Homage to Buddenbrooks


     The entire venerable family were at their usual seats at the antique oak long table in thei patriarch’s dining room.  A delightful aroma came in from outside the double-doors that served as the only exit to the hall that led to the kitchen and pantry, wafting into the grand room in great fragrant waves as the portal was swung open and closed by the scullery maids, who were hurrying in and out carrying decorative silver trays ladened with poached chicken and pear salads and Oloroso sherry.  The penultimate course had arrived.

This being a Sunday, the Christiansons sat at the table eating in an easy silence that came from comfortable routine.  Most of them preferred a long-held precedence over the perceived flippant alternatives – they held tight to decorum in circumstances such as these especially — when all of them came together for their weekly brunch on Sundays to steady themselves for mass.  At these trysts they refused of habit to do no more than share a nice cold repast with hardly more than sliced rye bread and perhaps a Sauvignon Saint-Briswith with which to pair.

The meal, while by itself an essential aspect of the ritual, in fact was most necessary for the grandfather, Christoph Christianson, founder and unofficial administrator of the family.  His health on the decline for years, he, on doctor’s orders, paid special attention to his nutritive intake, being disposed to a wasting disease that, sadly, in the last few months threatened to weaken him to the point of exhaustion.  His still-regal hands, once robust and agile, now gripped the gilded serving spoon for the butter-seared potatoes with trembling unstable motions; his fingers wrinkled with loose skin and  betrayed the fat lost to his accursed affliction.  Only his eyes, which darted back and forth across the expanse of the gourmet spread laid luxuriously across the table-clothed dining table, with a hint of sly merriment, still retained the vigor and spark of youth’s fancy. 

     While his eyes and countenance stayed true throughout his diminution, the rest of Christoph’s form turned faint yellow and desiccated as a plant that had strained and extended itself thin in search of sunlight withheld from it too long, and at last, in resignation, bent itself a little and shrunk sadly back earthwards.

Now in his twilight years, at 71, Mr. Christianson was fighting and losing the struggle for his life. His high Nordic cheekbones, once a cherished feature that formerly made all who knew him comment with genuine sentiment how handsome he looked, now protruded unnaturally, stretching his skin conspicuously and thus enhanced his hollow cheeks and gaunt jawline.  Set against this picture of frail decline, and a little inwards into his sockets so as to create a shadowed look and darken them all the more, his eyes somehow still flickered a deep blue and could have a somewhat unpleasant effect upon the person whom he consented to gaze upon and rest his eyes in scrutiny.

     But today, at the brunch before church, his look betrayed no interest in social games as his eldest, Chad, helped him with his thirds by heaping steamed asparagus and honeyed ginger ham upon his plate.  It was one of life’s little ironies that Christoph Christianson, from the time he had been a little child still being weaned, carefully and practically by his mother, Lynda, as only a woman of culture and sophistication who had already been through the birth and rearing of a first son could well do with an experience hand, never was known to eat more than two small meals a day.  And coupled with an abnormally slow metabolism, he had been able to eat like a bird and still strike a nobly filled-out pose, as if he were a clone of some of those other businessmen with whom he of necessity was well-acquainted, and who, perhaps because of the free time and money to spare from their careers (or else, in a depressing response to these same careers and the idle languid lifestyles they created for them), filled their unoccupied hours treating themselves to the most expensive and lavish of meals.  It was those corpulent men, whom, walking to and from the Exchange with their bloated bellies and fatted shanks which slowed their approaches and departures, although ostensibly resembled in some aspects Christoph’s then rotund figure, did not, could not, have his lively stamina-enhanced gait and bearing, being themselves drawn down by the fat and gristle of raw salted steaks, and the sugar from countless sweets and pastries they consumed and were consumed by.

In contrast, old Chistoph had since a toddler been filled-out, a tad abdominous; but always with an easy mien, a graceful air, with his low-caloric intake a resounding success for his health overall, giving him a youthful intensiveness and potency for which his friends and family had always high remarks, and often subdued envy, the latter a chord of emotional persuasion belonging mostly to his business and political opponents.  The family dietitian advised a heterogenous fare in his case, eclectic in varieties of dark green vegetables for iron and fresh fruit to aid digestion and make up for his lack of substantive food intake with high quantities of vitamins and minerals.  This proud command of the physique could never last, being a castle built on the sands of time, which, however exquisitely built and sculpted must surely sink and ebb.  He was at last beset a few years ago by this gastroenterological illness, that brought with it a remarkable appetite which belied a healthiness, were one to see him attack a meal, and that hid a fatal Demon that, once unleashed, began at once to starve his muscles and flesh, taking all his nourishment meant for his body and diverting it ivillanto the Spectre’s own maw, even as Christoph gorged himself perpetually.

     When, in the oppressive dry heat of an early August three years ago, Christoph fell ill to this intestinal malady, he summoned all the best doctors in the municipality to consult with his own family physician, Dr. Spetic.

Dr. Wilhelm Spetic was a proud man, deriving no small amount of ego from the patronage bestowed upon him by the Christiansons.  He had always been quick to pick up compliments out of indifference, not perceiving the difference between love and necessity.  He was competent in his craft, though not by any means spectacular – his stint at the University of Hadleigh in his youth was delayed by several semesters, not through, it should be said, a lack of endeavor on his part, for he knew the rewards given by hard work; the mental acumen required by the rigors of his doctoral dissertation had proved to be a hurdle he hadn’t anticipated on, and, to save face and keep his family name intact, he honorably withdrew his term at Hadleigh and transferred to a smaller college just outside the township in which the Christiansons summered and took sabbaticals.  It was here that he finished his doctorate, with no honors, true, but nonetheless no small feat, all things considered.  And it was also here that he met and began treating the Christianson family.

     This doctor, who in the classic medical condescending pedantry announced after a quick, high-spirited dance of words with his colleagues, that the “Lord had seen fit to conduct another play of cosmic humor by censuring Mr. Christianson with the very same blessing he had hereto let his health thrive.”  It was apparent after some small analysis and an even smaller collaboration with his peers (the latter to assure himself of his accuracy in diagnosis), that “the tissues involved in hormone production, which had for so long affected his lack of both necessity for high-calorie sustenance and emotional desire for food, had now begun to grow necrotic and unviable from the very same physiological mechanisms.  And, now that their irreversible decay was underway, Mr. Christianson would be forever in an animal state of constant hunger, paralleled with an even slower metabolism than he had had before – the final outcome of all this resulting in his corporal deterioration from the inside out and a rapacious appetence, the two affections for which, sadly, modern medicine would be largely useless against except as in a purely palliative role.” 

This cruel little speech was delivered in a pompous demeanor that had Dr. Spetic speaking with upturned corners of his mouth, looking down at Christoph, who was there sitting in his heirloom reading chair and feigning a look of indifference which aimed vaguely around the study at intervals to escape his doctor’s gaze.  And as the exposition of his condition continued, one could faintly notice his visage of disinterest jerking slightly every time the good doctor accentuated choice words of his oration with a stiff rap of his walking cane onto the painted flagstone floor under which he stood so statuesque, his shoulders square and feet wide apart.

    That uncomfortable conversation in which Christoph barely said but few words, only nodding his  head or gesticulating when the flow of the dialogue demanded etiquette or tact.  The immensity and consequence of the occasion all but muted him.

In the Course of Human Events


Image result for honor and men painting

When the time comes for honor to vanish and eloquence to fade; for men’s dusty glorious banners to tear away from their posts and blow uselessly around in the tepid air, then will the mortals have won with their unrelentless attacks on humanity’s foundation, and all will return to a morbid state of nature to rejoin the grey origins of the past.

But that time is not now, and the day of it’s reckoning has not yet been written.

It is curious to think that all that life has fought for in this inhospitable, opposed construct of chaotic forces and matter will be denied it’s full fruition from the very entity that exposed it to existence.  We have brought randomness into symphonies of complexity.  We built ourselves out of mere floating dust particles to achieve singularities so bright with meaning that they defied their own constituents that they were made from.

Wild hope and ambitions took their place to confront their seemingly impenetrable prisons until the walls were crushed with pure will.

Alas, it was this very will, this volition of life that will one day destroy itself.  With no more true enemies to confront, fear and hatred, coupled with our will has begun to fight itself.  We are warriors with no foes, and so, since we must vanquish and destroy, we will do so to ourselves.

I have bourne witness to these events in my perpetual solitude, my spirit unswayed and unlured by the false fantasies presented in the passing moments of eternity.  But now the old gods come to me and entreat me to allow myself to be their vessel, and I have agreed with much carelessness.  I drink of their essence, and do their bidding in exchange for nothing but the promise of more ineffable knowledge.

There is one goddess who wishes not to entreat me.  Her hair and eyes blaze with the sun’s unbridled light, and her lips speak nothing but wisdom and peace.  She takes her place among the mortals, tied to them with the karmic rope of compassion.  And in her kindness she has blinded her mortal body to the awareness of her true nature.  She is Freya, and she has warmed my stone of a heart so that I can now hear the calls of the innocents and respond with pity and empathy.  I am hers, entirely; I willingly bonded my soul with hers aeons ago.  To her I owe everything, and it is with her that I place my hope.  She is my refuge and my praeturnatural lover.

Humanities and the Hard Sciences


Humanities and the Hard Sciences

Humanities_Source_Ultimate_940X600_November_2016

The assumption I’ve always had about the humanities and the hard and natural sciences is that they are two disciplines attempting to outgrow one another – two branches of the tree of knowledge pushing out in opposite directions, both bearing fruit of different varieties.  The connections between the two are evident to the learned and unlearned alike, but this obviousness is illusory for both because what is obvious to the former is not congruent to what is obvious to the latter (However I am certain a line of tangency connects the two).  My own path deviates in a practical nature from the obvious into the ineffable state of contradictory monist interpretation.  The infighting of creativity and psychopathic intellectualism appears the same to me because I overthrow mutual exclusivity with what I will call here ‘awareness.’  Ego will be limited as a consequence, and truth reawakened through the opaque film of errant perception.  The ego that remains builds, for me, an attitude of indifference towards the humanities and a special attachment for the hard sciences.  One must cut their losses and accept the wrongs in this pluralistic world; one must accept the frailty of the human mind.  Nevertheless I will expound the reasons behind my individual closeness and affinity towards the hard sciences.

The humanities will not be studied in any rigorous effort, because I believe that by their very nature they require none.  All they require is the knowledge of their basic systematic order, and from this one can reiterate in different types their qualities.

To study Yates or Poe, or abstract expressionism as a discipline is a hindrance – one must use them to inspire oneself to complete what they have started, but there is no absolute quality or truth to them (in and of themselves) that would require a meticulous and thorough examination of them.  The hard sciences however, relinquish circular mental effort and retain the dignity, precision, and absoluteness of truth.  Their work requires a deep understanding of all the mechanisms involved because without it one cannot proceed further with the endeavors they inspire.  One must first learn arithmetic to grasp algebra before then understanding discrete mathematics and calculus and number theory.  One must read a few passages here and there from John Milton to create something sublime that may or may not build on Milton’s work directly.  The humanities are an ever-changing melting pot of creativity; one can start anywhere and add to it.  The hard sciences are a structure of bricks laid on top of one another, and one must know the places of the bricks to add another meaningful layer on top of them.

Old Man, Destruction of Ages


Date: 1/4/09

The blinking of one’s eyes tells much of its owner; in fact in the eternity of my age I have come to regard it as a great sign of the width and breadth of one’s character. But ah! I seemed to have started in on a subject that may appear strange to you, and without properly introducing myself – both flaws I admit to readily, and excuse just as readily on account of my years. Both my own age and the age of men are coming to an end. Our declines spiral downwards at steady and simultaneous rates. My death will signify the demise of men; the time of wisdom and deceit, richness and spirituality, is at its conclusion. Progression of time is a tricky thing, and since I haven’t kept track, being preoccupied with other studies and practice, I can only approximate my life on this planet to near six hundred years – does it surprise you? It should not. Stranger things have occurred in this world than an unusually long life. Perhaps among the experiences of your own existence you can ferret out a past memory that was long forgotten because it did not fit tidily with your sensible worldview where nothing too out of the ordinary happens, but will now be drug up and perceived with new eyes. This is an especial hope of mine: that my words will announce the dawning of remembrance for you before everything comes crashing down and humanity is obliterated.

But so much for formal introductions. I’m afraid my frailty would not endure one. And anyway, formal introductions by their own nature require names, and I’ve forgotten mine through the decades. Though sometimes when I’m out in the forest, going for a walk to soothe my tired mind, I think I hear it whispered among the rocks beneath my feet. It is as if I walk a river of grey stones that gush forth before me and gurgle indecipherable words, dripping and splashing with memories long lost in time. So it is sometimes with me: I have reached an age where most of my memories sprawl deep, hidden safe within the thickness of tree trunks and greenness of grass; percolated from my mind to form new connections with myself and nature. But make no mistake – this was my goal: to embrace the profundity of earth and contemplate its vastness until ultimately I will no longer know where it begins and I end.

As the seasons change, so do I. My skin is cold and fresh and covered with dew in the spring. My beard turns from brown in the fall to snowy white in the winter, when my breath blows frost. The rhythm of the world beats in my heart and the stars shine bright in my eyes. Oh, that I had just a little more time to enjoy this union – to sing forth the comings of night and days, and quake and blow and rain with each step. But such is not to be had. ‘Fate goes ever as it will,’ and I with it. My exalted moon and sun darken even now, and my soul becomes restless in great expectation.

So listen then, with an open ear to my words. I spoke at first of the character of men – the representation of life’s greatest failures! Man is a crucifixion of God and Animal. He will never be one or the other, nor a dialectic of the two. He was destined from the start to be both, a contradiction self-contained in physical form. A torturous existence, one that is escapable exclusively by intellectual and moral sanity and death. Pity yourself, therefore, and weep. But let there be a smile that creeps beneath the tears also, because know that soon it will all be over. It is strange to think of it. Even I cannot see beyond the great Destruction; my foresight stops of a sudden and all turns black. I do not know if it is because time itself folds in and I thus peer into an infinite regress of shadow, or if there will come a day of rebuilding and it is too far away in the future to see. I myself am not a man, though it is possible I was born of them – I do not remember. Some of my features and attributes resemble those of a man. I can speak in their tongue when I wish to. I experience emotion, though not of the same variety. I can shape myself almost like them. But my preference is to the trees and riverbeds; when night appears I become a silhouette, a cloak to roam and lose myself in dark refrain. In the day I am a shimmering refraction in a drop of water, a glint.

Men’s eyes.. watch them closely, listener. Study them and see their eyelid’s movements. Perhaps you will see a discernable pattern that mirrors their character. I have not said enough, but I grow tired of speech and must yield to the forces of nature and absolve this body. I have a brother. At least, we call each other such. His path is much different than mine – you will learn from him. He, also, is unbearably burdened with age. A lover of knowledge, he has attained much of it. I must go now.

 

 

My brother’s speech, it appears, has tired you – you have a stern look about you. I hope he hasn’t worried you into a frenzy. I can assure you the destruction of men has not come, nor do I think it ever will. My brother is right about one thing, however: this planet will not be here much longer. And unlike my brother I can tell you the exact date and time at which this will occur. But this I will not tell you – you cannot know. To tell you would be the cruelest thing I could do, for you would count the minutes until the very end.

That he despises mankind and waves off their achievements as trivial is a fact whose cause I can’t ascertain, but only guess. But I do know why he has chosen the path of nature and strayed from the path of logic and reason. He cannot remember his or my own origins; he has forfeited his own memories for that of the world’s. So be it. As for me, I can remember. He and I are not six hundred years old, nor even one thousand. We were born of a Pictish tribe in the 900s B.C. Our fathers were pagans, druids, and witches, and so were we. Although both he and I studied druidism, my pursuit of it was purely intellectual, while he practiced it and soon knew nothing else. By and by he became capable of what most would call extraordinary feats, and all in our clan was amazed. He could converse with animals, shape shift into myriad forms and tell the future accurately through such geomantic acts as looking at the play of shadows caused by leaves blowing in the wind. I remember a strong lust for knowledge was present in me then – the same gnawing desire I still experience today. It was this same desire that eventually forced me to abandon my clan and leave Ireland by boat to England. My studies there continued with fervor in a small cabin overlooking the western coast. I found many secrets there, things unknowable to most men. Among them was the means to cheat death. Not indefinitely you see – no, no – as you can easily discern I am dying – but long enough. Long enough to compile my work: all my knowledge of everything there is to be known. I received word that my brother had one night vanished and was never seen by our clan again. But I realized he was still among us, unnoticed like a faint breeze on your neck. And so we have both lived now into the 21st century A.D., over 2900 years, albeit by different methods.

 

Rebirth – ‘Slow Decay and Crisp Germination” – two small introductions, and the Story


To the Goddess

A Farewell

To the Goddess of decay and loose passions – a Goddess nonetheless.

Take yourself up among the cold stars and there dwell in loneliness, for the mortals here despise your ways and have ceased to pray to you for many years now.

Relinquish your earthly bonds and ascend – the celestial bodies will ring like bells crafted of the finest silver, reverberating throughout the fiber of these, the 4 dimensions that weave this world.

We are getting old, and it is now time again to fold in upon ourselves and empty the bowl of life.

The Signified

Again, the tide of anger has risen too high – the mortals wear smiling masks while keeping sharp daggers concealed in their coats.

We must commence with our indemnification and swiftly curb this tide, lest it crash over and spill onto the material plane and drown all in its wake.

——————————————————————————————

… And the day broke gloriously upon me, its feral rays penetrating through my tattered cloak to warm my breast.

And lo! The world opened up, and through my tear-smattered eyes I could perceive the true creation-less state.

The sunlit clouds and the teal of the sky drew back like curtains, revealing the one secret that had so long eluded my understanding.

More tears came, yes.  But not the dark, dirty ones of before that sprang from the burning, relentless frustration of hope. No, indeed.  These were crystal shards of my soul, erupting spontaneously from the sheer terror and utter joy that was evoked from the scene set before me.

Laughter rang out of my lips spasmodically – preternaturally – and whosoever the sound of it touched fell down prostrate with awe and confusion.

Seraphim developed into my vision.  They swooped down from their celestial revolutions to pluck ignorance out of men’s minds, like so much weed and rotted vine.

———————————————————————————————

When the time comes for honor to vanish and eloquence to fade; for men’s dusty glorious banners to tear away from their posts and blow uselessly around in the tepid air, then will the mortals have won with their relentlessness attacks on humanity’s foundation, and all will return to a morbid state of nature to rejoin the grey origins of the past.

But that time is not now, and the day of it’s reckoning has not yet been written.

It is curious to think that all that life has fought for in this inhospitable, opposed construct of chaotic forces and matter will be denied it’s full fruition from the very entity that exposed it to existence.  We have brought randomness into symphonies of complexity.  We built ourselves out of mere floating dust particles to achieve singularities so bright with meaning that they defied their own constituents that they were made from.

Wild hope and ambitions took their place to confront their seemingly impenetrable prisons until the walls were crushed with pure will.

Alas, it was this very will, this volition of life that will one day destroy itself.  With no more true enemies to confront, fear and hatred, coupled with our will has begun to fight itself.  We are warriors with no foes, and so, since we must vanquish and destroy, we will do so to ourselves.

I have borne witness to these events in my perpetual solitude, my spirit unswayed and undeterred  by the false fantasies presented in the passing moments of eternity.  But now the old gods come to me and entreat me to allow myself to be their vessel, and I have agreed with much carelessness.  I drink of their essence, and do their bidding in exchange for nothing but the promise of more ineffable knowledge.

There is one goddess who wishes not to entreat me.  Her hair and eyes blaze with the sun’s unbridled light, and her lips speak nothing but wisdom and peace.  She takes her place among the mortals, tied to them with the karmic rope of compassion.  And in her kindness she has blinded her mortal body to the awareness of her true nature.  She is Phaedra, and she has warmed my stone of a heart so that I can now hear the calls of the innocents and respond with pity and empathy.  I am hers, entirely; I willingly bonded my soul with hers eons ago.  To her I owe everything, and it is with her that I place my hope.  She is my refuge and my preternatural lover.

                         

The Story

night sky poured darkness upon the cold valley.  It was winter, and the hills, frigid with icy mud and caressed with a soft moonlit glow, shrieked and howled under the constant wind.  Away to the south of, and eerily reminiscent of hyenas about to make a kill,  the little guest house an old man shared with two hyperactive chihuahuas  he didn’t much care for, there was the faint yipping and singing of coyotes.  A light but ever-present mist emerged from behind the coyotes, surrounding them and passing to the old man’s house, settling on it and making itself comfortable around the residence.

One of the chihuahuas, the elder of the two who looked as if she were in a continual state of shock and disgust on account of her huge buggy eyes, stretched skin, and slightly upturned nose, had previously been pawing at one of the soot-obscured windows, her back paws bearing her weight atop the old man’s worn polyester grey couch, and her nose pressed to the glass. Sandy, the elder, had a personality to match her unfortunate facial expression.  She whined sometimes in the dead of night – this night included – out of fear and agitation of the unknown.  The clattering of dishes and pots made her jump, and afterwards she would give her owner a sour bark for being so clumsy with the chicken and barley soup that was the only meal he cooked.  She told herself she would someday leave both her doddering owner and overly-compensative-for-her-small-size sister to travel somewhere warm, away from the country, away from the cold and the freezing snow, and the isolation and the desolation.  Florida perhaps.

Tonight the coyotes’ howling had gotten her riled up to an excess.  Her tan short fur had raised vertically in a jagged line on the top of her back and neck as she snorted and yapped through the window to make a cacophonous duet with her wild and distant cousins of the plains.  When the glow of the fine mist had established itself in a firm grip over the house, however, Sandy lowered herself down from the windowpane and jumped off the threadbare couch to hide herself in her favorite corner.  The old man, shuffling towards his bedroom, caught sight of Sandy cowering with her head and wiry tail down, and his first impulse was to chuckle.

“Oh, my, Sandy, at times you remind me more of a mouse than a dog.  Look at you, there, timid as a fly, afraid to even look up.  It’s just a storm, you rascal.”

Yes, just a storm.  But, it occurred to him, even as he said those words to his dog, that perhaps he himself didn’t believe his own ostensible assurance.  He tilted an ear slightly to listen closely to the screeching of the winds and the distant calls of the coyotes. His eyes glazed slightly, and as he gazed dreamily through the blackened window he saw ephemeral images float in the midst of the all-pervading mist.  Images he couldn’t quite discern; images of fragmentary creatures of all imaginable sort and variety.  They danced abstractedly outside in the grey – colorless, formless, they moved intangibly among themselves, their occupation unknown.  The old man looked at them ambivalently in a half-doze for a few seconds, and then felt a sharp tingle start from the base of his crooked back and move quickly all the way to his neck.  He shuddered painfully and his deep blue eyes opened wide.  He blinked twice, and shook his head in quick movements, making his loose, profoundly wrinkled skin on his jowls and chin sway back and forth.  His imagination recoiled momentarily at what it had stumbled upon.  He searched along his bookcase mechanically to find something that would distract him from the images that still held his thoughts even though they had disappeared from his now almost useless sight.  He read aloud in his head the book titles that caught his attention as he scanned his library.  Aristotelian Ethics, The Apologies, Le Ingenui, A Modern Compendium of Freud, Bacterial Physiology, The Labyrinth, The Holy Bible, The Feminist Papers, The Anarchist’s Cookbook.  These were old friends, indeed his only friends, unless you count the two dogs that lived with him.  The books, with their leather bindings and musty smell, calmed him a little.   He shuffled closer to his bookcase and reached out with his long, bony index finger to trace the letters of Le Ingenui.  He let out a small, wistful sigh.

“Voltaire, my friend, I wish you were here.  We have so much to talk about, so much to discuss, I have-”  he was cut short from his sentence by a blast of lightning and thunder that sounded as if it had struck just a few feet from the house. His dark house was illuminated for a split second, just long enough for him to observe Sandy scurrying into his bedroom in fright.  The images he had seen previously when he had peered into the fog were back.  But not outside – they were in the house.   Constantly in motion, these transient silhouettes made their rounds and changed form with each passing second, now what seemed like a giant eagle, snapping at a fish, now a tree, bending and growing to the ceiling.

The old man squinted his eyes and tensed his body unconsciously.  He backed up instinctually and carefully, his right hand slightly behind so he didn’t run into anything inadvertently.

What were these things?  What were they doing here in his house.  In his feeble mind, he tried to make sense of this.  His mouth opened slightly revealing yellow decayed teeth, and he grimaced, making his whole face scrunch up into what resembled a raisin.

“Who are you?  I have lived here alone in my house all my life.  I have no quarrel with anyone.  I don’t need you here.  I don’t need anything!”

The mist had coalesced into an impenetrable wall of grey outside, so that even the moon and starlight’s rays could no longer enter and his house was now pitch black, and  he could not even see his hand before his face.  But he could still see the figures, even more so now.  They were taking shape; becoming clearer in his vision.   He found himself rubbing his left arm, and noticed that it was numb.

“Go away from here, you are not welcome!  I don’t want you here!  You disrupt my quiet!  I have no qua-”

What started as an ever increasing crescendo in his voice was cut short.  He was suddenly gasping for air, and he stooped his shoulders and put his two hands on his bent knees, trying to draw air into his lungs.  The shapes drew closer to him, forming hands out of the darkness to caress him.  He felt suffocated and there was a growing pain in his chest.  His extremities turned blue.  With an almost inaudible whisper, he rasped, “Plato, Cicero, Archimedes, Kant, Popper… help me..”

“We are here, friend.  The ones you call are amid us.  We are taking you now.  You are with the ghosts you treasured above all else, and we will show you how lonely our company is.  Because you falsely embraced loneliness over happiness, we are tasked to show you what the true agony of aloneness is.  Because you chose thought over experience, we will strip you of the power of experience.  Come now, let our chilly touch fill you, and our frigid words fill your ears.”

“P-please,”  the old man pleaded as he sank to his knees, gripping his heart, “I loved you.  I wor-”

He took one last unsteady breath and then collapsed on his splintery wooden floor.  The beings of shadow swirled into a great mass of dark, and then vanished to leave the old man in a heap on the ground.

The next morning Sandy and her sister woke up from bad dreams they were not sorry to leave, and trotted into the living room.  The smell of chicken barley soup filled the room and they licked their lips in anticipation.  Their owner had left the pot of soup on the stove, without covering it with a lid.  Sandy saw the old man on the floor, and barked at him once.  She needed him to get up to feed her.  When he didn’t respond she tugged at the sleeve of his wool robe.  After a few moments of this, she and her sister stared at his motionless form.  They both lay down next to him and waited for him to wake up.

The night sky poured darkness upon the cold valley.  It was winter, and the hills, frigid with icy mud and caressed with a soft moonlit glow, shrieked and howled under the constant wind.  Away to the south of, and eerily reminiscent of hyenas about to make a kill,  the little guest house an old man shared with two hyperactive chihuahuas  he didn’t much care for, there was the faint yipping and singing of coyotes.  A light but ever-present mist emerged from behind the coyotes, surrounding them and passing to the old man’s house, settling on it and making itself comfortable around the residence.

One of the chihuahuas, the elder of the two who looked as if she were in a continual state of shock and disgust on account of her huge buggy eyes, stretched skin, and slightly upturned nose, had previously been pawing at one of the soot-obscured windows, her back paws bearing her weight atop the old man’s worn polyester grey couch, and her nose pressed to the glass. Sandy, the elder, had a personality to match her unfortunate facial expression.  She whined sometimes in the dead of night – this night included – out of fear and agitation of the unknown.  The clattering of dishes and pots made her jump, and afterwards she would give her owner a sour bark for being so clumsy with the chicken and barley soup that was the only meal he cooked.  She told herself she would someday leave both her doddering owner and overly-compensative-for-her-small-size sister to travel somewhere warm, away from the country, away from the cold and the freezing snow, and the isolation and the desolation.  Florida perhaps.

Tonight the coyotes’ howling had gotten her riled up to an excess.  Her tan short fur had raised vertically in a jagged line on the top of her back and neck as she snorted and yapped through the window to make a cacophonous duet with her wild and distant cousins of the plains.  When the glow of the fine mist had established itself in a firm grip over the house, however, Sandy lowered herself down from the windowpane and jumped off the threadbare couch to hide herself in her favorite corner.  The old man, shuffling towards his bedroom, caught sight of Sandy cowering with her head and wiry tail down, and his first impulse was to chuckle.

“Oh, my, Sandy, at times you remind me more of a mouse than a dog.  Look at you, there, timid as a fly, afraid to even look up.  It’s just a storm, you rascal.”

Yes, just a storm.  But, it occurred to him, even as he said those words to his dog, that perhaps he himself didn’t believe his own ostensible assurance.  He tilted an ear slightly to listen closely to the screeching of the winds and the distant calls of the coyotes. His eyes glazed slightly, and as he gazed dreamily through the blackened window he saw ephemeral images float in the midst of the all-pervading mist.  Images he couldn’t quite discern; images of fragmentary creatures of all imaginable sort and variety.  They danced abstractedly outside in the grey – colorless, formless, they moved intangibly among themselves, their occupation unknown.  The old man looked at them ambivalently in a half-doze for a few seconds, and then felt a sharp tingle start from the base of his crooked back and move quickly all the way to his neck.  He shuddered painfully and his deep blue eyes opened wide.  He blinked twice, and shook his head in quick movements, making his loose, profoundly wrinkled skin on his jowls and chin sway back and forth.  His imagination recoiled momentarily at what it had stumbled upon.  He searched along his bookcase mechanically to find something that would distract him from the images that still held his thoughts even though they had disappeared from his now almost useless sight.  He read aloud in his head the book titles that caught his attention as he scanned his library.  Aristotelian Ethics, The Apologies, Le Ingenui, A Modern Compendium of Freud, Bacterial Physiology, The Labyrinth, The Holy Bible, The Feminist Papers, The Anarchist’s Cookbook.  These were old friends, indeed his only friends, unless you count the two dogs that lived with him.  The books, with their leather bindings and musty smell, calmed him a little.   He shuffled closer to his bookcase and reached out with his long, bony index finger to trace the letters of Le Ingenui.  He let out a small, wistful sigh.

“Voltaire, my friend, I wish you were here.  We have so much to talk about, so much to discuss, I have-”  he was cut short from his sentence by a blast of lightning and thunder that sounded as if it had struck just a few feet from the house. His dark house was illuminated for a split second, just long enough for him to observe Sandy scurrying into his bedroom in fright.  The images he had seen previously when he had peered into the fog were back.  But not outside – they were in the house.   Constantly in motion, these transient silhouettes made their rounds and changed form with each passing second, now what seemed like a giant eagle, snapping at a fish, now a tree, bending and growing to the ceiling.

The old man squinted his eyes and tensed his body unconsciously.  He backed up instinctually and carefully, his right hand slightly behind so he didn’t run into anything inadvertently.

What were these things?  What were they doing here in his house.  In his feeble mind, he tried to make sense of this.  His mouth opened slightly revealing yellow decayed teeth, and he grimaced, making his whole face scrunch up into what resembled a raisin.

“Who are you?  I have lived here alone in my house all my life.  I have no quarrel with anyone.  I don’t need you here.  I don’t need anything!”

The mist had coalesced into an impenetrable wall of grey outside, so that even the moon and starlight’s rays could no longer enter and his house was now pitch black, and  he could not even see his hand before his face.  But he could still see the figures, even more so now.  They were taking shape; becoming clearer in his vision.   He found himself rubbing his left arm, and noticed that it was numb.

“Go away from here, you are not welcome!  I don’t want you here!  You disrupt my quiet!  I have no qua-”

What started as an ever increasing crescendo in his voice was cut short.  He was suddenly gasping for air, and he stooped his shoulders and put his two hands on his bent knees, trying to draw air into his lungs.  The shapes drew closer to him, forming hands out of the darkness to caress him.  He felt suffocated and there was a growing pain in his chest.  His extremities turned blue.  With an almost inaudible whisper, he rasped, “Plato, Cicero, Archimedes, Kant, Popper… help me..”

“We are here, friend.  The ones you call are amid us.  We are taking you now.  You are with the ghosts you treasured above all else, and we will show you how lonely our company is.  Because you falsely embraced loneliness over happiness, we are tasked to show you what the true agony of aloneness is.  Because you chose thought over experience, we will strip you of the power of experience.  Come now, let our chilly touch fill you, and our frigid words fill your ears.”

“P-please,”  the old man pleaded as he sank to his knees, gripping his heart, “I loved you.  I wor-”

He took one last unsteady breath and then collapsed on his splintery wooden floor.  The beings of shadow swirled into a great mass of dark, and then vanished to leave the old man in a heap on the ground.

The next morning Sandy and her sister woke up from bad dreams they were not sorry to leave, and trotted into the living room.  The smell of chicken barley soup filled the room and they licked their lips in anticipation.  Their owner had left the pot of soup on the stove, without covering it with a lid.  Sandy saw the old man on the floor, and barked at him once.  She needed him to get up to feed her.  When he didn’t respond she tugged at the sleeve of his wool robe.  After a few moments of this, she and her sister stared at his motionless form.  They both lay down next to him and waited for him to wake up.

The night sky poured darkness upon the cold valley.  It was winter, and the hills, frigid with icy mud and caressed with a soft moonlit glow, shrieked and howled under the constant wind.  Away to the south of, and eerily reminiscent of hyenas about to make a kill,  the little guest house an old man shared with two hyperactive chihuahuas  he didn’t much care for, there was the faint yipping and singing of coyotes.  A light but ever-present mist emerged from behind the coyotes, surrounding them and passing to the old man’s house, settling on it and making itself comfortable around the residence.

One of the chihuahuas, the elder of the two who looked as if she were in a continual state of shock and disgust on account of her huge buggy eyes, stretched skin, and slightly upturned nose, had previously been pawing at one of the soot-obscured windows, her back paws bearing her weight atop the old man’s worn polyester grey couch, and her nose pressed to the glass. Sandy, the elder, had a personality to match her unfortunate facial expression.  She whined sometimes in the dead of night – this night included – out of fear and agitation of the unknown.  The clattering of dishes and pots made her jump, and afterwards she would give her owner a sour bark for being so clumsy with the chicken and barley soup that was the only meal he cooked.  She told herself she would someday leave both her doddering owner and overly-compensative-for-her-small-size sister to travel somewhere warm, away from the country, away from the cold and the freezing snow, and the isolation and the desolation.  Florida perhaps.

Tonight the coyotes’ howling had gotten her riled up to an excess.  Her tan short fur had raised vertically in a jagged line on the top of her back and neck as she snorted and yapped through the window to make a cacophonous duet with her wild and distant cousins of the plains.  When the glow of the fine mist had established itself in a firm grip over the house, however, Sandy lowered herself down from the windowpane and jumped off the threadbare couch to hide herself in her favorite corner.  The old man, shuffling towards his bedroom, caught sight of Sandy cowering with her head and wiry tail down, and his first impulse was to chuckle.

“Oh, my, Sandy, at times you remind me more of a mouse than a dog.  Look at you, there, timid as a fly, afraid to even look up.  It’s just a storm, you rascal.”

Yes, just a storm.  But, it occurred to him, even as he said those words to his dog, that perhaps he himself didn’t believe his own ostensible assurance.  He tilted an ear slightly to listen closely to the screeching of the winds and the distant calls of the coyotes. His eyes glazed slightly, and as he gazed dreamily through the blackened window he saw ephemeral images float in the midst of the all-pervading mist.  Images he couldn’t quite discern; images of fragmentary creatures of all imaginable sort and variety.  They danced abstractedly outside in the grey – colorless, formless, they moved intangibly among themselves, their occupation unknown.  The old man looked at them ambivalently in a half-doze for a few seconds, and then felt a sharp tingle start from the base of his crooked back and move quickly all the way to his neck.  He shuddered painfully and his deep blue eyes opened wide.  He blinked twice, and shook his head in quick movements, making his loose, profoundly wrinkled skin on his jowls and chin sway back and forth.  His imagination recoiled momentarily at what it had stumbled upon.  He searched along his bookcase mechanically to find something that would distract him from the images that still held his thoughts even though they had disappeared from his now almost useless sight.  He read aloud in his head the book titles that caught his attention as he scanned his library.  Aristotelian Ethics, The Apologies, Le Ingenui, A Modern Compendium of Freud, Bacterial Physiology, The Labyrinth, The Holy Bible, The Feminist Papers, The Anarchist’s Cookbook.  These were old friends, indeed his only friends, unless you count the two dogs that lived with him.  The books, with their leather bindings and musty smell, calmed him a little.   He shuffled closer to his bookcase and reached out with his long, bony index finger to trace the letters of Le Ingenui.  He let out a small, wistful sigh.

“Voltaire, my friend, I wish you were here.  We have so much to talk about, so much to discuss, I have-”  he was cut short from his sentence by a blast of lightning and thunder that sounded as if it had struck just a few feet from the house. His dark house was illuminated for a split second, just long enough for him to observe Sandy scurrying into his bedroom in fright.  The images he had seen previously when he had peered into the fog were back.  But not outside – they were in the house.   Constantly in motion, these transient silhouettes made their rounds and changed form with each passing second, now what seemed like a giant eagle, snapping at a fish, now a tree, bending and growing to the ceiling.

The old man squinted his eyes and tensed his body unconsciously.  He backed up instinctually and carefully, his right hand slightly behind so he didn’t run into anything inadvertently.

What were these things?  What were they doing here in his house.  In his feeble mind, he tried to make sense of this.  His mouth opened slightly revealing yellow decayed teeth, and he grimaced, making his whole face scrunch up into what resembled a raisin.

“Who are you?  I have lived here alone in my house all my life.  I have no quarrel with anyone.  I don’t need you here.  I don’t need anything!”

The mist had coalesced into an impenetrable wall of grey outside, so that even the moon and starlight’s rays could no longer enter and his house was now pitch black, and  he could not even see his hand before his face.  But he could still see the figures, even more so now.  They were taking shape; becoming clearer in his vision.   He found himself rubbing his left arm, and noticed that it was numb.

“Go away from here, you are not welcome!  I don’t want you here!  You disrupt my quiet!  I have no qua-”

What started as an ever increasing crescendo in his voice was cut short.  He was suddenly gasping for air, and he stooped his shoulders and put his two hands on his bent knees, trying to draw air into his lungs.  The shapes drew closer to him, forming hands out of the darkness to caress him.  He felt suffocated and there was a growing pain in his chest.  His extremities turned blue.  With an almost inaudible whisper, he rasped, “Plato, Cicero, Archimedes, Kant, Popper… help me..”

“We are here, friend.  The ones you call are amid us.  We are taking you now.  You are with the ghosts you treasured above all else, and we will show you how lonely our company is.  Because you falsely embraced loneliness over happiness, we are tasked to show you what the true agony of aloneness is.  Because you chose thought over experience, we will strip you of the power of experience.  Come now, let our chilly touch fill you, and our frigid words fill your ears.”

“P-please,”  the old man pleaded as he sank to his knees, gripping his heart, “I loved you.  I wor-”

He took one last unsteady breath and then collapsed on his splintery wooden floor.  The beings of shadow swirled into a great mass of dark, and then vanished to leave the old man in a heap on the ground.

The next morning Sandy and her sister woke up from bad dreams they were not sorry to leave, and trotted into the living room.  The smell of chicken barley soup filled the room and they licked their lips in anticipation.  Their owner had left the pot of soup on the stove, without covering it with a lid.  Sandy saw the old man on the floor, and barked at him once.  She needed him to get up to feed her.  When he didn’t respond she tugged at the sleeve of his wool robe.  After a few moments of this, she and her sister stared at his motionless form.  They both lay down next to him and waited for him to wake up.