to a Christian lord, but none complained, that cavern of soul stretching wide and tall. Byzanto-Gothic modern hybrid with electric heating grills. Light pouring in colours dead against the plaster floor. Everything silence, a preacher with his arms raised to the air. His useless supplication and plea interrupts their thought. "You must be brothers" a regular parishioner informs them. "It's so sad..."

Ike flinches. "Brothers? We aren't uh..." In perceiving Nolan's grim silence, he falters, "well, something like that, yeah." The mass started eventless. Elise's mother and father were nowhere in sight, and Nolan and Ike had to force Matthew into detox the night before, flailing and screaming, biting punching drunk, cursing his mother, himself, his god. Life, the world. Everything damned and wrong.

A chorus resonated. Ike barely heard the back door creak open. Pallas had attended. She caught his glance and walked to the front slowly. "Can...may I sit here?" "Yeah...if you don't mind carrying the casket."

Pallas sat. That made what, three? The preacher prostrated himself on the altar when the choir ceased. He handed wafers to the clergy and attending parishioners. Ike, Nolan and Pallas sat. There were prayers, libations, cross gestures. The three stared at the casket. Nolan shuffled and started coughing violently.

Massive cathedral doors roared and screeched, submitting to a chaotic will. Elise's father stood in the entrance, his shadow long and ominous down the row to the altar. Drunk in a blue dress shirt and gray dress pants with hands stained dark red. He stumbled and crashed into a pew, realigned himself and continued down the aisle. The priest was silent, mid-gesture. He merely stared, his disbelief mounting. Elise's father walked between two pews and tripped over a missal. His face awash in colored light of a crucifixion scene, he vomited on the floor.

"I had to punch-fuck that stupid bitch!" he yelled, "She wouldn't stop BITCHING about a GODDAMN funeral so I shut her up and now I'm here. Now what?" he stood and looked about.

"Call the police..." Nolan muttered. Pallas was already dialing. Ike approached Elise's disoriented father. "Let's go get some fresh air, sir." and the man swung at him. Ike narrowly evaded the strike. He stumbled and then stabbed at Ike, cut through the black jacket and exposed Ike's radiant ichor. Ike saw no recourse but to knock him out with a clean punch to the face and then to drag him outside while contracting the reek of vomit and sweat. His right arm ached with strain and blood loss. Thick clouds shielded the sky.

The father was taken by the police uneventfully, and Ike made it inside in time to help carry Elise's casket to the hearse. The choir leader, seeing the limited number of pallbearers, gathered two small, grim altar servers. They offered their assistance. Elise was buried amidst prayers and rain. Her carriers were silent, watching as the box with her remains was lowered into the earth forever.

There was dirt the height of a man, now, that separated Elise from the surface. She was buried and she would decay. "I'm going to wash up...and get really drunk..." Ike stated, making for his car, "I'll give you a call, Nolan." he stopped moving and stared at the sky, thick clouds spewing rain. He let the droplets cover his face and descend in all directions like rising veins that wanted to burst gore all over him, like everything inside just wanted out.

"I want to join you." Pallas interjected
"You're a lightweight."
"I could drink you under the table." she retorted "look I was about to do the same thing, there's no sense doing it alone." "You didn't even know her, Pallas...why are you here." Ike continued walking through the expansive cemetery "Because I'm alone! Because I don't know anyone and because I wanted to pay this woman her dues..."

"You owed her nothing," Ike unlocked the door to his car and opened it, creaking in protest with rust and age and general ruin. The car was old and brown and looked like decay. He stared inside his car, his arm throbbed. Tore off the sleeve of his undershirt and bandaged it. He would have to get the coat repaired at a tailor's, if the damage wasn't too extensive. It was inside the car, the tear rippling with fresh wind.
"May as well let her come, Ike...she'll see that she can't handle it."

"You mean can't handle us. Yeah... ...yeah sure. You can join us tonight." Ike snaked into his car and stared ahead. The ignition battled with him, and he defeated it with sheer persistence. He shifted the thick soaked locks from his eyes as he drove out.

Pan-fried eggs. Bacon. Ike rose. His head throbbed. Body quivered. He promptly descended, pillow gracelessly admitting him. Am I burning something...what did I he willed himself up and grabbed the nearest pair of pants. They didn't smell like vomit so that was good - he discovered that all in all, his room smelled pretty clean. Good. He swaggered into his living room and the smell grew stronger. His footfalls were heavy.

"Uh... ...hello?" Pallas peered out from the kitchen (shit) and smiled wanly. "...this isn't happening." he said slack jawed and spiritless. He fell into his couch and Pallas's eyes wandered. She returned to the stove, where eggs sizzled and bubbled, and bacon hissed, the fog of grease rising into the sunlight. Pallas turned off the elements and entered the living room where she drew a tall set of curtains to a balcony window. The sun was a sword, and it stabbed Ike's pupils with an infinite blade. He cried out and turned his face in, lying on his stomach, his feet dangling over the arm rest.

"I guess you still...haven't recovered."
"You've been like this since yesterday."
Ike turned his head and squinted only slightly to observe the speaker. "Two days...?" he was still in pain, still trembling. His neck blazed and his eyes refused to open further to admit light. "Yeah" Pallas darkened the room again, the curtain swaying like a summer dress "...at first we didn't know whether or not to send you to the hospital but you finally started throwing up, and it wasn't red, so ...we decided to take you home. Nolan went home and I...just stayed to make sure you were okay."
Ike coughed and sputtered. "Uh-huh, is that all."
"Don't worry, you were a perfect gentleman." Ike sat up and looked around, slightly dizzied, "and I was responsive yesterday?"

"Yes. You probably don't remember, but Nolan dropped by. He was a bit hung over. He brought food. And then I made you supper...that didn't go over well. Um...breakfast is almost ready." Ike sat at his table, in the dark corner of the living room. He removed the various obstacles covering it - laptop, disks, newspapers, forms. Pallas and Ike ate wordlessly. Ike stared at his plate, his body vibrating, warbling. The sun oozed warmth through the curtains. "I'm going to sleep, if you don't mind...and when I'm awake, you'd better not be here."

Pallas looked at him, saying nothing. She scooped the mouthful of scrambled egg that was in her raised fork, placing it on the plate as she did so. "Okay, did y-" "Don't come back." Pallas rose and gathered her purse and coat from the coffee table in front of his couch. The television stared at them, omnipotent watcher in the dark. Pallas stood in the room and looked at Ike for a few minutes. "Nolan left a message on your answering machine. I didn't listen to the whole thing." Her voice was choked. She then departed, lips quivering, heart palpitating. Minutes passed, and Ike trudged to his room, where he slept for many hours. He expected that he would never see Pallas again. The sun rose and the sky was a shimmering baby blue, a godlike azure that none could touch; and Ike's dreams were pleasant. When he was confident of his recovery, he walked to his kitchen and listened to the message. The digits 01 flashed bright digital red.

"Hey! Hey Ike, it's me! Hahahah! We're drunk right now! You and me and uh... ...Pallas! Yeah we're at...I don't know what bar we're at, but we always said we'd do this to each other so here goes! You're puking right now I think, so I'm gonna leave this message okay buddy! Hahahahaha, stop that! I gotta think of something. Okay, okay. Now...I know things are heavy. Elise died and all...but just remember buddy, we're in hell now! We're in hell, but soon we'll be outta here, you know it! Soon we're gonna be done! And hey, we're immortal! Always remember that when you wake up feeling dead! We're immortal, we're the gods! Nothin can stop us, no sun no moon, no rain no hail! Nothing! Take care my brother, take-" There was a long beep as the message cut off. A computerized voice announced an incorrect time and date. - Risc


"Play of Winds"

The storm that gathered,
reaching far and wide,
catching your form
this woeful night,
a hammers' final blow:
had it not been waiting,
preying like a thief
who wishes to feast,
to sate his hunger
with his poor fellows'
ill fortune?

You might be wanting
to dismiss life, perilous
as merely a fool's game,
trickery in chess,
you as a simple pawn
"Woe to the victim
of a dismal chance,
driftwood far away
from the shore!"

But did the darkened clouds
not stare at you?
Was it an illusion,
that sight beyond your vision?
Doomed to struggle
since the beginning,
the first breath of life
Winds pushing clouds,
dragging long shadows
over the silent skies

How surely you play
your evening role;
how strong, steadfast
you keep your course
on these fierce waves,
fateful hours:
certainly your flesh
isn't just a few,
plain dice humbly thrown
Ready to submit
to some idle numbers! - Frostwood


"Love Story"

Dave Schuyler loved the way Mary's eyes would flicker whenever he softly stroked her inner thigh, with the first three fingers of his hand. They had not yet slept together-that would wait, of course, until marriage-but they often lay together, naked, kissing each other for hours. Or at least, what would seem like hours; time means very little. They had known each other throughout childhood, as Fairview was a rather small community in western North Carolina, but they had only recently become enamored with each other's existence during a youth night dance hosted by the New Hope Protestant Reformed Church. That was eight months ago, in early September. The winter had passed quickly, and spring was beginning to exert its influence, as the balmy weather from the Deep South slowly crept into the county, which lay in the shade of the Blue Mountains. Dave knew he was in love with Mary…he had told her this many times before, but unbeknownst to her, he had been saving his earnings for an engagement ring while working at Tom's Hardware Store. His parents weren't aware of his plans either, as far as they knew his $6.50 an hour would be going towards paying for community college next year. This was their final year of high school, and Mary would be attending Davidson College, which was a hundred miles away, but Dave had a gut feeling that they could make things work, even with the distance. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," they say, and Dave believed this with all his heart. He loved Mary, and everyone seemed to be rooting for the two. They were perfect together.

Mary sat fidgeting with the eraser end of a pencil, looking out the window of her second-story bedroom. Dave would be arriving soon with his old '84 Chevy pickup, and memories of their trials and tribulations, the whole of their experiences and adventures, overwhelmed her at once. Memories had never been so vivid, not before she and Dave became an item. She knew that he was 'the one'. She loved him, even if she knew that she would not be able to explain why or how, or what love even is…"but if not this, then what?" she thought. Mary was an exceptionally bright girl, and quite active within the community, and what Dave lacked in academic integrity he more than made up for with his diligence and charisma. Both were beaming personalities, and to everyone, including themselves, they were the face of eternal youth and vigor. Here in Fairview, there was no way to fully comprehend any larger world than the one they perceived, and what use for it to begin with? Life was a slice of heaven, especially for these two.

Still, in accompaniment with the pleasant memories and projections of the future's serenity, Mary felt the anxiety of having to part with Dave come the end of summer. Granted, that time was what would once have seemed like an eternity away, but the past eight months with Dave rushed by without regard for her wishes and pleas. A moment could last forever, as when they were engaged in the most sincere of kisses, but somehow time managed to compensate for this courteous pause by sifting away as if with a predetermined cause or destination. And time was late for wherever it had to be…

No sooner had this little aphorism crossed Mary's mind, Dave's familiar old wagon, which served as a sort of extension of his own adventurous and bright-eyed personality, had rolled into the short gravel drive with a joyful raucousness, bouncing along the way, conforming to every depression and peak the treads encountered, never straying from its path. Mary's eyes lit up, and she picked up her worn navy duffel bag and made her way out of her room, bounding down the stairs and out the door. She leaned heavily into the passenger's side window and pressed her lips into Dave's, lightly made her way into the seat. The door had to be slammed, however, as it had a tendency to stick, but the stereo system, which was playing a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tune, faithfully followed its own way, weaving a simple story the two could easily relate to. Things continued on without skipping a beat; in the midst of these two, loud sounds did not serve as brash interruptions to a quiet life, but instead seemed to bubble up every so often to announce the very real energy that enveloped them.

"Honestly Dave, I don't understand why you wanted to drive me out to Davidson when I could just as easily have taken the bus or train-it's not like I would have been there for long, it's just a weekend visit after all!" This is what she said, but deep down inside, Mary was glad, overflowing really, to be able to spend an hour or two driving along the roads with Dave to her future alma mater. Whether in silence or in conversation, Dave's thoughtful eyes and quick-draw smile served as an ultimate source of comfort for her, lying against him in embrace, she felt unconquerable yet protected. She felt as if she was in the presence of some inextinguishable, unwavering essence, and whether or not Dave felt this way about himself she was uncertain-but this only added to his appeal to her.
"Could you have seen things being any other way?"
"No" she grinned. It was as if he had read her mind, she thought.
"Well then, I guess that settles that matter, doesn't it?"
Dave flashed a smile that lingered in his eyes and the corners of his mouth as he returned his attention to the road ahead. They sat in silence for some time, and a few love songs drifted by, their message only retained long enough to make way for the following song. The lyrics didn't matter; the music mattered even less, perhaps. These songs were about these two, even if only each individual understood this on a personal level. That went unsaid.

After a while, Dave nudged the silence in order to make way for words that had been carefully placed side by side within the confines of his mind:
"Mary, how would you define love?" This was a question that confounded even Plato and his contemporaries, a question that remained the focus of Shakespeare's plays either at the forefront or the periphery. Mary had been contemplating this question herself, as lovers do, should the need to defend such a fragile, sacred little thing from a cynical, scoffing world arise. This was Dave, her partner in crime, and as is characteristic of a loving relationship, her heart spoke in her stead with the confidence of an auspicious young philosopher-queen:
"I have been thinking about that a lot. Falling asleep I think of you, you know…I almost think myself in circles, really. But somehow, it never gets old. The memories we've made together are more vivid than any I can recall, from the long weekends to the short moments, they all weigh equally within me...It's strange how we've known each other for so long, but somehow something changed between us all of a sudden, and now here we are."
She wasn't yet finished with her thought, but Dave quickly interjected:
"Well, to tell you the truth, I've had my eye on you for quite some time. That's why I hadn't had a girlfriend for the past few years; eventually everyone thought I was already taken… "I did."
"But it was because I was getting ready, waiting for the right moment to tell you how I felt. And what a feeling it was! Like having to carry a bag of stones to which a new one was added each day-and then all of a sudden being told that you wouldn't have to carry them any longer. And that it was springtime, to boot!"

Mary smiled with a sincerity that only fresh love could afford, a smile that radiated from the core of her being. And all of a sudden it dawned on her. This is what she said: "Love is being able to feel what you feel, whether good or bad, and whether or not I like it. It's a constant ball of nervous energy in the pit of my belly, it aches when things are going rough or when we're not together, and it elevates me when we are. It is seeing far into the future and having the comfort of knowing you'll be there." Dave liked this. He would meet her monologue with his own: "To me," he said, "love is the strongest form of faith and hope I can image. I'm sure you've heard the saying, 'hate destroys, but love creates.' What greater truth is there, really? And what greater power than being able to create…to create new worlds, a world of our own; as well as to create new life, should we choose to do so? You know, these next four years will be the most trying for us-whether or not you would like to admit it-so I'm going to tell you something that I want you to remember always, because it is important; Mary, I've never seen two souls such as ourselves long for each other as deeply as the two of us, and when we are apart you may feel the physical distance bearing down on you. But to me, true love is a substance that carries us from one meeting to the next. Do you understand that?"

The two looked into each others eyes as deeply and for as long as it is safe while one of the involved is driving on a road. Dave was strong, but he knew he would have shed tears if Mary didn't maintain her own composure. But apparently his words struck a chord within her, and this resonated between them; it was a song fitting for the season-light and soft, its beauty lingering as unimposing as dew resting on the budding branches of saplings. If ever humankind and nature reflected their purest essences in utmost synchrony and concert, surely this must have been such an instance! The Greeks have shown Eros to be an archer, but perhaps he should be depicted as a weaver instead. What fine threads! And what beguiling tales he spins!

Soon than they would have wished for, the two arrived at the gates of Davidson. Its campus was pristine and its environment receptive of these two young lovers: quiet and introspective, graceful and unassuming. It was late in the afternoon, around four o'clock. They found the girl who would be hosting Mary for the night, dropped off what few belongings she had brought with her, and took a private tour of the campus until dusk had settled. There was no need to rush, but as the young are both impatient and insecure, Dave decided that he ought no longer to keep Mary from establishing her presence and more intimately acquainting herself with her future home for the next few years. He bid farewell, an affair which took upwards of a half hour, and implored her to enjoy herself and remember their conversation. A well-versed rehearsal for the end of the summer, he had thought, but a night is no comparison to the months which lie ahead. The promise of a lifetime would have to suffice for these two, carrying them moment by moment if need be.

After dinner, Mary and her young hostess lazily reclined about her room discussion everything and nothing in particular, all at once. As it is the organic nature of conversation, their attention made its orbit around the present, although here and there their thoughts would collect and pool in the remote areas of the past. And, of course, when the present fails to pull one strongly enough to its unassuming existence, the future steers both undisciplined and adventurous minds in its direction. In Mary's case, all of this was arbitrary, and despite her pretending to be interested in this girl's spectacular chattering, Dave's immanence in her thoughts consumed her being. That is until the conversation turned a different shade, beckoning Mary's participation in present affairs:
"Say, you want to check out a party with me tonight?"
"Hm-excuse me?" Mary lifted her gaze, which she had allowed to become unfocused.
"A party. Wanna come?"
"I'm not sure, what for exactly?" This was spoken with equal parts innocence and avoidance.
"Well, it's Saturday night, silly! We can get drunk together, it'll be fun! Have you ever been drunk?"
"Erm, no…"
"Well then, now's as good an opportunity as any for it to be your first time…"
"No, you don't understand-I don't want to do it. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be firm, but it's just that my parents seldom drink, and I just don't find anything appealing about it. Not to mention that I'm worried about the possibility of someone taking advantage of me in such circumstances. I have a wonderful boyfriend, you know. I wouldn't want to make a stupid mistake that I would regret forever."

"Oh, um, okay." There was a split-second of the most awkward silence. This girl seemed as if she had been personally attacked, and she avoided making eye contact thenceforth. "Well, you've gotta understand that this is college, and these are the only years in your life where you can forget about being responsible and just let go…you're going to have unwind sooner or later, you know! Well, whatever. I'm going to get ready-if you change your mind then I'll be at the Gamma house-it's the building with the upside-down 'L" above the door, just a ways down." She flashed a quick smile, as if she'd forgiven Mary and forgotten what had passed between the two of them. "Okay, thanks." She did not plan on taking up her offer, but instead hoped that their differences would be forgotten, and that they could continue the weekend on good terms come next morning.

So the night wore on, and Mary sat at her hostess' desk reading young Emily Brönte's Wuthering Heights and taking notes in her journal. Such a strange love, she thought. She could not relate to the violent passion between Heathcliff and Catherine, but it appealed to her as it was a story of love. She could not discriminate from its many forms, to her its essence was pure and everlasting. She looked out of the window, and decided that a good walk would aid her in digesting both her less-than palatable college fare, but more importantly to excitedly recount her many overwhelming thoughts and to herself. She grabbed a light jacket-it had cooled significantly since the sun had set-and headed downstairs and out the door into the commons. She looked west and saw the line of frat houses with glaring lights and blaring music, and decided to head in the opposite direction, towards the playfully rolling hills that bordered the southern end of the campus.

Asher Philips was sitting in the bushes of a recess in the architectural form of the residence building but a hundred yards down the path Mary was headed. He had spent many weekend nights during his three years at Davidson just sitting there, watching people stagger drunkenly from parties back to their dorms. It started as a personal project in studying group behavior-he was a sociology major, after all-but he soon found that he enjoyed sitting in the shadows, invisible to passersby. From his many nights as sentinel he was surprised at the frequency of drunken girls treading on their lonesome, making the stalwart solitary journey in the twilight hours, the world as merry-go-round with each step deceitfully promising solid ground. As the nights wore on, Asher found himself intrigued by the strange beauty of these drunken young goddesses, their shirts soaked with sweat and beer, their skin shining in the moonlight. Especially their breasts. At first, he started off simply by masturbating to those images that lingered long enough in his mind, his eyes set on exploring the curves of these imperfect bodies which were still supple and filled with youthful vigor. Sometimes a girl would lean forward to retch, and her ass, stuffed into tight-fitting pants, would be in clear view. Stretching the imagination was unnecessary. And when they wretched, he would see their shoulders and ribs heaving helplessly, as they dispelled their demons from the previous hours. Once, he decided to approach a girl who was looking especially unwell, and when it became apparent that she was still willing to engage in deviant behavior, as he was not an unhandsome fellow, he took her to the bushes, ripped her jeans and panties to her knees and her shirt up past her breasts, and molested her violently. She did not seem to mind, he thought, since she did not make any sounds. She was too sedated to comprehend the absurdity of the circumstances, and he did not imagine he was doing any wrong. The next day, however, the girl reported that she had been sexually harassed, showing bite marks on her belly and hips. He encountered such situations twelve times in the past three years, although most often he would settle for masturbating into his hand. The incidents were considered unrelated, and there was no reinforcement of security, so he continued his weekend night ritual.

This night would be entirely different. As Mary approached, Asher knew from the absence of a stagger that she was perfectly sober. He became nervous and feared that he would be seen. He spotted a large rock just a few feet from where he sat, and picked it up. He took in the sight of Mary and was immediately taken by how beautiful she was, and how gracefully she carried herself. A strange feeling flooded his brain: he would have her. Not simply molest her. He had to fuck her. He began to tremble as she walked by, and, catching the scent of her, he was overcome with voraciousness and leapt from the bushes, quickly striking Mary in the back of the head just as she was about to turn to meet her attacker. He did not dare look her in the eyes.

She fell, and although she was not unconscious, she incurred enough trauma to incite a headache and leave her in complete disorientation. Still, she would remain conscious. Asher stood over her, just for a moment, taking in her essence. She was positively glowing. He quickly took her and dragged her to his bush. He ripped her pants in half and similarly did away with her underwear, and he violently removed her garments from the upper-half of her body. He even removed her shoes. He was, in the complete sense of the term, hungry, starving. For a moment he had forgotten what he had intended to do, hovering over her pale form. He looked at her face, and saw just how truly beautiful she was. So he turned her away from him, placed her on her knees leaning forward, and began to anally rape her. Her face was digging into the ground, and she tasted dirt. It was the only sense she had at the moment. As he came, he thought for some strange reason that she would be a virgin, and became excited about this notion, so turning her onto her back he let her legs dangle awkwardly and penetrated her from the front. Mary felt shame-no thoughts of David would comfort her. She became an individual, and she could only consider that she was being violated in the most vulgar sense of the term. As this nameless figure penetrated deeply into her, she could think of nothing else but to resist-resist what? She felt a tingling rising from the base of her spine, from the base of her neck. Her eyes began to flicker and she began to tremble; she was beginning to orgasm. She felt sick of herself, and suddenly she was flooded with the realization that she was helpless in betraying her love, her Dave. Still, she as unable to resist, and unwillingly, she climaxed while the rapist continued his animalistic plundering of this serene figure, this innocent dreamer. As he reached his own orgasm, which had been delayed from his previous exploitation, he quickly withdrew and ejaculated into his hand. He would not leave evidence here. There was blood on his member; so she was a virgin after all. Upon concluding, he became furious with himself and with her, and picked up handfuls of dirt and rubbed them over her body, shoving them into her intimate orifice. His act was completed, and he left her there; not quite satisfied with himself, but by no means guilty. He would never been found out. Only after this ordeal had Mary lost consciousness completely-biology seldom acts in accord with individual desire, and her case was no exception. She woke up early in the morning, and, in her weakness, crawled back to her hostess' room. She wanted to take a shower more than anything, and a good many hours later the girl would find her passed out in the shower, with cold water raining down on her pale, naked graceful body. Her faced looked quietly pained, and the water which streamed down her face made it seem as if she was silently shedding tears. The girl was still hung over, so she could not surmise anything particularly odd about the scene. She simply turned off the water and went back to sleep.

It was early afternoon by the time Mary's condition was assessed to be critical, and so she was immediately sent to Lake Norman Medical Center a few miles from campus. Her parents arrived as quickly as they could-truth be told her father was pulled over, which is quite a rare occurrence in these parts, but was quickly exonerated and sent on his way once he related the circumstances to the well-wishing officer. When they arrived late in the afternoon, they entered the barren, unlit room as if it was a sacrosanct shine, or a Romanesque church. The intensity was borne from the utter simplicity of the scene: A child whose dreams of innocence and purity had been dashed from her careful hands, parents who had invested such love into creating the world which nurtured her for so long; a room which would not absorb the pain of any of these three, with any excess of upholstery or furniture that so commonly fills a human void. Mary lay there, as beautiful as ever, but she was no longer radiant. She had faded. Nor did she speak, and she would not speak for three days. When she gathered the will, she made a simple request from her parents: to summon Dave to their home.

Dave had found out about Mary on Sunday evening. What withered words would be able to describe the heavy, swirling agony that clawed, crawling from the depths of his being? In such instances words would not suffice. All he could do is expel the contents of his stomach, and even after exhausting himself completely, he retched furiously for nearly half an hour. Then, he held vigil in his room for three days, his suffering aligned with that of his love, barely eating, seldom sleeping, and never speaking. When we are forced to remain still and silent-or if one should choose to do it out of one's own volition-we find that we are filled with thoughts. As we remain in such a state, and as thoughts continue flowing and overwhelming our mind, we are forced to do something with them. They may be externalized, or, as is more characteristic of most men, we gingerly handle these bits like broken glass, from which we emerge with one of two outcomes: either a bleeding mind with thoughts still sharp and untamed, or a calloused mind with smooth, well-worn objects of inquiry. Dave made a mess. Fine gossamer formed and encapsulated his being; it was a dark scarlet and pungent, if not completely putrescent. He would not have been able to see it, nor would anyone else he'd encounter-for these were his thoughts. If one was to tell this young man that the web we weave, the silk we spin, are our own, and that we are very much the masters of our circumstances, he would not understand, and in doing so he would only be able to laugh. And indeed, during this period it was not on rare occasion that Dave found himself chuckling silently to himself, wringing each hand within itself on his lap or at his temples. Who could truly say what this boy was thinking with such an absence of words? He bore whatever he was feeling within himself; here there would be no psychoanalysis on the part of this author-that much could be said, and judged truthful in its sincerity. Only one thing was certain: Dave was mourning.

Could the reader excuse one last analogy? It is human nature to foreswear phenomenal experience for abstraction or illusion, the justifications for which are many and seldom adequate. In this instance, it merely wishes to compensate for intuitive misgiving into altogether unfamiliar circumstances:

A fisherman casts his line and waits. Just as sudden as the waiting had been long, and how long it has been he knows not-the line becomes taut. And, just as sudden as he had no consideration in particular for what the future would hold, he now became entangled in the tension of this moment. As the fish draws the line further and deeper into the ocean, the fisherman can do nothing other than hold tighter; it is as if in their opposition they do not become two entities struggling in opposition, their individual existence foregone for the facilitation of this one phenomenon, the tension itself. And it is through this tension that the being on either end of the line fulfills its duty for the moment. For the fisherman, it is this reality which validates the fact that this fish is there, and likewise it is the case for this fish.

And just as sudden as the moment came, the line is torn. Bereaved of this fleeting purpose, the fisherman is left to wonder: had this all been real? He does not dare to draw in the line to observe the frayed tip of the end, which would only serve to amplify a growing emptiness and confusion within. This was Dave.

The fish had returned to the line and pulled with a greater force and velocity than he could comprehend, and so Dave found himself standing at the door of Mary's house that Wednesday night, then beckon inside by her parents, and finally he stood outside her bedroom. Emotion flooded his lungs as he knocked on her door.
"Come in." Her voice was meek.
As he entered her room, he kept his focus on the foot of her bed in which she lay. He would not make eye contact during this conversation.

"Hello." His own voice sounded muffled and distant, as if he was observing the world through plastic wrap. There was silence for many moments. If Dave had looked up, he would have found Mary's eyes filling slowly with tears, and her soft jawline tensing under the weight of words she bore within her mind. He would have seen the knuckles of her small hands growing white as they nervously played with the edge of her blanket. And if he was of a particularly observant disposition, he would have noticed that her breathing was favoring inhalation, whilst her breath barely escaped her. But he did not. There can be no assignment of blame, a story tells itself through the actions of those involved, and not the other way around. An invisible thread draws each of us toward a destination which, while unknown to any man, cunningly satisfies the story's desire to hear itself told. Here is no exception (my hands are now tied).
"This wasn't how things were supposed to turn out." "I know…"
"I feel like I've betrayed you Dave…"
"No, Mary, that's not…"

"No, you don't understand! I told this to a counselor woman and she told me that I was the only person betrayed. She said I only have to worry about this for my own sake, and that support is the most important thing for me to get through this. But if she would only understand that up until that very point I had been thinking about you…how could I…?" She trailed off, but the absence of words went unnoticed.
"Mary it's not your fault. Please…"
"It doesn't change what happened, not at all, not in the slightest. David, I want to make this right. I want you to undo what bad things that boy did to me, to reclaim what he took away from me, from us."
Mary had sat up and moved to the edge of her bed now. In her eyes there was such desperation, such imploring. She reached out and held Dave's hands in her own.

Dave was overcome by this display of emotion, and his own eyes became blurred with tears. He could not return the warmth her hands provided; his body became cold and rigid. This was not a time for a loss of words, and so Dave mustered what he could from the sea of emotions that had tossed his mind for so long. He lifted his eyes to meet Mary's, and with a burdened, shaking voice this is what he said: "I do not take leftovers." - Faustian Dreams

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