Public art – Auction 2023

Auction 2023 – until December 17, midnight CETbunny

Second edition

© Kip Allan Bauersfeld 2008-2015

Published by Vote Bunny Press, Prague

“Dare to err and to dream”

-Friedrich Schiller


“Beauty will be convulsive or it will not be at all”

-Andre Breton


I.                   Clouds on the Horizon
II.                 The meeting on Petrin hill
III.                Harvey’s rant
IV.               In his art he is ineffective
V.                Milosz P. sees the void
VI.               A stranger in coat tails
VII.               Lectures, lectures, lectures
VIII.              In God we trust
IX.                In the flesh
X.                 Rome – a visit in the garden
XI.                Augustus and self pity
XII.               The delegation’s request
XIII.              The witness and the wind
XIV.             An aura of permanence
XV.              The hour of vespers
XVI.             Actually, if you’re in for a drink
XVII.            Right on time
XVIII.            Sympathy for the devil
XIX.              The darkness of the wood
XX.              Kreis kneels before the river
XXI.              Desperate Dalibor
XXII.             The dead swan
XXIII.            You wouldn’t understand, you couldn’t understand
XXIV.           Returned to sender
XXV.            No help in the building
XXVI.           The Recognition
XXVII.           Revelation at the rectory
XXVIII.         A solemn angel
XXIX.           A wind age, a wolf age
XXX.            Favasha’s plea to power
XXXI.           X. Baron and the hounds of hell
XXXII.           Kreis in the Golden Calf
XXXIII.          The Church above the Black Woods
XXXIV.         Emil in the moonlight
XXXV.          The labyrinth of the world and paradise of the heart

XXXVI.         F.X. Baron takes a little looksie
XXXVII.        A verdict at the Circus Maximus
XXXVIII.       The lack of nowness
XXXIX.         Favasha revisits the end
XL.               Augustus’ dream
XLI.              News at the Golden Calf
XLII.             Visitors arrive
XLIII.            The wake begins
XLIV.           Favasha on the other side
XLV.             Emil and the wall
XLVI.            Like happiness, only falling

XLVII.           The tower of refuge
XLVIII.          A ritual cleaning

XLIX.            In and out of the side streets
L.                 Magnificent, isn’t it?
LI.                White, white, white upon white
LII.               The reading
LIII.               Pilate receives the message
LIV.              I am who ever you say I am
LV.               Could this be your king?
LVI.              Fate drowned out
LVII.             Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani
LVIII.            The laughter
LIX.              A promise is a promise
LX.               Silently across the fields



The giant metronome perched at the edge of the park, a postmodern surrogate for the statue of Stalin that had once looked out over the red-tiled roofs, domes, spires and stone towers of the Old Town, slowly swept across the sky as Harvey hurried down the stairs toward the tram stop at Čechův most.

It was the hour of sunset and out across the city of Prague church bells tolled and sirens wailed. A stinging cold had descended upon the city from the east and black clouds could be seen massing beyond the tombstone-like towers of the housing estate at Bohnice, beside which, as the shadows began to blur, wild-eyed lunatics screamed through the asylum bars.

Upon closer inspection, at least to the lunatics, they weren’t clouds at all, but former orders of the celestial hierarchy, Angles and Archangels, Principalities and Powers, Cherubim and Seraphim, falling from the heavens, blotting out the sun, riding the wind in ranks, stirring the air as they fell.

Below, in the valley of the Vltava, herding bits of dried nettle, pollen and dust, the mounted winds slapped the faces of the city’s citizens, rattled shuttered windows and locked doors, screamed with glee, and  rushed in a transient madness through the twisted cobble stone streets.

In the wake of this first, exploratory, mission, a strange sound could then be heard. Like the low moans that filled the brothels of Amsterdam and Brussels, Banja Luka and Berlin, that could be heard coming from the addicts in alleyways and gutters, the alcoholics waking in drunk tanks or under bushes, the homeless, starving and diseased sheltering in train stations across the continent, the beaten and bruised under bridges or in basements, the beds of cancer wards and maternity hospitals. Slowly this sound began to rise, building in tempo and pitch, clawing at the ears of the bankers and businessmen, politicians and clerks, shopkeepers and secretaries making their way home through the city below. It flapped in the ears of the inmates of the asylum at Bohnice, of the farmers heading in from a day of toil in the fields, the old women burning piles of leaves in their yards, the parish priests tending their flowers, the castellans securing the windows against the onset of night. And this sound, indescribable yet unmistakable, persistent yet ephemeral, compelled each and every one of them, if only for an instant, to look up toward the darkening heavens, as the gathering clouds billowed and the day slowly dissipated into the blue-black body of impending night.

And so too did Harvey, as he stood nervously at the tram stop, staring opened mouthed in awe up at the silhouettes of the two winged figures, breasts barred, golden olive branches in hand, which adorned the columns at the near end of the bridge. The erratic wind stung his cheeks and he thrust his hands deep into his empty pockets. The six golden suns that topped the light posts on each side of the bridge glowed softly in the fading light. He felt a momentary wave of relief as, with a shake of his hand, he realized the box of matches that had been in his pocket the night before was still there.

“If for a time which was mine to set the world ablaze,” he whispered, as he gave the box of matches another shake, the wind forcing an unwilled tear from the corner of his eye. A tear which slowly rolled over his cheek. A tear that seemed to glow an odd shade of amber, before it fell as the ringing bell of the approaching tram pulled him back to the present and all it entailed.

The tram was nearly empty save for a couple of homeless guys reeking of urine and booze, seeking shelter from the approaching storm, their foreheads pressed to the window glass, staring more at their own reflections than the city beyond. There was a clean cut old man in the second to last seat, his white bearded chin all but disappearing together with his face between the raised collar of his coat and his folded arms, a twisted, owl’s headed cane propped between his legs. He was snoring rather loudly.

Rattling past the deserted seat of government on nábřeží Edvarda Beneše and the ancient battlements across the street, past the dirty stripes on the glass entrance of the Malá Strana metro station, along the gigantic wall separating the sala terrena frescos and brutally baroque statues of General Wallenstein’s palace gardens from the world beyond, there was not a thought in his head. His mind was raised earth, a burnt field. It was better to think of nothing, to feel instead, to see. As the tram wound its way along the streets at the base of the castle, he listened to the beating of his heart as it mixed with the old man’s snorts and grunts and the rattling screech of the tram as it swerved onto Málostranské naměstí, the shadow of St. Nicholas staining the evening air.

A few minutes later, after the tram rattled past the cripples begging outside the closed doors of the Church of Our Lady Victorious, he alighted at the Ujezd tram stop, crossed to the near side of the street and headed up the stairs that led to the cable railway which would take him to the heavenly observatory at the top of Petřín hill.

Beside the doors at the entrance to the funicular a sign read “Mimo provoz”. He tried the doors, shaking them repeatedly, but they were locked. “God fucking damn it!” he said, smashing the flat of his hands on the handles.

The wind cried sullenly, like a lost child afraid of the sound of its own voice, as he walked up the pathway that wound among the apple orchards and led up toward the Hunger Wall. He crossed under the funicular tracks, headed away from the mounting view of the castle and the golden hands of the clock on the tower of St. Vítus. At the edge of the wood a statue of Karel Hynek Macha stood well posed, quill in hand. He looked at it for a moment as he paused to catch his breath, thinking how impossibly far away was May.

He was staring at the leaves on the ground as he walked when two figures passed as he continued on up the path leaving him with a strange feeling and something compelled him to turn and look, but all that was left to see was the quivering of space eluding shadow where they had disappeared around the bend.

It would have been far less strain to have walked down from the observatory and he was none too happy as the inclined steepened, his breath grew shallower and more rapid, his head began to pound and his stomach turn.

He passed through an arched gateway in the Hunger Wall, arrived at a bend in the narrow path and could see up ahead someone seated on a bench in the twilight. The man didn’t move as he approached but he recognized the hat and knew this is what he had come for. A meeting with Fate perhaps, a hope of fulfillment. For an instant he parted his lips as if to greet his friend but chose to sit down beside the man instead, the heaviness of his breath and his pounding heart filling his ears.

He looked down, afraid to look his friend, his fate, in the face, while trying to catch his breath. The wind cried again and around his feet a myriad assortment of wilted leaves were kicked and driven. The dead fingers of these brittle leaves chaffed the contorted earth’s gritty face and scraped the footpaths that traversed the side of Petřín hill. As the howl intensified random groups of these leaves were lifted by the hands of the wind. Enticed to dance in sordid circles, they were drawn upwards. Until the capricious wind, bored and impatient, moved on. Whence again they fell.





Harvey was 24 years-old, his jaw angular and gaunt, the structure of his face looking like a cubist portrait by Prochazska left in the wrong window of a gallery and bleached by the sun. He soon sat hunched over, one leg bouncing before he crossed it with the other to hold still. A thread bare maroon and blue tweed sport coat was clutched to his ribs by white knuckled hands. His brow, when in the light of a carefree day, usually smooth and pallid, was furrowed with an invisible weight. The cuffs of his black wool slacks flapped in the wind. He squeezed the hem of his coat and repeatedly knotted his fingers. The frayed fold of a dirty white shirt-collar licked his neck. His hair, drawn down over his eyes, was long and greasy. The wind clawed at it. It lashed the side of his face as, finally, he cleared his throat and began to speak.

“Look Pookie, sorry I’m late, really, but I’ve been thinking it over. I haven’t even been able to sleep. I just, I just don’t think I can do it. I mean really, it’s just…” stammered the young man, who was none other than H. A. Kreis, an aspiring painter of questionable distinction, oft seen in the Bacchanalian underworld of literary and artistic circles in Prague and who, to the outside world, was known as a rather drunken, if not at times caustic, idealist.

Far below the tousled skin of the Vltava slithered beneath the arched span of the bridges. The surface of this skin was smothered in fiery kisses of exploded color as the lights of the city rose to battle the onset of night, pristine and fresh, elevated in their vivacity almost above reality, impressed upon each instant anew. With each turn of the hand of the wind innumerable slivers of orange-gold and angelic-white sparkled like the strange flutter of tiny winged creatures playing tag atop the darkened waves.

The other man, draped in murky shadow, held still. His jaw was broad and pockmarked. His cheeks, marred by a redness drawn from the cold, almost seemed to shine in the fading light. He wore a pair of small silver-rimmed spectacles near the bridge of an aquiline nose. His crusty lips were tightly pursed and narrow. A tattered and stained green fedora, the kind often seen on the aging heads of forest keepers in the Bohemian woods, with a sojka feather tucked into the band, hid the gray of his tightly combed hair.

Forward he leaned with his elbow atop his crossed legs, his chin in the palm of his open hand. In the shadows his long, slender, worm-like fingers slowly rolled open and closed. Intently he stared out over the westward facing rooftops of the hundred spired city below as, in broad strokes, the attic windows on the buildings clustered below, the river skin, the green copper domes of Žofín palace, the rooftops spilling out past the eagle of the Goethe Institute, the horse drawn chariots of the National Theatre, countless garrets and steeples, balustrades, window frames and façades, chimneys, antennas and lightening rods, were gently painted the colors of dusk.

“Fine then, that’s fine. Then there’s nothing more to say.” snapped the publisher Milosz P. He smacked his hands on his knees and made as if to stand.

“Wait a minute! Wait!” the emaciated Kreis nearly screamed. “Don’t go, please don’t go! It’s just… I need to think it over some more. I need to think it through.”

“Look Harv I’ve had enough of this bullshit. I don’t need to take this. I’ve held your hand fucking long enough.” He squeezed his knees with outstretched arms looked down and smiled, pleased with the possibility that his bluff would succeed.

“Man Pookie, that’s why I left, really. You know why I left!”

He’d been paying a heavy price for a long time, sleeping on bar floors or in parks. Still he had an iota of self-respect. That’s exactly what it was, an iota, a mere thimble full. But, for now, it was all, and, as something was better than nothing, it was enough.




At Prognosis, the newspaper he once worked for, they loved it, it was a spectacle of sorts, they loved to watch him play that part, the drunken idiot, the impassioned moron, the yurodiv, they loved to fan the flames and seeing nothing else, no other alternative in what they thought of him, he accepted the role into which he had been cast… the problem remaining, this was no theatre.

Leaving hadn’t made things better.

“Are you insinuating something?” He raised his thin gray eyebrows and leaned his head forward, jutting it out like some predatory lizard and staring viscously through the crooked silver rimmed spectacles perched on the end of his aquiline nose.

“No, no, it’s not that at all. This has nothing to do with the Press. Pookie, just listen a minute….”

“Why? Why should I listen? So I can hear another apologetic take from the village idiot? So I can hear how vital it is for you to indulge their bourgeois masochism with cheap insults? Is that why I should listen?”

“Yea but, their trite little political quagmires, the tripe they publish, it’s insufferable!”

“It seems, dear Harvey, owing to your involvement with them, you don’t find it insufferable at all.”

“But they’ve no cognizance of the larger world. They’re all escapists Pookie, really! Escapists in denial of a sickness they love. Look at what they’re doing! Look at it! You call that a free press? It’s little more than a vain masquerade, than Schadenfreude!

“They’re more like freelance censors than the ‘voice of the fucking people’. If you spend longer than 30 seconds asking them to think, really, if you ask even the simplest question regarding their real motives, you’re shut down, shoved out, there goes the meat in your soup, hell there goes your fucking soup!”

The publisher Milosz P. leaned forward again, placed his elbow upon his knee and returned his chin to the palm of his open hand.

“You know what they want. The only thing they want! To see their name on every possible surface between here and fucking Eternity, really! It’s all economics I know but this stuff about the bottom line, it’s as warm as, it, it hugs like a fucking rock does the earth!” He buttoned the last remaining button on his thin maroon and blue tweed sport coat, ran his fingers through his long greasy hair and continued, “They don’t even realize how temporal it is. Like Herostratus you know, you know that fucking guy who set fire to the Temple of Artemis on the night Alexander the Great was born to gain infamy, Jesus, they’d set fire to the world, under their own fucking feet really! Actually they’d prefer someone else did it, as long as it was their by line and it sold fucking papers.”

Removing his hand from its resting place on his chin, the publisher Milosz P. methodically extracted a silver cigarette case engraved with his initials from his inside coat pocket and took out a cigarette. He tapped this cigarette filter end down on the closed cover three or four times and then hung it from his lip with out lighting it. Engrossed in his own thoughts as he was there was to be found with in him at that moment no hidden impetus from which some form of consideration might have sprung and tempted him to offer a cigarette to his friend. He returned his chin to the palm of his hand with a sigh.

“Lets all submerge imagination and embrace annihilation. Really, why not sacrifice integrity on the altar of expediency. Jesus Pookie, it doesn’t bother them one bit that their self-interest makes them mere functionaries, vapid pawns for the powers that be. You know Pookie, I wonder sometimes, I really fucking wonder, I mean really… as long as every man’s murdered the human spirit, no one’s guilty, right? It’s all relative, right? If we’re all murderers, who’s left to judge?”

“Murdered what?” said Milosz P. as the lines around his nostrils spread in disgust.

Harvey Kreis was a little worked up and Milosz P. knew it and was glad. Through out their long association, Milosz P. had come to expect, and often solicit, just this vitriol. In fact, it was a side of Kreis, that, if he was in the right mood, or saw turned upon the right people, he often found most enjoyable.

“Harv, that’s all beside the point. Along many lines this whole thing was your idea. Don’t be so full of yourself. Do you think these people really care? Outside of myself and maybe, maybe one or two others, no one really cares what you do.”

“But I had to do it. How else was I to…”

“Had to? You had to? Ha, ha ha ha, that’s a grand excuse! Had to!”

“But Pookie,” pleaded Kreis, “how else could I justify…”





Long ago poisoned by his own passion, poor Harvey Kreis was caught in a trap of his own making. Unceasingly he longed to stand firm atop the mighty and exalted peaks of art, elevated to such heroic heights by the overthrow of life’s endless banality. But gravity weighed him down. Dear, dear, gravity. Combined with his lust for oblivion.

He was a visionary and a zealot who had called upon his friends at the university newspaper to meet him in this central European city only to find himself kicked off the continent before they arrived.

Back in the wasteland of a southern California town in which he had lived for so long, he received a letter telling him that they were still waiting, that more had come, they had decided to start a newspaper and to come soon. And so he tried again, and botched it again, kicked off the flight before ever boarding after buying a fake ticket through the newspaper, spending the last of his money to fly to London one way, hitchhiking to the channel and then across the continent to arrive at their doorstep with only a few dollars left to his name. In no time hunger combined with the inanity of his work at the paper began to disgust him as much as the magic of Prague seduced him. They hid in their offices and feasted, he fed on beer and vodka and freaks and passed out in gutters.

Left to his own devices Harvey was simply too insecure to grip the ladder that rose into the heavens he sought to ascend. The tumult and violence of the states, the callousness of a home that set him to the streets at 14, took him back for the joy of kicking him out again, and again and again until this suburban masquerade was no longer tenable, until those pretending to play parent had been legally discharged from the role, the faux umbilicus finally cut and he found himself spinning aimlessly out into the world. From his position in the sewers of this European city, time and again the robes of chance passed him by, leaving in their wake an emptiness, an emptiness quickly filled by the stench of his unwashed self.

To offset the emptiness, Kreis liked to dream. Sometimes he dreamed he was Christ returned, born again to be a man, the beginning, the end and all of the world in his hands if only he knew, if only he could be certain. But doubt destroyed him and so on he rode with the Wehrmarkt as the armies of Europe fell before his feet, throwing back shot after shot of vodka on another man’s tab in some Žižkov bar, standing beside Napoleon at Austerlitz as the cannon roared, before delving whole heartedly into an underworld of his own making. There, among the shadows of the dead, he was Oedipus, cursed before birth, chained by fate, meeting Thiresias, feeling the horror of his words in the blindness of the booze, unable to convey the profundity of the prophecy as he staggered out into the morning light.

Either way, no matter the villain he was, that he felt he must be, no matter where, the one unifying factor in his imaginary world was that he blindly set sail over these seas of stone. Believing in a world beyond bounds, a world of emptiness and expanse and infinite promise, he headed out into the unknown, in search of adventure, in search of hope and greatness. But as always, the sickening first rays of dawn-light found him tormented by the seas of perversity (both real and imagined) in which he sailed. His ship was closer to the immigrant laden and ill fated Medusa than Jason’s legendary Argo, and it wasn’t long before the waves of a mighty storm swept him from the deck with a deft and indifferent hand.

His deliverance then? The sustenance which held him again and again through a minor infinity of hours, days, weeks, months, years to the sight of land, to the light of dawn? That to which the drowning man clung with all the tenacity of his life was none other than the last light of a feeling of dignity, disregarding its questionable rationality, for it was just this feeling of dignity that was all that was left to keep him afloat.

Truly it’s unfortunate that a modicum of feathers, sealing wax and a surfeit of dream have not always seen fit to sustain a human life. For like the primeval salt water in him, so many vague and ambiguous notions, once lifted from the brine, once lifted upon the sun’s clay bottom, attempted to rub shoulders with this self same sun and suffered the consequences.

But what if the glory of the ideal were not? What if the ideal never spurred the real? What if curiosity, need and raw desire were never heated in the alchemists’ vas, never transubstantiated into the world of meaning?

Such sublime and eternal hopes are hidden in the rubble of passions lost, in the shattered mirror of longing and dream.

It was through his art that Kreis attempted to reconcile what he had lost, the possibility of ever leading a ‘normal’ life, ripe with confidence and assurance, stuffed with all its creature comforts, tedium and unfathomable boredoms, with what was left of himself.

And in his art he was ineffective, or so he thought. Convinced as he was of his own failure it was all too easy to slip into his own,  self-fulfilling prophecy, like a second skin.

The rash immediacy of the world around him, its media frenzied distraction, drove him toward a frivolity of expression with out technique. In his need to look and be looked at, recognize and be recognized, love and be loved, in his need of becoming, to be, he succumbed to thoughtless pressures. In the art of self sabotage he was a master. And in turn, at the sight of his malformed self, deprived in that instant of the possibility of its own becoming, screaming in the mirror of his own creation, he was cast ever deeper into despair. All that he honored and adored; poetry, the majesty of civility, the grandeur of art, the sublime and beautiful, were corrupted by his own impetuous hands.

Afterward he was haunted, haunted by the lost harmony of his universe. Day in and day out he could see these ghosts, in the accusing eyes of the toilet ladies and shopkeepers, peering out from behind passer-bys, he could feel them in the rattling of the trams, and pull of the gypsy prostitutes, hear them in the voices fading in and out on the line when he used the telephone, see them hiding in flickering match flame.

They whispered to him, winked, nodded in passing, reiterating the sacred mantra, the mantra of failure, a secret, silent code only he could read, providing him with his only certainly, the one force in his life he held firmly in his hand.

With these phantoms he wrestled and in his attempts to cast them away he fled warmth and humanity and compulsively sought out his own demise, if only to be rid of them once and for all.

It was his inability to deal with the senseless lechery and deceit of the world, to use it to his own advantage, to exploit and prosper, that helped feed his demons. He was unable to walk like all the world for he hesitated at every step, for he feared to tread upon a leaf. For he feared to tread upon a soul. He was shackled by gravity. In our Empire of merciless self-involved apathy, he wandered.

Milosz P. knew Kreis to be a dreamy but driven young man. He knew him as a young man with a fiery temper. A young man regularly willing to play the fool. A young man with a strong penchant for the automutilatory. To the mind of Milosz P., it was exactly this unbridled obsession with his own failures that lead Kreis so frequently to place his ideals above common sense, above base economic reality to such a degree, that, he often found himself in the frenzied act of digging his own grave.

In his digging Kreis had discovered that he was dispossessed of his own life. He was purged of the reality of his own belonging. He was a perennial stranger to himself and others. It was as if he had been born on the wings of the wind, never having touched the earth of his origin.





Milosz P. had first met Kreis one morning just before dawn on Staroměstské náměstí. He was taking the long road home, drunk, after a night of music and debauchery, and nearly tripped over him.

Kreis was sprawled on the ground near the statue of Jan Hus, beside the plaque marking the time of the paving of the square, ranting incoherently about Sigismund’s betrayal of Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain’s betrayal of Hus, and Capitalism’s betrayal of greed, while methodically cleaning under his nails with a broken match stick. Now and again he paused, lapsed into silence and took a swig from the bottle of Čert resting in the mouth of an open black leather bag beside him. The clock high up on the tower of the Old Town Hall struck the hour and the tolling bells rolled across the empty square, the unmistakable sound of the hand bell rung by the skeleton on the Astronomical clock out of sight around the corner tingling in his ears before dissolving into the cool blue of the morning air. It was quite some time before Kreis became aware of being watched, but, when at last he did, he froze in mid-sentence and, with head bowed, pulled the bottle again from the bag and lifted it, without looking up, toward the stranger standing before him.

Milosz P. had accepted and sat down or had he sat down and accepted, he couldn’t recall, but either way it seemed to suit the hour. Sometime later, as the first flocks of tourists following the raised umbrellas of their minders, truant students, punks, backpackers and hippies began to clot the square, they staggered their way to a pub on the corner where they spent the better part of the day putting back pints of Kozel.

Kreis attempted to communicate with the grimy tractor drivers and ditch diggers, cobble stone layers and crane operators at the table by drawing pictures in puddles of beer and urging them to do the same. Repeatedly he slurred the same words over and over again, the old men beside him ordering round after round of Becherovka and coffee, pointing to watches that didn’t seem to work as if to show that at any minute the already risen sun would rise. Milosz P. remembered it vividly, irrespective of his tiredness and the drunken haze in which he found himself. It was as if the morning had gotten stuck on itself, Kreis’ words, the drinks, the grumbling of the old men pointing at their watches, replaying over and over again that same broken bit of time.

Prague was like that, a drunken ghost seated atop a clock with no hands. A city that drew the dispossessed and disaffected, decadents and dreamers from across the world with the strength of the orbiting moon drawing the tide. Once within her reach the waves of her intoxicating influence would rise, then fall, then rise and fall, as the shadows stretched and retreated, over and over again, across the known landscape of time, like the beating of a heart.

But here, on this hillside, if there was one of times mute hands still working, moving forward, pointing out the passage of some ungraspable certainty, the space into which it leaned showed how perilously close Kreis’ own words would carry the boy to the precipice of despair and the void beyond. Milosz P. was ceratin, from the year or so they had known each other, that, were Kreis allowed to go on long enough, the words he spoke would turn back upon him. Like a serpent eating its own tail, lost in a ring of fire, Kreis would begin to tear at the flesh of his own mind like a vulture does carrion. The doubts and fears that lay like so many tons of silt at the bottom of Kreis’ heart would rise again to darken the waters of his life. It was then that Kreis would run in search of a way out, run through the labyrinth of his own mind in search of some luminous salvation, if only to find the visage of his own death nailed to the exit, if not scribbled in his own hand.

It was a disgusting sight that Milosz P. was loathe to watch and powerless to abate and it was only on the rarest of occasions, when he felt something stirring deep with in his own heart, something horrible and decrepit, that Milosz P. would allow himself to stand in full witness to Kreis’ torment, that he would feast his eyes in hopes of finding some form of catharsis invested in this wretched scene, or to derive an ill formed solace through the displacement of his own misery.

“I don’t care about the fucking money Pookie! Just look at them, they’ve become what they most despised, they’ve become something tantamount to their own repugnance, fucking death sucking money whores, a hideous reflection of their own hatred and pettiness!” Kreis looked to Milosz P. plaintively for support.

“That’s superfluous,” said Milosz P., pushing up his silver rimmed glasses from underneath and pulling his hands slowly down over the leathery flesh of his face. “Harvey, that has nothing to do with why I asked you here and you know it. I’ve simply no interest in suffering through your endless excuses. Your justifications for escaping paid work never cease to amaze me.” The cigarette dangled unlit from his mouth and bounced as he spoke. He returned his chin squarely to the palm of his hand. “Harv,” he added with a wry smile, watching Kreis’ discomfort out of the corner of his eye with out turning his head, “Are you interested in hearing this or not?”

Kreis fidgeted in his seat, squeezed the back of his neck repeatedly and stared at the scuffed toes of his ox blood wing tips.

“Look Harvey, your senseless banter is no concern of mine. In fact, I don’t even care if you deal with them or not. You’re welcome to sleep in the park if your ideals interfere with common sense. I’m tired of all this and it’s beside the point. What I can do for you is this…Well, like I said, the Press is preparing to release a new journal in the spring and it would be nice if you could get a few pieces together, amid your busy schedule at the paper…”

There was the sound of flapping in the trees behind them and Milosz P. quickly turned his head, the sky up the hill behind they had grown dark with approaching storm cloud.

Kreis felt utterly pathetic, the arrogance of Milosz P. reproached him as if it was a stern slap on the face. The urgency with which he had been speaking was only usurped by the hunger pains that knotted and contracted his stomach into a screaming stone. It had been days since he had last had a meal and he knew well enough that this meeting with the publisher Milosz P. promised, if all went smoothly, a few pints of pivo and a meal after the cold of night set in with unabashed vengeance.

As he looked to the ashen clouds, or at least what appeared to be clouds, that swept in high above the valley before him, Kreis wondered if the brutality of this night would not again force him to curl inside a bottle as if it was actually a home. His coat was thin. The night was long. Even the illusion of warmth was better than the regions of jade and ice that for so long had stalked his restless nights.

He knotted his fingers in his lap and debated asking Milosz P. for a cigarette, unable, under the circumstances, and daunted by the harsh reality of his own need, to decide on the propriety of the request.

There was something unnatural about this late autumn eve that is worthy of note. At an hour of the day when the city of Prague was usually alive with workers returning home or to the pub, the days labor done, when the streets were usually bustling with the last heaves and sighs of human endeavor, when old women returned from the markets, tourists sought out their busses or nights lodging, when young lovers strolled through the parks arm-in-arm or kissed beneath the statues of Charles Bridge, when a discordant and polyphonic symphony of rancorous horns, wailing sirens, tram bells and screeching brakes, rattling horse carts, barking dogs, street musicians and children’s laughter rose from the winding streets below, oddly enough, the city was draped in a thick, insoluble silence.

The city seemed utterly deserted. There was not a soul to be seen. Národní třida was completely empty, not a tram, not a car, not a soul. The normally bustling Masarykovo nabřeží, the street leading along the river from the tower at Mánes past Slovanský ostrov toward Café Slavia, was completely devoid of any signs of life. Even the river seemed to have stopped flowing. In fact there was nothing, nothing at all, no matter where Milosz P. looked in the city below, which indicated that it was currently occupied by a million or more living souls. The last of the ultramarine light from the falling sun that clung in sullen desperation to the roof tops, bridges and river skin had lost its grip and gone into hiding. Even the ferocious east wind had suddenly vanished.

Milosz P. felt something more than nothing rattle his spine. It was as if he had suddenly awakened to find himself seated on the parapet of an outer-most city wall in the dead of night, staring out into the vast and desolate uninterrupted darkness beyond. He quickly withdrew his chin from the palm of his hand and bolted up right. He pushed his fedora further back on his head and rubbed his temples.

“Nothing, it must be nothing,” he mumbled to himself in perplexion.

Milosz P. slowly rolled his eyes to his left. He nearly jumped back.

Kreis was vainly trying to hide his discomfort and irritation. He was still eager at the prospect of a meal, however much he may have vacillated between hope and abjection. So eager he had turned side-ways and leaned ridiculously far forward. So eager he had placed the specter of his face centimeters from the nose of Milosz P. Kreis was not well known for respecting the conventions of polite society and his ever changing passions regularly scrapped the notion of “personal space” entirely.

Milosz P. was completely unable to discern what had startled him so. He stared at himself in the darkened pupils of Kreis’ eyes as Kreis’ face began to fracture, irregular bits of skin peeling inward, melting away, to blend into the surrounding hillside, into the piles of dead leaves, the dark jagged fingers of the naked trees, into a sea of formless, depthless stillness.

A weight settled upon him.

He felt a vast uneasiness spread through out his limbs.

A million tiny insects had suddenly begun to gnaw at the marrow of his bones. Accompanying this sensation was an immense foreboding. A sinister gloom seized his mind and singed his thoughts. He was suddenly over come by an urge to run. With out so much as a word to Kreis, he desired to run with all his might down the hillside and to Smichovské Nádraží and hop the next train to Zakopaní or Dresden or Rotterdam or Rome. In less than a second the intensity of this urge turned inert, it faded inside him to no more than the gaudy polychrome-purple tongues of night flame that danced along the rim of the sky to his left and struck him as fantastically irrational if not thoroughly absurd! Milosz P. passed this uneasy feeling off to an approaching case of the D.T.’s. He shifted his weight on the bench and rolled his shoulders to crack the joints. The thought of putting back a shot of rum in one of the pubs at the base of the park made him feel a little better. “Soon enough, soon enough,” he thought. “Now back to the matter at hand…”

Milosz P. jerked the cigarette from his lips and turned back toward the golden spires of the city draped in shades of night below. “Harvey, one way or another…” he trailed off.

The notable change in Milosz P.’s demeanor dawned slowly upon the artist Kreis. His shoulders hunched in tensely and seemed to shake. The blood that usually splotched his cheeks when out of doors had retreated. He looked exceptionally pale. Pearls of sweat could be seen across his forehead. This sudden change in appearance gave Kreis a fright. What if for some terrible and inexplicable reason Milosz P. had encountered cause for regret and thus changed his mind about soliciting a piece from him? This would mean no pivo and a meal. Should he have silenced his anxieties over the newspaper-staff and expatriates in general? The prospect saddened him greatly and he lowered his eyes to stare at the dead leaves. He ground them into the dust with the leather sole of his faded wing tip. The nominally sympathetic Milosz P. had, perhaps, taken a moment to digest this, deemed it folly unbecoming a man of his acquaintance, used it as an assessment of character he had previously misjudged, thought himself to have spoken too soon, and thus now reproached himself for a lack of diligence.

Kreis brooded for a moment, thoroughly tormented by his own uncertainty and then, to appease the nails that twisted in his stomach, with fortitude and great strength, mustered the faintest semblance of optimism still residing in his down cast soul. He thought, perhaps Milosz P. had simply taken ill. Inured in his own difficulties and as always needing to talk, perhaps he had simply failed to recognize earlier signs of illness on his friends face. With this thought he raised his head. A faint concern welled inside him. He filled his lungs and prepared himself for whatever debacle the next few moments might bring.

Milosz P. gazed out over the hundred-spired city with fright in his eyes. Something was desperately wrong. “What the hell is going on,” he thought, “Am I loosing my mind?” Milosz P. attempted to discern what had come over him. This was no ordinary case of the D.T.’s. He was frightened to the core.

Just then a curt gust of wind rolled a crumpled scrap of newspaper down the path in front of our two friends. From far away, the low, agonizing howl of some mangy cur could be heard, and a man in black coat tails, with a blood red ascot, gently swinging a gold pocket watch by its chain, stepped out from behind a near by tree.

“That’s funny,” thought Kreis, who an instant before would have sworn on his mother’s grave the park and the whole of the hillside were deserted, “I was so certain we were alone.”

Milosz P. took pride in being master of his surroundings. He thought himself always well aware of everything going on around him. He was a man who kept stock of his emotions as if they were alphabetized cards in a library card catalogue. The sudden appearance of this man, who swung the watch in a full circle, caught it in his hand and bowed elegantly before approaching them, had the effect of tossing these cards to the wind.

The crumpled scrap of newspaper that had come to rest directly before him on the path and the terrible screech of the frightened bitch which announced the arrival of this unexpected visitor, in conjunction with the irrational fear that had assaulted him from nowhere moments before, nearly summoned panic.

The cigarette fell from his open mouth.

He narrowed his eyes.

Desperately he attempted to regain control of the situation. The tap of Kreis’ hand on his knee gave him a frightful start.

“Funny isn’t it,” whispered Kreis into Milosz P.’s ear. “I would have sworn… I would have sworn we were alone.”




Somewhat relieved by Kreis’ intrusion, Milosz P. let out a deep sigh. At least he wasn’t loosing his mind. This man was no hallucination. Of course a rational answer could quickly be found. Obviously, he’d been so intent on commandeering Kreis’ brash idealism for the sake of the up coming publication that he’d simply failed to notice the stranger. Perhaps he was napping behind a near by tree? With all the freaks wandering about Prague these days he wouldn’t have been surprised to see a ballerina and a boxer sleeping on Petřín hill. No doubt Kreis’ tirade had awakened the man. No doubt he approached to see what all the commotion was about. Dressed impeccably as he was, of course, the stranger had bowed to supplement the surprise of his intrusion. In a moment or two, upon fully awakening, the stranger would excuse himself. In a moment or two, of course, he would head on his way.

Milosz P. turned hastily back to Kreis. He felt once again of sound mind and body. Haughtily he continued: “You see Harv, we’ve decided to put together a compilation volume centered around the idea of the metteur en scene,”  Milosz P. let the phrase roll off his lips in a sing-song voice, accentuating every syllable, clearly relishing the sound.

“I don’t speak Latin,” mumbled Kreis, turning his eyes back to the leaves gathered in silence at the base of the bench.

“We’re talking about those who add nothing of their own character to a film- or for that matter any series of images- nothing of their own humanity. They simply follow orders, like a formula or a code. Ah! The age of cinema and democracy! Conceptually it is rather poignant, or at least we at the Press feel it to be, when one considers the nature of our times. Of course we are interested, fundamentally, in the breadth of the term. It intones so much yet defines so little of the sickly state of the Arts.”

“Erudition is relative,” whispered Kreis beneath his breath. “For every entropy an opposite,” he mouthed silently.

“You see Harv, this is far more than a means to an end. Expediency, to coin a word dear to your heart, is something we deem worthy of inquiry. The discretion invested in the metteur en scene seems so often to have discarded the old order of artistic values and replaced in its stead formulaic expediency, among other nasty things. The need for recognition supersedes quality and we are caught in an ever-shrinking circle of ever-baser pastíche. With such rapid change occurring all around us we think this an issue worth addressing.”

“Pastiche, pâté, Pookie really, if you use the royal “we” again I’m going to…no, I didn’t mean that. You never know who’s listening…”

“Are you listening Harvey? I really don’t need to waste my breath on the wind if you’re still obsessed with so much fucking idiocy!” Milosz P. smacked his knees firmly, leaned his hands on his thighs and rocked back and forth gently.

“Look Harvey,” he near hollered, lifting an arm to shake a finger in Kreis’ general direction, “I’ve better things to do than…”

“Pookie, really, no one gives a damn about aggregate structure, about aesthetics beyond the triteness of the moment. Populism is a poor substitute for genius. Come on, we all know the invention of new media, you know, from the days of the camera obscura, on to film, TV, the computer, have changed peoples’ tastes as well as their perspective of the world. So fucking what?”

“Harvey, I’m trying to do you a favor but it’s about as easy as pulling teeth from a badger! If you had waited a moment I was about to tell you that we thought that this expediency has forced a wedge between contemporary humanity and the depth and meaning inherent in life. Can’t you understand that? Our experience is becoming more alienated and violent. Ever more vapid and irresponsible. And, for some reason, you seem intent on proving it!” Milosz P. again made as if to stand.

“No, no, I’m sorry,” said Kreis reaching for Milosz P.’s sleeve as his empty stomach began to scream.

“Either you’re interested in hearing this or not Harv. I’ve really had about enough…”

“I’m interested, I’m interested,” said Kreis with greater apology than earnest, tugging Milosz P. back down.

“Harv, you do remember that night at Francois atelier in Hradčaný, when you were collapsed across the top of the ladder ranting in a stupor? Or that time just before dawn on the tram tracks in front of club Újzed? Or that night you made such a scene about seeing an angel in the rubble of a construction site on Spalena? Remember what you said about the self- you said, in so many words, your self, which was your awareness of the multi-dimensionality of a soul that was the foundation of all knowledge, understanding and compassion, was being calcified through the ubiquity of forced insensitivity, yes, that’s it, that’s how you put it, the ubiquity of forced insensitivity. Fine words for a fop like you!”

Kreis glared at Milosz P. insolently, the fire in his eyes slowly extinguished by the sloshing, unemployed bile in his stomach. The rapacious memory of Milosz P. had long pained him, a pain all the more enhanced by the fact that so much of his own memory, even of the night before, had fizzled out like a fuse with out a firecracker.  But when this arrogant twit dared to recite his own words back to him! Shit…that was almost going too far! Worse yet, oh! Worse, yet, a faint reverberating echo in the back of Kreis’ mind rattled its way into consciousness and, from what he could make of it, seemed to be telling him that Milosz P. was indeed quoting him, indeed, in fact, he almost remembered saying such nonsense… almost.

“Remember Harv? Remember? You said that it was the redemptive function of Art and literature that may well be our last hope for avoiding dissolution. For avoiding the violent apocalyptic spasms buried deep in the collective subconscious of our epoch. As we grow harder our collisions, weather by accident or design, become more threatening, more totalizing, more utterly irreversible. Maybe you were right! It’s like the law of the conservation of momentum… a body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest. That’s the crux of the idea of the metteur en scene! We’re asking who puts on the living stage! We want to ask what they’ve really set in motion, for whom and to what end? We are at a precarious juncture in the history of Art Harvey, the history of culture and the world, and we mustn’t let the trite and stale assertions of idiots and hype mongers preclude us from the task at hand.”

“We desire to show the world a soul that refuses to conform to the dead sterility of the commoditization of all human thought and endeavor! At The Burnt Spoon we believe simply because one follows an internal aesthetic guide, because one pursues beauty, uniqueness or elegance of solution, does not mean in any way… that as writers and artists… as individual, solitary creatures attempting to explicate in a novel, sublime form, the human condition, our human condition, we have in some way ceased to participate in society. That’s why I’ve called you here Harvey. You, Harvey Kreis are an idealist, a visionary, a dreamer…if you’ll consider that a compliment!”

Milosz P. obviously felt better. Loquacious was a word created for Milosz P. He was a born orator with the mindset of spring loaded fox trap. Once he was onto something he wasn’t likely to release.

Kreis was aware of all of this. Yet however important the ranting of Milosz P. might have been to both his ideals and his stomach, he couldn’t take his eyes from the stranger in coat tails.

As Milosz P. spoke, the stranger in coat tails carefully replaced his gold pocket watch. He removed a red, blue and white silk handkerchief from his pocket. Silently he tied this silk handkerchief to the little finger of his right hand. He smiled at Kreis contemptibly. Mockingly he waved. He then violently ripped this finger out of its socket. Gently he inserted it into his breast pocket.

His torn finger hung limply in the twilight.

He then stuck his bleeding right hand into his trouser pocket. A second or two there after a pool of blood inched out from around his shoe.

Feeling slightly faint, Kreis could only assume the pangs of hunger had overtaken taken him at last. He worried that he was hallucinating freely, too freely. He worried that he would soon be found howling at the moon. “Never!” cried Kreis, pained by the thought.

Milosz P. was taken back. “What do you mean never!” he thundered indignantly. He smacked his own knee. He had meant no offense to Kreis with his remarks. In fact he felt he had paid Kreis a compliment. Milosz P. never accepted no for an answer. He almost always had his way. He utterly refused to accept any misinterpretation of his intentions.

Nevertheless it was true. The stranger in coat tails had tied a silk handkerchief to his little finger. He had violently ripped that finger from its socket. He had inserted it in his breast pocket. The pool of blood continued to expand as he stood a few meters away. He stared at our friends intently with a perturbed smile.

It took a moment or so for Milosz P. to recognize the look of terror on Kreis’ face. He scrutinized Kreis’ wide eyes copiously. Seething streams of intense confusion shot through him like an erupting geyser. He arched his back. He straightened out his shoulders. Slowly he turned his head.




The stranger now stood directly before them. His little finger and the blue, red and white silk handkerchief hung limply from his breast pocket. In the twilight his finger twitched. The folds of the silk handkerchief rippled gently in the wind. The pool of blood beneath his right foot began to muddy the path.

What had, but moments before, been the justifiable appearance of a misplaced party-goer, headwaiter or musician, however unexpected and surprising under the circumstances, had, in the blink of an eye, exceeded the mere trifling of misplaced coincidence, in fact, exceeded all reason.

Milosz P. snapped back to Kreis. “I’ll be damned,” he said with a forced laugh. “You know Harv, for a minute there I thought I was loosing my mind. I’ve been having the most absurd hallucinations! Hehehe! Ahhh! For that matter, I even thought you whispered in my ear! Hehehehohooh…” Milosz P.’s laughter was cut short by the look on Kreis’ face. “Jesus, this can’t be!” he muttered panic stricken and still incredulous. Milosz P. refused to take his eyes from the young Kreis’ face, which had gone quite pale and had flattened like a paper moon to fill the whole of Milosz P.’s field of vision.

Kreis had slammed his eyes shut in horror. When at last he opened them again he saw that it was over. The stranger in coat tails had vanished. Milosz P. stared at him with his mouth agape. He laboriously dabbed at the perspiration across his forehead with a white handkerchief. He smiled as if constipated.

Milosz P. and Kreis looked at each other for a long moment. They then burst out laughing.

“It must have been the strain of that walk up the hill on an empty stomach,” thought Kreis.

“Age,” thought Milosz P., “is wearing me thin.” He shook his head with a grimace.

Milosz P. reached into his inside coat pocket. He pulled another cigarette from the silver case. He offered one to the artist Kreis. Kreis accepted politely. He offered a light to Milosz P. Milosz P. declined. For years he had seen fit to dangle a cigarette from his lower lip. He chewed the filter until it was irreparably mauled. He then spit it out. Kreis cupped his hands to shield against the wind. Kreis lit his own cigarette. With a single violent turn of his wrist, he struck the match dead.

It was tossed to the ground.

“As I was saying,” resumed Milosz P. “At this time we are in the throws of a profound change. The time is now my friend, now, to prove to the world that Art transcends the stultifying spectacle of mere entertainment!” With this Milosz P. patted Kreis firmly and paternally on the back.

“But there’s more to it,” said Kreis dragging hard on the cigarette, smoke then wafting from his nose and mouth as he began to speak. “Art is no longer the antithesis of commercialization and industry, no longer explorations of consciousness and being, it is commercialization and industry and being and consciousness are at a dead end! Art can no longer call itself the spiritual conscious of a world falling rapidly into hollow materialism, it’s leading the fucking way! ”

“That’s just fantastic Harv but…” said Milosz P. a bit exacerbated.

“No Pookie, really, odd isn’t it, how even the best positioned and learned men of our century keep deathly silent about the nature of things like…war?”

“Harvey you succulent fool! That’s the poignancy of the metteur en scene! Look, Harv, the technology of war has exponentially evolved in relation to the enlightened mind of man. It is a grave misfortune that so much of science has been enslaved by the State and conforms to its bellicose demands so willingly. And at what great human cost! Armies of men use machines to fight for them, that, through the vain salvation of their distance, they may never have look into the human eyes of their victims again.

“Does this set a thought on the stage of your mind Harv? Perhaps the invention of the printing press rolls into the spot light?” Milosz P. thrust forward his chest. He inhaled deeply through his nose. The color wrought by the wind had returned to his cheeks. In fact he was quite red in the face.

Kreis could feel the perambulatory turnings of his long-empty stomach. He dragged hard on the cigarette, squinted his eyes and agreed, reluctantly, with a nod of his head. “I understand but…”

“Let me begin, if you will not consider this condescending, to reiterate a few ideas…” Milosz P. jerked the cigarette out of his mouth. He examined the chewed filter briefly before he continued.

Kreis too pulled his cigarette from his mouth. He looked at the glowing orange-red of the cherry. He watched as the tendrils of smoke dissipated into the surrounding darkness and flicked his butt with forefinger and thumb toward that ever present harbinger of misfortune, the nearby tree.

Neither man seemed to notice that the cigarette was extinguished in a small pool of blood.

Less than a year earlier, Milosz P. had commissioned from the young artist Kreis a visual piece to be accompanied by a short text, to fill a slot in the new quarterly literary journal Zatím. It was to be published by The Burnt Spoon in conjunction with the Czech journal Nevídítelný Revue. He asked that Kreis do a piece on Justice. A piece in light of the turbulent political situation just after the revolution. A piece in light of the over arching ambiguity and uncertainly as to the country’s future. The impossibility of reconciling past and present, ideals and realities by force. Kreis had, for reasons still unknown to himself, depicted Justice as an empty golden frame hung on a bare white-washed wall. The text that accompanied the piece was incoherent and fragmented. It alluded to the immediacy and convenience of evil in a society bent on a relative and symbol rich exultation of blindness. It expounded upon a mind set inured in the denial of human dignity and the individual creation of meaning.

Milosz P. found the piece repulsive and misguided. He utterly refused to print it. And ever since he had taken it upon himself to educate the young Kreis, to educate him in the unalterable realities of the world. This evening, of course, was no exception.

The artist Kreis listened attentively to everything the publisher Milosz P. was saying. It hadn’t taken long for Kreis to learn what it meant to be a good guest. For with every word Milosz P. spoke, Kreis’ stomach spoke too. And both demanded, with out the slightest interference, to be heard.

“Isn’t it true that whether we desire to or not we all must live in the here and now? How terrible that is. Bits of sand and bone scrape the acrid wind to clot our lungs and eyes. It was Nietzsche who declared the death of God and then placed us under obligation to transcend all atavistic value systems and sculpt a world beyond these chains. Life is at an end where the kingdom of God begins…and time is calculated from the dies nefastus on which fatality arose- from the first day of Christianity! Why not rather from it’s last! From today! The revaluation of all values!

“Oh, the essence of the horrible in every atom of air…past! You see my friend, just as your portrayal of Justice was misguided in so far as it refused to see beyond the tragedy of human life and the apparently insurmountable suffering of the world, you still feel compelled to tell the barren truth as you see it today, to men who live today, all the while you stand with your back to the future and your eyes in the wrong direction. You swear allegiance to what is inside of you, to that which you despise, instead of that which you love and in so doing you believe you are seeing the outside where you will find that love.

“For both you and I know, we are able to see ahead, to a future freed from the twin despots of gluttony and greed, state and market. Don’t you think then Harvey, that it might be worth defrocking a few of the false priests that have usurped Art in the name of the mass market, cheapened and degraded the artistic quest for the sake of this outer world, before it goes too far, before it’s too late? At least we should be inquiring a little deeper into the effects of their mass produced, manipulative, demented and pure profit oriented sermons? Stripping them of the stolen title artist? Don’t you think? I have seen that you see, Harv, and you mustn’t be afraid of the truth you possess!”

“Lectures, lectures, lectures,” thought Kreis. “As if it isn’t burden enough just to have eyes.” Nevertheless, Kreis was hoping his patience would pay off. Milosz P. was not young, and most definitely not a fool. However much he needed ramble on to assuage his own mordant soul was of no matter to Kreis. He would consent to almost anything; given there was a bottle to curl up in and preferably a meal after the last act.

Milosz P’s sonorous voice echoed across the empty hillside. Kreis nimbly followed this litany of postmodern babble, patiently avoiding the pitfalls of association, the tendrils as thin and delicate as caterpillar’s silk that Milosz P. spun as his web. Kreis listened closely and heard again of the haunts of the Muses. He heard again of the tenebrous songs of triumph sung by solitary men over the pages of neglected books, of the anonymous author of Mastičkár , Třebíyský’s, Bludné duše and on. He heard again as Milosz P. told of the insolent ignorance of Power, of the sheep like instinct of most men, of the brutal realities of a society misguided and led astray by untended and arrogant collections of hegemon’s who had built their empires not on benevolence and wisdom but on the blood, sweat and broken dreams of the poor. He heard again a great many of his own words, faintly disguised and poorly quoted, that Milosz P. had so taken to heart as to make his own. Well taken to mind at least, as the question of Milosz P.’s heart was one he had yet to resolve and correlation was no proof. Kreis often wondered how one man came to know so little about so much and had not gone either to the pulpit or politics. And so he listened as he always did as Milosz P. arrogantly accused the nameless and mediocre masses of looking on with indifference as the atrocities of the century paraded by uncontested, as another man, or what looked like a man, emerged from the surrounding darkness.

Later, when it was far too late, much would be said about this gentleman. In fact, much had already been said. From groups of bankers at the lavish lunch tables of the French Restaurant in Obeční Dům, to the sophisticated frauds, journalists and investors at Chez Marcel, from the wine splattered habitué of Blatnička and the eclectic eccentric students in the caverns at U Sudu, from the nicotine stained old men in the smoke tarnished backroom at Bubiničku, to the loons, junkies, thieves, whores and failed intellectuals at U Zpivačku, from the homeless and helpless at the Masarykovo non-stop, to the stands beneath bridges and beside bus stops, at every train station traffica and párek window, in fact anywhere spirits were sold, the souls of Prague would bicker and boast, trade stories, weigh antidotes and levee jokes concerning this person. From winking assurances to back slapping confidences, from thundering blasphemies to whispered secrets the rumor mill would grind its tales to powder the hands of the wind and redden eyes.

He had long auburn corn silk hair framing a face with shallow set glowing blue-green eyes that, beneath the incredulity of his faintly arched brows, emanated an aura of indifference. The ruddy peach-fuzz that clung to his chin and scarred jaw rimmed a face with out so much as a line of worry or concern. In fact, his delicately pursed lips, although curled slightly down at the ends, alluded to a faint air of joy, if not laughter. Perched on his hooked, Semitic looking nose were a pair of small tortoise shell spectacles attached to a thin frayed rope encircling his neck. In his right hand, he clasped an ivory owl’s head which formed the handle of a well polished but twisted wooden cane inscribed with the words of some ancient language.

While passing the bench on which our two friends sat he gave them both a lengthy sidelong glare. He preceded another step or two. He turned around. He briefly surveyed the city that sprawled out before him in the darkness of the new born night, then suddenly sat down on the next bench, a meter or so away.

“What an odd character,” thought Kreis. “He must be new to the city. I wonder where he’s from?”

“A real hero,” thought Milosz P. “Failed businessman, judging by the looks of him.”

The city below began to glow a strange sort of gold as the incandescent street lamps flickered across the dark, twisted body of Prague. The alluring hint of warmth behind the soft amber light that illuminated innumerable curtained windows along the quay seeped out into the surrounding darkness. The stranger gazed out over the vastness of the city of Prague. It was obvious from the look on his face that he had never seen the city from such a height before. He seemed to survey the sprawling rooftops with intent interest. He halted his gaze on the gold-crested blue-tiled roof of Národní Divadlo and the stars placed upon it by Josef Zitek to symbolize the aspirations of the arts. He smiled at something, frowned, crossed his hands across the ivory owl’s head at the top of his cane and laid his chin across the bony, bluish green knuckles of his hands.

“You see Harv,” continued Milosz P. “Your depiction of Justice as an empty frame was a dismal and botched association. Justice is a living and vital force bound up in the hands of men. Justice is hope and redemption, an acolyte in the citadel of truth that is the divine body of all things human. No, Harvey, there your vision was misguided and backward. Justice is a force we possess, not that which is dispossessed. The Devil knows dear Harvey that with God departed, the secrets of life and all things holy have been relegated once and for all to the hands of men, our hands!” With these words Milosz P. curled his worm like fingers into a shaking fist.

Making a concerted effort to ignore the whining of his stomach, a stomach that seemed to scream in a volatile chorus of abomination in tune with every longwinded statement of Milosz P., Kreis was thinking, “Justice be damned. Knedlíky… now there’s a transcendent thought for you.”

For some reason Milosz P.’s speech had broken off. The stranger had suddenly risen. Our two friends he approached.

Both Milosz P. and Harvey Kreis stared at him with mouths slightly agape.

The stranger, with a queer and disturbing smile, disturbing all the more because the ends of his lips still turned down, politely bowed at the waist and extended his left hand. The two friends, knowing no alternative, partially rose to half-heartedly extend their own hands.

“Senile,” thought Milosz P. “Most obviously.”

“A Russian,” thought Harvey Kreis.

The artist Kreis had the uncomfortable feeling that he had seen this man before, and that perhaps this was in some dream. Milosz P., on the other hand, while not exactly enamored, felt instead a faint curiosity at the sight of such a man here, on Petřin Hill, at this hour. It was a curiosity tainted by intrigue. A curiosity that bordered on the macabre.

“Mide eef I gin yooz,” asked the stranger in a thick foreign accent. Before our friends had a chance to answer the stranger plopped down and seated himself between them. He placed his cane between his legs. He leaned back. He stretched his arms out across the top of the rod iron bench. “I apologieez fur ze eentruezeeon gentlemens, but zomezeit yooz zee, zese wings wilts be dun,” said the stranger. He turned his clear blue right eye on Milosz P. “Now, eefin I’z zot too fur uf und heerdz currektelly, yooz were jews-t szying zat Got ist deeed.”





A bit surprised but not to be out done Milosz P. replied, “No, you’re not mistaken.” Then added condescendingly, “That’s exactly the point I was making to my young friend here,” with this he extended his open palm graciously toward Kreis.

“Fatsineeting!” exclaimed the stranger.

“He’ll ask for money soon,” thought Kreis beginning to show some annoyance as the sparse lines around his eyes furrowed and spread.

“Hund, r yooz uf ze zame belief?” said the stranger, turning to Kreis and offering a queer, sadistic looking grin.

“Indubitably!” exclaimed Kreis with noted sarcasm, always getting a tickle from the use of archaic British formalities.

“Aztounding!” smacked the uninvited guest.

Suspiciously glancing around and with a sinister tone in his now lowered voice he added, “Pardon ze appeareenz uf pignoranz gentlemeeenz, boot, beee defallteee, zooz zat meeen ze Deevil iz deeed az veeell?” A sickly smile blossomed across the strangers face.

Milosz P. was suddenly overcome by a strange and inexplicable feeling. In an attempt to combat the unknown through the known, to slay the demons of uncertainty with the avengers of assertion, he began with what was for him a well rehearsed fact, “No intelligent man believes in the Devil.”

“Iz zat zo?” said the stranger, lightly stroking his chin and licking his lower lip.

“Of course!” stated Milosz P. ecumenically with a taught arch of his back. “The Devil simply doesn’t exist! We can speak of him figuratively, having been a component part of an elaborate set of beliefs designed to explain and justify. Let’s see… when you think about it one finds such notions around the globe.” With this he leveled one eye at the stranger, “Lacking originality, you see, the Lords of old, from Shaman to witchdoctor to king, desperate to maintain their power and enforce social obedience, invented the Devil or a Devil along with their God or Gods. God gave them their raison d’ etre as they were by virtue of might or illusion; the Godhead, Magician, King. The Devil, on the other hand, was needed as an explanation for fear, tumult, imperfection, human error, evil and death. What better way to keep the yoke around humanities necks than to impose the wrath of God and the terrors of the Devil. Obviously incessant murdering of the general population or excessive imprisonment, while perhaps the most direct way to curb insurrection, was not the most desirable. Development was needed, there was still great wealth to extract from the globe, hands needed to till the fields or wield the sword in the name of the King! What better way to keep people in line than the threat of an after life in some stinking hell! What better justification for hatred, lust, greed and murder than cleansing the world of heretics, blasphemers and the forces of evil in the name of the Almighty! It’s all perfectly rational I assure you.”

“Aztounding!” shrieked the stranger with delight.

Kreis’s irritation was growing. He fidgeted in his seat. His thoughts again returned to the far away heaven of beer and a meal.

“R yooz…Azeeist, zen?” inquired the stranger. He raised his left eyebrow. He leaned a bit forward.

“Bible thumping ratfuck,” thought Kreis. “Those lousy cultists are everywhere these days. Probably start screaming about some prophet next. There are times when I’m glad I haven’t a Heller for him to squeeze out of me. There’s little worse than having to pay people to make them go away.” Kreis could feel his ears turning red with the impending cold.

“But of course we’re Atheists!” declared Milosz P. resolutely. “Any reasonable man would purport to be nothing else.”

“Irenicists!” corrected Kreis, feeling a certain satisfaction at the declaration.

“Oh! Zuper!” exclaimed the astonished stranger as he looked at each of them directly with the piercing light of his crystalline blue eye.

“That’s nothing surprising,” said Milosz P. “This isn’t America’s heartland or the rural south. The people here aren’t ignorant, näive maybe, but not ignorant. This is a highly literate country all in all. In fact that’s one of the few real services the Communists did for these people, encourage literacy and dispose of the rotted corpse of God. I might add, they attempted to replace it with the Party, which is equally absurd, but nevertheless…”

At this the stranger did a perplexing thing. He stood, seized the astonished publisher’s hand fervently and shook it enthusiastically. “Allow me to thank you from the chasm of my heart!”

“Why, in Christ’s name are you thanking’ him?” asked Kreis with a blink and a blank face.

“Why for some very, very valuable information, which, as a fellow traveler, I find most intriguing!” said the eccentric stranger raising his cane in the air meaningfully.

Obviously this modicum of conversation had made a stunning impact on the stranger, who now looked back toward the city and the lighted windows at the bottom of the hill with a worried and fearful look as though utterly afraid of seeing an Atheist or Irenicist lurking behind each and every one.

“He’s not senile,” thought Milosz P. “Though he may well be a lunatic!”

“What I want to know is where his accents gone too?” thought Kreis. For it was true, with the shake of Milosz P.’s hand the stranger’s thick accent had completely vanished.

“But might I ask,” said the stranger after a brief contemplative pause, “Exactly how you account for certain, oh, how shall we say… more solidified…assertions… of the existence of the Devil… as… for example, the Dollar bill? Which, as we all know, has written on it the words “In God We Trust”! And we all know to believe in God is to avow the Devil, ’tis a two sided coin! Now gentlemen, you’d be hard pressed in this day and age to find a man who doesn’t believe in the ol’ Dollar bill. Never mind their mouths of course, it’s action that speaks proverbially louder! And we all know what the wonders of money can do!”

“It can’t bring back the dead,” said Milosz P.

“Quite true, quite true!” laughed the excited stranger. “But my dear Milosz, as you know, Dostoyevsky once said, So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone, or something to worship. But man seeks to worship what is established beyond dispute, so that all men would agree at once to worship it.”

“In the eyes of the blind,” muttered Milosz P., beginning to wonder how the stranger knew his name.

Touché!” exclaimed the stranger. “Touché! Exactament! Let the blind lead the blind! Let the dead bury the dead! But here’s the rub…” snickered the stranger, lowering his voice to a whisper. He leaned delicately forward. “In our day machines produce the money and man produces the machines right? Production is based on economic law and economic law, as a subset of the Law itself, is made by man. How then, does man come to make such things? On the outside it might seem by force or, perhaps, to some degree, by consensus. But on the inside my dear friends, is it not the hollow universal voice of the imperative that speaks on mans behalf? The primum philosophicum of intuition and instinct echo eternally inside men’s cranium! Like the sound of the Holy See you see Milosz and Harvey, if there is any question the answer is quite simple… Since time immemorial the officialdom of thought has been predicated upon a system of analytics, Aristotle and Confucius helped set it in motion but it took the immortal René Descartes to lay it bare. Cogito, ergo sum, he said, a splendid trinity! The primum philosophicum was the basic triangle of thought, a most wondrous community of the temporal, mind, body and soul?… From there, logical analysis, you see, separated the whole into its proper parts. But here’s the rub, haha, which came first, tehehe the chicken hehe or the egg? And what about the bloody rooster! Descartes did admit that it was an angel that descended to him in a dream- while sleeping in an oven- that delivered the good news of this holy system, which, to this day, is repeatedly cast into the stone, steel, silicon and teeth! of our all devouring political-economic-legal machine.

And the bread and wine of this Holy Human system? Its great cause celebré? It’s agent par excellancé? Why none other than the almighty lord himself, Money! With out it there’s nothing to think from, no learning, no books, no first causes…at least not anymore…Even the great Copernicus- the very man who placed the sun at the center of your universe- was working for the Polish King Sigismund at the time in pursuit of…hahaha… monetary reform! That thing about bad money driving out good I think… They later called the principle Gresham’s Law, but it dates to at least Aristophanes, as far as I remember telling him. Strange how it all goes round. But where, my dear friends, did that pesky angel come from? Remember, some one or some thing made the machine that makes the Dollars, not to mention drew the lines that divide the whole into its proper parts!”

“Try and deify money as you may,” Milosz P. stated flatly. “The facts remain the same, money, as an entity, is inert and neutral. If you consider the existentialists, from Nietzsche to Kafka to Camus, you would see that God exists only as an absence, as an impossibility, as a lack. We all know money is everywhere. To obtain it, well…that’s a different story, I mean what one must do in the process.”

Milosz P. taped his fingers on his chin for a moment before continuing, “If you’re so interested in Dostoyevsky take for example Raskolnikov. He wanted nothing more than to be alone, to be just, he understood the evil of society, its nexus, money, and he despised it. For heavens sake who did he kill other than an old worthless, parasitic moneylender? Then there was the biblical maxim, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, what did Raskolnikov do? He tossed the purse he stole under a stone and spent the money his mother gave him on another mans funeral! What could be more apt? His primum philosophicum was the depravity of hatred, suffering, self-pity. He murdered an idea, not a person! And what was he searching for in this terrible act? The idea itself! Purity! For redemption through the flames of the incalculable misery he caused himself and others. Incalculable, that’s his innocence! And why? Because secretly, he believed in salvation! In the infinite!

“Demented isn’t it? Look around, money is the manna of the Capitalist machine. All that it can buy is the perfect displacement of this self same longing for salvation. Flags on infinity’s path perhaps? Remember Indulgences? Deus ex machina right?

“Furthermore the death of God allows us the privilege to see the blatant, hegemonic and self-indulgent lie that is the Lord Money! It’s about as secure as sand is from the wind; no one’s ever said that the wind will save us! That it’s some categorical imperative. It comes and goes as it pleases and most of us barely notice. It’s the absence of just such an imperative that is the corpse of God that surrounds us!”

Milosz P. knew he was lecturing but this was of no concern for all the while he was thinking over and over to himself in a back corner of his brain, “What a loon! Where did he come from? And how in Hell does he know my name!”

“Kafka was sexually frustrated and it’s hard to say who needed to be fucked worse, him or Nietzsche! A solid week in a brothel for those bastards and the world would have been saved,” barked Kreis, remembering his empty pockets and growing terribly impatient with Milosz P.

“Harvey!” whispered Milosz P. with embarrassment. “Watch your tongue, you’re speaking like a pubescent baboon!” Milosz P. turned back to the stranger and felt a chill run down his spine. “My apologies for my brash young friend…”

The suggestion to ship Kafka and Nietzsche off to a brothel far from offended the stranger, in fact, it delighted him. “Oh! How wonderful!” he exclaimed. “Yes, yes, yes the world would be a much better place if only our great writers, philosophers and religious leaders had a good shag on a regular basis! Your quite right there Harvey Kreis, quite right indeed! In fact I said the very same thing, to both of them, at various times, in their bedrooms, didn’t I? You know Herr Doktor, as he sipped his Becherovka and coffee I said, life’s not as bad as you make it out to be, what’s all this longing for death? This fascination with pain and the grotesque? These dreams of kabalistic nonsense! You just need to get out more, seduce a few women, shoot your wad! I said nearly the same thing to that old fart Nietzsche, I did, Herr Professor, really, you’ve so much anger, such rage, oughtn’t you give up on that miserable wench whose always playing hard to get? Step out with a few peasant girls, slip into the town pub now and again, it would put your mind at ease, wouldn’t it!”

Milosz P.’s was flabbergasted. “What in heaven’s name is he talking about, in the bedroom of Kafka, of Nietzsche?”

“But,” continued the stranger, taking no note of Milosz P.’s astonishment, “It is simply out of the question. For quite some time they’ve both been far too preoccupied counting the grains of sand on a beach outside Dubrovnik. I can thoroughly assure you it’s strictly forbidden to disturb either of them, even for a moment.”

“What a shame,” said the impetuous artist.

“It is a shame,” agreed the stranger, his clear blue-green eye shinning in the darkness of the descending night. “Especially in light of the shelling. But there’s one thing that still bothers me, if there’s no need for the Devil because God is dead then who, one might wonder, orders human affairs? With all this pettiness and murderous lust flying about, who or what keeps humanity from simply exploding in a spontaneous orgy of gore?”

“Man orders his own affairs and restrains himself,” replied Milosz P. with impatience.

“I beg your pardon,” retorted the stranger who then placed a finger on his chin before continuing. “But are you not the same Milosz P. who so often heralds atheistic humanism while on selective days you scurry off to the synagogue to kneel before a God you don’t even believe in? Are you not the same Milosz P. who, at a moments notice, will extol the hideous and exploitative excesses of capitol with fire and brimstone while thinking of your stock certificates in the bank? Are you not the same Milosz P. who revels in his own speech about writers and artists but who is actually no more than a dilettante? Are you not the same Milosz P. who stamps his critical feet in the name of Artistic freedom while you live off the creations, innovation and work of others? Are you not the same Milosz P. who cares far more for prestige and social position than the enigma of aesthetics? Personally I find it a bit absurd to assert that man orders his own affairs and restrains himself. Isn’t it a rather ludicrous assertion to believe man orders the world when he can’t even say where he’ll be tomorrow? How can man even begin to think he orders the world when he can’t even make a danger sign that would out last the radioactive half-life of plutonium, let alone be certain about the weather?”

“Just think of it,” the stranger continued with a giggle. “What if you made plans to organize an exhibition for the 21st Century, a grand opening of a new movement to run simultaneously in New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Rome, Prague! You would have academies around the world on the edge of their seats in anticipation, legions of critics frothing at the mouth, newspaper men gnashing at the bit, even the networks all aquiver! It’s an event more explosive than the Armory show, a revolution to show the world a new Art, an Art saved from baseness and corruption, an Art freed from parasitism, patronage and petty ego, but the night before the great unveiling of your plans you up and die of, oh, I don’t know…say, consumption?” With this concoction the stranger seemed exceptionally pleased. “What would happen then? You’re interested in no one but yourself of course. So much for your great ambition. So much for the revolution. So much for success and infamy! So much for your ego! So what do you do? Your family isn’t the least bit of help, there happy to see you dead. So then you panic, you must tell someone of your great plan. You run from door to door, to a doctor, a lawyer, a rabbi, a shaman, a magician, a hypnotist, a priest! They’re each as useless as the next. Let’s face it you’re dead as a doornail and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. It’s all ended terribly. A tragedy of sorts. The body of the greatest Arts organizer of the 21st Century lies dead in a cold wooden box. They’ve as little idea of what to do with you as with each other. So into the incinerator you go!” said the stranger, his face lighting up in a uniquely hideous smile, his eyes twinkling merrily.

“Oh, but that’s so obtuse, lets look a little closer to home shall we… say…” here the stranger removed his tortoise shell spectacles and gave a piercing look to Milosz P. “Say a man decides to go to a metro station, like… Anděl, for example, because he needs to get across town to meet a woman, nothing out of the ordinary, right? Well, while he’s waiting, and for no reason at all really, he slips, falls onto the electric third rail, is fried to the point of paralysis and then, to compound the horror of the spectators, an instant later, is splattered all over the place by the on coming train! Are you going to intimate that he did all that by himself? Wouldn’t it be more plausible, for he wasn’t in the least suicidal, in fact, he even may have considered life sacred, that something perhaps of a higher order was at work?” With this the stranger tapped his cane on the ground and burst into an exalted roar of laughter, the wind screamed through the barren trees and a thousand brittle leaves or more were swirled up to dance down the path into the darkness.

Milosz P. had been following the story with great attentiveness his eyes wide with wonder all the while thinking, “He’s coherent enough and he’s dressed too well to have escaped from the asylum. Who the Hell is he?”

The sordid crescendo of the wind howled madly amid the scraping flutter of the leaves and then trailed off suddenly, as, seemingly out of nowhere, a great and rancorous commotion sounded down the hillside through the barren trees. Milosz P. jerked and looked quickly over his shoulder. There was much laughter, crying, howls, shrieks and moans, the rattling sound of a wooden cart, the braying of a pony, and slowly a mirthful dirge rose invisible from out of the woods around the bench. The sound of wooden flutes and drums, bone scrapes and gourd rattles wound rhythmically through the night air and in through the ears of Milosz P.

From out of the wood, up the hillside behind the bench, people with pale, ghastly faces could be seen, men and women in night shirts and striped bed clothes, around their waists hung twisted spoons, swaying hammers and scissors, rattling tin cow bells and knotted clumps of fur. Upon their heads were leather caps ornamented with pieces of seashell, their hair was ratted and caked in white mud and their skin glowed a spectral and luminescent blue. They moved among the trees with reckless abandon, hunched over, necks careening as wide eyed they scanned the trees, branches and dark belly of the sky. It was as if they were searching for something. Something lost and sacred. Something forbidden. Searching for something they hoped not to find.

Milosz P., his face suddenly rigid and gaunt, had not the time to discern what exactly was happening before an old man with a dimly flickering green railroad lantern stepped over the back of the bench beside him, the lantern high above his head, his watery eyes filled with fear and worry. Turning over his shoulder and somewhat out of his mind Milosz P. hollered, “What’s the meaning of this! What the hell’s going on? You Sir what is all this?” He attempted to stand but found himself paralyzed by fear.

The bizarre man stepped down from the bench, looked right through Milosz P. to stare with swollen eyes up the path as out of the darkness a small bronze Shetland pony painted with white spots pulled an old wooden ox cart beside which six girls slowly emerged from the surrounding darkness; their glowing blue naked bodies tattooed with deer and frogs, monkeys, fish and elaborate geometrical designs; draped in flowers, holding clumps of brightly colored feathers and rolling their heads from side to side in crazed, rhythmic circles as they walked. The ox cart, lit by some unseen source, was filled with jaguar skins, small wooden barrels and a pile of phosphorescent sun bleached bones.

“Oh Mot,” cried the old man raising the lantern high again as the painted pony, rattling cart and tattooed girls passed in front of the astonished and speechless Milosz P.

“Mot,” he whispered softly as he gazed into the dark twisted branches of the naked trees and swung the dimly lit lantern above his head.

“Tell us you’re ransom! Lord, we have jade beads and maize! Please Mot, return to us our beloved Baal! Mot, open your gates!” he curdled as the sound of flutes and drums slowly faded and he, the flickering railway lantern, painted pony, rattling cart and tattooed girls at once began to swirl across the eyes of Milosz P., swirling into a single flash of light like the momentary luminescence of a firefly before disappearing completely into the frigid night air.

“What the Hell is going on?” screamed Milosz P. turning abruptly to Kreis who sat still as stone.

“Just another abduction,” replied the stranger jovially. “It seems old Mot, that little prick who calls himself the god of dissolution and death, has pulled a fast one…again. Oh! the tedium, happens every year…”

“What?” shouted Milosz P. thoroughly panicked. “What did you say?”

“Did you say something Pookie?” asked Kreis as he leaned timidly forward.

Milosz P. had been staring into the trees for a long time, his lips trembling.

“What the Hell do you mean did I say something? And who the hell is Mot?”

“You’ve been sitting there silent for a good few minutes, I suppose, pondering who orders the world, and then I thought you mumbled something,” said Kreis.

“But didn’t you just say…” sputtered Milosz P., thoroughly confused and frightened, turning to meet the eyes of the stranger.

“Look Pookie,” said a mildly irritated Kreis. “Your the one who’s been doing all the fuckin’ talking, then you lapse into a momentary coma when you don’t have a come-back for who orders the world.”

Milosz P. was now definitely not feeling well. He looked wildly around at the deserted hillside. He removed his fedora. He scratched his head. He then sat back hard on the bench. Fighting a certain resistance slowly he raised his eyes to encounter a renewed and ever more forceful thrust of terror at the smile of the standing stranger.






Pained and in need of distraction Milosz P. made up his mind. “Mot be damned!” he thought, “So perhaps I’ve a bit of a fever…nevertheless… man is not omnipotent, true, but I shall put this freak in his place with the fact that that is…”

But before he had time to say the words, the stranger stated aptly, “So… man is not omnipotent it is true but that is only a small part of the equation. The problem is that this fact only occurs to him at the most inopportune of times. In fact it is only through luck or good fortune that man can even say what he will be doing that very same evening.”

What an imbecilic statement, thought Milosz P. who put a hand to his forehead and then cleared his throat to speak.

“Now there, sir, you grossly exaggerate. I know with almost absolute certainty what I will be doing this evening, given of course I’m not struck dead by an airplane falling out of the sky.”

“That form of wishful thinking is beside the point,” said the stranger bluntly. “Airplanes only very rarely fall from the sky and never land on anyone’s head who is out of doors, unless they’re children. Your death, I assure you, will be quite different.”

Milosz P. burst out in laughter, struggled to contain himself and then, with all the sarcasm he could muster said, “And I suppose you know exactly how I’m going to die?” The conversation had taken a ridiculous turn and Milosz P. was beginning to find himself amused.

Mais bien sur!” rejoined the stranger.

“Oh!… Please!… Do tell,” said Milosz P. coquettishly with a slight turn of his head and batting of his eyes.

The stranger looked Milosz P. up and down and then up and down again as if selecting a piece of meat from the butcher’s. He pulled a small leather bound book from out of his jacket pocket, a small pencil stub, licked it. He appeared to be doing some sort of calculation. He muttered under his breath, “Jupiter retrograde in the sign of the crab, moon waxing…yes, that’s it, sixth prayer mourning, morning, evening, yes, seven, shadow of night, light wind cried, room 11 no 12, yes, that’s it, precisely-excellent!” The stranger closed the book and replaced it along with the pencil in his jacket pocket. He looked Milosz P. straight in the eye and said cheerfully with an unassuming smile, “You’ll be… dismembered!”

“What?!?” screamed Milosz P. “Impossible! By whom? How?”

“Oh,” replied the stranger raising his eyes toward heaven as if exacerbated by the ignorance of the question. He sighed, “By a woman, of course.”

Milosz P. winced. He shuddered rapaciously. He felt his left cheek begin to twitch. He narrowed his eyes. Notably unamused by the strangers little joke he replied, “That’s highly improbable if not impossible.”

“Pardon?” said the stranger, his thick accent suddenly returning. “Niet, I doont zeenk zo. Yooz vill feend no repreeve. Und bee n bee it vill coom to paz.

Ut eeeny vate, uf yooz doont meeend me azking, vat, exakteeely ave yooz planid fur deeez evegan-egg?”

“Why I’m going from here to meet Katya and then to the GC for two pints of beer after which I’ve to go straight back to the Burnt Spoon office, where I’m needed through out the night.”

“I’m afraid that’s impossible,” said the stranger curtly, his accent again vanishing.

“How can you say that?” said the affronted publisher.

“Because,” said the stranger gazing up to the sky again where the wind ravished clouds gathered darkly and began to eclipse the few remaining stars. The temperature was dropping rapidly. “Allison has already bought the jar of jam. And yes, the maintenance strike is over and the escalators are working,” said the stranger with notable indifference. “The meeting with Katya will not take place. A shame too, she’s such a pretty young thing.”

With this, as it might be imagined, due to the level of incredulity and astonishment, there was a long silence on the hillside park.

“Excuse me,” said Milosz P. abruptly. “But what on earth does a jar of jam have to do with anything… and who the Hell is… is Allison?”

“I’ll tell you what a jelly jar has to do with it,” sputtered Kreis. “Listen mate,” he said to the stranger. “Have you ever severely abused hallucinogens or been diagnosed with schizophrenia?”

“Harvey!” whispered Milosz P.

But the stranger was not in the least offended, in fact he offered up a broad smile and pleasant laugh. “Yes, yes, of course. But what haven’t I done or, for that matter, been diagnosed as…hummm, let’s see, not much comes to mind when you think about it. My only regret really, is, is that I never, never, spit, at least not anymore. Honestly Harvey, in modesty I state the truth.”

“Then who told you my name!” demanded Kreis with an insolent and angry glare.

“Why my dear Harvey Kreis, who doesn’t know your name?” The stranger gave the ground another light tap with his cane and faintly the leaves rustled. “It’s all over Prague I assure you.” With this the stranger pulled from his coat pocket a neatly folded copy of last weeks newspaper, with a shake of his hand unfolded it, and showed Kreis his name in print beside a headline reading: Why Leeches Are The Wrong Medicine “It seems your vehemence is quite the talk of the town. Only hours ago I heard your name used most slanderously outside the offices of the Prager Zietung.”

Suddenly, what had delighted Kreis as a final stroke and letter of resignation to Prognosis now filled him with a profound sense of misery and disgust.

“I beg your pardon,” said Kreis apologetically. “But I would like a word alone with my friend here, if you please…”

Mon plesieure!” said the stranger. “Oh mon plesieure! It’s so wonderful to be out here in the open away from the stench of the tomb that fills the crowded city, and how I do love the star spangled nights sky! Never worry, I’m in no hurry at all.” With this the stranger strolled over to the far edge of the path and leaned against a tree, his back turned to our friends and his eyes cast toward the darkness of heaven.

“Listen up Pookie,” whispered the artist. “This man’s obviously insane. For all we know he escaped from the asylum at Bohnice. He’s playing games with us. He could be dangerous. I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell him I’ve to go meet some friends in the garret of the Hunger Wall and head off that way and that, that I’ll bring them back here since the conversation is so interesting, right? Then you tell him you have to go back to the office and to wait here for me and you head off that way and then I’ll meet you at the bottom of the hill, okay?”

“Do you think it’ll work?” said Milosz P., a quivering anxiety creeping into his voice. “Yes, yes, he’s right,” he was thinking as he grasped Kreis’ forearm firmly and then let go.

“This is a serious matter Pookie, people like this can be extremely volatile. You heard how his accent comes and goes. It’s a charade I tell you, he’s either a con man or a lunatic and there’s no telling what he’ll do next. We really gotta get away from this guy.”

“All right,” whispered Milosz P. as he sat back hard against the cold iron of the bench.

In a few moments the stranger returned. He sat down on the next bench and carefully placed his cane across his lap. He then casually leaned toward Milosz P. In his withered hand he held a thin envelope beneath a small calling card. “Please, do forgive me gentlemen, but I was so taken up by our discussion that I forgot my manners. Let me introduce myself. H.D.E. Blis, is the name. May I present to you my calling card and a letter of invitation to attend the up coming Festival of Light?” He extended a small gold business card and the envelope.

Our two friends were embarrassed.

Milosz P. blushed thinking, “He must have over heard us.” With a broad sweep of his hand he gestured that there was no need to exhibit the documents.

As the stranger slowly retracted his arm Kreis managed to catch a glimpse of the golden card in the faint starlight. It was ornamented with High German lettering and Arabesques and the only thing Kreis could clearly distinguish was the title Doktor in front of a name reading E. Blis.

“Well,” muttered Milosz P. awkwardly as he extended his hand, Milosz P., Publisher and may I formally introduce my colleague, the itinerant eccentric Harvey Kreis.”

“Pleased to meet you,” replied the stranger generously, returning the envelope and calling card to the same pocket from which earlier he had produced the small leather bound book, pencil stub and newspaper. By drawing out the process he managed to avoid Milosz P.’s hand, which was withdrawn unfulfilled after a few empty moments.

Relations having been, at least to some degree, reestablished, all three sat back on the benches and looked out over the lights of the city visible through the trees.

“So then you’ve been invited here to participate in the Festival of Light, at the end of next week isn’t it, in the old Stalin space, oh what do they call it now, the Totalitarian Zone, on Letenská plan?”

“Absolutely correct.”

“And you’re from…?”

“No place you’ve been… yet.”

“Seeing as you’re here for the Festival of Light, what medium do you work in?” asked Milosz P. with a rather intent curiosity.

“Flesh.” was the Doktor’s curt reply.

“Jesus Christ!” shouted Kreis in disbelief.

“Precisely,” said Herr Doktor.

“And I suppose you’ve been invited here, to the Festival of Light, to exhibit your work in, in, in flesh!”

“Admittedly, I may have ulterior motives for coming. You see… recently a number of events have transpired that have led me to believe that I might be able to find… well, a number of works in which I have a keen interest.”

“Ah!” gasped Milosz P. in a tone of considerable relief and mounting respect. “So you’re a collector are you, some sort of historian?”

“I am more than a man of wealth and taste gentlemen. The truth is, I am the most comprehensive collector on the planet and its greatest historian.”

At the sheer audacity of this statement both the artist and publisher were again silenced.

Beckoning them a little closer the Doktor whispered, “The Devil’s alive you know, just take another look at the figure on the cross.”

“Now look,” said Milosz P. with feigned respect and a forced smile. “With all respect to your, well your studies, or whatever you call them, well, your wrong, the Devil simply doesn’t exist… you see having been part of an elaborate set of beliefs the lords of ol…”

“It’s not a question of right or wrong,” interrupted the Doktor. “He’s alive and well, and there’s much, much more too it than that!”

“But- how- can- you- even say such nonsense?” replied Milosz P. thrusting his jaw forward and his eye brows up.

“I can say much more than that my friend… in fact,” said the stranger after a subtly exaggerated contemplative pause, his outstretched finger on the tip of his chin, his head cocked to one side, his queer smile seeming slowly to stretch to the corners of his slightly watery eyes, “Since I’m in the mood, on such a lovely evening, in such a lovely place, in the name of some old and honored friends, I even think I’ll tell you, at least a part, the right part, the best part, lucky you, of the whole story…”

“What story?” asked Kreis with a certain urgency in his voice.

“Why the story of how it came to pass that the devil, the very devil you so adamantly insist doesn’t exist, was crucified in Christ’s place!”

With that he looked down for a moment, closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, opened his hands in his lap together with his eyes and in a hushed voice he began, as if reading from a book, “Shortly before sunrise on the fifteenth day of the month of Sextilis, Pontifex Maximus, the Emperor C. Octavius Caesar Augustus, in a lavender cloak lined with the purest white silk…”





“Shortly before sunrise on the fifteenth day of the month of Sextilis, Pontifex Maximus, the Emperor C. Octavius Caesar Augustus, in a lavender cloak lined with the purist white silk, emerged with his sturdy and always elegant stride into the small garden beside the Temple of Apollo adjoining the House of Livia, his third wife.

More than anything else in the world, the Pontifex hated this hour of the morning. He was a chronic insomniac, perennially unable to find the slightest hint of rest on the lavish couch in the study where he adjourned after the main meal. Night after night, breathing heavily and with difficulty, rapt in dread, he would twist and turn in the same fitful and artless nocturnal dance, repeatedly stung by the bitter kinship of apprehension and dis-ease.

All the while, haunted by his own imagination, in the torrid and flickering amber light of his minds eye, the shabby, disheveled citizens of Rome would march in somber procession through the walls of his room only to vanish again, transformed, each according to their kind, into the anachronistic stones of the sprawling and dilapidated city that stretched out beneath the Palatine… but not before each and every one of them would pause to break their stone atop his head.

Worse still he was prodded by the barbaric shadows that pierced the uncertainties of his soul, mortally pained by the grave and rancorous discontent that seemed to fester in the Senate, and this burden pressed upon him as if the weight itself was no less than that of all the gold in Rome. With the resounding tumultuousness of these thoughts writhing in his mind, he would struggle in vain to reach the bosom of Somnus and curl featly upon the green satin couch, whence he would whimper, moan and clutch at the Egyptian cloth that covered him, if only to rise again and again through out the night, until, no longer able to bear the torment, he would pace, naked and shivering in the pre-dawn cold, out across the room.

Twilight lingered over the Eastern sky past the Coliseum and beyond, fighting with the remnants of a defeated night before acquiescing to the first rays of the newborn sun.

Augustus stepped through the arch at the base of the stair well and cast a wry and scornful glance to the blue-black vault of the heavens directly overhead. It seemed to the Pontifex that every fading star in the sky twinkled in mockery of him and him alone. The tranquility of their insolence made him no less vexed, so that with brooding eyes and a curse upon his lips he began to raise his fist, only to catch himself, desiring not to increase the hubris born of his disdain. Instead he choose to look out over the glory of the Capitol, the endless, sprawling stone corpse of Rome and laboriously closed his eyes once again in hopes that it would all disappear.

A haze drifted over the Eastern sky and seemed to obscure the horizon in the ill fated light of that impending dawn, the same haze that hung over the city dawn after dawn and refused in malicious silence to mask the remaining stars whose light rained faintly down upon the Emperors balding head.

“What in the name of Apollo…” uttered the Pontifex to the early morning silence, “…could have sent me such torment?” Augustus collapsed into an ornate wooden chair beside a still sleeping bed of tulips. “Have I not held the fire of the Gods in my own hands? Yet I am haunted by such inalienable anguish. Jove, Jove how long has it been? I’ve given my life for the glory of this Empire. Is it not enough then? Yet the sweet civility of sleep evades me, yet the Gods turn their eyes from the simple longing of my heart. When, oh when, will rest at last touch this tortured soul?” The Pontifex gazed in the direction of the enormous and rearing equestrian statues that rose in silhouette from out beyond the far garden wall, the veined marble skin of which seemed to glow a pale iridescent blue in the early morning darkness.

“Whether this body is a mausoleum or simple grave, another dawn approaches and another night I have lost,” he continued. The Emperor watched as the statues appeared to sprout eagles’ wings then slowly turned toward him, enraged nostrils flaring, gigantic wings beating a cryptic rhythm upon the air.

“Again time’s arrow flies to hit its target, and again I am pierced by the shattered victory of the vanquished…”  With this the statues leapt toward him and dissolved irreparably into the sour, impalpable air.

The corners of his mouth were turned sharply toward the earth and his hand rubbed his deeply furrowed brow as he whispered for the thousandth time, “Even my dreams of dreams deny me so much as a tear of rest. Were my eyes sewn shut, then, still…” He was breathing heavily in deep forced breaths that provided no relief and in distraction ran his fingers across the smooth wood of the beveled lion’s head beneath his palm and pressed hard to feel the carved teeth on the tips of his fingers. In the cold stillness he trembled, his mind raced and his thoughts burned. Inescapably he knew that soon he would have to rise from his chair and with his sturdy, elegant step, descend into the city to enter the Circus Maximus. “A Carnival of fools,” as the Emperor liked to call it. There he would take his throne among the Consuls and Senators and lead again the vows to Almighty Rome, solemnly, word after onerous word, to initiate the day’s games. Then there would be the speeches, those wretched, tedious, long winded speeches, filled with little more solace than the sands of a far away desert.

Less than an hour later, the sun having risen full above the haze that obscured the line of the horizon, Augustus heard the sound of approaching footsteps. The servants had not yet come with his sandals and wine, the “insolent apes”. The caress of uneasiness ran his spine.

Someone was watching him or so he thought and yet he was certain, certain enough to cry out…”Who in the name of God stands before me!” The Emperor felt his upper lip twitch with unwavering irritation. A desperate hope filled him. Perhaps time had escaped him and he had somehow slept and this was actually his ill-timed summons to the necessity of day. “I’ll crush their throat in my hands,” he thought, his blood beginning to boil. “But that’s impossible, impossible, if for but an instants taste of the sweet lips of oblivion…” The Emperor interlaced his bony fingers and pressed them hard into the bald flesh of his skull. Momentarily, almost innocently, his toes traced a naked figure in the dust. Still, he was acutely aware of being watched, “it must have come again, the time,” he thought as a wave of quivering indignation swept over him. If there is one thing that the Emperor could not now stomach it was the thought that the needs of the Empire were creeping ineluctably toward him, destroying with an ever deft and more forceful hand even the possibility of the possibility of rest.

It was then that he first noticed the silence. A sordid, viscous and inexorably suffocating silence that enveloped his garden. The pedals of the white and red roses, the African violets, tulips and the morning-glory’s froze mid step in the clandestine spectacle of their unfolding. The knotted branches of the cypress trees, the juniper and acacia ceased to gently brush the warming belly of the sky.

“The impetuous fool will die for this,” thought the Pontifex as he rolled his eyes up to the right along the narrow path.

Two feet, supple and delicate yet with obscenely long yellow toenails, rested motionless in the dust less than a meter away.

“How in Pluto’s Kingdom did… ?” Augustus’ thoughts trailed off in agitation.

“Imperator,” whispered the lightless hissing voice. “Do we not have a little debt to settle?”

Augustus felt his flesh turn to sand. His heart beat with the unbridled force of a tempest. His mouth went dry. All of the plaguing thoughts of his sleepless mind seemed to evaporate into the air. His skull began to cave in around the soft fleshy lobes of his warm mind. An inextricable pain surged through every capillary of his limp body with the power of white-hot bronze.

Augustus was motionless and utterly silent for a moment as he felt wave after wave of malaise crash upon the soft tissue of his internal organs, and then said quietly, “Do I know you? I do know you…”

“You do remember, don’t you, Imperator?” hissed the visitor. “An hour after dawn, if I’m not mistaken?”

Just then a ray of sunlight leapt over the far wall of the garden, slid down the open space and illuminated the white marble and gold architrave’s of the Eastern wall of the House of Augustus in a brilliant while light, casting a shadow of the Pontifex in his chair in a distorted half smear between the base of the wall and the flower beds behind him. The visitor cast no shadow at all.

“Why do you not raise your head, Imperator, will you not rise to greet me?” said the visitor in a tone so alien, a tone so familiar, that it sent the Pontifexs’ head reeling in horror. “Have I not given all that I promised?”

At that moment one could hear the sound of footsteps descending the stairs of the House of Augustus. The Pontifex felt a wave of temporal relief sweep over his body. He raised his head and narrowed his eyes. Almighty Rome had not failed him.

“No, I will not rise to greet you, you maggot.” he said struggling to calm the convulsions of his heart. He fixed the turbulent blue of his eyes full on the hideous face of the visitor. Yet, among the shadows of an immaculate white cloak, there was no face to behold.

Augustus raised both his hands in the air, held them a moment and then clapped thrice. As the echo from his hands faded the sound of a hundred leather greaves on marble echoed up from the palazzo in the crisp early morning air in reply. In less than a second two files of infantrymen appeared on the edge of the palazzo that paralleled the north-east wall of the Temple of Apollo across from the House of Livia, the south-eastern wall of which, still immersed in the blue gray shadows of morning, stood cattycorner behind the chair of Augustus across a narrow garden path.

The first column, Unit XXIII of the Praetorian Guard, known commonly as the Vultures, deployed in a half circle at the North and North-east ends of the garden.

“Excellent,” thought the Emperor, “How flawless.” His shallowness of breath incited a number of sharp coughs as his eyes widened to inspect the fifty Guardsmen. “Such vibrant youth my legions,” he noted not with out satisfaction as he squinted his left eye to better scrutinize the facial features of a ruddy cheeked man with nacre skin, a protruding lower lip touched with a bit of moisture and the same distant and melancholy ruthlessness that he fancied could be read from his eyes at that age. The soldiers bronze cuirass, which like the others was polished to perfection, reflected the colors and forms of the garden opaquely and revealed in its enormity the strength and will of the legionnaire, who now stood supporting it, glimmering sword drawn.

For an instant, while gazing at the soldiers, the Emperor found a scant moment of refuge, like the sweet taste of a long lost sentiment, sentiment painted blue on the wings of a memory floating away in the sky, floating away until it was gone. The Emperor turned back to the visitor, but he too, was gone.

More leather soles on marble and a second column, Unit XV of the Praetorian Guard, comprised of thirty men, their bronze helmets topped with a single row of speckled white ostrich quills where the Vultures used the black feathers of the raven, filed past Augustus and swung around behind him to cut off the path ways between the House of Augustus and the House of Livia and the House of Livia and the Temple of Apollo, effectively sealing off the garden. The commanding officer who had situated himself at the end of the second column so as to stand nearest the Emperor and closest to the stair well of the House of Augustus was none other than the Praetorian Prefect, M. Valerius Messalla, childhood friend of Augustus and sole surviving justus equitatus of the battle of Teutoburger Wald north of the River Lippe. Messalla, his bronze helmet tucked safely under the immensity of one arm, his long curly black hair teased by the faint breeze, his bronze cuirass draped around the neck and shoulders with golden braids and tassels, exuded the confidence and strength of a seasoned officer as he approached the Emperor.

“Good morning your Eminence,” said Messalla with a stiff salute, “The prisoners are on their way in the company of cavalry.”

With a second salute Messalla signaled to the bright, mauvish terra-cotta framed upper windows of the House of Augustus which were now flooded with sun light. Within moments the first table was carried out from the Room of Masks. A dozen servants, apparently of Persian descent and wrapped in dark cloth, carried the small mahogany desk with ivory lion’s paws for legs around the corner from the first floor entrance to the House of Augustus. A number of stiff Praetorians pushed themselves up against the walls or politely stepped aside that they might get by and the desk was then placed before the Emperor along with a horse skin blotter, an ink well, ostrich quill, papyrus, and a golden goblet inlayed with tiny sapphire, emerald and mother of pearl in mosaic, depicting the muses: Clio, Euterpe, Melpomene, Erato and Calliopea seated atop Caesar’s Tomb and receiving kisses blown by winged Genii. The taller of two servants poured the Emperors wine from a yellow and green ceramic urn. The shorter bent down under the table and fitted the Emperor with his thick-soled sandals.

No sooner was this done than a half-dozen or more servants arrived carrying a small round table of white oak which was placed just behind the Emperor to the right and partially off the path.

“Do you expect me to sit among the flowers?” said a stout man with white mangy hair that stuck up in matted tufts, an elongated and etched brow and deep set cloudy eyes as he stepped from the stair well of the House of Augustus, the red and gold embroidered animals on his tunic glimmering momentarily in the sun light. “There is nothing wrong with my ears, I still hear fine, put it a little farther away where the shade lasts longer.”

“Morning Sebastian,” said the Emperor dryly to his secretary, still profoundly distracted by what he now chalked up to a hallucination. “Insomnia is clouding my mind,” thought the Emperor, irritated if not a bit angry at himself. With out turning his head the Emperor said, “I suppose, as always, there is more inanity to tend to?”

“The scorpion has partly set your Eminence, today is Fasti, the Ides of Sextilis and I’m sure you will find the cases of interest.”

By this time the secretary Sebastian was seated in an ivory chair, eyed peacock quill in hand and was slouched over busily sorting the armful of papyrus the servants had let loose atop the table.

“Yes your Eminence, and the celebration of Mars, the festival races at Circus Maximus, I believe the patrician Tantellus is presiding, yes, Tantellus I think…, yes, I have it here somewhere, ah, here it is!” Sebastian hunched over further and tapped the papyrus impatiently with his forefinger. “Yes, yes, here it is, yes. And here, here, first on the docket, a serious offense, it is an intriguing case your Eminence, sent here by a defacto decree of the full Senate.” The secretary carefully removed his ring, inked it, rolled it across the papyrus and then thrust out the document with out looking up to one of the servants who brought it to the Emperor. With reluctant acceptance the Emperor held out his hand to receive the indictment. Sebastian’s eyes darted up to ensure the indictment was received and then froze for a moment. “Your Eminence, if I may be so bold,” said Sebastian with a note of timidity but enough confidence to reveal a certain level of privileged intimacy in his relationship with the Pontifex Maximus, “Your Eminence, I understand how the heat affects you,” he said cupping his mouth and beginning to whisper, “but don’t you think it might be appropriate for someone of your position to wear something a little more formal than your cloak and sandals, perhaps the Royal Crown or at least a laurel?”

“Treason,” said the Emperor raising an eyebrow before placing the papyrus on the table, completely ignoring the scribe’s last remark, “And again those bamboozlers in the Senate have failed to pass sentence?”

“The severity of the offense and the complexity of the matter convinced them to remit judgment until you have confirmed.” The secretary scratched at the back of his ear with the peacock quill and then studied the large gold rings on his writing hand. He had long grown accustomed to the Emperors invective but “bamboozlers” made him wonder about the soundness of the Emperors mind.

The thought of this severely angered the Pontifex. Once again those malevolent swine in the Senate had defaulted to him, unduly complicating his day with petty treason. For a moment he considered dispatching the matter, perhaps inappropriately, with a simple writ of execution, but that, he reasoned, would only expedite the process and do nothing to relieve the onerous burden of the day. Just as he parted his lips to speak of this to Sebastian, a strange vision flashed across his mind.

In the mirrored surface of his wine he saw a thin, naked figure gently waving a small opalesque fan in an otherwise empty chamber. His eyes felt heavy, a dove fluttered about the vaulted ceiling like a moth near a flame. Finally it took to roost upside down from the center of the ceiling. As the chamber grew lighter, the dove grew darker. A single one of its feathers fell, rocking in the air gently, like a dark snow flake, into a golden chalice. He could then hear the sound of his feet as they passed down an empty corridor lined with innumerable wooden doors. For a moment all grew intolerably still as he reached for the latch.

A sudden chill ran down the Emperor’s spine. A cold needle pierced his heart, his head began to explode, and the sun, though risen less than a few millimeters above the far garden wall, burned into his eyes with unceasing ardor. “The horrors of bad wine must be near the succor of dream,” he thought. Quickly he pressed his palms hard into the sockets of his eyes.

When he removed them, the drawn short swords of the Praetorian Guard glittered like so many immaculate needles ready to plunge into the flesh of his daydream. The Emperor shook his head violently and rolled his shoulders. “May the Styx carry me away,” thought the Emperor as he raised his hands and clapped again. Messalla extended his right arm just above his shoulder and raised three fingers twice.

In the distance, the faint sound of troding horses and the clanking of armor could be heard. Along the winding-road that led to the Palatine the mounted prison brigade drew near.

A muscular young infantryman from Unit XV who was stationed at the edge of the garden path between the eastern wall of the House of Livia and the western wall of the Temple of Apollo saluted the Prefect’s command, clicked his heels together and disappeared down the small path that ran between the House of Augustus and that of his wife, Livia. Sebastian’s eyes followed the sleek young man into the shadows.

Messalla quietly passed his eyes over the ranks of men as they stood rigid at attention, the burgeoning day and its rising sun enticing the first tiny drops of perspiration out across the smooth foreheads of those who would presumably not see the cool of the shade until late in the afternoon. The gold of their belt buckles, bronze scabbards and cuirasses glimmered almost imperceptibly as they shifted their weight. About their red hemmed skirts of white, bits of frayed rope and loose leather straps swirled and snapped in the sporadic pirouettes of the breeze. Messalla rested his hand on the back of the Emperors chair, leaned forward and said proudly, “Do they not remind you Octavius of the legions with which we conquered the Nile and drove Mark Anthony to death in the arms of that Egyptian whore.”

The Emperor turned his head and stared at him coldly. His mind was painfully distracted, the absence of sleep forcing him to struggle so as not to turn his tongue into a bray of angry wasps. “Bring forth the prisoners of the first docket,” he said to Messalla with out raising his voice. The day was beginning to warm.

As the Pontifex leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes a large lanky African man carrying a papyrus’ sealed with a ribbon of dyed red leather approached from behind, in the direction of the departed legionnaire, stopped at the edge of the circle of centurions, whispered something and was allowed passage through to the ear of Messalla. As he spoke to Messalla, his eyes were deliberate and purposeful in their attempts to meet with the Emperor’s but before he met with success the curt nod of M. Valerius permitted him to pass inside the circle and he stood, calm and dignified, some five meters in front of the mahogany desk of the Pontifex.

Messalla cleared his throat and Augustus opened his eyes.

“You plebeian idiot,” growled the Pontifex, gesturing the messenger forward with a rapid inward arch of his right hand. “Don’t just stand there and pose, speak if you must!”

The Africans muscles were licked by the sun and rippled like the coils of a dark golden snake. With remarkable grace and ceremony he bowed first toward the Emperor and then Sebastian before he removed the ribbon from his papyrus, unrolled it with care and chimed out in a beautiful, somewhat twisted falsetto, loud enough to raise all of Rome and perhaps the dead besides, “The delegation of Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, in conjunction with the Roman Senate here-by requests an audience with Pontifex Maximus, the Emperor C. Octavius Caesar Augustus as regards the trial of the Galilean named Eblis, charged with treason, on this, the Ides of Sextilis.”

The Emperor was silent for a long few moments as he gazed into his wine. Then, slowly raising his eyes toward the insatiable body of the freshly risen sun said almost inaudibly with notable fatigue in his lowered voice, “Conduct the delegation to the Room of Masks.”

With the kind of rugged and hearty steps that professional soldiers employ so well, the massive black hared bulk and clanking bronze armor of Messalla stepped forward to receive the papyrus from the messenger and delivered it with out haste to the desk of the Emperor. The wind fondled the edges of the papyrus as the Emperor held it at arms length and squinted his eyes to read.

Less than an hour later, after examining no more than a handful of the endless line of riffraff that had gathered outside the gates of the road to the Palatine long before dawn to bear witness and offer testimony to the heresies of the Galilean named Eblis, after so many tedious and mumbled accounts of prophecy, miracles and insidious slander of the Gods of Rome, himself not with standing, the Emperor with drew his hand from his eyes and said with out so much as a veil of strength, “Enough then, Sebastian I’ve seen enough! We have heard everything already, everything. Call forth who ever it is the Counsel has bought as their witness, and we… will… be… brief!”

Sebastian gave the Emperor a kind look, smiled politely and nodded with a slight wave of his quill.

At once, two centurions appeared, white capes flapping with the briskness of their step, escorting a man of about sixty, unshaven, with sparse gray curly hair and glazed, white eyes. The centurions held the man firmly by the elbows as two fresh chairs; one of carved ebony and the other of beveled gold were carried out from the Room of Masks. The man was seated in the chair of gold on the right side of the table and lashed to it with leather straps. The chair of ebony was placed at the left end of the table.

The Emperor leaned back hard in his chair and closed his eyes as once again his thoughts drifted back to the fertile upper valley of the Tigris and the barren Anatolian hills beyond. It was the rhythmic and far away sound of lyre and drums wound upon the wind that so enraged him that day as he walked the dusty trail atop the ridge to survey the remnants of battle. Across the valley floor, he saw a sea of bodies, impaled corpses with dilapidated heads, twisted arms and severed limbs, disemboweled horses intestines spewed out of bellies bloated with death legs stiff and raised to the clotted sky, over turned chariots wheels creaking in the wind, broken spears protruding from the corpse covered earth like so many water reeds, battered shields and smashed in helmets, feathers and golden tassels stiff with a crust of dried blood, so many glazed, fly licked eyes, open mouths and barred teeth amid the mauled and splintered wood, shredded clothing, blood splattered pelts and capes, desecrated banners and flags. Scattered among the kilometers of refuse the smoke still drifted where the prisoners had been sorted through, bound for slavery, tortured with tweezers and hot iron or summarily maimed and left to die. Over the corpses and through the charred wood, far across the valley, flames leapt and black smoke billowed from the two dozen funeral pyres atop the barren hills as vultures floated about the breasts of time beneath which, the scattered camps victorious on the new frontier of Rome now boisterously feasted, sang songs of glory and reverently hailed his name.

“Name?” inquired the Pontifex  with a note of sadness in his voice, tilting his head to the right, opening and then closing his eyes again to think of the cool vastness of the Thyrrian sea.

For a moment, the only sound to be heard was that of the wind whispering through the trees on the Palatine.

“The day is long here my friend and the sun ruthless,” said the Pontifex opening his eyes wide, leaning forward and squeezing his knees, “Now… what is your NAME!” he bellowed with the ferocity of a beast, his face suddenly flushed lavender with rage.

The man said nothing, flung his head wildly about, his face gaunt with terror, the crusted yellow surface of his white eyes protruding from their sockets as if pushed out from behind. Yet after a few vain and fitful attempts to flee he gave up entirely, his posture exuding that of a man that found little left within him beyond an unencumbered lament that he had ever been born. His face was contorted into a series of fissures and ravines so painful to look at that it spoke directly of the agony of abjection.

“Speak if you know what’s good for you!” Commanded the Pontifex slamming his fist onto the mahogany table and nearly upsetting the well of ink and his favorite chalice. His neck stiffened a bit and he felt as if he were being watched again. “If you speak now,” said the Pontifex in a patronizing whisper, “perhaps I will hang you instead of crucify you.”

The sun was now fully atop the far garden wall and the Emperor raised his hand to shield his brow as he looked in that direction. Still the witness said nothing and instead sat quivering in his chair.

“It is not wise to decline such offers,” snarled the Pontifex who quickly turned away from the sun and leaned back in his chair. He felt faint and his pulse was racing. Sweat beaded on his forehead and glistened in the early morning light. It was obvious to all who watched that the Pontifex was feeling somewhat ill. He directed his eyes toward the man in the chair.

“Messalla!” ordered the Emperor, “See if you cannot loosen the tongue of our witness, have him flogged, but return him to me coherent.” The Emperor pushed back his chair, stood and slowly walked from the garden.




Octavius could hear the sound of the whip breaking flesh as he entered into the shade of the covered portico and turned onto the small partially covered plaza that looked out over the Circus Maximus and the thatched roof tops below.

The absence of screams perplexed him to the point of pain.

On the days of Fasti in which court was in session on the Palatine the Emperor had decreed that all flogging was to be executed before the hour of noontide. With the number of lower courts in session upon the hill, at this hour, with inexorable certainty, one could hear the walls of the Palatine echo up to heaven an eclectic and discordant chorus of human anguish. The Emperor had come to depend on the frequency of those anguished screams in the same way day laborers came to depend upon the regularity of holidays and festivals. For as the days went by and the curse of his insomnia constricted around him like the smooth coils of the giant anaconda, and the walls of his veins slowly pressed together to sever their vital flow, he became aware that the lurid screams worked as a balm that soothed his mind and somewhat abated the constriction and insufferable pressure of sleeplessness. In fact, in their wake, he felt a vicarious release and certain catharsis.

And now, the sharp and biting sound of the whip as it split the air to deliver the Emperors command, combined with the profound absence of even the faintest cry or groan, filled the flesh of Augustus with a dark foreboding and a sense of unbearable dissipation.

While the Emperor stood and gazed out over the sprawling expanse of the capitol, it took no time at all for the insubstantiality that inhabited these feelings to grow so demonically strong as to tear at the fleshy walls that hid the bastion of his will and encased his spirit.

“Mark Anthony, Mark Anthony, you love sick fool,” said the Emperor as he watched the lightening illuminate the billowing clouds upon the horizon, “If only you had not fled the battle at Actium and received that fat Patricians warning. If only you had readied yourself, how sweet for me would it have been to rest in peace in the sands of Egypt. And now… for how many years has this comedy played on?” said the Emperor softly to himself with a mournful laugh.

“What am I that I am but the god of maggots who charms a pit of Senatorial asps! Only to lift them up in my hands beneath the sweltering sun and goad them to rape the worms!” His head cast back toward the heavens the Emperor’s raised fists shook violently.

A moment later he turned partially back toward the swaying ferns and tall marble columns of the plaza, gazed down toward the earth, and watched in silence as beside his feet a taught, short haired, Manx cat batted a dazed but still living mouse back and forth between the walls of its claws. For an instant, as he stood, leaning with one hip rested on the smooth railing of the balustrade, his anterior clothed in velvet blue shadows, the gold braided shoulder tassels of his cape wet with the sun, the corners of his mouth could be seen to curl up, ever so slightly, for no longer than two blinks of an eye, as the Manx arched its back inward and stretched lazily before striding off, leaving the paralyzed carcass of the mouse to die in a curvilinear pool of sun light.

Augustus pressed his palms to his temples and jabbed his fingers into his scalp. As he turned, the sun light that cut across his face lent to it a visage distorted and monstrous. “When! When! When? Will this comedy end! When will the final curtain fall…”

Augustus was silent, his eyes cast to the dust, the arms with which he had carved his name into the history of the Universe limply at his sides, and for what seemed like an unbelievably long time, all of Rome was silent as well. The only sounds to be heard were the whispers of the wind, the flapping of doves’ wings and the tender cuddling sound of dove song, the only sound on earth the Emperor had ever found the capacity to love.

When at last he lifted his eyes the first thing he saw was the sight of the splashing water in Neptune’s fountain, which seemed to refresh him. With ravines running his brow he scrutinized the far corners of the plaza to insure no one was watching, then after a few lugubrious steps, passionlessly sank into a chair in the shade, cast back his head and rolled his eyes to the vault of heaven. Three large white doves had perched atop the edge of the lattice work portico near the Emperors chair and had set about meticulously cleaning their feathers. The Emperor lifted his head, leaned forward and then doubled over to rest his forehead on his shaking knees. For five or six very long minutes he alternated between rocking side to side with his head in his hands, apparently, sobbing, straightening himself, grinding his teeth to cease the tears and then leaning back and tilting his head to stare open mouthed at the grooming doves before doubling over yet again to repeat the cycle.

Little time slipped lithely by before Augustus put an end to this vicious triumvirate of self pities with a single blow of his fist that severed the arm rest of the chair and sent splinters flying across the marble floor of the plaza. With this he stood, grasped the remainder of the chair with one hand, and flung it toward the fountain where it smashed against the base. Augustus brushed off his hands and made himself ready once again, this time no matter how great his personal revulsion, to conduct the affairs of State in the name of the Empire.

He called a servant to fetch his wine and summon the delegation from the Room of Masks. As he waited, seated in one of the many collapsible chairs made of canvass and pine wood, slouched with his right arm hanging at a near right angle off the arm rest, drawing figures in the dust with the tip of his sandal, Octavius contemplated the elegant musculature, formal grace and sheer beauty of the monolithic statue of Neptune surrounded by adoring nymphs, that rose from the center of the fountain.

True, it was perhaps a bit improprietous of him to receive such a delegation here, in his state of mind, in a more casual setting, instead of in the formality of the Room of Masks, but the issue already seemed trivial enough to him and he was comfortable with the thought that little of his advantage would be lost due to informality. He heard the foot steps approach, sat up stiff in his chair, squeezed the back of his neck, closed his eyes and worked to unclench his jaw.




Already the dark clouds Octavius had noticed on the Western horizon had begun to move quickly in the direction of the Palatine. A storm was brewing, the wind had grown cooler and more persistent. Octavius guessed it would be less than an hour before the first rain began to fall.

Augustus greeted the three men that now stood before him and then, with a certain regal indifference, asked them curtly to explain their business. For a moment the splashing of the fountain and the cooing of the doves was all that could be heard in the plaza. A stocky man with a large belly, a balding head and thick gray beard, whom the Emperor recognized from the Senate and knew to be the patrician Cullus, head of the Council of Justice, stepped forward so that his face was no longer obscured by the slats of shade and explained to the Emperor the uniqueness and delicate nature of the case of Eblis.

“The Prefect of Judea has repeatedly assured myself and the members of the Senate that he is doing everything in his power to quell these disturbances with haste.” Senator Cullus continued, pausing to study the Emperor tentatively from under his bushy gray brow. “The problem is that for some time this Galilean named Eblis has been traipsing all through the country side and even as far as the provinces, proclaiming to Jews and Romans alike that a savior is coming, that he is this savior and that Caesar is not the true god. The villain has publicly announced that as a punishment for its pride the legacy of Rome shall be but dust and ruins and that he himself would conduct the flames that destroy her. Imperator, I tell you truthfully, the spirit of rebellion is alive in the provinces. Through private channels I have heard there is a Nazarene whose speech is similar but none have yet stepped forward to accuse him. The problem with Eblis…” Senator Cullus was looking at his sandals as if deep in thought, two fingers of his stubby left hand tapping his left temple.

“I fail to see any problem at all Senator,” said Augustus irritably while leaning slightly forward. “Treason is treason, if this man has actually said these things and the charges against him are supported as I have heard all morning, what form of idiocy has caused your impotence to abstain from judgment? Why does this man still stand upon my earth!”

“Well…you see…it’s just that…” stammered Cullus ineptly and obviously overwrought by anxiety.

Another member of the delegation then stepped forward, “Eblis has not only blasphemed Caesar and prophesied the fall of Rome. He has gathered a large following. You see, Imperator, this man speaks of very strange things, for instance of a billion cities carved from crystal stone and driven by the secrets of the sun. Of a time of blood and hail spreading death in an instant. Imperator, this man may be mad to deny that you are God and a fool who wishes death to insert himself in your place, but his madness makes him no less the prophet. Almighty Caesar, when the spirit of the prophets fill this man, he speaks of many men’s secrets… even your’s your Excellency… and many great events that have and will come to pass.”

Augustus studied the shadowed contours, smooth darkened skin and bridged nose of the man in a thick bluish-black hooded cloak of Lanuvian wool who stepped forward with cane in hand and had spoken with such a strange accent. The Emperor had heard tales of people clothed in this queer fashion, that it was a mark of seclusion and piety drawn from an ancient time and rarely if ever seen by men in this modern age. The structure of the man’s face and the shape of the features were alien to the mind of Augustus but there was something about his mannerisms or in the tone of his voice that reassured and pleased him. He motioned him to continue.

“Obviously his treason is overt and little doubt remains in any ones mind regarding the verdict or the required sentence of death. That is why I was sent by the Court of Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great to the capitol, Rome and instructed to petition the Senate for the transfer of the execution of sentence to Judea. The fame of such a man, once lifted upon a Roman cross, would send a strong message to the people. It would remind them of the absoluteness of Roman rule, of the Power and sovereignty of Almighty Caesar and silence their treasonous lips. It was the opinion of both the Sanhedrin and the Court of Herod Antipas that this course of action was the simplest and most direct method for restoring order.

“Truly it is unfortunate that the surreptitious power of prophecy has pierced the skin of the Council of Justice and convinced them to remit judgment on this case. I fear this delay has already impaired the duty of the state to compel the people to submission. I ask then, your Eminence, that under your guidance, the wings of justice may soon find rest in Judea, to the eternal glory of Rome.” The man’s crooked teeth glittered almost imperceptibly in the shadows of the hood as he smiled then bowed before the Emperor and stepped back.

“And what is your opinion Senator Cullus, would, that I judged this man guilty as charged, the Council of Justice find such a request for extradition acceptable?”

“Your Excellency,” said Cullus slowly, amid a dramatic and notably over emphasized bow. He straightened, shifted his weight from leg to leg, turned slightly to the right then to the left, the folds of his toga flapping in the wind, stroked his beard and then commenced a series of lubricating circumlocutions of his jaw.

Augustus tapped the arm rest of the chair with his rings and bounced his right leg impatiently before blurting out, “I’ve asked for your opinion Senator Cullus, not a lecture on the subject. Let me inform you Senator Cullus, I look upon Senators who squander time with the same displeasure I do those who squander the strength of Rome! If you like, you can see that displeasure upon the faces of the crucified along the Apian Way! Now, spit out your words!”

“Your Excellency,” Senator Cullus began again, having ceased the rotations of his jaw and thrusting the thumb of his left hand into a lamb skin belt partially hidden by the enormity of his stomach. “It is my humble opinion that the Council of Justice, were you to pass judgment, would more than willingly cooperate and gladly assist, as far as possible, in the pacification of any regions in doubt of Caesar’s rule. However, I would like to point out to your Eminence that the Council of Justice deferred the case with due cause. It seemed to the members of the Council that they were not in the position to best weigh the possible worth of the Galilean Eblis against his seditious words. And indeed nearly all concurred that the only just course of action would be to suspend judgment and allow the Pontifex Maximus Almighty Caesar to decide the value of prophecy in relation to the laws of Rome. As you know your Excellency, there is always a surplus of blasphemers and it makes little difference to the Council before whose eyes they die.”

“I will take your opinions under consideration.” said the Emperor. Augustus leaned back, stretched his arm out over the arm rest and dismissed his company with a sharp skyward snap of his hand. His eyes followed the body of a dove as it swooped down in front of the embossed faces along the roof of the Auguratorium, rose into the blue of the sky, descended toward the line of poplars just beyond the plaza, banked again to swoop over the colonnades and ended up at rest atop one of the spikes of Neptune’s trident as the sound of foot steps faded from his ears. With his mind oscillating between the strange pain that now began to slither and wind through his bodily cavities, an insatiable longing to transform himself into a dove, and the unseen, prophetic madman named Eblis who had already occupied more of his morning than the Emperor could have ever conceived, Augustus rose slowly from his chair and headed back toward the garden. At the far edge of the Plaza, just before stepping into the triangular patch of shade that stretched from the south east corner of the Palace, past the open door to the Room of Masks and to where he stood, the Emperor paused, touched by a strange feeling. He looked over his shoulder in the direction of the fountain. The dove was gone. The plaza was empty. “Strange,” he nearly said out loud, as his eyes fell upon the rapidly approaching thunder heads and the distant lightening, “I could have sworn someone was watching…”




So,” said the Emperor flatly, leaning back in his favorite chair, swirling the wine in his cherished cup, placing his elbows on the arm rests and raising his eyes. “Have we learned our lesson? Poor Centurion Messalla is so over worked. I would hate to see him suffer such strain again. Now, where were we?” the Emperor said quietly, accidentally catching his distorted reflection on the surface of the wine and turning his eyes to heaven before screaming, “Y-O-U-R NAME!”

The pitiful looking man tethered to the gold chair and now sufficiently bloodied, slowly raised his head and turned toward the Emperor. He no longer attempted to struggle and neither did he shake. The yellow crust of his protruding white eyes made the Emperor wince and then forced him to squint one eye so as to keep it from twitching as the witness replied, “A-s you w-i-sh Imperator…”

The sun had risen high enough to pound upon the Emperors nearly bald head and the discomfort it produced in combination with his squinted left eye made him feel sick. A number of slender and supple dark haired female servants had been sent with large wooden bowls filled with grapes, raspberries, apples and oranges, pickled olives and garlic, dried fish, bread and oil but the Emperor had waved them away irritably. Of course he hadn’t eaten but by now it is too late, the force of his nausea would easily overwhelm his mild appetite and all that was left to do was see to it that the interrogations went quickly so that with out further burden he could slip away into the deserted cool of the Room of Masks before the start of those dreaded games.

“Answer the question while you still have breath!” snapped the Emperor, “And speak up!” Augustus was distracted by thoughts of the cool blue body of water in Neptune’s fountain, gently waving ferns and the approaching rain. Almost unconsciously his toes returned to tracing figures in the dust and he pressed the tips of his fingers violently into the lion’s teeth. Once again his thoughts began to drift, this time toward the azure tranquility of the calm Mediterranean Sea along the Cilician coast, when at last he thought he heard the witness state his name.

As the sounds formed in the mind of Augustus he was assaulted by an intense burning through out his entire body. While the burning settled into the marrow of his bones he ground his teeth together, the ornate cup slipped from between his fingers and his eyes slammed shut in terror. From the depths of his empty heart Augustus knew it is too late. He lifted the empty chalice from his lap, opened his eyes and spoke with a sublime evenness and repose that made many in that garden wonder if the Emperor had not at last gone insane. “What -did -you -say?”

Trails of blood curling around his ribs, the witness was silent for a long moment. Flies buzzed around his face and the open wounds on his back. Blood dripped from the back rest of the golden chair and spattered rhythmically in the dust. Blood wound down the legs of the chair and had stained the canvass of the seat cushion. He said in a near whisper, “I know what it is you desire…”

“Speak, I command you! Or I shall cut off your ears and your tongue! Now, what is your NAME?”

An inexorable silence fell over the garden. The rows of Centurions standing at attention along with the Praetorian Prefect Messalla and the Scribe Sebastian hunched over his papyrus, the vibrant eye of the peacock quill dancing furiously, all waited with open ears to hear the blind mans reply.

“A-s you w-i-sh Imperator…”stated the witness firmly. Like some withered bird of prey the man turned his waxy and yellow crusted bulging eyes slowly toward the body of the risen sun. His lips began to move. And the frigid and shrill West wind, in all its ferocity, descended upon the Palatine.

The sinister nimbus of an enormous cloud blew across the face of the sun and draped the garden in a viscous darkness. There was a flash and a terrifyingly loud clap of thunder rolled over the hill as the savage West wind tore through the garden. The Emperors secretary Sebastian lunged atop the small white oak table with a shriek. He desperately grabbed at the remaining papyrus, his chest employed as a papyrus weight, and could be heard through spaces in the wind wildly screaming a mixture of commands and curses at the servants who chased after a dozen or more of the pages as they were whisked across the garden or twirled high into the air.

His head slowly turning back toward the Emperor the blind mans lips continued to move, his words stolen by the wind as the dark rain heavy clouds collided in the sky. Lightening again splintered the vault of the heavens. Something more than nothing scraped at the Emperors ear, it tingled inside and then began to throb. Through the mighty tumult of the tempest, through the brazen and sonorous crescendo of thunder and wind the words that had poured like sand from the blind mans lips, the first four syllables that composed his innocuous name, slithered like a thousand tongues in through the ear of the Emperor and began to tear apart his mind.

By the time the next terrible roll of thunder broke loose to chase the wind, the horse hair blotter, ink well, quill and jug as well as the mahogany table beneath them had been thrown across the garden and toward the East wall. As the Emperor stood from his chair, his eyes wide with horror, his ears filled with the memory of a singly horrible and impossible sound, his mind folding in on itself under the weight of that name, the chair too was swept end over end across the path. The red lined white fabric of the centurions capes whipped mercilessly at their backs as they stood desperately leaning into the mouth of the tempest as bows and leaves swept along by the strength and fury of the blast streamed past. Crazed servants ran about in a panicked frenzy, some thrown to the ground and tangled in their garments, others staggering and being thrown back, lunging and falling, bringing in the tables or chasing after cups and papyrus. The squall broke with indomitable force, the noise from the deluge so loud as to be nearly deafening. All of heaven, gods and demi gods, the dead and the unborn, the spirits of everything that had ever lived or would ever live to have a bladder, were pissing down upon the Palatine. Out through the unyielding cascade of rain Octavius could see the crusty white eyes of the blind man looking up at him from the muddy puddle into which his chair was thrown, his face now washed of its blood, and they bore into his heart like so many iron nails.

Just inside the vaulted arch of the Room of Masks in the Palace of Augustus where he had retreated, drowned in murky shadows, the Emperor collapsed upon the floor and held his head in his hands.

The rain had been falling for over an hour by the time he pushed himself up, back first, against the wall, wiped the tears from his eyes, reached for a dagger and turned to walk out into the rising violence of the storm.







The violence of the storm swirled, rose and fell in tumultuous and stentorian waves in through the ears of our friend Milosz P. The onslaught of night had born on its wings a rebirth of the hasty, frigid and primordial east wind, which now rushed hysterically through the trees on Petřín Hill, unraveling in its wake a crescendo of demented elemental screams. Milosz P. shook mightily as the wind pressed the chilled polyester of his slacks into the ungrateful goose pimpled flesh along side his shins.

This onslaught had advanced unhindered in the company of inexhaustible legions of shadow, roving bands of which now displayed their tainted carcasses among the twisted splendor of the hill sides oak, maple and horse chestnut trees, or laid their thick squalorus hides in endless piles to gaudily conceal the coarse and gritty body of the earth.

Further down the slope, through the naked, twisting silhouettes of these trees, the zealous last outposts of phosphorescent city light sliced mercilessly through the viscous pelts of night. The lines of human geometry defiled the slender curves of nature. Faintly irregular rows of window teeth were inlaid with radiant rectangles of veiled light where these legions disbanded. The darkness itself splintered, bloated and bent, seeming to acculturate to the stolen bits of form that rose from the earth.

His head filled with the gusty rhythm of this unseen heart. His head filled with the palpitating struggle between darkness and light. His head filled with the blurred peripheries of victory and defeat. It was as if he was looking at the inter play of colors in a painting by Monet or Renoir. A painting where all the vibrancy of the depicted landscape or dance radiated in the eternally motionless glow of the silent and secretive city lights.

It seemed to Milosz P. that the strangers words coupled with the exotic feel that embodied his elusive accent, had enticed him into some sort of trance. What a fascinating tale this stranger had been telling. But with little doubt it did nothing to convince him that the Devil ever existed let alone was crucified as Christ. “Obviously”, he thought, surveying the resplendent glow of the innumerable city lights below, “This is non-sense.”

Irrespective of the strangers lack of rational validity and more convinced than ever that the strangers story was nothing but deluded fantasy, Milosz P. was unable to turn his head and address the man. Wise enough to be wary when susceptible to the power of undue influence and somewhat disconcerted that it had grown quite late and a bitter cold had awakened to haunt the night, for the moment, silence and aversion seemed but logical recourse. “Maybe, if he feels himself audience less, the man will finally stroll back from whence he came.”

Or worse yet, maybe he had just paused to catch his breath.

Milosz P.’s leg bounced as much out of nervousness, as expectation, desire, impatience and the cold combined. The mournful sound of a howling dog mingled with what he supposed to be distant laughter. Something sweet tickled his palate but, like intimations of a shadow on the margin of sight, eluded the grasp of knowledge and disappeared with out a trace. The season was all wrong for apricots but one way or another the fleeting sensation reminded him of the smell of apricots or some type of jam.

Fortunate for Milosz, however, was the fact that the wind had pulled him from this trance with a brutal shake of his hide. Milosz P. knew well that it would be all too easy for him to have passed the night soaked to the bone in the strangers words, contented as he was when carried off to drift among the literal remains of times impossibly distant and ephemeral notions of places far away. Milosz P. rubbed his legs to fend against the cold, “No matter,” he thought, “I’ve always enjoyed fictions, especially those of history.” He crossed his arms and rubbed his shoulders briskly, still actively avoiding the intrusive presence of the stranger.

Uncertain as to the severity of the situation he worried that the brash idealist Kreis might find such non-sense a cause worthy of support. Milosz P. exhaled laboriously. Gently the icy blue night air filled his lungs. He sighed and watched as the tendrils of vapor rose and slowly disbanded upon the wind.

For a moment the wind seemed to hold its breath and in the preceding quintet of seconds Milosz P. again was struck by a terrible, inexplicable fear. Something was horribly wrong. His heart beat faster than ever, his fingers trembled uncontrollably, a need for salvation pressed down upon his eye lids. His shoulder began to twitch violently. Out of nowhere, Milosz P. was overwhelmed by a feeling of unbearable lightness. His flesh now seemed but a wilted skin holding no more than the now vanquished remnant of his substance and warmth.

Kreis reached across the space where the stranger no longer sat and placed his hand on Milosz’s forearm. He whispered, “Hey Pookie that’s some story, but a bit inconclusive. What a strange one this Doktor is.”

With these words a weight began to return to Milosz P. A fluid weight not yet heavy but solid enough to allow the immediacy of the present to slowly sink back into the caverns of his body, and, desperately, grope after his soul. His right hand smacked his forehead hard and squeezed violently at his temples. His silver rimmed glasses slid down his nose. His fedora, pushed back further over his close cropped hair, began to lift in the wind and was violently crushed back down in a moment of stifled panic by the very same, awkward, right hand. It occurred to him that he had made plans to meet Katya. No doubt he was already late and for this trespass he would suffer.

Milosz P. made as if to look at his watch, struggling at the same time to keep the crumpled hat on his head, raise his left sleeve at the wrist and push up his still sliding glasses.

Kreis was given a momentary fright. Perhaps Milosz P. had found some new ground for offense. He then scooted further down the bench so as to make room for Herr Doktor. Kreis wondered what it was, exactly, that had now given Milosz P. such reason to austerely mutter a minor compendium of abbreviated profanity. All in all, he’d found Herr Doktor’s story quite well told. He’d never bothered to think an Emperor might share some of the same problems as himself.

Milosz P. was beside himself with panic over the fact that on this of all days he had forgotten his wrist watch. The beautiful gold Omega that used to belong to Katya’s father before he emigrated to France after the ‘68 invasion. It occurred to him that he must have taken it off at Clare’s before they bathed together in the morning and inadvertently left it beside the tub. The raised blade of Katya’s wrath glimmered in his mind’s eye. The stories he’d have to tell, in her mind the damn thing had almost become a wedding band, even though she was already married. Moreover, he was late again and in her spite she would obstinately wait without thought of dissolving the bond of their agreed upon time, until at last he arrived, where-by she would mercilessly carry out her vengeance in the guise of an unbreakable silent pouting, a pouting accompanied by scorn, thick with accusation and easily capable of lasting for days. Under such circumstances even the faintest intimation of pleasure was utterly banished. Worse yet, were he not to show up at all, he may be forced into weeks of a most humiliating pleading, of lavish and painfully expensive gifts and regular attendance to the sheer frivolity of an overt and mandatory groveling, all to win back and reassemble an intimacy lost in a single instance of oversight. Having run the gauntlet once already, simply for the sake of her tawdry embraces, and lacking the intrepid will to surmount again obstacles already behind him, Milosz P. knew he should go. Public humiliation, however intriguing the thought, with what ever new insight it might bring, was not on his agenda for the month.

While listening to this strange Doktor and mired in enchantment, Kreis had forgotten, at least for the moment, the cold as well as his miserable hunger and the looming problem of a place to sleep. Kreis had even forgotten that only a short while earlier he was near convinced this man was either on hallucinogens or a potentially dangerous schizophrenic. At one and the same time he found that the stranger’s story had seduced and repulsed him, hypnotized and revived him.

As the cold wind bit fiercely into the back of his skull, Kreis discarded all semblance of concern for what ever it was that irritated Milosz P. to the point of profanity. The promise of the possibility of beer and a meal, once tacitly offered in the proximate form of the publisher Milosz, faded from view as if the warmth of Milosz P. himself had suddenly broken into a thousand pieces, transmuted into ice, broken again and then been washed away on the wind. The sole desire that in a few fleeting moments had come to occupy the seat of honor in the temple of Kreis’ voracious heart was now an unimpeded yearning for the stranger’s story to continue… For what could be more perfect? No longer would he have to acquiesce to the rambling tirades of Milosz P. for the chance at a chance, to hold dear the possibility of a possibility, the hope of a hope of filling, at least to some inimical degree, the simplest, most basic and yet ever tyrannical of corporeal needs. To have the demands of his world disappear into another man’s story, to find hunger, thirst, terrible uncertainty and self loathing assuaged through the infinite space of an autumn night, transported, warmed by a blanket of words until the sunlight smiled again upon his weary flesh…

Kreis allowed this thought to roll along the tread mill of his mind for a few moments and then, stretching his arms to squeeze his knees, a tepid alarm registered laxidazeically in a blue and well shadowed corner of his mind before an insolent and unsolicited surge of courage reconciled him to the impotence of anxiety and sculpted the resolute decision that this present was better than many of his pasts.

Kreis turned his head and eyed the thin, feathery tendrils of cloud that raced like so many fat skeletal spirits across the inky vault of the sky. A sort of relief swirled inside him as he looked at those clouds. Some of the inexorable weight that pulled him down toward the murderous earth had somehow vanished. Kreis knew better than to ask questions of himself in the face of such rare good fortune and so instead he concentrated on the empty spaces left behind.

For, it was true, with the vanguard of misery momentarily vanquished; it was possible to feel the shimmering, insurmountable chimes of so many fragments of emotion, rushing in to fill the unbearable vacuum. Where motions friction once warmed the perimeter of an unfathomable void, in-between, in the wake of this arduous transition, Kreis could feel the joie de vivre as if it was the smoothest of silks caressing his soul. No sooner had he acknowledged this than the joyous instant was gone, the transposition of phase completed, the metempsychosis within himself ratified and silenced again.

The frail wisps of impregnated cloud that traversed the night’s sky now seemed to grow heavier, to move slower and with greater determination up the valley of the Vltava, to hesitate upon a distant horizon and then circle back toward Petřín Hill and the flickering colored lights of the city of Prague below.

The cold wind pasted his greasy hair to his gaunt jaw and Kreis slowly drew a lock back behind an ear with two fingers before turning from the sky back to the conversation at hand.

Herr Doktor had closed his hands in his lap, stood, and was now looking up the dark hillside behind our seated friends, at ease in a weightless silence, his long, slender fingers interlocked over the inscribed ivory owl’s head of his well polished wooden cane, the long brownish-yellow nails of which seemed to glow a faint amber in the darkness.

Neither Kreis nor Milosz P. could tell what, exactly, Herr Doktor was looking at, if anything. Maybe his thought was lost somewhere in the belly of that ferocious storm.

The silence, coupled with the muffled screams of the wind, began to make them both uncomfortable. Kreis crossed and re-crossed his legs, waiting for Herr Doktor to continue his story while at the same time Milosz P., began to censor his curses, had taken off his green fedora and, having turned all the way back toward Kreis and Herr Doktor, leaned forward and anxiously started pinching the felt corners back into a more dignified form. The fact that earlier he had thought himself a victim of age returned to him with a certain nagging insistence. Without lifting his head, Milosz removed his horn rimmed glasses, rubbed his eyes, put a hand to his forehead, took a deep breath, restored his glasses to their proper place on the bridge of his nose, and then looked up.

“Feeling a bit tired?” came Herr Doktor’s voice from out of the surrounding darkness.

Milosz P., hoping beyond hope that this was all a terrible dream, bolted up right and slid back a few centimeters in fright. Having recovered from the momentary shock of memory and demolished the causal bridge between wishful thinking and obdurate reality, Milosz P. was now staring. His forehead was molded into a series of hills and ravines and his eye brows scrunched together over the top of his nose. Two fingers were now pressed to his lower lip and his mouth was slightly agape. His eyes were narrowed to venomous slits. Irrespective of his compulsion to up and run to Katya, irrespective of the insubordinate night’s cold, Milosz sat back hard into the glacial iron of the bench and crossed his arms over his chest. There was something disturbing, exceptionally disturbing, disturbingly still, still and inhuman, in Herr Doktor’s posture, something fantastically unnatural that pecked at Milosz’s mind. Herr Doktor’s pose itself, in which he stood with noteworthy and apparent effortlessness, was not, in and of itself, irregular. No, not at all. Moreover Herr Doktor stood as if he was being studied or admired. It almost seemed as if he had commissioned the dark naked wood that twisted up the hillside toward the dilapidated, hidden battlements of Charles IV’s Hunger Wall and the vast literary archives of the Strahov Monastery Library beyond, as if he had asked the barren trees, secret stones and eroded statues, to paint of him a portrait. Honestly, it was neither as odd nor as impossible as it might seem, neither fantastic nor ridiculous to suppose, just by chance, in the eye of this ill fated Autumn night, veiled in the mausoleum of time, as if by magic, the great transmigration of souls had drawn the curtain on a long forgotten stage and by this very act transmuted a hillside drunk on the wine of night into painter, paint, brushes and canvass, sumptuously instilling trees, rocks, leaves, stones, moss, grass, wind and the very darkness itself with the spirit of the faithful renderer, with the incorporeal essence of artist and Art, at once ready to metamorphasize into permanence this mysterious nocturnal presence.

Herr Doktor began to smile as the winds undulant fabric ripped in serpentine waves through the trees and left only whispers. And by the time this smile was formed, the parting of his lips, the sleek earthward curve of the corners of his mouth had abjectly exiled this kingdom of portrait painters, back, back to the brute material from which they were never born, back to no more than the simple darkened expanse of hillside before our friends’ eyes.

Milosz P. wondered what had come over him.

Kreis, distraught and thoroughly confused, was momentarily convinced that he had simply awakened from a dream inside a dream and was there-by merely dreaming.

Perhaps it was the plush continuity, the smooth, seamless darkness of night, unfazed by the shrill cries and coarse hand of the wind, unmoved by the bitter thrust of autumn’s cutlery, that lent to the strangers figure a certain stoic majesty, the immobile patience and timelessly silent oration of a statue.

Or perhaps it was Herr Doktor’s form, his fine but ill fitted suit, narrow shoulders, leaning arms and crossed legs that exuded a sense of impossibility, a semblance of the unliving, a strange sense of what Milosz P. could barely believe to be… permanence?

At one and the same time it had occurred to the artist Kreis that Herr Doktor’s stance exhibited a strange aura of weightlessness, yet the kind of weightlessness belonging to objects immaterial, as if an abstraction were removed from the fluidity of being, divested of origin or history and yet found itself summarized in a form, in the fabric draped frame of a green and blue eyed, cane carrying, inquisitive, enigmatic and gregarious stranger…

“That really was quite a story.” Kreis finally mustered the courage to say as he slowly emerged from his stupor. “I mean really, it can’t be over, can it?”

“But it’s just begun my boy, it’s all just begun!” said Herr Doktor.

“Nice, nice, that was a nice story. But really gentlemen, I must be going.” interrupted Milosz P. He then stared incredulously at Kreis for a fiery instant before pressing his hands to his knees to rise from the bench.

Kreis too made as if to stand.

“Really, if you don’t mind gentlemen, it would be more than my pleasure…well…to accompany you on down…” offered Herr Doktor with a deft tap of his cane, his arm arching as gracefully as an oak branch in a high wind, his chin lifted in the direction of the winding, dimly lighted streets of Prague below.






František stood naked before the window of his attic flat off Újzed as the wind rattled the panes of glass. His eyes followed for the nth time the two shadowy figures through the gaps in the trees as they, one a bit behind the other, descended Petřín hill. It looked as if it were going to rain, that a storm was coming. The light from beneath a dusty yellow lamp shade filled the room and reflected its contents in miniature on the inside of the sooty window glass and a feeling of warmth rolled over his senses like the ripples of a flag in the wind. František turned to look for a cigarette and let the black velvet curtain fall.

What a striking picture our friends made as they wound their way down the dark narrow path toward the lower lake and the Kinský Palace beyond. Milosz P., tall and oddly elegant, his green fedora pushed down on his broad skull to fend against the wind, was walking briskly, if not some what hurried. Herr Doktor, with some what of a limp, his cane tapping in time to his stride, kept pace with the publisher Milosz.

Kreis was somewhat behind them. His disheveled figure, thin, bony and emaciated, was hunched in at the shoulders to fend off the cold. His bowed head and lowered eyes lent to him the appearance of a man deep in thought, or perhaps, filled with melancholy and touched by sadness. Yet every few moments he pulled himself from this state, hurried to close the meter or so he had trailed behind the two gentlemen, stepped up between them, tilted an ear in the direction of Herr Doktor, only to fall somewhat behind again, feeling foolish, over come by his own troubled thoughts at what before he had heard.

“Who the Hell are they?” thought František out loud as he drew back the curtain again. In the miniature reflection of his room he watched the woman still asleep in his bed turn fitfully. She rolled away from him toward the wall and mumbled something that sounded like anděl. “Anděl?” thought František as he stared over his shoulder to admire the tiny pink satin panties that pulled across her hips, bunched just below the small of her back and disappeared between her buttocks. “Who the hell is she?” With a delicate left arm she groped about behind her, grasped the red satin goose down comforter František’s former lover had bought on the street in Kiev, pulled it up over her head, and moved further toward the wall. František turned, let the curtain drop again and stood for a moment looking at the shinny golden strips of light on the swaying black velvet as something wiggled about in his gut. “What does it matter?”

Across the way our three friends hesitated and looked to the left to eye the crumbling and dismembered statue of Hercules fixed amid the dark waters of the lower lake, club raised, Orthrus, once at watch over herds of cattle, now between his legs, snarling mouth open, eyes looking up to the sight of impending death.

“Look,” said Milosz P. turning from the dilapidated moss covered statue as the wind rushed through the ribbed vault of the trees in the grotto as the sound of trickling water reminded him of the passage of time and pulled his thoughts back toward the urgency of his mission. “This is all well and good, but I’ve really got to run.” With this he glared maliciously at Kreis.

“My dear Milosz P.,” said Herr Doktor kindly, “Impetuousness and presumption, although minor virtues, need not be summoned just yet. The night is young and Kátya is still immersed in her own blissful dreams. But, run, walk… as you wish… the means justify the ends irrespective.”

“Look Pookie, about that story of yours,” began the artist Kreis.

“Harvey,” Milosz P. shouted as the wind tore through the trees like a wailing banshee, “I haven’t time for this…I have to go, I really have to go! Ciao!” With this Milosz P. spun, lunged down the hillside and broke into a frenzied gallop.

Kreis watched for a moment as Milosz P.’s form was turned to a shrinking silhouette, into some paper doll disappearing like the memories of his own childhood. “That bastard,” he thought, rolling his eyes toward the thick belly of the consorting clouds visible through the quivering skeletal arms of the trees. “Do prdele…Kurvafix,” he mumbled, turning to eye the dimly lit Kinský Palace which stood, framed by the dark trunks of the trees, like an enormous white sarcophagus, before, with out so much as a glance to Herr Doktor, he continued on down the shadowy path.

František struggled in vain to remember the woman’s name, Kamila? Klara? Katya? He turned back toward the lurid swirling colors of his father’s paintings on the walls and the gold leaf of their beveled flowery frames, and proceeded to scour the piles of scattered clothing in search of a clean shirt. The woman in his bed stirred restlessly, a sleep stained yawn could be heard beneath the lumped comforter, two pale arms extended horizontally, stretched toward the tarnished brass head piece and then were lazily drawn back under the comforter before she rolled over again. “What a debauch,” muttered František, his head throbbing. “I wonder where I found her? I don’t even remember leaving The Golden Calf.” František poured himself a shot of whisky from the open bottle atop the dresser, downed it with a slight gag and satisfied sigh, held out the glass, turned it upside down and said, “tohle neni Jim Beam,” found a reasonably clean shirt atop the bureau and turned back toward the window. He gnawed on his lower lip, slowly, almost hesitantly, pulled back the curtain again, pressed his cheek to the frigid glass of the outer pane, looked to the people passing on the street below and wondered if anyone down there might know what had happened the night before. František leaned back quickly, stung by the cold on his cheek, shook his head as if suddenly surprised, still holding the curtain back with one arm, fumbled with the buttons one-handed and glanced back to the hill side across the way.

Once again, the two shadowy figures were nowhere to be seen. František looked to the piles of scattered papers atop his desk and raised his eyebrows as the curtain fell for the third time in so many minutes.

Outside, across the city of Prague, the bells tolled the hour after vespers.






Obviously Milosz P. had reneged on his part of their paltry and desperate bargain, as always engaged only in his own interests… But it mattered not, really, or so Kreis was inclined to think. Herr Doktor was, by virtue of his calling card, a Doktor and, so it seemed, quite a talker. Once more he’d offered to accompany them on down into the city. With his stomach again turning to muster reason in an assault on civility, Kreis paused in a pool of shadow behind the deserted Kinský Palace, extended a trepidized finger near his chin and turned slowly in the direction of Herr Doktor.

“Actually, if you’re in for a drink, I know a rather nice…” The wind slapped his hair across the line of his jaw as Kreis raised his determined eyes.

Herr Doktor was nowhere to be seen. A tram whizzed and screeched along the street to the left then faded off into a reverberating silence. A young girl’s laughter and hushed but excited words could be heard from behind on the far side of the building, somewhere near the entrance to the park.

Kreis turned and turned again sweeping his open palm outward in a gesture of abiding hospitality. He extended his arms as a form of welcome and the barren darkness greeted him with a lapse in the chilled ferocity of the wind. Aghast he staggered once round and once round again the force of his words failing under the tenure of his own disbelief. “Really, I know a rather, a rather uhgh…”

Kreis was beginning to feel dizzy. There was not a soul in sight. He was overwhelmed by a sudden desperation. Pathetically he began to holler as the wind again assaulted the trees, “Wait! Wait! No Pookie, WAIT!” It was with these words still on his lips that Kreis ran madly, with all his might, down through the park and toward the metro station at Anděl.




“Hey! There’s fuckin’ Milosz!” said Marek elbowing the slinky young brunette with the supple sky blue eye shadow, a tight neoprene mini in orange and yellow, a grass green T-shirt with a gray star reaching to the nipples of her palm sized breasts and an unzipped black vinyl waist coat, just as he was about to light another cigarette, “Maybe he wants ta go with us to see Šwankmeyer’s Dr. Faustus? Hey man!” he hollered from the tram stop across the street, “Milosz you wanker! Hold on a minute!”

Milosz P. had reached the street corner across from the Palace of Justice and the small square where once stood the Russian tank David Černy had painted such a pretty pink. He tapped his foot impatiently waiting for the light to change, periodically he glanced back over his shoulder into the park. With the sound of the clicking pedestrian walk signal echoing through a gap in the fabric of the wind, Milosz P. set out at a brisk walk that quickly turned into a run as again he glanced back over his shoulder, turning back around just in time to collide with a man handing out flyers on the far corner, sending a flutter of blue red and green paper into the air, mumbled an apology as he staggered to one side and turned again to encounter…

“Hey man!” said all smiles Marek standing before him reaching out to grab his shoulder, “Do you wanna…”

“NO!” Milosz P. nearly screamed jerking a shoulder back, “No! Look, Marek, hi but … you see if it wasn’t for that idiot Kreis…” Milosz P. went to look at the watch that wasn’t there, “Fucking Christ! No time, gotta go!”

Milosz P. ran, huffing and puffing, fatigue kicking in, like a stilted puppet, head long down Újzed, without hearing another word. With the sight of Katya’s wrath fully occupying the stage of his mind, he nearly collided with an old man and child exiting a flower store with a bouquet of tiger lilies. Half stumbled as he swung off kilter around a brigade of bickering babičky and their bloated plastic shopping bags crossing the intersection and, a bit off stride, hollered another trite “pardon” as he headed on to stagger through a somber crowd amassed out side a book store and finally slowed to a brisk walk.

“What an asshole,” said the woman tilting her head to check her mascara in the mirror of a small turquoise compact.

“Yea, real fucking bastard isn’t he,” said laughing Marek as he watched the man on the corner bend to pick up the flyers scattered across the intersection, the wind repeatedly kicking them just out of reach, “fuck the wanker.”

“Jesus,” thought Milosz P. gasping for air, “Jesus Christ, she’s gonna kill me. If it wasn’t for that idiot Kreis…”

With the entrance to the metro now in sight, Milosz P. picked up the pace once more. Distracted as he was by his own misfortune and thoroughly annoyed at having wasted so much time humoring Kreis and some bizarre stranger, the ringing bell and the sound of the accelerating tram almost reached him too late. Breathlessly he stopped on the other side of Plzenská and watched as the tram swung round the bend down Štefaníkova. “Woooo, that was close,” he muttered to himself before turning round to head into the metro.

“Your quite right there,” said a voice from somewhere just ahead of him and off to the left. “You almost didn’t make it old chap, but it’s good to see you’re on time!”

Milosz P.’s eyes were ripped wide with horror as a man in coat tails with a blood red ascot, gently swinging a gold pocket watch by its chain, stepped out from behind a near by pillar. Milosz P. scrutinized the demonic insanity that seemed to glisten in his pale blue eyes. “That’s right,” said the man, swinging his pocket watch in a full circle then catching it in the palm of his hand and glancing down, “another half second or so and I might have begun to worry!”

Overwhelmed by an unyielding sense of panic the eyes of Milosz P. welded themselves to the glass doors of the metro entrance some 75 paces away. He smiled tritely at the gentleman, nodded and then began to run as if the devil himself was at his heels.

That’s right ol’ boy, let’s get to it, one two, one two, stiff upper lip you know…”

As Milosz P. neared the open glass doors the momentary sense of relief that came with acceleration was instantly banished at the sight of the man in coat tails, standing before him once again, one arm outstretched with open palm in the direction of the escalator and the other holding open the glass door as he said with a wink, “Come now, quick, quick, keep on the move, no need for a shove, no bill collectors here save sweet nature, right this way sir, Heller for the door keeper sir? Save the whales you know. Pensioners vacation fund? That’s right, do your part for tomorrow today, new beginnings, that’s what we’re after, new beginnings and a warm heart, step right up your express train’s a commin’!” he said with a smile before breaking into a baritone rendition of “Swing lo’ sweet chariot…”

Milosz P. plunged through the door way his mind ablaze in a hideously fearful confusion, slammed on the breaks, suddenly intent on confronting this freak, and came to a stop at the top of the escalator. “Hey! Hold on, hooooold on!” he shouted as he turned with a shaking outstretched finger. An elderly man in a gray wool suit and a young woman in a light blue flower patterned dress and red over coat, obviously burdened by her days shopping, in turn furrowed their brows at this ridiculously panting mad man in a green fedora as they passed through the door, stabbed him with a scornful look as they approached, looked down and stepped gingerly on to the escalator.

“Really Allison,” said the man with a voice that sounded like a hand full of pebbles swirled in a glass of water, “You didn’t have to come all this way on Granny’s account…it would have been enough to have left the jam at the cottage.”

Milosz P. swung back around to watch the backs of the descending heads. “Allison?” he thought, “Allison? Have I lost my mind?”

“Not at all my boy, not at all, it’s all perfectly rational I assure you!” quipped a voice from over his left shoulder.

“What!” shrieked Milosz P. as he felt a shove in his back, staggered forward in his attempt to turn around and inadvertently stepped onto the escalator. Backwards on the escalator and facing the glass doors filled with the darkness of the intervening night Milosz P. looked about wildly. There was not a soul to be seen. As the escalator descended Milosz P. wiped the sweat from his brow in a panic, turned back around, headed down the stairs, bumped into the elderly man and the young woman, who let loose a loud scream, paused a moment to stare into the indignant eyes of the woman named Allison and then staggered on toward the platform mumbling “Jesus, oh Jesus, Jesus…”




By the time Harvey Kreis had made his way to the metro station at Anděl the air was filled to overflowing with the repeating inverted howl of wailing sirens. A large crowd of excited people were gathered, and more and more people hurried out through the open glass doors up ahead, men with down cast eyes and shaking heads, women pale with tear stained cheeks.

“I know why they closed the metro,” said a tall lanky man on the corner whose joints held together as if fitted with utterly mismatched and obviously incongruous parts. “It’s gas, gas I tell you.”

“Do you know? Do I know? Gas, a bomb, you don’t know, I don’t know!” said an elderly man with perfectly combed hair in a gold buttoned blue blazer as he jingled the change in his pocket.

“What?” asked a hunched old lady with a notably hairy upper lip, clutching her two handed walker as she leaned closer, “Do you know…”

“Do you know? Gas, a bomb, a bomb, gas, he doesn’t know, I don’t know, you don’t know!” said the elderly man pushing past Kreis into the intersection as the light changed, gently patting his perfectly combed hair.

Further ahead; “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Kreis could hear one man say to another, as he dabbed at the blood on his mauve sport coat with a handkerchief. “I caught the flicker of his eyes in the second before the train, red… like a photograph with a direct flash…I mean you could see to the back of his skull, and his eyes, wide and clear and horrified and then the sound, oh god that grinding bone jarring splattering sound…”

“Who was it?” the other asked in earnest, turning to the crowd around him. “Does anyone know?”

“You don’t know? I don’t know! How are we supposed to know?” said an attractive woman in a fur hat as she rubbed her reddened eyes with a disposable tissue.

Kreis grabbed a balding middle aged man by the coat sleeve and asked bluntly, “What’s going on, What happened?” The air was now bleeding with siren song and drowned in the blinding flash of blue and yellow lights as they intermittently smeared the glass doors, floor, walls, windows, white columns, as well as the polished shoes, watches, spectacles and plastic bags of the mulling crowd. “What happened, Jesus Christ, what happened?” yelled Kreis as the touch of fear crawled across his flesh.

“There was an accident, a terrible accident. The yellow line is closed for a while,” whispered the man as he shook his head, “I think someone jumped onto the tracks as the train approached.”

Kreis’s head began to swim as he heard from near by a rough cigarette stained voice whisper, “Now really Allison it wasn’t your fault, don’t cry honey, really, accidents happen, there, there, it was just a jar of jam, just a jar of jam, we’ll buy another one from the store…”

“Jar of jam? Allison?” Kreis mumbled as everything began to swirl before his eyes, his empty stomach turned, a wave of sickness submerged his mind, his knees buckled and the world spun into a gaudy suffocating black.

When Kreis came back too the first thing he saw was the cleavage of a plump woman in a checkered blouse who bent over him, waving her handkerchief. “My niece is just like that, can’t stand the sight of blood either.” said the woman as she straightened up, “And you might want to put some ice on your head, you’re bound to have quite a lump.”

“AAAAAAAGGGHHHH” screamed Kreis as he pushed the woman back, staggering to his feet, “Agghh, Jesus, Jesus, what’s…” moaned Kreis, holding his throbbing head and staring at the crowd around him, parted.

“Ingrate,” sneered the disgruntled woman.

At that moment two police men in navy blue jumpsuits with military style boy scout hats rose into view atop the escalator and the crowd, which was beginning to disperse, scattered like a flock of pidgins at their approach.

“Look here Martine, it’s all perfectly rational,” said the larger of the stout beer bellied two, holding a single shoe in his right hand and pointing at the heel which he drew to his nose inhaling deeply, “A bit of apricot jam seems the culprit,” he laughed, sucking in air in fits and snorts.

“Indeed detective Janowitz, indeed it’s all quite clear, I’m convinced he wasn’t pushed at all. We’ve a statement from a young woman who lost a jar of jam. A description of the culprit and the body of the deceased. It all adds up just fine,” said the other shaking a plastic bag with some pieces of broken glass and the blood stained green fedora inside it, “Nothing left to clear up save for the blood. In my opinion the case is closed!”

“But this is impossible!” sputtered a desperate Kreis on the verge of hysterics.

“Oh but nothing’s impossible!” said a contentedly sinister and disgustingly cheerful voice beside him, “You should be happy, he got off easy, you might not be so lucky. You should see those poor bastards who take a piss on the electric third rail, happens almost every day somewhere in the world. I most unpleasant way to die I assure you!”

“Oh JESUS!” stammered Kreis as he turned in horror to see Herr Doktor standing with crossed legs, his bony interlaced fingers resting on the ivory owl’s head of his dark twisted wooden cane. “YOU!” shouted Kreis, “IT’S YOU!” he shrieked backing up the steps toward a row of phones in trepidized disbelief. Herr Doktor smiled and said with a wink, “I told you he’d find no reprieve! A shame too. Poor Kátya’ll never get over it.” With this he tapped his cane on the ground proudly. At one and the same time the man in coat tails with the blood red ascot stepped out from behind the haughtily chuckling policemen. He swung his gold pocket watch in a full circle, caught it in his left hand, replaced it in his coat pocket, dabbed the corners of his mouth with a blue, red and white silk handkerchief, smiled at Kreis maliciously, barring a mouthful of jagged orange ochre teeth, and waved the little finger of his blood stained red right hand.

“AAAH? BUT YOU! HOLD ON! HEY! SOMEONE! STOP! WAIT! THIS MAN’S…THIS MAN’S…” Kreis cried as he felt a wave of nausea like a fist of fiery nettles thrust up his throat. His head was spinning, turned into an out of control carousel filled with passing bits of lurid color, the glimmer of fragments of eye, glistening teeth, the sounds of sirens, laughter, screeching trams, the flapping of wings. “BUT THIS MAN’S…” he cried out in sullen desperation as the world swirled before his eyes, the muscles in his legs growing weak again, choking on his own words, his mind clotted with inarticulate thought as he doubled over and collapsed at the base of the wall between the phones, his nails clawing at the flesh of his contorted face.

Quite some time passed before Kreis ventured to peer in horror through the gaps in his fingers. The passing strangers looked bleary and distorted. There was something sinister in the air. A shadow that fell everywhere in the bosom of night. Through the legs of the passers-by he could see the blood soaked shroud covering the corpse of Milosz P. slid into the back of the waiting ambulance. The siren and the lights were turned off. There was no need to hurry, the dead were never in a rush. And how the passing faces all looked different now as they leered at him, each in turn, with hollow glassy eyes, their skin all waxy and yellow, strings of glistening saliva strung between shimmering teeth. Kreis closed his eyes tight in hopes this would all go away, in hopes this was all some sickly dream. In hopes that he was never born. But even as he closed his eyes he could see the corpse, the bloody white shroud, lifted by the two men in orange coveralls with bits of silver and yellow reflective tape on the legs and sleeves, carelessly slid into the ambulance, as a hideously twisted arm slipped out of the side, hanging stiff, the elbow slamming into the edge of the open door, a drop of blood falling from the squat little finger.

Poor, poor Harvey, what pray tell was he going to do now? What sort of mess had he found himself in? Milosz P. was dead. Dead! His mind was singed black, there was death all around, following every attempt at thought like a famished dog, hovering on the cusp of every passing form, echoing in the aftermath of every sound, violating every rancid smell. Perhaps at this moment he felt close to death. Cold, cold, colder than cold the fires burned. Forsaken without light, heat or smoke. Devoured by the abyss. But he no longer felt the cold, he no longer felt hunger or pain, he no longer saw the passing crowd, the laughing policemen, the ambulance. What he saw was the man in coat tails. He saw his gently swinging pocket watch lift slowly into a loop as if it was some ineffable, and diligently pricked tattoo upon his retina. He no longer heard the passing footsteps, screeching trams, hushed gossipy whispers, the sound of the wind. But what he heard were Herr Doktor’s words, slithering in through his ears, writhing like a handful of earthless worms, laughing like the peal of church bells announcing the call to war, ” He exists, and there’s much, much more too it than that, much more too it than that, much more to it than that…!”

Just then he heard the gray static gargle of the old communist era PA speakers as they were switched on over head and suddenly a soft, supple, nasalized feminine voice called out, “Paging Harvey Kreis, paging Harvey Kreis, please report to the blue courtesy phone, paging Harvey Kreis.” Hugh? What the… but as he slowly turned his eyes to the right what did he see but a man in a black ill fitted suit with white gloves holding a blackish blue receiver out toward him. “I think it’s for you.” Uh? he pushed himself up back first against the wall. “Gimme that!” he yelled as he ripped the receiver from the man’s hand. Struggling to wipe the tears from his eyes he raised the receiver to his ear. “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!” he screamed into the mouth piece. And the sound that greeted him? The voice that came singing over the wires?


“I was around

when Jesus Christ

had his moment

of doubt and pain,

made damn sure that Pilate

washed his hands

and sealed his fate

pleased to meet you,

hope you guess my name

but what’s troublin’ you is

the nature

of my ga…”


“YYAAAAAHHHHHHH,” he screamed, his eyes pressed out from behind, his hands rushing to cover his ears as the receiver fell, his body slamming into the chrome rail beside the booth as he swung around.

“Sympathy for the Devil?” mouthed Herr Doktor with a smile standing in the middle of the passing crowd, extending an up turned palm and shrugging his shoulders. The metro had re-opened. People were passing with flowers in their hands, dogs in baskets, stuffing bits of greasy food into masticating jaws with grubby fingers, men in muddy blue coveralls with pick axes over their shoulders, fat men waddling in coats and ties. And there was Herr Doktor, standing in the middle of it all, beginning to laugh maniacally.

“YOU!” shouted Kreis, lunging forward in an attempt to push his way through the crowd to a chorus of disparaging and angry remarks. “YOU! IT’S YOU! MEPHISTO! I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN! I SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT FROM THE START! HA HA! YOU SULFUROUS SWINE, HA HA HA, YOU WON’T GET AWAY WITH IT THIS TIME!” But as Kreis tumultuously rifled his way, spun this way and that by the passing horde, to where Herr Doktor stood but an instant before he finds, he finds there’s no one there. Herr Doktor had vanished once again. Through the crowd to his left, over near the tram stop Kreis caught a glimpse of the man in coat tails as he stepped over the red and white candy striped railing, one foot on the middle horizontal, one foot on top, one foot out into the air and then he was down, weightless as a feather, on the other side, as a tram approached.

From the depths of his being Harvey Kreis released a shout so loud it threatened to tear the night’s sky and frighten the realm of the stars beyond, “POLICE! POLICE! THAT’S THE MAN! THE MAN WHO MURDERED MILOSZ P!” HA HA! YOU DEMONIC SNAKE, THERE’S NOWHERE TO RUN NOW, YOUR GAME IS UP! “POLICE, HELP POLICE! QUICKLY! QUICKLY! BEFORE HE GETS AWAY! I AM THE WITNESS! I AM THE WITNESS!”

But no one seemed to hear. Or if they did, no one seemed to care. In fact, they were walking away, quickly away. People were giving him a wide berth. Another mad drunk, an unemployed lunatic. He’s hysterical. Of course they understood, but there was nothing they could do. He just needed time, just time. “BUT WAIT! WAIT! YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE ME! I KNOW! THAT’S THE MAN, I HEARD THE DEVIL! I HEARD THE DEVIL MYSELF!”

It was difficult for people not to chuckle at this man. This thin man pointing into empty space, turning in circles, red in the face, panicked, screaming, screaming accusations at something or someone that didn’t exist.

“WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!” screeched a thoroughly hysterical Kreis, barely able to breathe, tears streaming down from his puffy eyes. At that moment, just as the alarm sounded to signal the closing of the tram doors, the man in coat tails stepped onto the hitch at the back of the tram, hooked his little finger over the narrow metal rain gutter above the side window and lifted himself, graceful as an Olympic pole-vaulter, impossibly, as if by magic, up and into a sitting position atop the departing tram.

In his frenzy, Kreis in no way thought to look both ways before he rushed out into the street. As he stepped off the curb someone laid on the horn, there was the sound of screeching breaks, the smell of burning rubber. Kreis’ hands slammed onto the hood of a faded green Škoda that had managed to come to a stop centimeters from his suddenly shaking knees.

Mercilessly the driver laid on the horn again.

In the brilliant white light of the halogen head lights Kreis staggered back, raised an arm to shield his eyes. There was an enormous explosion from the wires above the tram as it accelerated and, for an instant, the air was torn asunder by a blanketing flash of electric blue.

And in that instant, Kreis could see the Arabesque logo of the Dj-inn Singers stenciled on the hood pulling his eyes to the driver as he laid on the horn again. His hair was a collection of matted and diseased whitish-yellow feathers, the skin of his face cracked like the dried mud of a nonexistent desert lake, his eyes two black stones set in the yoke of a rotten sparrow egg, rimmed in the red flesh of a sliced, over ripe plum, his nose a calcified and crusted ostrich beak slopping down over the gristly scar of his sneering lips, his teeth chattering.

The webbed flesh of his clawed hand smacked the steering wheel, pounded on the dash, laid on the horn again and again as Kreis raised his unbelieving eyes as if called from prayer up over the roof of the car toward the intersection, toward the intersection just in time to see the last bit of the tram as it swung round the corner, the man in coat tails seated atop it, legs outstretched, reclining on his left arm and waving the little finger of his raised right hand.

The driver laid on the horn again and again and again, his teeth chattering. Kreis dropped his arm and staggered from the street, his eyes blinded once again by the halogen head lights, his ears filled with the fading echo of the accelerating tram, he stumbled over the curb and fell onto the cement island, his eyes groping their way up to the inky darkness of the intervening night, saliva dripping from the corner of his mouth.

As the tolling of the bells faded from his ears Kreis hoisted himself up with the help of the candy stripped red and white railing and pushed onward, he had to, he had to get…the combined forces of gravity and momentum came to his aid as he staggered off the cement island, doubled over, straightened up and once again, gargling a mouthful of unutterable words, gagging on the impossibility of what he knew he must say, of what he must do, he began, slowly, sweetly, silently, with all his strength, to run in the direction of the departed tram.




Meanwhile across town at The Golden Calf, Antonín Aachen, long-black-curly-haired-stubble-bearded-technophobe-twice divorced-three times sacked- philosopher Antonín Aachen, put back on his thick black horn rimmed glasses one handed, slammed down his beer, it sloshed over the table as he added with out looking up, “You phlegmatic idiot! Don’t you understand anything!”

Basil Baegert’s gap toothed smirk disappeared into a cockily sheepish grin as he continued to finger the ten kroun coin in front of his eyes, glancing hesitantly at the puddle of beer as it wound across the table toward his lap.

“Think of it like this seeee,” said Antonín as he slid the moistened body of his beer mug back and forth between his hands, then looked up beneath his brows and through his unduly large horn rimmed glasses, “It’s like the darkness of the wood…”

“The darkness of the swood! The darknesss of the f…ing swood!”

“Just listen!”

The darknesss of the f…ing swood! I can’t sake this anyzmore!” wailed the poet Basil bouncing the ten kroun coin off the table in a failed attempt to land it in the open mouth of an empty pack of Marlboro reds, his smirk washed by this wave of realization into a desperate scowl of exacerbation. Basil ducked under the table to look for his money.

“Listen, seee it’s like the darkness of the wood seee, the sacred, the sacred seee is the contrast between what we expect and what we see, seee!” continued Antonín gazing into his hand as if it held the whole world.

The beer having made its way around the ashtray and across the table, poured from the table lip into Basil’s lap as he let loose a curt, “Ahhhh!” smacking his head into the underside of the table at the same time. Rubbing his head Basil muttered in disgust, “Jezuz! Can’t youz zink up anyzing new!” He scooted back a bit and watched the golden stream continue to splatter on the bench between his legs.

“But this is new!” argued Antonín shaking his outstretched hand, you just never let me finish!”

Basil smacked his hands in the puddle of beer and stood with difficulty staring at his wet crotch, turning to holler at anyone who would listen, “Can you believe zis man…”

At that moment, the sculptor Christof Cossiers rounded the corner from the bottom of the stairs.

After the affair with that two faced, mealy-mouthed and ostentatious fraud of a proprietor Giacomo, Christof has only just begun to calm down. “I’d have challenged him to a duel,” he was telling a stunned, hunch backed old woman on the street corner, “if such things were permissible today. That spurious human filth has crossed the line, he’s shitting where I eat! He’s lucky, this time he’s lucky… this isn’t a couple hundred years ago! His hand would shake but mine wouldn’t,” he added making his hand into a gun and sighting with his thumb, squinting an eye for emphasis, the old woman spat and began to walk away, “No! Mine wouldn’t and I know how to shoot!” That was hours ago and he was still trying to calm himself, his high blood pressure causing pains in his heart and only stomping passed The Golden Calf did it occur to him a shot of Fernet might be in order, something to settle the nerves, to help him think clearly, to assist him in plotting his revenge.

And at that moment, as he turned from the stair well into the seedy under belly of The Golden Calf, the warm, pungent aroma of sausages and boiled potatoes, stale beer and tobacco hanging in the air thick as an April due upon the pedals of so many mouths waving in the din, his mind turned upon something other than his wrath for the first time in hours, at that exact moment, as he inhaled deeply to savor the enchanting edge of intoxication, the poet Basil Baegert pounced upon his lapels.

Basil’s head was tilted to one side, his matted golden blond hair pasted to his pale forehead, his thin lidded eyes red from smoke and drink, the dirty nails of his trembling beer wet hands mawing at the beautiful plaster flecked black cashmere of Christof’s lapel, smiling his sickly angelic smile, his rancid breath facilitating the atmospheric disturbance otherwise known as sound, “Can you beelieve… Can you?”

“Uuugh!” snarled Christof grabbing Basil’s wrists in an attempt to rip the hands from his lapels, “Get off, get off me you frothing invertebrate fop.”

Antonín the giant was wading through seas of synthetic reason toward an unreachable shore while staring vacantly into his beer. He mumbled, “an eye that is not an eye, a face or an arm see, there in the darkness of a glance…”

Simultaneously the struggle between Basil and Christof began as part wrestling match, part Cotillion, part drunken fall. Basil was clamped on like a rabbit trap pressing Christof’s lapels together. They moved like somnambulist dancers shuffling in the clenched-lapel-tango, in and out of the tunnel vault that opened into the hall, hunter and prey locked in mortal combat. “Noooo! Lizen! He’zzz zat it again!”

“Get off you sack of vomit!” Momentarily their figures were cast upon the stone walls by the opening of the bathroom door. Huge distorted shadows out of some noire horror flick.

“Can you beelieve!…The swood!”

“Unhand me! aah!” The door slammed. The film broke.

“The zzzacred swood!”

“Let gggooo…” There was laughter from the stairs.


“…yyyou frothing toad!” Someone pushed by as Basil slammed back into the table.

Antonín, having returned to sailing his beer back and forth between his hands continued pensively with out so much as a glance to the debacle before him, “Only a tree trunk, a gnarled branch. The sacred see, our fear, has no object. It is formless see, not hidden behind but with in seee…”

“Unhand me I say!”

Lizen he’zzz zill at it!” A waiter slipped by with a few empty plates and clicked his tongue.

“You unholy bastard!”

“Lissten! Can you beelieve!”

In a last ditch attempt to break Basil’s grip Christof pulled violently with both hands down and back on Basil’s wrists.

Chronically upset squinty eyed Dalibor Dotremont, depression clawing at his chest like a riddling sphinx, his last hundred Kroun lying in his pocket variously a mill stone and talisman, the sound of the line going dead as she hung up the phone still in his ears, the rejection letter from Yale still in his coat pocket, Miroslav Krleža’s On the Edge of Reason, Rimbaud’s The Drunken Boat and Pär Lagerkvist’s The Dwarf tucked under one arm to shield them from the rain, slid up his sweater to make sure at least his watch still worked as he headed down the stairs. He was glad it had been raining, for it hid the fact he had been crying. At the bottom of the stairs he pulled his sweater down over his right hand to wipe his dribbling nose raising his head from beneath the tunnel vault just in time to catch Christof’s elbow instead.

Dalibor howled more from the unwelcome surprise than the pain, his precious books falling to the floor his sweater covered hand moving up in time to catch the token trail of blood.

Christof, now in him moment of victory, liberated and liberator, loosened his plaid tie, raised his fists and barred his lower teeth to an indifferent Basil who swaying and swaggering turned back around toward the madman prophet Antonín Aachen at the table who all the while had been staring into his beer and shaking his head, “No one can live there see, only animals go there to hide.”

“Zzome fine exzample jew are!” barked Basil slamming his hands again into the puddle of spilt beer.

“Come on!” snarled Christof furiously rolling his fists in a manner more likely to strike his own jaw than that of an opponent, “I know how to shoot! Don’t think I don’t know how to shoot! Come on!”

“ZZZeee!” shouted a waning Basil seating himself upon the bench with difficulty, “Yur swoodz nothing new.”

Tears were pounding the flood gates of Dalibor’s squinted eyes as he bent to retrieve his precious books from the muddied floor. Sullenly, lead footed, sweater covered hand attached to his nose like a gas mask, he moved into the center of the room, convinced now more than ever the universe was conspiring against him, refusing to raise his eyes as the tenderly cheerful mockingbird Eveta called out, “Come on! Come on, I’m over here, Come on, Dalibor, Come on, have a seat!”

Her hand was on his knee, his watery eyes closed, head back, pinching the bridge of his nose to stop the blood, “I haven’t seen you in ages. What’s wrong with you, Why don’t you ever call?”

“Co si date?” asked the tuxedoed waiter casting a shadow over their burgeoning intimacy.

“He’ll have a beer, a beer right?” she said as the waiter marked a pen scratch on the bottom of a slip of paper and dropped it on the table. “Come on, what’s wrong with you, Look at me. Why won’t you look at me?”

“Um…” mumbled Dalibor opening his eyes wide.




Battling a triumvirate of sickened exhaustion, tyrannical purpose, and unmitigated confusion, Kreis ran unabated down Lidická in the direction of the departed tram, stopping only just short of Palacky bridge as the rush of bile up his throat forced him to double over at the waist, clutching his loins, a frail string of a thick yellow substance trailing from the corner of his mouth, twirled delicately by the hand of the wind, swinging pendulum like, before breaking off to anoint the indifferent cobblestones. Kreis looked up beneath his brow and stared in the direction of the dimly lighted, sharp, horn like steeples of the church at Palackého Náměstí, the faintly arching street empty, seeing scraps of newspaper kicked by the wind failing attempts at flight before his eyes were bitterly stung by the pale while halos of the street lights that seemed to float through an ethereal darkness in the misty air above the bridge. Leaning hard with one arm against the muted stone of building number one he thrust his head back to see tatters of torn cloud against a burnt out sky obstructed by the monstrous silhouette of the ancient building looming in as if ready to fall.

Kreis shoved off, a forearm to wipe his mouth, eyes squinted on top of the swelling, swerved across the street and then crossed again at a right angle up onto the sidewalk, bumping into the rusted iron railing of the stairs that lead down to the river, the chilled ferocity of the wind slashing his face, he slid himself down to the landing half blind, snot running from his nose, veered left and then down again onto the street along the river.

Someone laid on the horn and in the blinding glow of the head lights Kreis moved back onto the sidewalk, and then down the small grassy slope toward the river. By this time it was more gravity than momentum that drove him on, down the small slope to the left, his weak legs swinging over each other uncontrollably, drunker than drunkenness could ever be, down to the waters edge where he dropped to his knees as for the first time the steely moon lunged in through the clouds above the roof tops, unrolling a carpet of shimmering silver splinters across the surface of the wind ravished Vltava.

The smell of decay, mulch, wet worn out wood, mildew and urine. He cupped his hands and brought the river water to his dry, burning lips, fragments of thought dancing in his head like chimerical circus clowns, walking tight rope over the steamy abyss of his mind, leaping through the flaming letters of words that floated like clouds across a neon sky beneath his skull. Slowly folded in upon themselves. Crumpled. Burst into flame. Smothered in darkness as he closed his eyes…




Juggling sympathy, disdain, indignance and the weighty sobriety of powerlessness, Eveta finally lost patience and it all came tumbling down.

Dalibor Dotremont, with fantastic concision, had in a few scant moments managed to indite himself for his own perennial folly with out so much as a hint of acknowledgment or remorse. His self sabotage was unfathomably accurate, complete and yet, as he unraveled the thread of his lascivious and malfeasant deeds, he at once seemed to revel in the mire he had created, to boastfully celebrate it, in the same breath firmly affixing the blame for his immutable misery upon some intentional and elusive conspiracy, the world was against him he repined, studying her from inside the shelter of his squinted eyes, twisting the soup spoon he’d found on the table before him.

The fact that he had known the application deadlines, solicited all available help and resources, had everything completed for him, not by himself, but for him and yet, some how failed, failed quite intentionally, she was now certain, to post them on time, posting them instead almost three months late… the fact that he had known his fiancé would leave him if he even ventured to spend an hour with those whores from the theater while he proceeded to sleep with them, one after one, until the tell tale clap gave him away… the fact that he had known for almost half a year he would be required to move at the end of the Summer and had done nothing, literally nothing, not lifting a finger in his own aid while demanding, in a groveling incessant whine, amended with an ever growing list of treacherous glances, deceitful laughter, insidiously glaring passers-by, malignant shop keepers and other tell tale signs that the world in which he lived was out to get him, despised him, thwarted his every attempt at happiness, he insisted, with out ever possessing the gall, the humility, the dignity to ask, that those who were his friends would rally to his aid, gather behind the banner of his cause, declaim this injustice done him and carry him triumphant on to the hands of glory, or at least hand him the keys to a new flat.

All the while he wined and dinned away the last of his great aunts money, calling these friends only in hopes of a free meal or to snivel and moan about his horrible circumstances, in-between installments, almost as if he expected them, in dire straits each their own, to serve him with eager rote, to prostrate themselves and then open their purses as if before the King.

And that now, now he had the audacity to shed actual tears, however contrived as a means to an end, tears of sheer self pity, imploring tears while asking for the umpteenth time for some cash, knowing full well how she struggled, how hard she worked just to get by. And for what? That as soon as the last of her money was in his pocket he’d be back at the theater lavishly buying drinks for those whores, the big man about town? No. She had had enough, too much, much too much. As the waiter placed the beer before him, his previously watery eyes suddenly alive at the thought of another’s purse, of squeezing a few more drinks out of this stone, she excused herself and, trying desperately not to run, headed toward the ladies room.




Kreis’ eyes were closed, the darkness folded in on itself. Friction sparked where space met space trailing off white hot like the embers of an age old firework. Glimmering light and blanket darkness turned themselves inside out to define the room in which he now stood. There, inside; gold Louis XIV arm chairs, swirled marble tables, paisley art deco sofas, Cubist bureaus, crystal chandeliers, sculpted bronze standing lamps, rhododendron, fichus’, ferns and great leafy palms in the corners, splotched and faded wall paper above the wainscoting, bear skin rugs, carved mahogany door frames and doors with brass animal head handles, like a mix between a German Expressionist painting and an agonized Picasso. The colors were all mixed up, purples and greens and yellows, silver wood, purple marble, white bronze, jade green crystal, blue bear skins, orange palms. Everything too, was all topsy-turvy, it quivered, shimmied, shook, rolled like the sea, the floor rose and fell in waves and the walls seemed to breathe in a bronchial wheeze.

There was a family in the room with him. Indiscernible and shadowy creatures demarcated only by an essence of sex and age. They rushed in and out into other rooms. They were straight out of a Russian novel, all at each others throats.

A boreal wind blew in through the rubbery frame of an open wax-glass window.

Kreis opened the window and peered into the darkness beyond. Thunder rolled across the sky. It wasn’t dark at all, though night, it seemed to be a hotel of sorts and beyond, parts of the city were ablaze. The crimson and orange of the flames leapt in the distance.

There was an enormous neon sign below, over what appeared to be the front door, it said something about a Gold Rush Convention in swirly red neon letters. Out the front door and all down the hilly street the motlyest assortment of human riffraff he’d ever seen stood, dirty and toothless, suspendered, picks, shovels and spades in their hands or over their shoulders, gray slope-backed saddle-bagged mules in tow, in a line that had no end.

He turned back toward the room but it was gone. He realized he was in the air out over the middle of a bay. He could see the city burning and the flames threatening to engulf the twinkling lights of the cities that formed a crescent along the dark line of the water. Then he stepped back, moving suddenly through the air off toward a massive white bridge reaching over the sea. It was as if he was being drawn out with the fog. The water was crystal clear and glimmering. He felt himself moving faster and faster out toward the center of the ocean. He was standing only a few centimeters above the water. Moving faster and faster he could see the rapidly approaching line where the water grew darker from the immense depth.

Beneath him there appeared a massive school of white lion fish which swam in an angelic procession out toward the heart of the sea. In their rhythmic serenity the poison tips of each and every winged fin glowed a spectral and haunting pin point of electric blue.

Suddenly he rose. He was standing on a small invisible platform moving up into the clouds. Then he realized he was in an airplane seated in the second to last row. Instinctively, he got out of his seat and made for the last row. Something happened, there was a jolt, an explosion. He looked around, the plane was empty. Out the window to his right he could see flames coming from the engine. He was immensely frightened. He made back for his seat as the plane began to bank left and fall from the sky. The full length of his body was outstretched as he held on to the back of the seat with all of his might. He watched the sea draw nearer and nearer through the window as the plane continued to fall. His stomach was in his nose, his eyes ripped open to the darkness, to the gently lapping river water, to the rain as his stomach contracted again. He was in the fetal position, his face pressed to the mud and moss along the rivers edge. From the trees behind him he could hear the flapping of wings. The wind had lathered the river skin into a sea of white frothy scales. Shivering terribly from the cold, Kreis pulled down on the edge of one of the old wooden fishing boats beside him in an attempt to raise himself. The water sloshed inside. It rocked toward him. The charred neck of a dead swan flopped over the side.





The woman in front of the mirror, dark blue mascara running down her freckled cheeks, pulling at the roots of the curly reddish hair that hung down in frayed tufts veiling her eyes, froze in mid motion as Favasha entered the room.

Favasha glanced down at his manuscript clutched to her breast and then back to the red watery eyes staring at her in the mirror. The sight of this disturbed her, moved her variously to empathy and repugnance. She felt the need to help and to flee, to reach out and recoil, to ask what was wrong and cover her ears, to comfort and to injure. As if she had anything to spare, as even the tip of the iceberg of emotional display might at any moment melt to unleash the legions of her own abjection.

“What the hell are you looking at,” snarled Eveta, frustrated and bitter, speaking to the reflection in the mirror. “You wouldn’t understand, you couldn’t understand? Look at yourself! At your mascara and lip stick, at those silver buckled shoes, at that vulgar excuse of a dress! Do you think you could ever understand anything!” shrieked Eveta, tears running down her powdered cheeks, the rage in her shaking stare tearing this strange reflection limb from limb, clawing out its eyes, before she ran, struggling for a moment to jerk open the door, back out into the bowels of The Golden Calf.

Favasha stood alone now with the aged mirror, staring at the dark pupils of her eyes, at the fiery green rings that surrounded them, at the lines now underneath, a life times worth of wear still failing to erode her beauty, her lips drawing in the same atoms that Polyxena may have breathed, Penelope, Cloelia trying to catch her breath, clutching his manuscript in a flesh colored folder to her breast. “Does it ever end? World without end.” It was then that it dawned on her how funny it all was, the sublime irony, he’d said the same thing so long ago, when it all just began; “You wouldn’t understand…”




The Spring was shimmering, the sky a firey, electric blue, the whole of the world bathed in a sequined delight, the edge of each and every leaf and blade of grass, the cornice above every door, the gilded edges of the buildings and street lamps, the gold leaf on spears and crowns, every polished railing and cleaned statue drenched in the sun, glimmering in the warmth of the light. The line of poplars along the river rustling their tight leafy skirts as she hurried to the book store. That majestic Spring of sorrow’s and joy.

Of course they didn’t want it, it was in French and they didn’t sell foreign language books. Perhaps he’d over heard her, he must have, while leafing through a book of Dürer prints on display near the counter. He’d followed her outside into the blindingly bright sun light.

“Excuse me, but did you say you had a copy of Breton’s Nadja for sale?” He asked squinting. She had stopped just inside the shade of the book store awning but said nothing, leaning against a table of sale books.

“Umm, I’d like to buy it, I mean, if your really interested in selling it.” raising a hand to shield his eyes from the sun cupping his brow in a strange sort of salute. The heat off the street wavering along the rivers edge behind him.

She had looked at him with a certain skepticism. He was almost a head taller than her, his jaw and nose cut at striking angles portending the strength of youth, while his skin, worn and delicately wrinkled, revealed his age. He looked handsome in his earth tone tweed suit, white button down shirt open at the collar, his dark hair parted neatly to one side. She blinked and said nothing.

He pulled out his wallet, “Look, here’s 500 kroun, Um, I don’t have any change- but I don’t want any,” he said holding out the bill which fluttered in the warm wind. He wore no rings.

She looked at him carefully as if searching for something in his eyes, something hidden in the lines of his face, looking for some hint or another, some tell tale trace of hidden emotion in the form of his lips, in his words.

“Really,” he repeated, the bill still fluttering in the wind. “I’m serious.”

With out taking her eyes from his she took the bill from his hand, and handed him the book.

“Thanks,” he said with a smile, “Thanks ever so much,” he nodded, eyeing the book lovingly, brushing his hand over the cover tenderly. “You know…” he began, looking up again. But she’d already turned and headed off down the street in the heat and sun.

It was some days later, in the afternoon, while she sat in the kitchen, that same golden pearl slipping in through the lace curtains to split the dark wood of the table into a thousand bleary splotches of light, she sat staring at the oily sheen on the surface of her coffee, pushing a sugar cube around the blue porcelain saucer with the tip of a small silver spoon, half read magazines and newspapers cluttering the floor and the other chairs, the framed print of Rubin’s The Sinners Fall to Hell that her x had given her on the far side of the room where she had thrown it, face up, glass cracked, the book she had just opened showing Bronzino’s Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time, that the buzzer rang. She wasn’t expecting anyone and hadn’t any friends to speak of. After the fifth incessant ring however, curiosity coupled with the visitors insistence bid her rise and go to the door.

“Who is it?” she asked in a tired languid sort of voice.

“Um, my name is Emilio Tintoretto, you can call me Emil. We met the other day, do you remember, in front of that bookstore near the river, I bought a copy of Breton’s Nadja from you?

“Yes, I remember,” she whispered leaning her forehead against the door in the cool darkness of the hall.

“Well um, it seems you left something in the book. Um a letter, um, that’s how I knew your address. I’ve come to return it to you.”

“What?” she said, raising her voice.

“Um, you left something in the book, a letter.”

“A letter?” she mumbled as she slid back the cover on the peep hole as if it weighed more than herself. He was looking down at his shoes, the copy of Nadja at his side, a letter sticking out from the middle. She said nothing for a long time and then, just as he was turning to walk away, she opened the door.

“Give it here,” she said softly. He turned back around, stepped forward and reluctantly handed her the book.

“Not the book silly, the letter,” she said with a light laugh handing him back the book. She looked him up and down and then up and down again moving only her eyes. She looked down at the letter in her hands. It was unopened, with no return address and addressed to herself in her own handwriting. “You didn’t open it?

“No, I mean, how could I?”

She turned to head inside, pausing just inside the door, over her shoulder, “Aren’t you coming?”

He looked down at his shoes again, mumbling, “Um, actually, I have to…”

“You can come in for five minutes, no more.” She said disappearing into the darkness of the hall. He hesitated a few seconds, noticed his hands were shaking, took a deep breath and stepped over the threshold. “And close the door behind you,” came her soft tired voice from out of the darkness.

At the kitchen table she handed him the letter and asked him to open it.

“But it’s addressed to you,” he said tentatively, not knowing what else to say.

“It’s from me as well,” she said with a sigh, adding, “By the way, how did you know the name on the envelope is mine? It could have been addressed to anyone.”

“I followed you home the other day,” his eyes for a moment submissive as a scolded puppy.

He opened the letter in silence. Inside there was a picture, folded neatly in half. It was a color picture of a heart, similar to what one might find in an anatomy textbook, showing the different ventricles and exterior veins in blue and red. This cut out heart had been glued in the middle of a black and white photo of a vast desert. Four figures stood to each side of the heart, cut outs as well, from old travel magazines or even older illustrated texts. Clock wise from the top of the picture, they held in their raised arms respectively a length of rope, the jaw bone of an ass, a large rock, and a tree branch with which they appeared to be beating, rather contentedly, this enormous disemboweled heart.

“What does this mean?” he asked scrutinizing the picture intensely, “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.”

“I was going to send it to myself,” she said taking in a slow deep breath. “I live here alone you see,” she nearly whispered, then after a long pause, “and sometimes one needs…”

“Needs what?” he asked with a certain urgency in his voice.

“To be reminded of…”

“And this is what you need to be reminded of?” he asked leaning forward and moving the silver blue of his eyes from her to the picture and back again.

“Your five minutes are up Mr. Tintoretto,” she said curtly, taking the picture from his hand. “Thank you very much Mr. Tintoretto, for my letter. It was nice meeting you. I’m sure you can show yourself to the door.” She turned away and, as his footsteps faded down the hall and she heard the sound of the closing door, she squeezed the picture in her hands, crushing it beyond recognition.

Later that evening, she had gone to her bedroom with a cup of tea and spent a long, long time, sitting motionless, gazing out the window into the faintly starry sky.






Kreis gazed for a long time at the charred feathers of the dead swan. His mind was wracked with impossibility. The line that separated the real from dream was irreparably mauled. That very afternoon he had seen the old woman covered in doves. She was seated upon a bench in the park at Karlovo Náměstí, in front of the Faust House, and he had taken such care to pass by her undisturbed. Doves, he knew, for some, were departing souls. But hadn’t he later in the day, without intent or malice, irritated by the echoing sound of the cooing in the stair well after someone had left the door to the attic open, on his way out, opened the door of Sven’s flat so violently as to scare one creature into such panicked flight that it had broken its neck on the glass of the stairwell window? Kreis closed his eyes tight and smelt petrol. He closed his eyes tighter and saw a flaming swan arching across the sky like some ornithological meteor. When Kreis opened his eyes again his head was tilted back and a white scratch, from far, far away, scrawled its glyph like a piece of white hot thread across a hole in the clouds fabric.

The line that separated the real from dream was irreparably mauled, blurred to indistinction. He struggled to push himself up with the help of the rocking boat, the sound of flapping wings somewhere behind him. He tottered, soaked by the rain, slipped and fell into the river. He was on his knees in the water. A flock of small white seabirds scattering in the darkness out beyond, banked to the left. He made to stand, the howling wind raping even the hope of warmth, the moon gone. There was a light rain falling, not helping to wash the mud from his face, his wet hair stinging his eyes, salty snot, acidic rain and putrid river water running into the corners of his mouth. He pulled the back of his hand across his lips. He pressed his hair back with his palm. His head screeching, moaning, pounding and it was difficult to focus his eyes. His soaked clothes hung from his scrawny frame like wet paper. Finally he was upright, assaulted by the full violence of the wind. Off to the left the street lights above the bridge looked like so many swaying luminescent insect eyes. Holding the throbbing goose egg sized lump on the back of his head Kreis walked up the slippery cobblestones toward the road, his ox blood wing tips sloshing with each step, his mind awash in a tingly numbness. He was trying to remember what had happened, how he had gotten here and as he mined for the gem stones of memory with the swinging hammer of his will he repeatedly missed the target, repeatedly smashed his own skull.

As he stood on the walk along Na břežní the sculpted owls on the buildings across the way leered at him eerily. As he struggled to focus his eyes their heads seemed to jerk mockingly this way and that. For a moment Kreis was convinced they were alive, oval eyes a blinking yellow. He looked away. The sight of the street, rain washed and empty, left him with an even stranger feeling. The feeling crept about inside him, moving this way and that like a caged animal in the darkness. In the distance off to the left a solitary tram rattled across the bridge into the misty silence.

Working to subdue his chattering teeth Kreis headed down the street, splashing with unknown determination and a queer defiance through the puddles of rain water. He crossed the deserted street and headed up the stairs. His right hand sliding along the wide white granite railing until a glimpse of the bleeding scratch at the base of his little finger rolled his sickened eyes toward heaven. For a moment he was searching for something, searching for something lost and… Suddenly, the chain reaction of once repressed now emerging memory fell like a row of men after the firing squads last command. The explosive sounds of a horrible pain filled the gaps in his mind, the burning pain of this amorphous memory mutating into the hideous lucidity of a discernible form.

Stumbling forward he turned left at the top of the stairs as the rain began to fall harder the sight of his own shadow bolting out before him, splattered across the wet ground, sparking the cattle prod that forced him into a run. One block, two blocks down the tree lined street. He was running from his own shadow, the sight of which as agonizing as a finger poking a fresh wound, mustering all of the expectant fear of such a threat until… until the rupture and redoubling of this fear at the sight of a faded green Škoda coming the other way, sliding in and out of the incandescent pools of rain filtered light, head lights off. He swung to the right around the corner. He rattled with all his might on the first door he came to. A reddish light was visible through the glass ovals in the studded iron door. Strange shadowy forms moved slowly away down the hall. Kreis glanced back over his shoulder to the building across the street. From the second floor an owl attempted to hide its staring hollow eyes behind a raised wing. Below, the carved women on the wall beside the doors looked away dispassionately. He ran on down the street. Stalked. Hunted. The what ever it is was getting closer, swirling in the tense air above him like static before a storm, unspecified and formless, swooping down.

He smashed the side of his fist into the box of buzzers hitting a half dozen at once. He ripped open the glass and wood door of number 1307. He stumbled up the swirled marble stairs to the first floor, hit the glowing switch and the hall lights clicked on. He pounded on the door to the right. Suddenly the cover was slid back and there was an eye blinking behind the glass, then the eye disappeared into darkness. Kreis pounded and pounded again. Nothing. He turned to pound on the door behind him, with his fists, then the flats of his hands. The door opened a crack, there was a dyed blond woman in a short pink chiffon night gown with a white feathery collar and hem. She blinked once over the gold chain then slammed the door shut in his face. Kreis slammed his head into the door. What the hell was going on? What was happening? His normally healthy dose of standard paranoia had now been upped to near poisonous levels, telescoping the echo of his heart beat, the sound of his pulse breaching the air around him, mounting toward some inevitable climax. And he knew he was being watched. He spun around catching a hint of motion as the eye hole across the way went dark again. He stepped back and looked up the stair well in time to catch another hint of motion. The static swirl of space hinting that someone has just pulled their head away. The railing pressed in to his rib cage and pulled him apart with a feeling of vertigo. Kreis felt as if he was about to fall, as if he was about to fall up.

As he dug his nails into the smooth wood railing he heard the door he’d just pounded on slam shut again and it was too much, it was all too much, driving him to flee. Times up, the timer expired, the hall lights clicked off. He rushed down the stairs, fell near the bottom, landed on an elbow and his left hip, sliding down a few steps to the landing. He heard the sound of an engine purring out side. He crawled forward, shaking as much from the fear as the cold, his mind casting away the pain on his left side, the throbbing lump on the back of his head, the shivers and the difficulty breathing as he saw the faded green Škoda glide lightless down the street. He waited, holding his breath. His face was pressed to the chilled glass. His breath fogging the pane. So many hidden eyes behind and above him, pressing into his flesh. The magenta break lights flashed, flickered then stayed on, flickered again and then faded as the car turned right at the corner. Kreis closed his eyes. Kreis exhaled laboriously. Kreis pulled himself up. He then bolted from the building like a scared cat. A few blocks down, at the intersection of Přeslová and Pechářková he suddenly stopped dead in the middle of the otherwise empty street.




From that day on the restlessness that had plagued her, for no reason, for years, grew with uninhibited force. She was proving herself incapable of any from of completion and she moved from her art books to newspapers to magazines to the wash to ironing to the dishes to sewing to letter writing as if she were looking for a lost pin, always giving up no more than half way through and moving on to search elsewhere. In between these fits of frustrated distraction she would sit in an arm chair by the window gazing out upon the garden, staring more at her own reflection than at the bumblebees that danced in and out of the shadows around the rose bushes, pansies and cherry trees as rays of sunlight peered through the passing clouds beyond, mumbling something beneath her breath, so softly that no sound could be heard, only the lips of her reflection seen to move… until, eventually, she stumbled back upon that word… said his name aloud- turned from the window, stood and tried to busy herself again.

From the moment he had first said his name she was overwhelmed with an unbelievable sense of déjá vous. It was as if he’d been standing behind her for years and she only just now thought to turn around. She felt as if his name was actually a part of her, like her liver or her kidney, or the bones in her little toe. She wracked her mind in search of lost acquaintances, rummaging through the musty attic of her memory, endlessly recalling and dusting off the long neglected objects that linked her to her past, old photos and letters, tiny sculptures, wine glasses, dolls, exhibition posters, bracelets and necklaces, school year books, ticket stubs and concert flyers but none of them showed even a trace of his touch, no old perfume bottle or piece of patterned fabric ever brought forth the air of his having passed through her life.

Yet she was certain, inalienably certain, as she spoke his name again and again that she knew him, his name had passed across her lips long before, it had passed through her mind like the shadows of dusk draping the streets of Malá strana in mysterious shades of forgetting. Washing away the last light of day. Filling every crack and corner, every street and alley way with possibility, flooding the night with a nocturnal frenzy, as if anything could happen. Perhaps she had imagined him, conjured him up like some mystical king, pulling the letters of his name from the pages she read as if following some secret code, some numerological ritual which unconsciously coalesced in her mind, at once form and formless, an existence defined by its own absence, the presence of what she longed for burned while burning. Was such a thing even possible? No, how could it be. Besides, she didn’t care to consider it further.

Of course, her imagination was little more than a frightful juxtaposition of the real, a re-assembling of pieces of experience bound by the adhesive of dream, this she knew. And yet, over the years this world had become more and more real, had grown inside her to the point it was real, in and of itself, it formed the very structure upon which she stood over looking past, present and future, the bridge between what she knew to be herself and what surrounded her, a bridge beneath which the tides of her emotion ebbed and flowed like the Vltava through the heart of Bohemia and above which her lucid longings drifted through the shimmering darkness like the faces of the clouds which passed over the Prague Castle and the spires of Týn on windy autumn nights.

After a few days of this aimless but intense searching she had finally given up, beginning to deride herself for this ridiculous obsession and, seating herself the following morning at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee chanced to pull out an old popular magazine from one of the near by piles. Turning the pages indifferently, gazing more at the photos than the headlines, suddenly she froze.

There was an article, some sort of critical piece, beside which there was a picture, a man in a dark suit, looking back over his shoulder surprised and concerned. It was his picture.




There was no one, not a soul, the rain washed street was deserted, not a car, not a sound, save for the wind singing a lullaby to the naked trees in the park at the Fourteenth of October Square. Down the empty street to his right the soothing green of the suspended stop lights illuminated a chorus line of circles in the air, circles that in turn grew smaller and faded into the distance. And beyond, at the invisible end of the street, upon the darkness, rising through the opaque mists, the oxidized green copper gold tipped spire so carefully added to St. Vítus by Peter Parler of Schwäbisch Gmünd displayed its majesty as it tore through the shadows of night, awash in a radiant light. Glowing in the darkness.

Kreis blinked and blinked again but the lights, slowly rocking in the wind, remained green. The spire continued to glow in the darkness. He then looked to his right where the cracked muddy yellow bust of the physician, legionnaire, general and writer František Langer leaned out toward him from high above the corner. His mocking smile seemed to celebrate the serenity of this moment. Of his moment. Of a statue’s moment. Kreis could hear the purring of the engine from somewhere behind him. His eyes then jumped to the lighted twin towers of the church of St. Vaclav behind the park, the dark body of Petřín hill visible beyond that.

The church, the church, whispering thoughts of sanctuary.

He heard the flapping of wings above him. And suddenly, without looking back, he was running harder than he’d ever run before.

The next thing he knew he was clutching the cold wet metal of a lamp post on the rain soaked grass beside the rounded apse of the church his knees weak from the strain. Trying to catch his breath, gasping for air, his head spinning slowly he realized this wasn’t your average lamp post base. That he was clutching something different, something abnormal, that his arm was wrapped around a pair of… metal lion’s paws. And his cheek? He pulled away his cheek. There, at eye level, he saw the bloated head of the cherub. Its eyes closed. Its mouth open. Lips swollen with death. As if an infant had been poisoned or drowned. Hair swept back by some eternally invisible wind, wings poised for lift. This cherub, this dead mute cherub was on the other side. Waking with closed eyes. Taking the first breath of eternity.

Kreis stepped back, his eyes scaling the leafy ornamentation of the lamp post up toward the soft white fluttering light. Wings of light swarmed like orange-yellow butterflies in the drizzly darkness. His eyes parted the shadows just before the final tapered cylindrical lift to discern the goat skulls among the sculpted foliage.

Goat skulls.

Empty eye sockets.

Horns spiraled in.

The opening of his eyes and mouth, frozen at their extremes, fell back upon themselves in silence. To Kreis’ mind, at that precise moment, the world around him, all of nature itself, was filled with the deafening echo of an unending scream. That the only thing to be heard was the howling of the wind through the trees on Petřín hill across the way, the dead rain soaked leaves pasted to the walk, the naked poplar branches rattling like dead bones in a shaken coffin somewhere behind him, need not have registered.

As the whistling wind inhaled, the encroaching purr of a car engine drew near.

Kreis fled. He stood before the gutted rectory behind the rounded stone apse of the church, desperately looking for somewhere to hide. The sound of the purring engine drew ever closer. The frigid wind was in hysterics. The three stories of open glassless windows looked like so many yearning mouths, molding ripped out from around the sides, crumbling red, yellow and soot stained black brick, peeling plaster, dirty plastic sheeting twisted by the wind around the upper windows. The black peeling paint of the pad locked double doors looked like they’d been clawed by an enormous beast… Lightening slashed the charred cloud heavy sky skin, or was it the flash of turning headlights? Kreis held his breath as he slipped through the bars into the basement of the rectory.

Darkness. The thick sedentary smell of forgotten objects, unwanted objects, broken objects abandoned by all save for the gently determined hands of time, assaulted him with childhood memories, memories of his grandparents basement, his father’s wooden rifle, the boxes of old books and daguerreotypes, the dusty cobwebbed traveling trunks, unused tools and cast metal parts, useless picture frames and musty rolled carpets. He felt his way over the boards and broken glass, over the piles of rubble to the stairs in the darkness. Then, sliding his hands along the wall, he made his way to the first floor.

At the top of the darkened stair well an effusive amber light radiated from the frame of a door less portal. The rotted wood on both sides looked as if it had been bitten away. The light, unyielding, drew him toward it.

Kreis stepped through this field of light as if passing through the watchful eyes of some living gate into a large corner room. The lights of the formerly gas now electric street lamps below, around the church and in the park, thrust hideously deformed shadows in through the glassless windows to coat the room in a fuzzy amber darkness. And the first thing Kreis noticed? The very first thing was the wood of a beautifully inlaid and painted ceiling. Thick beams hewn from the Bohemian forests, long since polished by loving hands, demarcating the rectangular spaces inlaid with light blue tiles, water stains blurring the winged creatures depicted in the frescos, mosaics of old men in flowing robes extending their arms or recoiling in anger surrounded by piles of books and pictures. These were majestic pictures, noble pictures, enchanting pictures, abandoned pictures, pictures left for dead.

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness they focused upon a single empty light socket suspended by a dusty chain from the center of the room beneath which he caught a flicker of gold. His eyes struggled again to grasp what he didn’t want to believe to be the raised golden blade of a flaying knife in the hand of an enormous statue, a statue that took up some two thirds of the room. For a few seconds Kreis stood without blinking his eyes. His gaze slid down from the raised blade of the flaying knife to see the muscles of the arm as the darkness of the form itself pulled from the dim amber lights streaked across the walls behind. A flood of form returned to fill his mind as if the water of the Red Sea before Pharos’s armies, a wall of intricate distinctions crashed into the back of his skull as he contemplated what rested before him.

It was the figure of a man, seated, draped in flowing robes. What appeared to be a human skin was laid across his knees. An open book rested in his left hand. His right hand, raised back high above his head, held a golden flaying knife, the blade tilted towards heaven, his solemn, swollen eyes focused upon the tip. In the odd amber light that cut across the base of the pedestal Kreis could see what he could loosely read in translation as ‘St. Bartholomew Apostle of Christ, gift of the Prague Butchers Guild, 7 November 1619’ and beneath that, the words glowing in gold leaf; ‘Alea jacta est’.


1619, the Czech nobles having deposed Ferdinand as King of Bohemia, Jaroslav von Martinitz and Wilhelm von Salvata the previous Spring, pastisched into a dung heap, the declaration of a 30 year’s war drafted upon the wind with the feathers of their falling caps.

1619, blades raised again, spilled blood added to the spittle smeared ink of the Royal Charter of Toleration, the Majestätsbrief, crumpled by an unseen hand, fallen to the floor and trod upon years before. 7 November 1619, the Prague Butchers Guild still donning their bloody smocks, smiling at the withered arm hanging from a chain high on the wall beside the main entrance, gathered in the church of St. James to dedicate a statue commissioned in May the year before in celebration of the 2nd Prague defenestration.

One rotation of the earth round the sun, 365 days later, atop the crested plain of Bíla hora the army of the Czech nobles accompanied by Germans, Swiss, Dutch and Hungarians would meet, in a battle of odd numbers and even odds, utter defeat at the hands of the Czechs and Germans, Walloons, Italians and Spaniards who marched that day beneath the Hapsburg flag. Seven November 1619 and the 23-year-old soldier and adventurer René Descartes, having joined the army of Maximilian Duke of Bavaria, after that of Prince Maurice of Nassau at Breda presented him no opportunity to fight, crawled inside a wall stove in a small room in the town of Ulm in search of warmth.

In the course of that day, as the waters of the Danube swirled by beyond the walls, inside that stove, his brain boiling, his eyes closed, he saw a bright light in a whirlwind, he was tormented by a feeling of falling, there was the sound of thunder and swirling sparks and then a vast and uninterrupted calmness as he stood before an open book of poetry. He had a hard time making out the words printed in High German lettering, adorned in Arabesques.

When he reached for the page, oddly enough, the book vanished.

René Descartes, 23 years of age, nearly 365 days, one rotation of the earth around the sun, before he witnessed the battle of Bíla hora, in which he did not fight, stepped from that oven with, in his words, a nearly complete, rationalized, model of what he envisioned to be the universe.

A mechanized universe.

The model was his.

He stepped from that oven with a vision of the unity of science under mathematics, himself a mathematician. He stepped from that stove with a vision revealed to him by what he later called an angel, the messenger of God, himself.

Seventeen years later, after viewing Albrecht Altdorfer’s Birth of Mary (as urged by his Jesuit teachers) and the Battle of Issus (as recommended by his commander) in Regensburg the year after Bíla hora, after he crossed the Alps to Borgo a San Sepolcro to see the mathematical perspective of Piero della Francesca as depicted in the Flagellation of Christ and seeing instead his Resurrection in the Palazzo Comunale, the triumphant Christ holding the battle flag, after desiring to head on to Venice but for some reason turning back, heading North-west up the valley of the Ticino, across the Devil’s Bridge spanning the Schollenen Gorge, its single sleepless arch and suspended wooden planks a masterpiece of 13th century engineering, after he crossed St. Gotthard’s Pass into the valley of the Reuss and North to the Rhine beyond, after he skirted the edges of battle as the churches of Europe burned, as death, famine, disease and armies of madmen plundered, as Count Tilly criss-crossed Germany in pursuit of the Protestant forces of Count von Mansfeld, 17 years after he followed the Rhine back to the cathedral at Strasbourg before veering West to follow the setting sun on to Paris.

Fourteen years after he joined the ranks again to lay siege to La Rochelle, the Hugenot stronghold on the edge of the great sea, before, chilled to the bone by the slender mists of the Bay of Biscay, appalled at his own distorted reflection in another’s polished armor he, in so many words, deserted a third and final time and at dawn, as the cock crowed, retreated back to Holland into seclusion.

Seventeen vagabond years after he crawled from that stove, the cities of Europe were still under siege, the countryside decimated, the dawn of the partial peace that would break in the Treaty of Westphalia still 15 years away from casting its light through the lingering smoke, down Petřín hill, and upon the monks, students and elderly townsmen manning the barricades on Charles Bridge against another threatened Swedish assault, René Descartes, smelling the yellow, red and white tulips in a near by vase, penned a text he called initially… a History of My Mind.

Upon these pages René Descartes pretended never to have witnessed the battle of Bíla hora, never to have seen priests and peasants strung up and gutted, hanging from the trees like over ripe fruit, The Birth of Mary by Albrecht Altdorfer in Regensburg, the Resurrection in Borgo, never to have smelt what he had smelt; bowels and burning flesh and tulips, seas of excrement, rose water and incense, never to have heard what he had heard; the toll of the church bells, the firing of muskets, the roar of cannon, polyphonic variations on the Mass in Notre Dame, Clément Jannequin’s Les Oiseaux, tasted what he had tasted, touched what he had touched. There he pretended that what he had never sensed was in toto no more true than his illusions and dreams, that it all was thereby… false.

It was in this false light, interpreted by his false? eyes that, remembering the oven, he decided with great clarity and force of false? will to pen the words: Cogito… ergo sum– I think… therefore I am.

Cogito ergo sum- he wrote as the churches of Europe burned. Cogito ergo sum– wrote the witness, the soldier, the deserter, the saved? Cogito ergo sum– he wrote as the cannon roared and the blades flashed. Cogito ergo sum– he wrote as Europe bathed in butchery, soon to dry in a return to serfdom. Cogito ergo sum– he wrote and the senselessness rages in reason. Cogito ergo sum– he wrote and the blood has not ceased to flow.

Overcome by a dizzying feeling. A feeling of veneration. A feeling of awe. A feeling of lust. His sleepless blood swirling inside his veins, ever coursing through his brain, Kreis felt compelled to climb. To climb gradually up the pedestal. To join his hand with that that held the golden blade. And so he began, his heart pounding, in utter awe, to climb.

Twenty-four years before the birth of René Descartes, 65 years before he tentatively proved his own and there by (at least to his mind) God’s existence, on St. Bartholomew’s eve in Paris, 2,000 Huguenots were butchered. The Counter-Reformation swung like a pendulum, its darkest hour falling like a blade long raised. Upon hearing the news Pope Gregory XIII rejoiced in the name of god, the King of Spain simply laughed. A rationalized world, its flesh burnt again and again, its disemboweled heart left in a pool upon the street, reflecting the rational light of the flames as the feet rushed past. Timeless flames- emanations of the divine- ablaze while not consuming.

Cogito ergo sum– and three is one. Cogito ergo sum– born in an oven as the world burns. Cogito ergo sum– from an angel descended in a dream. Cogito ergo sum– the resplendent gift of God. Cogito ergo sum– and St. Bartholomew was flayed alive. Cogito ergo sum– a heart perhaps too battered to be of interest or of use.

When at last his body collapsed in the statue’s lap he was breathing deeply, reaching up as he gazed unremittingly at the sublime serenity of the face. He began to reach up with trembling fingers. Afraid of what they might touch. His trembling fingers gradually climbing the air. He reached up toward that face. His arm blackened by the thick shadows. And the further he reached, the harder he strained, the greater his desire to grasp that blade, to find out what was there, to touch those lips, those eyes… the further away that face.




They met at the Café Rudolfínum, in its elegance and empty expansiveness even their whispers seemed to echo. “I didn’t know you were a journalist,” he had said, leaning back in the low roll backed upholstered chair.

“I’m not,” she replied as if insulted by his asking.

“Your not?” lines of concern, the flags of a faint distress waving across his forehead as elbows on the table, he knitted his fingers.

“No,” she said dismissively, leaning forward, playing with the leaves of the plastic orchids in the small crystal vase in the center of the table.

“But on the telephone you said you were…that you wanted to…” his thought as cloudy as the white marble of the table top, his eyes drifting up to the gold and gray blue trim of the inverted sunken baths in the ceiling.

“Does that really matter?” her eyes for a moment sleeping upon his lips.

“Um… no, no.” he said gently, hiding a subtle smile, looking up at the carved wood capitol of the faux Ionic column beside him. There was an awkward pause as he wiped the beaded moisture from off the outside of his glass with his little finger.

“I love you,” she whispered, looking away. The gray sky and the distant rumble of the approaching summer thunder storm filtered in through the arched picture windows. He was silent for a long time, staring the other way out into the ballroom and at the colored marble of the grand staircase that led to the exhibition halls.

“I know,” he said finally, closing his eyes for a moment as a flash of lightening filled the arched windows.

“I have to go,” she said coarsely, pulling her hand from over the bowl of sugar packets as it were aflame, making as if to stand. “Will I see you again?”

“Tomorrow night?” He wrote his address on the back of a ticket to the gallery and slid it across the marble table to her. “Will you come?” he asked meeting her eyes at last, the hesitancy of their previous meeting now banished.

“Yes,” she said. She picked up her gloves and purse and left with out looking back. The sound of her heels on the creaky parquet floor of the ballroom gave her cause for hesitation. Near the base of the red marble arched stair way she glanced at the enormous curtain that hung above the entrance to the recital hall. So many times before she had paused to admire it. The Apotheosis of Poetic Art by Gustav and Ernest Klimt and Franz Matsch, 1886 originally made for the theater in Karlovy Vary. This time, as her eyes moved around the sublimely graceful nymphs and maidens, gods and demigods, she found them coming to rest upon the mournful dark haired woman near the bottom right, Cupid moving toward her, struggling to look away from the minstrels reclining below her to the right, the dark green and gold fabric of her dress having fallen loosely to expose her large pale breasts, her left arm outstretched from the hip, limply holding a dagger. At the sight of this her heart swelled with an admixture of fear and longing. She turned her eyes away quickly and ran, from an otherwise empty room.

The next evening, just after dark, she took a taxi out to see him. She had little trouble finding the place, only having to double back once. A crowded tram rattled by as she took a deep breath and headed up the cobblestone incline. He lived in a small no name street off Újzed at the base of Petřín hill. A pale electric street lamp in a glass case made of green painted iron, mounted high on the building to the left, listlessly called out to the shadows its dim light struggled to define. At the top of the small incline, hidden from the noise of the street below, off to the left, draped in murky shadow, tacked on one of the two faded red wooden doors, it was difficult to discern in the light, but she thought what she saw was… was an old, weather worn and torn poster…of a bull fight… How odd.

She pushed down on the latch and the door swung open easily. Behind it she found the courtyard, lines of untended laundry flapping in the wind beneath the stars, a rusted iron railing running round the interior of each floor, amber-orange light emanating in the corners from behind bug smeared glass, moths and mosquitoes circling round, chipped plaster and chiffon yellow paint peeling from the walls, creaky wooden steps. If it wasn’t for the laundry she’d have thought the building deserted, the courtyard having more the feel of a parking lot beside an abandoned tenement building, gristly weeds sprouting up through the cracks, than shared human space. She wished she’d worn gloves.

His flat was on the fifth floor.

She gave three knocks in rapid succession and thought of running away, finding herself staring for a moment at her raised, clenched fist. She looked back over her shoulder at the lines of laundry flapping in the wind and noticed the single red shirt or towel or whatever it was amid so many pieces of white and then the eyes of an old woman disappearing behind a curtain. She exhaled laboriously, at once a sigh of utmost desire and tedium. She’d grown too old to be afraid. The odd thing was that, perhaps for the first time ever, she didn’t feel that this was something improper, impetuous, compelled. As strange as it was she could have sworn that she thought that this was where she belonged, not standing before a closed door, but with this door and all and ever that it held behind.

She knocked again in tight quick repetition and no sooner had her knuckles met the wooden door the last time then the door tore open.

As the light that flooded out from behind the open door moved from the definition of shadow to the dimension of form she recognized him instantly. He stood full before her, in the same earth tone tweed suit, his hair parted neatly to one side, smiling this time almost pathetically. She noticed a strange glimmer in his eye, a distant and far away light that seemed to glisten in two identical pin pricks upon the perennially wet surface of his cornea as he extended his hands.

The ceilings were so low she had to stoop to pass through the double set of door frames. He lived in the old servant’s quarters, the wooden ceilings darkened by years upon years of paraffin and tobacco smoke, the rickety pale green shutters that opened out onto the dank courtyard always closed. In the living room, soot and scraps of paper lay beneath the door of an old, black, cast iron stove attached to the far wall, a small pile of wood and coal in the corner for winter warmth. Well worn Persian carpets on the floors. There was a damask over stuffed armchair beside the stove and a chartreuse padded foot stool, wooden shelves from floor to ceiling filled with dusty books, in the opposing corner a writing table with a single drawer, cluttered with papers, piles of books spine up, a small arched jade green glass-domed electric desk lamp and a silver ash tray with a single cigarette butt. In the adjacent bedroom, which smelled of wormwood, there was an old brass bed touched by verdigris, a single glass topped night stand, a tall double-doored First Republic wardrobe, a stuffed low backed, floral patterned sitting chair in umber, saffron and lemon, rust stained white porcelain wash basin with a single leaky tap and dirty bar of pale blue soap, a few shelves with toiletry items, a tarnished mirror, cracked coffee stained cups, a rusty metal tea pot and a hand full of assorted bone china in a rack atop a small counter with a single burner stove. A solitary light bulb hung from a chain above the bed.

“The bath’s there, where the kitchen should be,” he said with some embarrassment. “It’s squalid, I know,” he added. “It used to be better…better before…”

“Before what?” she inquired with determined curiosity.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said quietly, wishing he’d never brought it up.

“And so you write?” she said sitting down on the hard bed and smoothing the black woolen blanket with the palm of her hand.

“Um, um, I really don’t want to talk about that.” he looked down at his shoes again.

“What do you write?” she asked fixing her gaze upon his face. He turned and walked toward the other room, pausing in the door way. The way he stood, his shoulders hunched in, his head bowed beneath the frame, the shadows of his face long and drawn out, he looked like some sort of angel, a solemn angel… a fallen angel.

“You wouldn’t understand.” he said softly.




The hypnotic sound of an almost Gregorian chanting mingled with the soft crackling of the fire. Lurid dancing tongues of light. Shadows cavorting over the walls of the room before the laughter began. A sickly, maniacal laughter. As if rising up from the depths of Earth. Emanating from the statue. Upon the altar. The gold leaf of the crucifix on the wall behind pulsing in the light. Searing the darkness.

The next thing Kreis knew he was pulling a shoe off. Hopping around on one foot before throwing it. Heaving it with all his might at the cross.

“Here’s your fucking fix!” he screamed. “Shoe fetish Death- Jesus Pookie, Pookie you always said you wouldn’t die with your fucking shoes on! Lousy cyclist-suicide!”

He’d seen one once in Amsterdam hit by a car the man dead in the road having left a smear of blood upon the asphalt some five meters long and at the base of it a single shoe, a lone shoe. The jumpers too lost theirs as they fell from Nusle bridge, always at least one, always, then he was reaching for something on the wall. Reaching out with both hands.

Arms open wide.

Pulling a picture down.

A painting.

A painting of St. Zenobius- Bishop of Florence- restorer of the dead to life.

He was making as if to kiss it. To kiss the gold ringed hand reaching out to the dead man painted in the coffin, his rib cage crushed, his shattered skull bandaged and instead smashing it over his head. The canvas ripping, the golden frame now hanging by a corner around his neck.

Again he was reaching. The golden frame impeding his reach. Trembling fingers outstretched. Reaching for the face on the statue. For the lips of a face impossibly far away. Always just out of reach. The form of the golden flaying knife raised above, held high back behind the head…


Letters, golden letters, glowing letters, ancient letters, scrawled the pages of the open book. Held to his chest. A stone book. A carved book. Cold as the lifeless earth itself. Frozen. Kreis was frozen, looking from the book down to the hooded brown robed monks as they filed shuffle stepped into the room, hands lost inside their robes, the beads of the rosaries hanging from frayed ropes around their waists, licked wet by the fire light where innumerable flames danced in reflection.

They stood in a semi-circle, eyeless in the hoods of their robes. Before them, between Kreis up high in the statues lap and the semi-circle of celibates there was the crackling of the fire.

The laughing fire.

The silent lackeys of an idiot god’s authority looked up.

Kreis looked up. And the raised blade of the golden flaying knife began to fall.


Kreis’ eyes were cut open. He was curled in the fetal position. He was shivering on the floor of a strange room in a nest of dirty plastic sheeting and old newspaper. On the ceiling he saw strange winged creatures, smeared and distorted.

There was a small fire adding more shadow to the room than its frail light succeeded in banishing.

On the far side of the fire sat the gypsy.

Kreis, with some effort, managed to sit up, pains shooting beneath the dome of his skull. Kreis tried to remember what happened. In the fire light the sight of the gypsy’s dark eyes shot terror through his veins, the terror of the impending, of the unknown, of the evil of intent. The gypsy held up the knife, the fire light stretching in smooth yellow streaks across the steel blade, turned it this way and that before Kreis’ eyes, ran his fingers down the blade, then hurled it into the floor beside the loaf of bread.

Kreis blinked in amazement.

The silent gypsy motioned with a slight nod of his head, a lifting of his chin, his ear rings licked by the fire light. Kreis reached for the knife. The gypsy motioned again and Kreis pulled away the dirty handkerchief to reveal the smelly block of moldy Romadůr cheese. The gypsy looked away as Kreis, ravenously, began to eat.

“We live in a wind age,” whispered the gypsy in tones barely distinguishable from the crackling of the flame, “We live in a wolf age my friend.”

Kreis, his gaping mouth filled with bread and moldy cheese, his eyes adjusted to the darkness, could now see the woman standing in the door way, leaning against the door frame, pulling down the pleats of her flowing white Cossack blouse to reveal her hard nippled breast, long dark hair let loose as she pulled back her vibrantly colored scarf, her dark motionless eyes fixed upon the flames.

“A wind age… a wolf age, my friend,” whispered the gypsy again as he kissed the woman, parting her lips with his tongue, pressing her into the door frame, his hands pushing up her long ruffled skirts, her moist neck back as she convulsed to his thrust, what looked like blood running down her inner thigh in the fire light and after shoving bits of bread and cheese into his damp pockets, Kreis left them this way, entwined against the door frame. Their flesh undulating in waves.

Then he was out through a window climbing down a rain gutter onto the street, in the mist and fog, wandering in a shivering daze, the chatter of his teeth echoing inside his skull, lost and yet somehow comforted, no longer afraid, feeling a strange sort of comfort blossom inside his soul like the warm waves of a drug that banished pain and he was smiling to himself, to the night, to the cold, to the mists, to the cobblestones and labyrinthine streets.

He was almost ready to laugh, to sing, when something disturbed him, forced him to freeze.

There was a rustling in the bushes somewhere behind him. Something was stirring.

Frozen streams, frozen rivers of his thought, of his longing, of his hope, save for the trembling shivers, struggling to subdue the chattering of his teeth, arms clutching his shoulders, Kreis listened, not daring to turn around.

What ever it was it was LARGE, there was no doubt about it, once more it wasn’t restless, there was nothing aimless in the sounds of its motion, in fact it was unnervingly determined, in fact, it slowly occurred to Kreis that… that he was being… stalked!  that he had been being stalked! Kreis sloshed forward and the sounds in the underbrush rustled, stopped dead then began to rustle again. Kreis stopped and the rustling settled into position. He was afraid now, afraid of what ever it was that was behind him, watching him, waiting for the right moment.

His mind seized like an engine with a thrown rod… fear tickling him like ants across half asleep flesh.

Slowly, silently, carefully Kreis began to tip-toe down the street and what ever it was moved right along too, staying back a bit, keeping pace, rustling through the bushes.

The hair on the back of his neck was standing on end, the cold gnawing on him ruthlessly, a return of the frigid, rapacious wind, the mist dissolving to a light rain whipped by the wind, bleary blurry street lights reflected in pools of water endlessly rippled by tiny concentric circles, over lapping, expanding and over lapping again.

And the what ever it was beginning to growl, a low guttural growl, a deep and vicious growl, rolling in through the gaps in the wind.

Could it be?

Kreis dared a tepid look over his shoulder… And what did he see? What could he possibly not see but the wolves, bursting out of the bushes as his endurance reached critical mass, fear shooting like a molten enema through his body and he broke into a run over the wet slippery cobblestones, arms, with elbows pressed to the sides of his chest, nearly flapping like featherless wings in his attempt to keep balance, knees rising to his waist, back arched, the growling beasts in hot pursuit.

Kreis caught sight of the innumerable bared fangs glistening, of red eyes glowing, as his panicked start took momentum with a turn into a head long, all out, dash… for anywhere else.




She was laughing now, a light delicate laugh at once self-effacing and pitying, desperate and forlorn, designed to hold back the tears. The manuscript was on the counter before her in the flesh color folder. She ran her fingers across the cover. She smoothed out the thin silk of her powder blue dress with the palms of her hands. With two fingers she pulled her panties out from between her butt cheeks, turned and looking over her shoulder into the mirror smoothed out the thin silk over her ass, pulling it from the places in which it clung to her moist flesh at the small of her back.

The musty warmth of The Golden Calf coupled with her nervousness had made her sweat. She turned back around and removed a hair brush from her white beaded handbag, fixed on the fiery green of her slightly watery eyes in the mirror and ran the brush through her shoulder length, satiny ravens black hair.

Beyond the bathroom door the din of The Golden Calf sounded like the roar of a football match.

She wiped her eyes, breathed deeply, slowly. Sucked and pursed her lips to check her candy red lipstick.

And in her eyes, in the reflection in the center of her eyes she saw him, she saw that white, white, white on white hall with the blood red carpet.

She saw the blood where it streamed over his chin from the wounds where he’d bitten his own lip, she watched as he spit out a corner of his tongue his wild eyes lost in their ability to recognize her to recognize anything other than the madness, than the vortex that was once his thought, pulling him down, down, deeper and deeper into his own immolation.

“Christ,” she cried, “Jesus this has gone too far.”

“They’ve gone too far. It has to end. This world without end. It has to change. To break. To stop. God, it has to stop.”

She was crying now, putting her brush back into her purse, smearing her lipstick with the back of her hand as she wiped her nose.

“I hope he can tell me what to do.” she whispered to herself, “Maybe he can do something, Christ Emil maybe he can do something. He has to do something. He’s always doing something for these people. For Christ’s sake that’s what he does. That’s what he does. Really maybe he’ll do something. He has to do something. Dear Christ he has to do something. He’ll understand, maybe he’ll understand. I’ll ask, maybe if I insist, if I plead. I’ll plead Emil. God I’ll plead. He’ll make them see. He’ll make them understand.”

She was wrestling with her tears now but it didn’t matter. Favasha lifted the manuscript, clutched it to her breast, took a deep breath… and headed out to find the critic F. X. Baron in the bowels of The Golden Calf.




A regular fixture in The Golden Calf, one might even say its liver, F. X. Baron, in a mauve waist coat and mauve shoes, such gaudiness not even wounding his adoring fans, shaking off his closed forest green umbrella, was having a difficult time containing his laughter.

It seemed F. X. Baron had been laughing for a long time now.

Most likely it began one fine, late Spring day in 1984, when his professor at Harvard spared him the trouble of research and handed him his Ph.D. after an hours talk over two tall gins. Seems he’d been laughing ever since.

He laughed the day they offered him a professorship in Cultural Studies not because he was eminently qualified but because he was such a “nice young boy”. And he laughed his way through the top editorial posts at a series of ultra trendy New York magazines, through his own talk show, through the publication of a handful of books- ghost written of course as F.X. Baron couldn’t be bothered to actually pick up a pen- on post modern art and youth culture, completely unscholarly works of distorted fact and polluted ideas he privately championed as the “genius of charlatanism.”

F.X. Baron; great man of ideas, great man of letters; stale, lifeless, stillborn ideas, dead letters. F.X. Baron; the modern art critic with the proud distinction of knowing nothing, absolutely nothing, about modern art. F.X. Baron; a man who cared nothing for aesthetic perception beyond the size of his bank account, who knew nothing of the passion for form beyond the cosmetically enhanced size of a woman’s breasts and by this very fact had established his name.

F.X. Baron; the man that knew that clumsiness and mediocrity were democratic in a way mastery and genius could never be. F.X. Baron, critic for a democratic age.

His categorical ignorance of any and all history, his fantastic lack of precision in denoting the shades of culture and taste, his crude, dim witted, repetitive and over bearing anti-style all worked to ground him firmly in the present.

The impression he made upon the public was similar to the lingering omnipresence of an over played pop song.

His character was devoid of the threat of a specific stance or actual opinion, essentially devoid of meaning, while becoming meaning itself.

The impunity of his insincerity, the audacity of his fakery formed the perimeters by which the hyper-reality of motion sick lives were defined.

Everything he saw, every act, gesture or object became affixed in the permanence of the now and hence safely freed from the damning criteria of history. His attitude endlessly endeared him to generations X’d, Next and Vext, to those who failed to see a world given over to the through standardization of egocentrism, to the wonderful illusion of collective individual experience, a world blissfully lost in the unwavering homogenization of representative icons.

Moreover it had become impossible to achieve anything in the world of Occidental Culture, in music or literature with out his support.

A smile of approval from him guaranteed the possibility of fame and success, a frown prefigured the night before death, harsh words mandated suicide. People religiously sought out his friendship like the Indians of the Sonora Desert had peyote, for its sickening and ecstatic bitter-sweet fruit. There was no greater an ally than F.X. Baron and no worse an enemy. And now the great man, as great in bulk, like that German Chancellor he said, he went in for sweets, as in stature, was laughing again, laughing still,

“It was amazing, absolutely amazing, it has to be the greatest thing I’ve seen in ages.” he sputtered in-between fits of hysterics, his fat red-slapped cheeks jiggling, his glassy brown eyes watering from the strain.

“What?” Asked the buxom platinum blond twins in unison, sitting side by side atop the table, lanky and exposed legs toward the wall and F.X., flinging their hair back over their shoulders with a turn of their heads.

“No you wouldn’t believe it. You couldn’t believe it. It was too much.” sputtered F.X., tossing his umbrella in the corner, then turning to face the corner himself, hands on both walls, gasping for breath amid the laughter, head bowed, bald spot showing like ground zero of the blast that had thrust his frizzy dyed orange hair so violently forward.

“What?” asked the twins with greater insistence, rising to seat themselves now on the benches across from each other and staring into each other’s eyes with a smile.

“Amazing, absolutely amazing!” he gasped, pushing off the wall and rubbing his hands together, tears streaming down his face from the laughter.

“What!” screamed the twins, turning from F.X. to admire each others’ cleavage across the table.

“So you know,” he said, pulling out the bench, struggling to contain his laughter, plopping himself down with a heavy thud,” you know that alcoholic painter, the one that’s always writing that tripe for the papers,” he sputtered, dabbing at the corners of his eyes with his knuckles, elbows on the table.

“Yea?” replied the twins in unison, one looking down at the silver satin stretched tight across her breasts the other smoothing out her short pastel blue lycra skirt.

“Well I just saw him, splashing through the puddles, running for his life down the street!”

“What’s so funny about that?” asked the twin named Helena arching her back to assert her breasts, the lacy line of her white lingerie accentuating her cleavage.

“He was being chased by,” his words becoming… indiscernible… due to laughter, “by a pack of,” burying his face in his hands, “a pack of, a pack of…”

“Of what! Camels?” screamed the twin named Hanna flicking her hair back with a turn of her head to brush the string of pearls around her neck.

“By a pack of… a pack of…a pack of, oh God… poodles!” howled F.X. in a fit of uproarious uncontrollable laughter. “You had to see it,” he spit out, “Ears back, tongues out, it was as if they were out taking him for a run!”

He was now completely collapsed atop the table, head buried in his arms, fat belly jiggling in waves, raising his head now and again to gasp, “the poor sap, the poor sap…looked as if….as if…. the hounds of Hell themselves…”




His heart beating faster than ever, Kreis gasped for breath, inside, his back to the just slammed heavy wood door of The Golden Calf, wolves howling in the rain beyond.

“Hi! Hi! Hi!” yelled Gerta, sweet, plump, double chinned bartendress Gerta, wiping her hands on her white smock, “Get away from the God damn door you fool,  you’ll turn away my customers. Shoo, away, Lord knows you’re good for nothing!”

Inside it was bright to the point of senselessness. He was forced to repeatedly blink his eyes. It took a moment or two for it to register, for it to seep in, that the space before him formerly so riotous and Bacchanalian had fallen silent, that every soul in the place, however disheveled and lowly, was now, with a fixed gaze, staring at him and him alone.

“Shoo!” hollered Gerta again, picking up the soup ladle she often used to cuff rowdy drunks and smacking it on the side of the tap, then raising it in the air “Shoo! What’s wrong with you? Drunk already? Look at you! Have you gone mad? Get the hell away from the door!”

The suffocating heat of the room worked to calm Kreis’ shivers and he could feel the expectant weight of the patrons gaze bear upon his tender frame with overwhelming force. Refusing to acquiesce to their intolerance, Kreis slunk to the far corner and seated himself at an empty table.

He could hear the laughter from downstairs.

He was afraid to look up.

Gerta slammed down a beer in front of him, dropped a white slip of paper with a pen scratch and moved away grumbling beneath her breath.

“Real bitch, isn’t she,” said František, cupped hand shielding his lips, leaning over toward Kreis, his hangover soothed by the booze, the woman in his bed now a memory of conquest, or shame? She had left without so much as a smile, a word good-bye. Seems she was in a hurry. A meeting of sorts. “I’ll never know why I’m so into this place, Jesus ya know. Ya know, sometimes I just wanna give it all up, live pure, clean and pure like the poor. Jesus, ya know, Jesus.”

Kreis pressed his fingers into his temples, he stared into the beer his mind a newly ravished flood plain, the ground of his thought trembling as if in the throes of a massive quake, his memory freshly scorched earth.

He knew he had no money. The wolves were howling in the rain beyond.

Trembling Kreis reached for the beer.

And what did he see?  As his hands touched the glass? No more than the white washed wall beyond dissolving into the gold framed face of Milosz P., rising like the new moon drunk on itself, rising up over the roofs of the city like an enormous balloon, glowing white, narrow lower lip turned out, nearly rolled down to touch his upper chin, glistening wet with a light moisture, head bowed down, swollen, dark rimmed heavy lidded eyes looking up, bulging outwards in a vain suppliance.

Such solicitude.

The man sublime.

Waiting for a God he knew was his own, justified yet humble, while reaching for the knife, an instant of utter pretense, after a life time of practice, waiting for just this God to look away for an instant, before he was gone, returned, back to the bitter petty groveling, the scheming, the usurpation of insignificant victories.

The self indulgence in the name of a greater good, the lying, the wallowing in a stolen righteousness.

How sweetly the madness of the herd justified his folly and lifted him into relative moral authority.

His false piety was sickening.

“Disgusting,” mumbled Kreis as František nodded in approval and the eyes in the room began to look away.





Like a sleep walker down the halls of an abandoned building, Dr. Šteštny moved through the exile of each mans existence. He moved slowly, guided by an invisible hand. He paused in the stair well, paused before empty rooms as if recalling the memory of long vanished childhood’s. He ran his fingers over the cold clammy landscape, over the walls of flesh. He examined the hair and nails, eyes and teeth as if reading an autobiography. He cut through the skin as if passing into the curtained sanctuary of an ancient tomb. He peeled it back as if leafing through the pages of a sacred text, as if stepping into the Holy of Holies.

He examined all of the vital junctures, a general studying the map before battle.

Then he plunged in, immersing his hands in bodily cavities as if they were vaults of gold coin, snipping and slicing his prize free. Delicately he selected the most valued of treasures, he weighed and measured, recording his findings as if debits or credits, merits or demerits to be brought before some eternal judge and jury. He stepped back to wipe his brow, his breast swelling with pride. He lit a cigarette, pulled out a chair, picked up a pen and proceeded to record his personal and professional observations. He closed the flesh colored folder, extinguished the cigarette and rang the bell.

An attendant arrived dressed like a bell boy in all white and wheeled away the gutted corpse.

Dr. Šteštny was smoking a filter less Start, his feet up on the desk, watching the rings of bluish smoke drift toward the white fluorescent lights of the ceiling and listening to part II of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre Du Printemps when two loudly cursing ambulance drivers brought in the body of Milosz P. and dumped it like an enormous slab of meat upon the surgical table. Dr. Šteštny adjusted the volume on the small cassette player radio and held out his hand, palm up stretched, to receive the ID and papers.

Lubor shook his head, reached into his pocket and pulled out a blood stained box of matches.

“What the hell is this,” roared an indignant Dr. Šteštny.

“That’s all there was, it was in his left breast pocket,” offered Klement generously.

“What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” grumbled Dr. Šteštny noting the gold embossed picture of a calf blotched with dried blood.

Dr. Šteštny threw the matchbox on the desk, took a long drag from the butt of his cigarette, turned back up the cassette player and motioned that they should take the corpse from the body bag and lay it out properly on the surgical table.

The two ambulance drivers responded with gestures of indignance. For the last five hours their minds had been firmly fixed upon the pub and such petty demands upon their time as this bordered on insulting.

It’d been a rather gruesome day really, or so Lubor and Klement were inclined to think, they entered this line of work to save lives, not ferry corpses.

As soon as the mangled clump of flesh formerly known as Milosz P. resembled something closer to Homo Sapiens Sapiens than average road kill Lubor tossed the body bag around his shoulders like a shawl and they were off with out so much as another word.


“Make a left here,” hollered Lubor over the roar of wind, beginning to roll up the window now that the smell had dispersed a bit. “We can have a drink at the Three Trees.”

“But there’s nowhere to park,” barked Klement.

“Just park on the walk, who cares, flash the lights or something and people’ll think it’s official.”

Klement switched on the lights and wailed the siren as the ambulance pulled onto the sidewalk across from The Golden Calf.

The beer, shaking now centimeters from the trembling lips of Harvey Kreis, exploded as did the rest of the white walled room with a flash of the electric blue light. Kreis’ shriek was drowned out by the wail of the siren. The beer slipped from his fingers. He heard the sound of breaking glass, of people shouting.

Then he was standing on the table, falling, climbing upon the next table in a desperate lunge for the door.

“Jesus, Jesus,” screeched František, “You just… you just…spilled your…”

“Hi! Hi! Hi!” Gerta was screaming, “Stop him! Somebody’s to pay for that glass!”

Kreis felt the hands upon him, so many ruthless, brutal, ignorant hands, grabbing him just as he reached for the latch, spinning him around to the distorted sneering faces of that assaultingly bright room.

He made to shield his eyes but found he couldn’t move his arms. The smell of their rancid breath made it impossible to breathe, the masses in the tap room pressed in with accusing eyes.

“What!” screamed Kreis, “Jesus What!”

The sound of breaking glass continued to fill his ears as he struggled against the malicious whispers that seemed to move through the crowd in viscous waves of mounting impatience.

It was then that the accusations began, steely knives pricking the impenetrable surface of his mind, thrusting to carve out his heart. And what could he say in his own defense? What words came tumbling from his frothing mouth? “The Devil, the Devil, he’s dead, Dead! Don’t you understand! Fucking Jesus!”

“What? Don’t you understand? Jesus?” they jeered, bawling with mad laughter as they pinned him against the wall, “Ha! You were the last to see him alive! Perhaps, in some way you’re to blame. It’s all you’re fault! What did you say to him anyway, on that hillside, really, what did you say? We all know how irascible he is. We all know he could care less about you, that he uses you like… Oh, but how endearing he can be, interested, genuine and generous as long as the gold glimmers in your mine, he smiles, he winks, all the while reaching for the pick ax. Milosz P. is cunning. Cunning. He’s found a way out with out you. Can you feel him dancing on your head? Can you hear him soliciting your action? Can you hear him scolding you for playing the puppet? Can you hear him screeching…”

“Hi! Hi! Hi!” Gerta kept yelling, maniacally waving the ladle in the air, “Have you gone mad?” A half dozen men were holding him on the floor, after he’d slunk down and attempted to crawl away through their legs, trying to subdue him with a coat as he kicked and screamed, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” over and over again, legs and arms flailing like some sick insect upon its back.

The telephone was ringing.

She’d have had him thrown out if Professor Armand hadn’t intervened, pointing out that he was quite wet, insisting that’d he’d freeze to death out there, that perhaps he’d gone insane or something, that it would be best to call an ambulance.

The telephone was ringing.

“Gone insane?” screamed Gerta, “Looks more like bad acid to me!”

The telephone was ringing.

“For God’s sake Len give them a hand so I can get the damn phone.”

It was just then that someone attempted to open the door to The Golden Calf.

The Three Trees around the corner was too crowded and just as they were angrily getting back into the ambulance Lubor and Klement noticed the faded sign above the door of The Golden Calf creaking in the wind across the street and the pack of wet black poodles waiting anxiously beneath.

“What the hell,” Lubor shrugged as Klement kicked the growling beasts aside applying a hand to the cold iron latch.

There was a bit of resistance so he put his shoulder into it. And they both stumbled into the fray.

“Close the fucking door!” shouted Professor Armand straddling Kreis’ head upon the floor before looking up, “Oh, it’s you. What took you so fucking long! And don’t just stand there slack jawed you gargantuan toadies, DO something!”

“Two beers,” offered Lubor gesturing toward the barmaid Gerta now on the phone.

“This isn’t my day,” mumbled Klement shaking his head sadly.

“Well, git to it!” screamed Professor Armand struggling to keep a hand over Kreis’ mouth. “I’m a doctor of philosophy not of bleedin’ medicine!”

“I can’t believe this,” said Lubor, what should we do, run?”

It’s too late, they’ve already seen us.”

“Yea, but they’ve got some drunk on the floor and I need a beer.”

Klement knelt down, gesturing for some of the men to step back, pushing some others. He grabbed Kreis firmly but gently by the back of the neck, tilted forward his head and asked, “Are you hurt?”

The trembling Kreis shook his head faintly: no.

“Good,” said Klement allowing Kreis’ head to fall back to the floor.

“Are you hurt? What kinda fuckin’ question is that? Just git him fuckin’ outta here!” said kneeling Professor Armand through his teeth gesturing over his shoulder to the bar maid Gerta on the telephone. “He’s soon to be in some fuckin’ trouble if it isn’t quick!” he whispered.

“All right,” said Klement, “Come on, your coming with us.” Klement nodded to Lubor who shrugged his shoulders and the stunned Kreis was lifted, like a sack of potatoes, onto Lubor’s back, who, as he carried him fireman style across the street, was followed by the pack of eager poodles… until Kreis was tossed into the back of the ambulance.

The doors were closed, the poodles began to bark and howl, Klement and Lubor waved to the crowd in the door and windows of the Golden Calf, hopped into the ambulance, switched on the lights for good measure, and drove off.

Owing to the economies of scale the dogs failed miserably in pursuit.

As soon as they were a few blocks away the lights were switched off.

“Great, now what,” said Lubor putting his feet up on the dash and resting his head on his knees.

“We let him sleep it off in the back and go for a beer,” Replied Klement, “But let’s get out of the center, and fasten your seat belt for the ten millionth time.”

“Hey, you know what I just remembered?” said Lubor with a laugh, playing with the shoulder strap.

“What?” said Klement palming the steering wheel and lifting his fingers from the sides.

“Lenka and Barbora said they’d be at The Green Courtyard tonight, that’s Pavlic’s hotelpub in the village at the Church above the Black Woods!”

“Oh, yea!” sang Klement making a screeching left through the yellow light and pushing down the accelerator hard, “Why didn’t you say so!”

Lubor and Klement smiled to themselves as the ambulance headed out on highway 333. The thought of Pavlic’s pub, the girls, the sight of the pools of light upon the rain slicked road disappearing into the darkness beyond, combined with the rhythmic swoosh-click, swoosh-click, swoosh-click of the wind shield wipers, lulled them both into silence. The wind rocked the ambulance side to side as it sped down the empty highway toward the village at the Church above the Black Woods, the sounds of the engine conveniently drowning out Kreis’s intermittent and desperate screams.”




He’d been walking for a long time. Walking. He didn’t know how long. Walking over the face of the earth. At times he thought he could feel the sea at his side. At other times he felt himself wandering in endless valleys, across forested steppe, beside the roaring flow of enormous rivers. At a certain point he knew he was moving inland. Deeper and deeper toward the heart of the continent. Ahead the moon shone full through a silver lined rift in the clouds, illuminating the red tiled roofs and golden spires of the village at the Church above the Black Woods in a watery luminescence that made the whole of the village seem to float upon the dark body of the land. The road sloped down and to the left and he was walking, still walking, walking in the direction of the moon.

How long had it been? How long? He couldn’t say. The Egyptian Dynasties, the Minoans, Mycenaeans, Phoenicians, Celts, Greeks, and Romans had all fallen, felled by the merciless, almost human, hands of time. Europe had seen wars and more wars, periods of darkness and relative light.

An indifferent Earth swallowed corpses by the billions, belched smoke and flames, trembled and wet itself after the heavens cried. How long had it been?

The tubercular hands of a denuded apple tree reached from the empty expanse of a near-by field, the moon light painting silver shards of a mirrored glass into its rain soaked fingers. How long had it been? Too long, that was all. And perhaps not long enough.

There were times when he thought he could smell the salt air of the sea. Times when the after-thought of far away factories burned his eyes. Times when the whole of the world was lost in a listless hazy coal smoke, times when the piercing freshness of the pines made him forget his body high in the clear unseen alpine air. Times when he bruised his feet upon the jagged rocks.

He’d been walking for a long time.

An ambulance sped by as he neared the edge of the town trailing a cape of thin mist that pressed into his face. For a moment he closed his eyes, to hear all the better the never ending sound of his footsteps upon the earth, to hear the beating of his heart. The moon drew him out like the tide.

He liked it best when he could see its body in reflection upon wet asphalt, in pools of still water.

A couple passed, arm in arm, laughing, on the other side of the road. Then he was in the village, the raised golden cross of the church spire guiding him on through the narrow winding streets.

There were only a few lights, dim and veiled, here and there, at street level. The village seemed to close in upon itself, hidden behind walls, doors and curtained windows. Its stone walls seemed to fold in upon themselves like secret memories in the mind. Theirs’ was a different world than his, difficult to recognize in all its ancient familiarity.

He could hear the folks in the pub as he neared the square, laughing and shouting and singing.

Making merry on this night.

On this night as so many nights before.

Someone was playing a violin. He heard a door close and a dog barking. He heard muffled shouts and pounding.

Again he strained to hear the sound of his own foot steps.

The expanse of the deserted square opening before him, the Gothic church of the Saint of the Guardian Angel rising up from the far end, moonlight sleeping on its green copper garrets, moonlight licking the edges of the golden spired ball and cross, moonlight caressing the darkness inside the bell tower.

Still he heard pounding and muffled shouts, the sound of a nail from his worn down heel scuffing the cobblestones. He slowed down as he approached the faintly rocking ambulance parked on the empty square. The muffled shouts and pounding evidently coming from inside. He winked to the moon as he paused and undid the latch, then turned, walking out across the street and the top of the square to the left.

The bewildered Harvey Kreis froze as the ambulance doors unexpectedly swung open. He knew never to expect to expect what he expected. His nerves were fractalized, generating ever new yet eternally similar patterns of pain.

And the sight that greeted him, the sight he’d unwillingly come so far to see?

No more than the darkened facade and drawn metal shutters of a bookstore. The rain slicked sidewalk was empty save for a few soiled leaflets advertising the circus. He pushed further open the doors to improve his view, prepared to see the executioner, testing the trap door of the gallows, sharpening the blade of the axe in a bloodied white smock.

With immeasurably uncertain relief Kreis stepped cautiously down from the ambulance. His mind had been spun so perfectly in the centrifuge of this unfathomable evening as to resemble, at this hour, calm itself. Carefully he closed the doors behind him. He jiggled the latch to ensure it was properly locked. And it was only then that he staggered almost fell back, the ridge of his lower spine slamming into the cold, rusty metal lock on the shutters of the bookstore, arching then inward in equal and opposite reaction, his head careening back on his neck to take in the cloud covered vault of the silvery darkened heavens, his eyes rolling to meet the now cloud fractured body of the moon as it waned behind the roof of the church, his chin then giving way to the summons of gravity, as it fell with a nod, his eyes working to fix upon a lonely figure moving without haste toward the far side of the square.

With everything in him he wanted to call out, to shout, but by virtue of his own fear this proved impossible. For a few moments he wavered in front of the bookstore his eyes riveted to the figure rapidly disappearing among the nocturnal shadows of the buildings on the far side of the square. Fearing both solitude and company, as a thin but rain ready cloud veiled the body of the moon, the howl of a far away dog set him to fright and Kreis found himself walking briskly out into the shadows.

Walking, walking still, through narrow walled streets, a faint incline growing stronger as the street turned to a cobblestone path and then into a muddy trail draped in wet leaves, rimmed by rain weighted blades of green grass, fenced off to the left, the night air rife with the pungent smell of brown coal smoke, invisible dogs whimpering timidly, the moon calling out to him with a smile one moment and then turning away, leaning back, hiding her face the very next.

He could hear the old communist era PA system switched on and off and then on and off again.

A cock crowed in the distance.

The sound of static from a speaker on a near by telephone pole immediately raised the hairs on the back of Kreis’ neck. He stopped, stung by the silence, the burning at once assuaged by the sound of water running in the subterranean sewers.

Kreis sized up the darkened streets nervously, a pale amber-orange street light flickering on to cast his elongated shadow across the windowless wall of the two story house beside him. The sight of this frightened him again, forcing him to up the pace, in an ever more rational irrational attempt to catch the figure disappearing now into the woods below.

And he was walking down through thick matted grass to the stream, branches poking his exposed flesh, snagging on his clothes, mud ever more slippery, the face of the moon now wearing endlessly inter-changeable masks, falling toward the darkened curve of the undulant body of the earth visible through the twisted trees. The sound of snapping branches behind him turned his head.

Kreis froze mid step.

The man meet his eyes as the body of the moon chaffed the upper ridge behind him, watching for an instant as Kreis’ pupils reflected the moon in miniature before falling back into the darkness of an intervening cloud.

He turned away and as he crossed the stream a legion of invisible frogs leapt into the water as if fleeing a snake. He headed up the hillside into the woods without so much as a word, the moon now setting behind the ridge.

They walked on, occasionally stumbling, in a blind silence, through the Black Woods, for an indeterminable measure of time, before finally, in a small recess formed by a cleft in the hill side, in the middle of a ring of dark sturdy pines, the man stopped.

He turned slowly, extending the full length of his arm. He was reaching out, his palm up turned.

And the gesture, or at least what could be seen of it in the darkness of the wood, resembled no less than the inverse of Michelangelo’s Adam.




The wind hovered above the dark body of the land, teasing the rain heavy clouds, whispering secrets through the tops of the pines. Beneath this consorting canopy two men sat, in a small recess formed by a cleft in the hill side, shoulder to shoulder to garner what warmth they could, their backs against a large granite slab.

One of them, a tall handsome man in pale blue and white striped pajamas and a long red winter coat with black fox fur lining, had been speaking for quite some time, if not rather adamantly, while staring into the darkness.

Wide eyed, the shivering Harvey Kreis soon became lost in the man’s tale.

“…Then you see, when they told me, they showed me this coat and these gloves,” the man shook the black fox fur lining of the coat with one hand closing his eyes for a moment. The other, gently thrust into the right coat pocket, produced a pair of white, fir lined women’s gloves which he smoothed out carefully across the tops of his knees, “I knew it was impossible,” he said opening his eyes with a smile.

“She didn’t wear lined gloves, she didn’t like how they felt on her fingers! I bought her a pair once after I read in some magazine that women with sensitive fingers could live out men’s erotic fantasies ten times over with a pair of fur lined gloves, as a joke you know, and she told me women right, cows maybe and threw them back in my face.”

He laughed delicately, “And this coat, look at it! Ha Ha. She hated red! She couldn’t stand it, ever since that time I cut myself with the light bulb, from the moment she saw my blood falling on the white porcelain of the wash basin, then falling upon the blank sheets of typing paper, falling in big red drops… She went pale and then scrubbed the flat for days. Ha! Such pathetic lies they told me, I could see right through them.”

“I mean… I once asked this man, a sculptor of some sort they’d found out running among the cars on the highway, half naked and laughing, obviously they thought he was insane, who I found to be quite a reasonable fellow, he’d stumbled upon some rotten luck that’s all, his wife had run off with a rich engineer or computer programmer or someone like that, I think he made bombs for the military or something and after he’d put in so much work, so many years of his life dragging the beauty of form into the light.”

“Ha, to see it all destroyed in that way!”

“The poor man, he had to prove to himself that it didn’t matter, that irrespective of it all he was still alive and so out he went to run with the bulls. And you know what he told me? When I asked him why he thought we were there, he told me, he told me that we were there for them, to allow them to exist, to carry on their lives.”

“There’re no real lunatics or doctors here, no sick and sane, he said, only a recognition of a hierarchy of method. You know, the lowest cast, by sheer virtue of their incoherence, legitimates the highest. You know just as Atlas holds up the world standing on the back of an elephant who stands on the back of a jackal who stands on the back of a beetle…and on and on… And the higher up you are the freer you are to go.”

“It’s all a question of show you see, a one legged juggling act on a unicycle, all a question of how well you keep the cat in the bag.”

“Some of these folks they’re just here for the thrill of the chase, they don’t want the cat back in the bag, he said, in fact some of them don’t even want the bag.”

“And in return, it’s so simple. So simple,” he said. “They try not to take, that’s all. That’s why they are where they are, those great men of science. They allow us to give. To give to them our sickness… unto death.”

“So when they tried to tell me she was gone I didn’t buy the hype. But then she didn’t come. No one came. No one had ever come but her. She was all that mattered. I knew it was a lie, what they told me, that she’d gone away, that she wouldn’t ever be back, that she’d asked them to give me these gloves and coat. I didn’t believe them but I took them anyway, knowing, knowing that I’d need them. It wasn’t long before I could hear her calling. Tapping on the window glass at night. And I answered. You bet I answered. The first time I put on the gloves and coat, turned up the collar, lowered my head and walked straight out the front door at the end of visiting hour. That time they caught me at the gates and brought me back. The next night I was out again, through a window in the bathroom, as a kid I read a lot about Hudini, but they nabbed me wandering lost through the housing estate at Bohnice, labyrinthine those pánelaks, old Komenský would have loved them, the Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart.

Third time’s the charm though and I just stayed out a little longer on my allotted evening walk, went over to the petting zoo and winked at the llama for good luck and then hid in the stables until nightfall when aside the rising Venus she came to call me again.

“They caught me eventually but it didn’t take long before they began to forget, forget to look for me or grew tired or simply didn’t care.” His laugh was delicate, almost mournful. “They probably thought that I would too. That I’d walk it out of me. Where would I go? That I’d grow tired like a stray dog and return for a handout. But they wouldn’t understand, they couldn’t understand. They didn’t know that I knew the one about the man who was told he’d have to walk for Eternity to find Paradise and he walked for a while and then grew tired and so he stopped and lay down right where he stood and refused to move an inch in protest knowing that Eternity was an awful long time.

I know that’s all they know because that’s all I ever told them.

But what they don’t know was that after a good long while this man realized that nothing at all was happening, that no one came by to ask him why he was laying on the path and he was sad and lonely as could be and obviously his protest was in vain. So he resolved not to see Paradise at all but figured out instead that it was probably best just to keep walking to avoid the sadness and loneliness and who knows maybe on the off chance one day he would end up at the other side of Eternity in Paradise and then he’d tell them a thing or two about all that lay in-between.

And that man didn’t know my Favasha. Never even stopped for tide or time and I only lay down to rest or sleep because I already knew that I better keep walking, whenever she calls, as I know she’s waiting for me.

Waiting with open arms.

Open arms I tell you at the center of it all and I’ll tell her a thing or two, I’ll whisper it in her ear and she’ll laugh and cry and smile and shed tears of joy as I tell her about all the majestic beauty of this restless life and the splendor of the world. She’ll be waiting with a smile to hear it too I tell you and it’s the moon that does her bidding. The moon that’s calling out to me because for reasons I’ve yet to understand she can’t do so directly and in person otherwise she would have come my Queen and led me back home. But no one can carry a man where he must walk and I know that one too…’




Favasha was in the bowels of The Golden Calf, heading from one darkened smoky vault to another, past a shirtless ridiculously tattooed man in an alcove artlessly thrusting a torch down his throat and spitting out a little finger’s worth of flame, past a fat woman struggling to keep her balance in black stiletto heels, fish net stockings and a black chiffon evening gown with a sweat stained white feather boa bending over the back of a seated man, attempting to lick his neck while he variously pulled her hair and attempted to shove away her face. Further along she could see card tricks being exhibited by a one armed Indian laughing in a candle light that sparkled off the golden caps of his teeth.

A waiter passed by juggling a tray of dishes with an umbrella, she was elbowed and pushed by a group of costumed university students, came nose to nose with a man in an otter suit, was accosted by a mime, nearly tripped over a snoring drunk in the second stairwell, was forced to push her way through a flock of well dressed people putting on or taking off coats, exhibiting the finest of European business acumen while kissing cheeks or shaking hands, past an expanding and contracting cluster of couples dancing flamenco only to be followed by a rather crazed and smelly bearded man with an eye patch and a rat with paper angles wings on his shoulder who’d been waltzing alone.

Just inside the arch way to the next vault she asked a table of lovelorn youths, leaning heavily on their arms and staring dejectedly at the clutter of glasses spread between them like some chaotic chess game, for the Leopard room, who in turn eyed her with more longing than lechery before directing her further on. Finally, in the darkened expanse of the crowded back vault, innumerable floors underground, the head waiter, spying an attractive young woman, standing in the middle of the fray, clutching something to her breast, standing on her tip-toes to see over the heads of the mingling crowd, looking obviously lost and perhaps somewhat frightened came up to her in his swashbuckling bow tie and asked with a subtly polite bow if he may, in any way, help.

“Mr. Baron please,” stated Favasha with no hint of reserve, “I’ve an appointment with him in the Leopard room. Is he here yet?”

“But of course madam, of course, but today F.X.’s in the back, in the Trophy room with the Pelts, right this way,” he beckoned with a graceful turn of his white gloved hand.

“Mr. Baron?” said Favasha timidly, hoping her mascara hadn’t run, every muscle in her body beginning to tense, her fingers nervously digging into the flesh colored folder containing the manuscript. The fat man, playing with the pearls on the neck of the dyed platinum blond seated at his side, his back turned to the small door less portal that lead to the VIP (Very Ingenious Pigs) section, showed her the back of his hand and waved her away irritably.

“Mr. Baron, please,” repeated Favasha with greater insistence, glancing over her shoulder to the madness behind her.

“Not now Hunter, I’m not giving autographs today.”

“Please, Mr. Baron, my name is Favasha …”

Hanna continued to laugh as F.X. Baron played with the pearls on her neck, whispering, “you’d do better to wear a string of pig’s eyes.”

“Shellacked or fresh,” giggled Helena from across the table. Hanna ran her corvette red nails over the back of his thick neck, the tip of her tongue sticking out from between her teeth.


“Jesus, don’t you understand fucking English? Not today!” he said, turning his head like an enraged tyrannosaurus, his angry open mouth mutating into a smile at the sight of the slender and beautiful dark haired woman in the light blue silk dress, back lighted by the warmly sinister flicker of candle flames from the next room, looking at him imploringly. “Well, well, well,” said F.X. Baron, raising his eye brows repeatedly, “What sort of lovely little lusciousness do we’dy have here? Girls,” smiled F.X. with a wink to Helena and Hanna, “Do you think we should offerrrr our guest a ssseat?”

Helena licked the lipstick off her teeth and looked down at the table. Hanna crinkled her nose then looked grudgingly from Favasha to the empty space on the far side of F.X. and shrugged.

F.X. scooted around to face the portal in which Favasha stood. He smiled warmly and patted the bench beside him. “N-o-w,” he said slowly as if speaking to a child, “what is it that of course I could do for you? Hmm? You are a sweetie aren’t you? Hmm? Scoot a little closer and tell old F.X. all about it. Hmmmm?”

Helena exhaled sharply through her nose and Hanna shrieked as she was kicked in the shin from across the table.

Favasha seated herself beside F.X. Baron and laid the manuscript in the flesh colored folder on the table before her. His eyes narrowed with delight as she explained how many times she’d tried, how hard she’d tried to get through to him because she knew he could help, that he would help, that he has to help, that he’d understand, that he’d see, because that, that was what he did.

“Of course, of course dearie,” said the fat Siamese cat F.X. his fingers rhythmically tapping upon her knee.

“I knew you’d understand,” she said emphatically, “You always understand. I, I know how busy you are… but I thought well, if you could have a look, I mean right now, if you would have a look, then you’d understand, then you’d see, then you’d know what I mean, what I explained in all the letters.”

“In the letters? What letters?” mused F.X to himself, “she must be desperately in love with me. The poor thing. Perhaps I should have pity on her.”

F.X. Baron drew his had up Favasha’s leg catching the hem of her silk skirt and sliding it up a few millimeters with his little finger before reaching up to tap on the flesh colored folder with the fingers of the self same hand.

“You mean this, may I?” he asked coyly, sliding the manuscript toward him. “So, let’s have a little looksie, shall we, wadda ya say girls?” With this F.X. reached under the table with his left hand and squeezed Hanna’s leg until she squealed, “Ouch!”

“He always has a little looksie,” added Helena her elbows on the table, playing glass spider with her fingers and staring cross eyed at the tips.

“Just a little looksie,” squeaks Hanna forcing a smile and again crinkling her nose.

“So,” said the unfailingly self confident F.X. Baron with a light laugh, “let’s take a little nibble here shall we’dy…”

With this, critic for a democratic age F.X. Baron untied the folder, stuck the manicured nail of his little finger into the middle of the manuscript, pried the rest of his grubby fingers in between the pages, opened the text, smiled to the table and began silently to read, his lips mouthing… “Mercilessly his head pounded, the marrow in his bones seemed to burn and his… ”




“Mercilessly his head pounded, the marrow in his bones burned and his clenched fists, even while at rest upon his knees, trembled.

For an instant, from where he sat in the arena, Pontifex Maximus, compulsively turned his head to the right to steal yet another glance at the cross he had had raised before the gates to the Palatine.

He could feel the man’s blind eyes still warm in his clenched fists.

He shuddered terribly, clenched his teeth and cursed the gods beneath his breath. Octavius was certain that the blind man was staring at him and at him alone. The thought of his bloody, empty eye sockets beating deep into his heart like a hammer so many iron nails.

It was the hour of noontide and the Emperor quickly looked back to the arena.

A hush moved through the crowd in the Circus Maximus like the diffused and quieted rumble of the sea after the breaking of an enormous wave as from the blue gray shade of the silver rimed red canvass awning that covered the Imperial box, a tall, thin cherubic looking boy emerged with a golden stave, inlaid with gemstones and fire opal, to unfurl the Imperial ensign.

Embroidered upon a field of deep red in golden thread, sword and staff were clenched in the ghastly talons of an enormous black eagle which rippled majestically in the wind.

At the raise of the Emperor’s chin the sonorous and regal sound of a thousand metal trumpets rose to fill the rain washed air and the immense body of the gathered host, the gluttonous and disheveled citizens of Rome, aristocrats and champions, Senators and soldiers, armorers-beauticians, carpenters, astronomers, forgers and fitters, potters, roofers, masons and riggers, tanners and trainers, philosophers, agents, students and physicians upset a shout so loud it nearly ruptured hells conclave and frightened the realm of Chaos and Old Night beyond.

With a mighty and dramatized raise of the Emperor’s clenched fist the heralds began to sing the Ode to Almighty Rome, the Emperor mouthing it silently beneath his breath, variously fighting to keep his lips from turning down at the ends and suppress his lingering nausea with hard swallows.

At the conclusion of this the drums began to roll in waves. The first legions of cavalry entered the floor of the arena from the East at a fast trot. Near the center of the rain soaked arena, as legion after legion followed on horseback, spears raised and swords drawn in review formation, the procession turned to face the throne, the commanders wild-eyed white stallion reared, forcing him to bring the whip down viciously upon its sweat frothy neck as he, a broad, sturdy man with dreadlocked brown hair and a tanned weather worn face, reached across his own arm to draw his sword from its scabbard and raise it high above his head.

The kiss of sunlight glistened on the blade as he saluted at the top of his lungs leaning back, “All hail Almighty Caesar!”

“Hail Caesar!” roared the deafening crowd.

“All hail Almighty Caesar!” he saluted. As the stallion’s front legs clawed violently at the air, the commander’s back leaned vertical.

“Hail Caesar!” replied the nearly deafening spectators.

“All hail Almighty Caesar!” called out the mighty man again, rocking slightly forward, his rigid arm with sword drawn unwavering as the horse returned to earth.

“Hail Caesar!” shrieked the multitude of Rome as a shadow thrust like a fist across the Circus Maximus.

The maddening cheers of the intoxicated crowd intensified. The drums and trumpets grew louder and ten thousand foot soldiers, newly returned form the frontier in Gaul, entered in rows thirty wide, victory ribbons fluttering, banners of all colors, shapes and sizes unfurled and waving ferociously in the wind, feathered helmets glistened and shields glimmered as the sun tore again through the clouds.

As the sound of so many marching feet dissipated upon the wind, the roar of the crowd began to subside and thunder rumbled in the distance.

The sun light was obscured by a passing cloud once again and then erupted in phenomenal splendor over the legions now at attention before the Emperor.

He stood, as they, with one hand firmly upon his waist, the other in a fist clutched to his heart, his abdomen pressed to the smooth wooden balustrade of the Imperial box, his eyes compulsively rolling to the right to catch sight of the dying man on the hill as distant flashes of lightening silhouetted the cross upon which he hung.

The dull rumble of thunder continued to echo through the Circus Maximus as the storm pressed eastward.

The Emperor, with the reluctance of one recovering from a painful distraction, nodded to a young page with blond curly hair who rang the bell to begin the trumpet call to instruct the hordes to be seated and the legions to stand at ease.

The Pontifex then cleared his throat, pressed his clenched fists into the small of his back and began, in a bellowing voice, to speak…”

“Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Great and venerable citizens of our Empire! All that is from the Gods is full of Providence! From Providence all things flow! We are made for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyes and teeth. To act against one another is contrary to Nature. There are times when the great body of all things human falls ill. When it acts against itself. It is then, to maintain our health, that the corrupted limb must be cut off, the polluted blood from this body must flow!”

“It has been said by our poets that he who over comes by force only over comes half his foe. It is to the glory of the Gods and Rome that we combine force with wisdom. The result dear Romans is our Justice!”

“Neither the Gods nor Rome shall be blasphemed! Thieves of Empire, false prophets and blasphemers shall pay with their lives! The polluted blood shall flow!” The Emperor squeezed his fists tightly and then opened his hands. The eyes fell at his feet.  He then paused to lean dramatically with both his bloody hands upon the railing and surveyed the crowd with a slow turn of his head from one side of the Circus to the other and back again.

Filling his chest he continued, “Hence, let it be known, that it is by decree of the Pontifex Maximus, Almighty Caesar, on this the Ides of Sextilis, that from this moment forth, O’ venerable denizens of our illustrious citadel, that it shall no longer be the Roman Senate and the Council of Justice that shall loose the polluted blood, but the venerable citizens of Rome, in accord with Almighty Caesar Himself!”

Again a devastating roar broke out through the universal host.

Cullus, who had been anxiously awaiting Tantellus’ speech, from his box below the Emperor, turned around in a near panic and glared at him angrily, seeing the proclamation for the political ploy and despotic usurpation of power that it was.

“Behold!” continued the Pontifex, raising his arms with open, bloody, palms before the unruly crowd and obedient legions, “The spectacle before you!”

The iron bars of one of the multitude of gates that ran the perimeter of the Circus Maximus opened and the man named Eblis, shackled in chains, was dragged out and to his knees before the imperial throne.

He looked remarkably young, almost virtuous or innocent. He had long auburn corn silk hair knotted and soiled by his imprisonment, shallow set glowing eyes that, beneath the incredulity of his faintly arched brows, emanated an aura of indifference to his present fate and seemed focused only upon a distant future. The ruddy peach fuzz that clung to his chin and scarred jaw amid the dirt and scabs rimmed a face with out so much as a line of worry or concern. In fact, his delicately pursed lips although curled slightly down at the ends alluded to a faint air of joy, if not laughter.

All this, of course, was in stark contrast to the faces of the prison guards that surrounded him and held his chains, who looked on with glazed knowing eyes obsessed with the impending punishment and pain or lecherously counseled in testament to the inevitable, wallowed in the prospect of torture, measured in their brow a determined and irresolute anger or greedily beseeched a miracle.

“Behold… to commemorate this occasion and celebrate the Festival of Mars, The Pontifex Maximus Almighty Caesar, offers up to the people of Rome a corrupted lamb! A sacrifice to Health, to be raised on a Roman cross in the protectorate of Judea …as an example to All! Citizens, Justice will be done! Let the games begin!”

The crowd nearly exploded, the legions raising spears and banners, swords and shields, horses reared with flaring nostrils, drums rolled and horns sung to the heavens. Flowers and rotting vegetables rained down upon the kneeling and bloodied prisoner Eblis. The Emperor nodded to the blond page, stepped back under the shade of the wind shaken canvass awning and motioned to Senator Tantellus to begin his speech.

The Pontifex then collapsed trembling into his chair. He was devoid of strength, morosely pale, his heart pounding.





“You see my dear,” said F.X. Baron with a sigh breaking into a subdued cough, sitting back and crossing his arms, drumming his fat fingers on his swinging triceps, “All this simply has no bearing on the here and now. It lacks nowness. It’s a bit of perverted history, that’s all. Never mind morbid. It’s simply not worth the paper it’s written on. It has nothing to say.”

“Now, on the other hand, were you to mend it into something like the X parade of DJ Maximus and Senator Sex with special guest Circus Caesar, gettin’ down at the am-free-theater you might get a few bonus miles!” the laughing F.X. Baron had his grubby groping hand back on Favasha’s leg and was slowly moving it up her thigh, “Which I’m sure you’ll need, as it’s along way to Judea. If you wish to discuss the matter, my flat however is, right here, right now, right around the corner, right girls! You know what I mean?”

Favasha’s watery eyes stared at the critic incredulously. She pushed away his insistent hand… to no avail.

“In fact,” said laughing F.X., “I’ve seen this type face before. Once I even reviewed some such nonsense… an old woman gave it to me with out a word, much like this, a manuscript, ha she was probably his mother! One Sunday when we had nothing to run I wrote a review with some extracts and just to point out that such schlock is mere dribble, to get out the word that today’s generation is more than disinterested, I flayed the poor fellow alive. I even sent out a photographer to sneak a picture of him to subject his image to public ridicule! This is the New Millennium! We’ve a taste for motion, for life, for the Scene, not for the insignificant rhetoric of isolated eccentrics! I dragged the poor fellow through the mud and rightly so, I shut him down if you will, because people today just don’t need that type of rubbish. It’s all about the surface, not the depths! All that glitters is gold! I know what people want and I know what they need! Now I know you’re trying to write sweetie but really there’re better ways to objectify yourself… if you’re so interested in being exploited…than scribbling over a few sheets of paper!”

They’d gone too far. It had to end. This world with out end. It had to change. To break. To stop. Oh God, it had to stop. What was she thinking?

“Ummm,” she said beneath her breath, fighting the tears. Who was she to explain to him? Who was she to tell him anything? He’d told her so long ago. What to expect from such people. That almost always they got it all wrong.

How pathetic it was. How pathetic was she? Now a prop in their charade, nearly sacrificing her dignity, his dignity, in begging acknowledgment from this sickly circus of self degradation.

A prop begging to be picked up, a tool begging to be used.

All the while, as they killed what precious little time they had, the inexorably beautiful motions of life passed unnoticed, regularly crushed in their rush toward oblivion.

But she knew all this. So why was she here? What sordid desperation had compelled her to drink of the illusion? She had a Need, that was all, genuine and unyielding. A Need to return. A desire as deeply rooted as life itself to return to the sanctity of her love. And a reciprocal Need to return to him at least some measure of the life their Denial had stolen. A Need to show them what they have been given, what he had done for them.

A need to cast pearls before swine.

Silently she slid the hand of F.X. Baron back off her leg. Gently she closed the manuscript as his hand returned with a squeeze. She turned away, slid the flesh colored folder in front of her and lifted it back to her breast.

“Buuuuutt mmmy deeear…” said the laughing F.X.

“Thank you,” she said meekly trying to smile, eyeing the shadowy forms crossing the door less portal, understanding her own failure. With out looking back Favasha rose and fled through the crowded musty bowels of The Golden Calf.




Less than an hour later Favasha was seated in Emil’s flat, in his favorite thread bare over stuffed arm chair, her legs up on the padded chartreuse foot stool, watching the fire light dance through the grates inside the cast iron stove.

The shrill bristles of an invisible breeze painted her eyes to water, and in the swelling bead of each tear about to fall, in reflection, the flames.

She was enveloped in a strange sort of euphoria.

She almost seemed to smile.

The manuscript was open in her lap, parts of it having fallen onto the floor around her feet. Humming birds fluttered in her stomach. Her hands were caressing the pages. She was acutely aware of the beating of her heart.

Walking home through the streets in the rain, staring at the silver buckles of her black shoes the wind mercilessly pressing the thin silk of her dress into her chilled and shaking flesh, nipples painfully hard to the manuscript clutched crossed armed to her breast, head bowed, she had passed through the myriad shades of despair as if climbing to the bell tower of Sacré Cour in the midst of a mighty storm. Layer after layer of her own soul being left behind in passing, shed as ballast from a balloon, lead weights from a swimmer. Until at last she was flying, flying through the night’s sky the pages of the manuscript scattered upon the wind like stars with which she was playing connect the dots. Leaping from one to another, following the trail that would reunite her with her love.

As she stood in the middle of the dilapidated court yard looking toward the heavens the distant city lights upon the gray belly of the wind blown clouds turned bits of dust and water vapor into strange faces and forms. Black she-goats pulled an empty chariot across the sky, followed by a one eyed bearded man with a floppy hat, a serpent, a worm, a bull pulling black angels in a rickshaw, a crocodile with a goshawk upon its back.

By the time she made her way up the last flight of stairs to the door of Emil’s flat the expunged suicidal elation of desolateness had forced itself through each and every pour in her body with such absent force that at one and the same time it had become a nearly totalizing awareness.

An awareness of the transposition of phase. Becoming by its very existence a confirmation of the porous shrine of her own flesh, a confirmation of its transience, of the infinitude of its borders. She opened the door failing to notice that it was for some reason slightly ajar, almost expecting to see him there, standing before her with hands out stretched.

But the flat was silent. Deathly still in the darkness. Her very breath threatened to shatter the serenity of this torpor, to let loose the demons from the walls. From somewhere down below in the courtyard she heard the shrill sound of the old woman’s cackling laughter. In a panic she slammed the door closed not wanting anyone to see, fearing at one and the same time the prying eyes of the neighbors.

She was alone now, with the darkness, alone as ever before; fears expectation almost hallucinatory; fragments of form floating through the swirled space before her eyes. She groped her way through the familiarity of the flat until at last, at the washbasin, after knocking over a number of porcelain mugs and maybe a plate or two, indifferent to their shattering on the floor, after dragging her hand across the shelf, with a shake of her hand she knew she had found light.

Something twisted and she swallowed and swallowed again.

Later in the light she saw a blue corpse standing before her in the mirror. She felt compelled to look down where once there was a well worn Persian rug now upon the floor rose pedals floated in a sea of black ink, a miniature archipelago of tear shaped red in a black sea.

She dropped the light and it shattered and rattled into the red speckled black vortex with a faint hissss. She heard the sound of running water. Trembling her fingers reached for the tap. The sound of fluttering wings from somewhere far away fell back into an icy silence as she twisted blue. She was aware of something in her throat, something clotting it and she brought her hand quickly to her mouth, swallowing repeatedly.

Between the grate and the fire light, between Favasha and the stove, across all the objects of the room living and dead, across the walls, the shadows danced. The flames crackled. The match had slid easily across the striker, emitting a faint electric-like blue before the smell of sulfur.

She had been sitting in the chair for a long time, her eyes staring into the flames, before, with out looking down, she picked up a page of the manuscript from her lap, held it, her hand trembling faintly, between the fire light and her eyes and with her lips mouthing silently the words she began again to read, “As you know my Lady, it was evident to all…”




“As you know my Lady, it was evident to all that Augustus was not well. With little doubt there were many among us who believed him to be on the cusp of death.

How right we were.

I was in the Room of Masks, having sought shelter from the storm. The candle flames flickered. Yellow pools of dancing light variously illuminated and veiled the frescoed masks of the gods that adorned the walls. Mouths demonically laughing, barred teeth, eye sockets one moment smeared with shadow the next inquisitorially staring in illuminated silence only to slip into darkness again.

I thought I heard someone call my name.

He stood before me in the door less portal, rain running in rivulets down his contorted face, a dagger in one hand, his clothes soaked, one foot sandaled and the other bare. It was a face like none before I had ever seen.

My Lady, I was genuinely frightened at the sight of him. Truly I feared at that moment he had finally… lost….

Again he whispered my name and I bolted to my feet. My lady, how he trembled, I had never seen anything like it. He sank against the wall, and cast the dagger onto the floor, his hands in clenched fists rising to cover his face. I feared to speak yet just as I summoned the courage to ask what he may require, he raised a shaking fist to silence my lips and beckoned me beside him.

“There…there is…is something…something I must tell you,” he whispered with some hesitation, he stuttered, the intonation of his words seemingly wrapped in some unthinkable fear.

On my knees I leant forward and lowered my eyes, so as not to embarrass my lord in his moment of weakness. “You, you know I I I haven’t been able… to sleep…Messalla you know, you know I, I once had a d…d..dream, a terr…ible, terri…b..le d…d..ream Messalla, a hor…hor…ri b ble d..dream…” and with this he broke down and wept.

It was sometime later, as the storm began to lift and press eastward that he spoke again. “Did you know,” he said, “did you know that I studied in Apollonia? Did you know,” he said wiping the snot from his nose with his forearm, “that that lascivious fool Ovid studied there sometime after me. I should have had the insubordinate swine murdered for mocking me that way!”

“Mocking you?” I dared ask quietly.

“I banished him instead.” was the curt and biting reply. “Do you know what it was that he said? Do you know? I’ll tell you. He wrote, he wrote in that poem of his that …that there were three ages of mankind, three, and our age he called the age of hard iron, an age in which all manner of crime broke out, in which modesty, truth and loyalty fled. Fled! Treachery and trickery took their place, debt and violence and criminal greed. The land he said which had previously been common to all… like the sunlight…”

With this my Lady he began again to weep.

“Like the sunlight and the breezes, was divided up far and wide. Iron had been discovered to the hurt of mankind and gold, more hurtful still. War made its appearance, glorious war, using both these metals in conflict… friend was not safe from friend nor father-in-law from son-in-law and even among brothers… among brothers! all proper affection lay vanquished …and the last of the Immortals, the last… sweet Justice, fled this bloody earth.”

“Justice,” he whispered, his crying eyes tilted toward heaven. “My justice.”

I didn’t dare speak a word.

“Messssalla,” he hissed, “The night, the very night of my great-uncles murder, I fled, I fled to the port of Terracina! I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to die and to run, to run was the only way I could see to live.

It was a small seaside town where no one would know me, where no one would know my name. I direly hoped that the legions would leave with out me.

I planned to get drunk, to forget who I was. Then with first light I would commandeer a vessel to carry me to Andalusia from whence I would wander like Aeneas yet not to return, but to disappear.

The merchants and foot soldiers and sailors fell silent when I entered the public house fatigued by the journey. Immediately, across the room my eyes met the captain’s. He had been my mother’s lover and had known me as a boy. The friendliness of his touch sickened me but I was obliged to sit and drink and drink I did.

How he was first perplexed, not having heard of the murder in Rome, then laughed and laughed at my bitter silence.

“Yet, Messalla, the mercy of thoughtlessness never came. It never came. My mind stayed clear in its torment, perfectly clear, in its fear, even as my body grew numb. Later he carried me home like a slaughtered lamb across his shoulders and put me to bed. I could hear the sound of the sea as the room began to spin.

“I dreamt I was on a beach,” he whispered slowly, meticulously, now taking pains to articulate clearly, “on a beach at the edge of the world. There was the sound of the sea, its unending body illuminated in a quivering golden moon light.

“Do you know… that to me… the moon was no more than a mask, a hideous, laughing imitation of a face?

With the force of my gaze I shattered it and the splinters of its light lay atop the undulant body of the sea. Each shard of light was a sleek intimation of a life, rising and rolling toward a shore that it had already, and yet never could, reach. The velveteen sand pressed between my toes and blossomed into flowers. My shadow shimmered in the red translucence of the tide, it rolled to expose its wounded belly and then rolled over again, shrouded in the faint allure of perfection.

All that I saw glistened and spoke.

The words enraptured me, enchanted my body, teased my mind, and beckoned me toward all that I still knew I could never behold.

When all that was left was the sound of my own feet upon the wet sand, when all thought had died and the measure of my breath turned moot, the sand that had pressed between my toes and the waves merged with the beating of my heart.

There were no legions, no wars, no Rome to trouble my soul. The cool air wrapped my lungs in silk and I was beginning to smile when I saw the legs of an old man.

I looked up, his shiny nacre teeth glimmered in the moonlight.

He was seated upon a stone.

“Come closer young man, come closer,” he beckoned and reached out to me with an emaciated and withered hand. Even in the golden light of that voracious moon, his flesh was a pale luminescent blue. The worn rags that hung from his dilapidated frame were so stiff they crackled like dry leaves. He reeked of decay.

“What you smell my friend is no less than the tactile assault of your own fear. Come closer still, come closer.”

I was moved by the clarity and insistence of his words. I stepped forward out of the darkness to stand before him. He wore an old floppy hat. His thin beard was a silver gray and glistened with spittle. He had only one eye.

“What happened to your eye old man?” I asked.

“Dear child,” he replied, his smile disappearing into the darkness, “I thought you knew, I threw it down a well.”

“Why would you do that?” I asked.

“To see what happened.” he said with a laugh, “For with knowledge comes wisdom!”

“Perhaps your remaining eye is blind old man. For what you saw was not wise” I replied.

“If that is true,” he asked with a subtly biting acumen, “How then do I know of your nakedness?”

Over come by the chill and wide eyed I looked down only to see the chiseled surface of my own naked flesh in the shimmering golden moon light. I was amazed, frightened and ashamed. What I saw terrified me, and I had not the courage to raise my eyes.

The old man had known of my nakedness long before I.

It was then that the old man said to me, “Does this come as a surprise? You’ve thought of me before. I am nothing, nothing but your minds mirror. That which has been drawn from your flesh by no less than your own self doubt. To your eyes I am no more than the reservoir of questions that have risen to flood the fields of your mordant soul. The rivulets and gullies that traverse my face have been carved by your fear, these brittle rags upon my skin are no more than the veil of your pride and shame.”

The old man extended a skeletal arm out into the unabashed tyranny of the moon light and turned his palm toward me.

“The color of my flesh is the coupling of your knowledge and age. This seat, this stone, is little less than the foundation of your dreams of glory.”

My eyes moved from the patterned hem of the sea to the millions of shadowy stones at my feet.

It was then that I looked at him, that I looked him full in the face, but I no longer saw an old man, or a man at all. Instead I saw rocks and sticks and leaves, hinting at faces, so many faces, an endless stream of faces; I saw a rock turning into a face, eyes vague but clear, nose, mouth, turning into trees whose branches and leaves moved in some unseen wind to form face after face, eye sockets of all shapes and sizes, bits of teeth and bone, over which drifted clouds, from which faces peered, the mists turning into hairs and flesh, shell and bone… I saw the faces of animals, of fish, crabs, spiders, frogs, ants, snakes, dragons, rats, bats, squirrels, foxes, wolves, bears, elephants, horses, pigs, cows, monkeys, children, women and then men, millions upon millions of fragmented men, each blending into the next, destroying and creating the next endlessly, until at last I arrived at a single face.

That face was my own.

It was from out of the silence into which I stared intensely that the I  I could now so clearly see offered these words, “Truly it is a meager proposition my friend. But alone I can make you the master of all living things. A master who shall know the power, perennially renewed, of escaping from yourself to forget yourself in another being, and of attracting to yourself all other souls that they may loose themselves in yours.”

“You?” I said and suddenly, at the image of myself before me, with my head thrown back and my eyes to the husky sky, I began to laugh. I laughed. I laughed and laughed until my loins ached and I collapsed at my feet.

When I regained my breath, still doubled over upon my knees, I raised my eyes beneath my brow and saw again the old man.

The old man was me.

With slow, measured determination, I asked myself in all innocence, as I rose to my feet aided by a stick, “What on earth, could you ever give me that I will not already have?”

At this the old man meticulously leaned forward.

My head was pressed so close to his that I felt the cold radiating from his face. In the darkness of his single eye I could see the reflection of my own nakedness, the moonlight upon my skin.

“Everything,” he whispered.

“Everything, everything, everything!” I laughed! “And what? may I ask, what fee do you charge for this great prize?”

“Why, my friend, it’s so simple… so simple… All I ask, in return is… your… justice,” he whispered.

At that moment I became aware of the fact that the moon was actually the sun and that it was now disappearing, flown over the western horizon in the talons of a black eagle.

After it had disappeared into darkness, I looked back to the old man who sat upon the rock. He then pulled a cloak over his face and turned himself into a smooth stone.

“Justice… my justice…” The Emperor shrieked. He then sobbed quietly for a long time his fist to his forehead as the wind cried through the open door of the Room of Masks.

“I, had asked him,” He said, his voice now broken and barely audible, “I, asked when…when it’d come to collect my debt… the time… it was written upon the stone. But how will I know.. I asked and the reply…the reply… a name… carried… on the wings of the wind.”

“Messalla, that morning I awoke as the faint Tyrrhenian wind filled the room and I knew. I knew! I stood at the window looking out over the calm azure blue of the Gulf of Gaeta, I knew, with inexorable certainty that I was no longer afraid. With out a moment’s hesitation I returned to Rome to take the throne and march against the usurper!”

Favasha stared for a long, long time at the words on the sheet of paper before her. The lines beginning to dance, to take on a life of their own as if ancient runes metamorphasizing into the things to which they referred. With some focal difficulty on she read:

“It was then my lady that slowly he extended a hand. His fist had been clenched and as he opened it, I could see the blood. A pair of soft, glazed eyes looked up from his open palm. With that my Lady he began to smile, but no smile like any before I have ever seen on the face of men. It was an indescribably horrifying, utterly mad, quivering twist of his lips from which emerged a laughter like none I have ever known.

An Evil unfettered laughter which seemed to consume the whole of his body. It was in the midst of this, I swear to you my lady, in the midst of this he stopped and said calmly, possessed of perfect repose, “Messalla, today, today upon the wings of the wind…, I…I.. heard that name… and…and… the sweet maiden Justice…has fled… this bloody earth.”

That evening my Lady after the Festival of Mars, he left for the villa at Nola, where three days later he was found, shortly before sunrise, dead, murdered. No one knows who did it, there are many suspects, he had many enemies, even in his own house. But the brutality was almost unspeakable. It has been kept a secret and will remain so but I feel I must tell you, My Lady, you see… his eyes were, they were… gone.

Outside the rain had begun again to fall upon clay shingles and tin gutters, streets and alleys and open fields. The east wind rattled the closed shutters and at the sound Favasha was in a frenzy scooping up the papers in her lap, reaching for the papers scattered around her on the floor.

Leaning forward she opened the door of the cast iron stove, burning her fingers but feeling nothing more than a tingle of heat. Her eyes were dry and clear, her nose no longer running. Gently, with the utmost care, she lifted a sheet off the top of the eclectic pile in her lap and reached with it toward the crackling fire. The upper left corner caught flame. Instantly, she drew her hand back, recoiling in reflex almost as if the paper were itself her flesh. Quickly the flames began to spread.




Back at the Golden Calf beautiful plump double chinned bartendress Greta was merrily singing her favorite ditty…a little number about Trabants she had learned as a child… as she cleaned the bronze taps with a damp rag.


Trabant Trabant

Wonder of the century

It’s made out of PVC

And a vacuum cleaner wee…

Trabant Trabant

Wonder of the century

It’s made out of PVC

And a vacuum cleaner wee…

Trabant Trabant…


The place was nearly empty. There were a number of men standing around the open door waiting for a cab, hands thrust deep into pockets, scratching beards, rubbing necks, embracing cigarettes, weight shifted from foot to foot, some paced a few steps, turned and paced again, tired shoulders leaned into the sooty building stone. She finished cleaning the taps, took a bite of the blood sausage she’d had on a plate beside the sink and then with a side long glance to the pack of black poodles waiting patiently at the end of the bar, tossed the remaining half in that direction.

There was much growling, barks and snarls as the theory of social Darwinism worked its selective magic.…

The telephone rang and Greta picked it up with tired cheer. Umm, yes, I understand, you called before no, no, no, but, well, hang on a minute,” she palmed the voice end of the receiver, stepped around the end of the bar, apologized to the poodles whom she nearly kicked and called out, “Any a you guys know Milosz P. well enough to talk to his doctor?”



“Who?” came the distracted reply as three or four heads in various states of stupor turned to fill the upper third of the door way.

“Milosz P. It’s some doctor on the phone, from the hospital, and he needs to talk to someone.”

“Hugh?” asked Professor Armand, the signs of drink manifestly evident in the way he held his head, the tone of his skin and his poorly disguised attempt to keep his legs in line as he walked back across the room. “Hand it over. Yea,” there was a long pause as he listened. “Well, yea, a number of years yea, no, not that I know of, no. …,” a crowd had gathered listening curiously. “Any a you guys know, did Milosz P. have any next of kin?”

“Yea, I do, a snake and a jack ass,” someone called out as drunken laughter broke over the spectators.

“Listen you moronic toady this is serious, there’s a doctor on the line.”

Professor Armand stood on his tip toes and moved his eyes from face to face. A number of shrugged shoulders. “No, I’m pretty sure he didn’t…why is something wrong with him? Umhum I see, this evening an accident,” eyes and ears perked up, “and he’s alright then?” There was a long pause as the room listened to the indiscernible sounds of the voice on the other end of the phone.

With every bit of garbled sound the color drink had wrought from Professor Armand’s face poured back into his red turtle necked sweater. “I, I see… that’s right, alright, I can yes I’ll be there in an hour.”

He hung up the phone in such a way as to exhibit the control men must have over small things when they are suddenly made aware of big things they will never master. He turned slowly to the inquiring eyes surrounding him and drew a heavy hand across his face from left to right. “Milosz P.’s, well he’s, he’s, dead.”




Upon the door there came a pounding. The burning sheet of paper fell from her fingers just as the door was kicked in by a frigid gust of the East wind and a radiant light.

Ravens flew through the door frame into the room, flapping wings crackling, the wind fingering the pages of a book open on the desk, raising loose leaf sheets of paper into the air to dance the tenebruse.

Before she could stand, before she could even blink a strange man in coat tails with a blood red ascot was standing before her swinging a gold pocket watch in a circle before catching it in his hand.

He glanced down, his thin grinning lips parting to expose a mouthful of jagged orange ochre teeth, as he declared with no reserve of delight, “Right On Time Boys, Right-On-Time, On The Mark, To The Minute, like clock work, The Germans Couldn’t Do It Better!”

With this as Favasha in terror blinked, the man spun the chair around to face the room as now before her standing, well, not quite standing but floating, floating, before her were four figures, the first, nearest the door to her left was composed solely of a long luminous robe of endlessly intricate floral designs, the flesh that supported it invisible, which in fact as she blinked again to see were actual flowers, real, living flowers of endless varieties: bluebell and carnations, daffodil and geranium, honeysuckle and hyacinth, iris, magnolia, narcissus, orchid, pansy and poppy, rhododendron and rose, sunflower and Sweet William, tulips, violets and violas, woven as the actual fabric itself, a wreath of freshly shimmering dew stained budding green leaves worn as a necklace, grains and mosses woven into a lacy collar, cuff’s and hem, the figures legs a mix of lush, flowing grasses and herbs, all in all exuding a most wondrous, intoxicating smell.

Beside this, there stood, well not stood but floated, floated! a body ablaze, a body defined by a million tiny leaping flames, as if the gas jets of a city full of stoves hid just beneath the flesh-like form, each blue flame flickering in textual profundity, perfectly in place, undulently dancing in definition of a form that, as muscle clothes bone, met the oxygen of air to burst out in a sinuous orange-red, the utmost vertical tips of which, flattened like a tongue licking the surrounding space glowed in heated splendor a zinc oxide white-naphthol yellow angelic light.

Not far away the vermilion-honey yellow-burnt almond robes of another figure bristled dry and crisp, dragged upon the ground, countless withered leaves woven together with a brilliant Paris yellow hay amid paisleys of dandelion, milkweed, burr and thistle, husks of brown and scarlet ochre corn yoked around the neck, its entire countenance touched with an air of lethargy, exhaustion and pending sleep.

Rubbing shoulders, with this form, however gently, was the heavy ice lattice crystalline lace gown of the bride supreme, the virgin mother superior ascending, or at least appearing to ascend, growing ever larger within the same space, glimmering an intoxicating purity, yet stiller than a wound down clock, secretive, treacherous, exhibiting ever changing patterns of dissimilar similarity in a uniformity of unbiased whites and powder blues, pristine and pure in the folds of a deceptively homogenous sheen.

Favasha had yet to blink thrice before the second of these ethereal forms lifted the sheet of paper, which had but moments before fallen from her fingers to the floor, in the hands of its flaming form and as it did so the sheet erupted in a fiery splendor, greater, more shocking perhaps than the sight of the first electric light in the darkness of a human night.

The ravens flapped their wings from atop the book shelves, writing table, chair, stove pipe and wood pile.

No sooner was this done than the ball of flame was tossed to the left, slowly illuminating the room like the signal flare of some far off sinking ship.

Now in the outstretched pleats of those dry robes the paper too dried to no more than a brown leaf, crumpled into bits but no sooner had it rested in such a realm than with a billowing toss it was passed on again. Ah, but smothered in the deadly serenity of the icy bride. What was once paper vanished altogether like exhaled breath in an arctic night tossed on back invisibly through the space of the room to land upon the flowery bosom of the first form where amidst the pageantry of this botanical mosaic it appeared but a crumpled white bud at first unfolding, emerging, opening, like the imagination itself back into its pristine and original state.

“I’ll take that!” said the man in coat tails with the blood red ascot, stepping magically through our flowery form, offering a sadistic smile to the seated Favasha, and shaking out the perfect piece of white paper in the center of the room as if it were a folded handkerchief. “There’s little I enjoy more than clean linen,” he remarked with a self satisfactory wink. “Gives one something to do, if you know what I mean.”

Tumbling from the shaken sheet of paper, the seed of Ignorance sprouted into the room sounding like a stampede of cattle which sent the ravens crazily flapping about.

A short fat man-like creature it was, its tongue bristling with the filth of trenches and sewers, its naked flesh a sea of self inflicted sores and abscesses, boils and bleeding warts, which it picked at, scratched, peeled, tore, prodded, pulled and plucked with no uncertain relish and a rather avaricious greed in an all-consuming attempt to eat.

It was easy enough for Favasha to see that a certain constraint was placed upon this effort by the fact that ignorance was not alone, but bound together, sharing a different side of the same trunk with the hairy lipped, tonsured hermaphrodite Righteousness, one thigh far longer than the other to ever allow one knee to rest upon the ground, eyes upturned in search of heavenly relief, its vampiric teeth engaged in gnawing off its own left shoulder in an attempt to flee from Ignorance, all the while, the golden nails of its hands scrubbing its scrawny flesh to a beautifully clean yet bleeding lump.

Easier still then was it to see as they turned in place like a music box dancer that our twins were not twins at all but triplets, some unholy trinity, for bound by the very same body Favasha now saw the Herald turn toward her, in a suit of sky blue, head bowed, his glowing eyes the back side of the mouths of Ignorance and Righteousness, his nose made of a silver ingot, his mouth an actual trumpet, a bronze phallice, spewing notes in the shape of tin maggots, which no sooner had been cast out than they returned to cling to the trumpets end like iron shavings to a magnet.

The bare electric bulb that hung by a chain from the center of the room for a moment dimly flashed and flickered and a sheet of paper, rocking back and forth upon the air, fell from the ceiling like a single white feather, to land upon the shared head of our three formed unity with the weight of an imploding star, forcing three hairs-width cracks to run toward the floor splitting our demented friends into three paper thin sheaves, which peeled slowly forward to reveal a puritanical white on the inside, a glowing white aura.

Opening like the lotus flower its person-sized pedals now proven paper thin fell in undulant waves, multiplying into innumerable finger nail sized feathers as they approached the horizontal, feathers that simultaneously shattered like smoke rings as they slammed into the floor.

For but an instant in the center of it all, clothed in a radiant light Favasha thought she caught a glimpse of a man with long, auburn, corn silk hair framing a face with shallow set glowing blue-green eyes, his delicately pursed lips, although curled slightly down at the ends, alluded to a faint air of joy, if not laughter. Perched on his knotted bulbous nose were a pair of small tortoise shell spectacles his bony interlaced fingers at rest atop the ivory owls head of a twisted wooden cane.

But no this all couldn’t be and before she could utter the words there was a man standing in an ill fitted black suit with white gloves. Politely he bowed, he waved with both hands, went to pains to show there was nothing up each sleeve, and then presto! appearing in his cupped hands a white rose the pedals now falling through his spread fingers like soft sand to cover the carpet. Triumphantly he wiped his hands together, overemphasizing the gesture, raised his hands to eye level, snapped his fingers and then disappeared.

But not quite disappeared for now Favasha could see foot prints, where the white pedals covered the carpet, footprints of black India ink. Just as this oddity began to register, as soon as she’d focused her eyes, what did she see but the bristles of a broom, pushed to sweep up the evidence, clearing away flower petals and footprints together, pushed by, as she raised her eyes, a beautiful naked woman with dark curly pubic hair and hard nipples with the head of an enormous cod fish, her yellow cats eyes fixed upon the floor. Every few seconds then she froze, leaned heavily upon the broom, shook timorously in place, quivering all over orgasmically until her mouth opened wide, like a gasping carp on the butchers block and out popped a milky white bubble with an oily sheen which proceeded to drift across the room before spontaneously combusting to release a rain storm of splintered glass falling, toe to tiarred head into the form of a pirouetting ballerina.

Six, no seven times this happened and seven full grown pink tu-tued ballerinas pirouetted perfectly in place, scattered across the room before Favasha heard the sound of the whip which again sent the ravens to chaotic flight.

Her wide eyes reached over her shoulder back to the door way form whence it all began only to see a flutter of wings speeding out the door as Puss’n Boots, the black jack booted dominatrix with a mane of white hair cracked the bull whip again and cried, “Back, back you mangy beasts, arch that back, point those toes!”

The frayed tip of the bull whip ripped open the flesh of the fish headed woman as she leaned with all of her weight upon the broom stick a yellowish viscous liquid dripping from the wounds across her breasts and belly like sap from a tree until at last her fish lips opened in a desperate attempt to breathe spewing forth instead like a volcano a column of violet mist that quickly filled the room.

The whip cracked again through the fog and at the sound the steamy mist fled out through the open doorway hot on the tail of the ravens, the broom thrust up behind it like a rocket to vanish into the now clear, starry night’s sky.

Favasha felt the cold wind lick her face and turned back from the open door behind the dominatrix to see the seven pink glass ballerinas tip toe daintily toward the three walls as the dominatrix strode into the center of the room, shiny black vinyl panted legs spread wide, thigh muscles and firm buttocks bulging, large breasts heaving as she drew the tail of the bull whip across the floor in arching waves before cracking it again like some mad carriage driver in the midst of some mighty gale.

“Yah! Yah!” she screamed, and the seven glass ballerinas stepped back into the walls contracting like the reverse film of some falling soapy liquid into a series of glass pictures spelling out the words Superbia, Invidia, Ira, Luxuria, Accidia, Avaritia, and Gula which no sooner had they each grown frames of old rotten tennis shoes, trainers, wingtips and boots, golashes and sandals worn to the roots, wrapped in a golden mistletoe, than the dominatrix Puss’n Boots put her legs together, her hands at her sides the whip end wrapped round her own neck and melted, falling into herself like the decreasing pressure in some waning geyser, into a black puddle on the floor.

Favasha, gripping the arm rests of her chair, leaned forward to gaze into the black pool only to see innumerable blink less eyes staring right back at her and as she leaned back in some vain attempt to flee these eyes followed her out, pulling out from the pool as if some enormous many eyed meteorite trailing a comets tail of black ooze, staring at her, leaning over her, centimeters from her face her head pressed back hard into the head rest of the chair before it too leaned back, more like sprung back like a punching bag on a stick.

The black ooze tail and many eyed head splattered across space as if there were some invisible wall, only to press through on to the other side, into a gigantic black winged form, with a head of many eyes and human hands with manicured nails and the hairy legs of an oxen.

For a moment this creature squatted as if to defecate and out of its anus fell a pig headed lion with lustrous sapphire eyes. The creature stood, scratched its chin with one finger and then proceeded to examine each of the shoe framed glass plate pictures upon the three walls writing their names with a bone colored pen upon pieces of its own flesh before tearing off sheets of that flesh as if they were note paper and feeding these tidbits to the begging pig headed lion at its side who then upon satisfaction squealed with immeasurable delight.

This queer ritual was repeated seven times, once before each of the glass pictures upon the walls until at last, the creature stepped back into the center of the room, spread wide its wings like open arms as the pig headed lion with a running start leapt into its breast where it was caught as the wings closed and what was left was no more than a quivering black shadow standing for a moment in the still air before, as the rain washed wind slipped in again through the open door, this too was gone.

The wind swirled about the room and then suddenly, as if inhaled from outside, was gone as quickly as it had come.

It was then that Favasha thought she saw the Cherubim enter through the walls, flecks of gold defining the space through which they passed before falling to the floor.

Feeling a sudden relief, a feeling of euphoric lightness, Favasha began to smile, to sink deeper into the chair and it was then that the bare electric bulb in the center of the room flickered again, then flashed on full.

Who then did she see standing beneath the bare electric bulb?

None other than a man with long, auburn, corn silk hair framing a face with shallow set glowing blue-green eyes, spectacles and a cane. In his left hand he clutched a bunch of papers in a flesh colored folder to his breast.

He cast no shadow.

The room was exactly as it was before.

The door slammed shut.

He cleared his throat to speak.




A young man with wire frame glasses and unkept hair stepped from the door of the Golden Calf with a bottle of Moskevská Vodka, and displayed it to the last of the lingerers.

“Looks like the label’s been licked on,” he said holding it exceptionally close to his eyes and turning it side to side saying, “You know what he told me, it won’t make you blind… but it will lead you to an early natural death.”

“Where’d they get that guy anyway?” he called out, running a bit to catch up with the rear guard of the group of men who, after loud drunken debate had passed a proclamation, heading out toward Petřín hill in order to hold a spontaneous wake for a man many of them had hardly known.

“You didn’t know? He’s on the lam right, hidin’ from the law,” said a round older man in a cable knit sweater as he snapped his neoprene gloved hands like lobster claws to some mental tango while exhaling heavily through his nose.

“Why what’d he do?” asked the vodka bearer picking at the label as they walked.

“You didn’t know? Gerta’s spent the last two weeks blabbin’ about it to the whole pub,” said the fat man, turning to snap his hands in the others general direction.

“He used to be the head waiter at this posh restaurant in Paris right, a bit of a show man right, liked to tipple, well so one night he was in a card game with some students from the ecole d’ beau arts er somethin’ and he lost his shirt right so to pay up they agreed he’d go up to the first person they could find wearing a red carnation right and incite scandal, so off they went staggering through the streets of Paris to find a man in a red carnation and they did right, outside a restaurant on the Champes d’ Elyeese. So, show man that he was right, he went up to this guy took his head in his hands,” said the fat man, demonstrating by smacking his gloved hands on his cheeks, “gave him a passionate kiss,” this was brought home with a visual aid that involved variously a fish like pucker and a wiggling extension of a curved tongue, “then slapped him firm before wailing to high heaven about how horrible he’d treated him, how first he’d stopped leaving money then stopped calling etc. Well this guy right, just happened to be running for Mayor or something like that and someone snapped a picture.

“Of course before the whole thing could be cleared up the tabloids were filled with it and the wannabe Mayor sued this guy for slander. By weeks’ end he’d lost his job, been tossed from his flat accused of prostitution and was facing a million Franc law suit. That’s why he came here, to lay lo’ right until the whole affair blows over. They say he doesn’t go out much right cuz he’s still afraid they’ll try and drag him back for the trial.”

“Jesus, you know it’s the little things that get ya.”

The crowd moved on through the narrow winding streets of Staré město like a jellyfish in the ebb and flow of the tide. By the time they had reached Charles Bridge and headed across toward Malá strana, an eerie silence had enveloped this drunken mass of young men, reinforced in its unnaturalness by the late night revelers that passed in twos and fours like laughing leaves carried in the current past the obstinate rock of their pending grief. They had, care of some tacit agreement, come to a halt beneath the statue erected in 1683 to commemorate the spot where the archbishop’s lawyer Johann of Pomuk was tossed after he was put on the rack and tortured with fire, not for secreting the Queen’s confession as rumor had it but, as a scapegoat, for the wrath of Vaclav IV, directed at the indolent archbishop himself.

The poor fellow was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Much like Vaclav IV, who would be last seen, the rotting flesh freshly peeling from his dead bones, propped up upon the altar of the Zbraslav monastary, long burial place of the Přemyslid and Luxembourg kings, bedecked in a crown of straw, the mad crowd pouring beer after beer over his skull as they looted and set fire to the church before parading in blind drunkenness back through town wearing the golden frames of the burnt pictures around their necks.

Beneath the stone bridge the dark waters of the Vltava swirled in silence.

As the members of our mourning party leaned back looking to break the insufferable silence, the lighted castle on the hill towered before them, the Gothic mass of St. Vítus rising up through the mists, awash in a radiant white light. Glowing.

To the left, beside it, the darkened looming bulk of Petřín hill, witness to the secrets of the ages, overseer of the mysteries, clothed in thin mist.

On Kampa island the silence was finally broken with a gust of wind, the flutter of wings and the crack of a bottle which loosed a pent up torrent of drunken babble amid a chorus of gulps and faint sighs of relief.

“Fuckin Milosz P. he had this ruthless, you know what I mean, this ruthlessness masked in friendliness, a consummate politician that’s what he was, sentences for him, what he could get outta a guy by way of agreement or advice or opinion were like debits and credits in some personal accounting register, know what I mean, though he’d never admit to it, having received a thing- know what I mean?” said someone near the center of the swerving amorphous mass.

“The last of the great squanderers, an idler, a decadent, a man who loved decay I’d say,” offered another in compliment.

“Ever get him going on Kabala?” peeped a third.

“Death is so fucking surreal… other peoples death I mean,” offered a man leading the way.

“Ever hear him talk about porshes?” hiccuped Basil.

“Nope, Milosz P. is not going to reign over Asia,” said the fat man in the cable knit sweater clicking his gloved hands slowly at the person next to him.

“To bodily go where many men have gone before,” said someone in the rear.

“He ate himself, everything eats itself, ever been to the jungle? All it does is cannibalize itself. A canopy thick in verdure covering a sea of rot, each generation of leaves dying to enrich the soil to feed the next,” waxed Dalibor philosophically.

“No, no it’s horrible, I mean a real shame, a pity, what’ll happen to The Burnt Spoon? He lorded over that baby like a mess sergeant does the canteen,” said a bearded youth most referred to as the Glip.

“Ever hear him talk about horshes, he loved to talk about horshes,” hiccupped Basil struggling to keep his eyes open.

“Shit man, I can’t believe he’s dead. I mean what the fuck is that? I mean shit,” said the vodka bearer taking a swig.

“The back door that’s always open,” burped Antonin, the bottle of beer slipping from his hand to shatter on the walk, “that’s what Epictitus called suicide.”

“I know seven peoples that’s sueadied and all sue-a-died right on time,” hiccupped Basil. “He loved to talk about horshes.”

“I saw it once,” continued Dalibor.

“What?” asked another.


“How’s that?”

“I had malaria down in Mexico, in the jungle, hell of a fever and I was hallucinating like mad. I saw death. I thought it was a woman. We rolled dice for my life.”

“What’s it like?” asked someone referring to the vodka passed his way.

“It’s like, well it’s like nothing, it doesn’t look like anything at all, I mean at first it looked like a woman but when it turned toward me it had no face.”

“What were you doing in the jungle, what were you looking for?” asked the Glip.

“The terror hidden not behind but with in!” snapped Antonin trying to open another bottle of beer with a key as he walked.

“Jezuz! Jezuz! Will yoz fukin shop,” screeched Basil attempting to adjust his fly.

“I told you I had a fever,” said Dalibor, “I was looking for a cure.”

Basil again locating his fly and finding it open, “You know he loved to talk about horshes, you should have heard him talk about horshes, all kinds a horshes, rocking horshes, race horshes, Trajan horshes.”

“So what’s gonna happen to The Burnt Spoon, I mean, he ran that thing like Ceausescu did Romania,” asked the Glip again.


“He zaid he was onesh in Kentucky at za Derby,” asserted Basil.

“Well he was heavy handed I mean.”

“Heavy handed?” shouted a man at the front.

“He had a firm grip on the reigns I mean,” shouted back the Glip trailing off in timidity with the I mean.

“Sure, his version of the iron fist was an open palm above imploring eyes,” said the man who had earlier jokingly referred to the relatives of Milosz P. as a snake and a jack ass.

“Hell, it’s working for the Russians at the World Bank. They say there’s more in San Francisco than in Omsk and that half Moscow holidays in Switzerland. You know they picked up Karlovy Vary? Better laundry services than Petersburg and it’s kinda like a year round summer camp for mafia wives and kids,” said a man no one seemed to know.

“You know zey say he knew some Russian, met her at za Derby when he said he was in Kentucky, you shoulda heard him talk about horshes, za horshes mouth, za horshes ass…” said Basil, his hands in his pockets being used with difficulty to pull up his pants.

At this point the party had reached the bottom of Petřín hill and at the behest of some of the men well under the influence at the front, veered off the path and began in some Baroquely comical attempt to climb up the darkened hill side wading through the piles of rain soaked leaves, slipping and sliding, muddying themselves, tearing clothes and tree branches, their limbs flailing and groping, occasionally screaming, cursing and all the while shouting…

“Do you really think it was a suicide?” asked the Glip attempting to catch his breath.

“I thought the guy on the phone said accident?” said a man before the sound of breaking branches and a muffled scream returned the hillside to a momentary silence.

“Who was it went to see the body anyway? Len Armand Hammer?” asked someone amid renewed rustling.

“Isn’t that that academic who always reads in monotone?” said a panting Glip.

“Yea, check this out, listen, I know some,” urged a young man scratching his goatee loudly in the darkness:


cacophony of her unimagined clitoral

in which you fondle yourself (alone)

enacting death- like a viviparism

you open the stagnant

subaqueous regions of flesh

ampersand of your body, unfurling

(t)here- where the

penal brain




the disjunctive nervous fluid of

disemboweled reams…


see what I mean, his poetry’s so fucking tactile, its almost… aromatic,” said the goateed student, leaning against a tree with one hand, bringing his fingers beneath his nose with the other.

“That’s the shit you stepped in,” said someone on the ground beside him.

“Look, I didn’t fucking write it…”

“You should hear him talk about…” sputtered Basil, the loud crash of breaking branches cutting him short.

“Fuck!” screamed Dalibor having made it to switch back in the path, holding a cigarette and patting the muddy ground around him.


“I dropped my damn matches. I can’t see a fucking thing.”

“You gotta light?”

“Does the sun have an anus?” was the reply from someone obviously close by in the darkness.

“Ahorse does, you shoulda heard him…” said Basil from further down the hill.

“When the cow bites, when the tea stinks, when I’m feeling mad…” the student with the goatee began to sing.

“What?” asked the fat man in gloves, who had taken the path round instead of joining the foray up the hillside.

“I simply remember my favorite things…”

“Like… dead fish wrapped in newspaper,” said someone dryly.

“No, I discover nothing,” whispered Antonin lying across the path, shaking his beer upside down to see if it really was empty.

“But horshes,” could be heard from Basil seemingly on all fours near by.

“It’s the same thing, the fish Friday’s leftover, she’s Catholic see, so aromatic…”


“Death,” quipped the Glip.

“No one can live there see…”

“Jezuz zagain!” wailed Basil.

“Only animals go there to hide,” continued a self satisfied Antonin.


“The suns anus,” said someone.

“No za horshes anus,” retorted Basil.

“You know…” said the vodka bearer.

“Where the fuck are my matches!” screamed Dalibor.

“You know I think it’s gonna rain,” said the young man in wire framed glasses sloshing the bottle of vodka near his ear.

“It’s been raining you idiot,” said someone.


“I just can’t believe he’s dead.”

“It’s like the darkness of the wood.”

“Is that music?” Do you hear music?” asked the man in the cable knit sweater.

“I hear za horshes he liked to talk about a little Russin Kentucky.”

“No wait, really, listen!” he said snapping his gloves lobster like in the darkness.

“God damn it I can’t see a fuckin…” growled Dalibor.

“Eye that is not an eye, nor an ear an ear,” whispered Antonin with a smile.




The wind ceased to finger the pages of the book open on the desk. The fire had begun to die in the open mouth of the stove. The door had shut, the breeze stilled and the man before her cleared his throat again.

Favasha sat motionless in her chair staring off into blank space. The man, recognizable, at least to himself, as Herr Doktor, bounced his cane off the floor and cleared his throat louder a third time.

Still there was no notable response from Favasha.

Finally he went so far as to jab the cane at her, lightly pressing her abdomen which solicited a slow look down and then a glassy eyed stare up in the direction in which the cane was retracted.

“Pity,” stated Herr Doktor, “Oh, pity, pity, pity you have gone and done it now haven’t you? Valium? Delauded? Phenobarbital? I can tell by the look on your face it was something blue, something small and blue that pulled you in. Pity,” he paused licking his upper lip in contemplation, “such a disgusting emotion, so damn ignoble, obviously we’ve no time for that. Right then,” stated Herr Doktor tapping his cane repeatedly upon the floor before raising it in the air and roaring, “So off we go!”

Suddenly Favasha was jerked from the chair held tightly by the hands on each side, Herr Doktor on the right and the man in coat tails with a blood red ascot on the left.

Behind them, as she was dragged toward the door, followed a very attentive man, in an ill fitted black suit with white gloves repeatedly bowing and nodding and walking in a stunted shuffle step like a Japanese wife who’d had her feet bound for servitude.

At the door to the flat Herr Doktor blew lightly, taped his trusty cane on the creaky parquet floor and it was instantly blasted from its hinges with a force that sent Favasha falling back inside herself in fear.

“After you,” he said with a wink.

Favasha found that she stood not on the old balcony that ran round the inside of the building to the stairs but before a vast sea of just…ice.

“Oh go on don’t be shy,” said the man in coat tails kind enough to offer the smiling comfort of his jagged orange ochre teeth.

With this both Herr Doktor and the man in coat tails swung their arms back and then forward to thrust her out into the wasteland.

They did not, however, desert her and the four of them began to walk along, Favasha looking back over her shoulder to see only the same sight that lay before her… a vast and uninterrupted sea of ice.

Ice burgs sheered by the wind and frozen rain pressing up from beneath the skin of ice like new mountains through the crust of earth, the magnitude of violence that solicited these tectonic crags to rise to such heights in evidence all around as the four stumbled over the slippery glass like rubble that lay splintered and piled like miniature foothills reflecting the cold blue of the sky around the base of these frozen, knife edged peaks.

“Where…where are we?” asked Favasha afraid that even a doped whisper might shatter this crystalline world.

“On the Road again?” asked the man in coat tails leaning forward in anticipation of Herr Doktor’s reply.

“Perhaps,” came the soft spoken answer with a twirl of his cane.

“The moon, it must be the moon,” said the black suited man behind them as he rolled his white gloved hands over one another. “I can smell the cheese.”

“Stand back Mr. President, that’s sour cream and I believe it’s on your dress,” snapped the man in coat tails over his shoulder.

“At least I’ve something there, something there to wear, my little cuckold dove,” was the reply, accentuated by the cracking of his white gloved knuckles.

“Who, who are you people?” peeped Favasha again.

“Now, now boys, think of our guest, think of the grist, think of yourselves!” said Herr Doktor using his cane to push aside a block of ice as if he were playing shuffle board.

The ice slid along for quite some time and Favasha’s eyes followed it off toward the horizon unimpeded.

“So sorry,” said Herr Doktor lightly tapping Favasha’s ass, “Did I forget to introduce myself. Dear, Dear me, dear, dear, dear me, I love it when I do that. Reginald the time please!”

The man in coat tails leaned in toward Favasha and smiled again, raising his chin and eyebrows then rolling his eyes to tempt her to follow him in a look down as with one hand he held open his coat displaying a fine assortment of playing cards safety pinned to the inside, while with the other from out of his waist coat pocket with a single jerk he produced a gold pocket watch, which swung in a full circle before he caught it in the palm of his open hand. “Quarter after your festering loveliness.”

“He never pays, never pays,” said the man behind her.

“Excellent, Weltsdone, I’ll take your word for it, at such a good price.” He extended the thumb and forefinger of his left hand and raised it to eye level, “One moment then my dear” he said bending his wrist to create a line of sight between his finger and her crotch, “and we’ll get straight down to business.”

At that moment Favasha could hear a strange sound rapidly approaching from behind.

The sound exploded upon them like that of a passenger jet taking off over head, so loud as to make her stoop and look round, her hands rushing to cover her ears.

Something swooped through the small crowd on the ice, b-lined for the horizon before rising up and banking to the left on a return run. This time she could see it clearly as it slowed in approach, the sound more distinct than before.

The black and brown mottled guinea pig on the tiny broom was squealing like a car alarm as it bobbed it’s buck toothed head in mocking salute while passing.

Herr Doktor stopped with his finger pistol raised a little higher now, spun round, straightened his arm to pan across the cold blue sky as if tracking skeet before….

“Stop,” said the man in coat tails looking down to return his pocket watch snugly. “Quarter to. Close. Next time try the Buddha.”

“Pity,” said Herr Doktor, smiling with one side of his mouth and speaking out the other, pulling back his left hand as if there were a kick then staring at it awkwardly before abruptly shoving it into his trouser pocket, “won’t come round again for another 76 years.”

They kept on walking on the ice.

“Mr. Halley beat you, Mr. Halley beat you,” taunted the man behind them while actively engaged in a quest of discovery involving the craters in his teeth.

“Gag on it Appendix,” said the man in coat tails.

“Oh shut up mother,” came the muffled reply as the man shoved the whole of his white gloved hand into his mouth and turned his head rather violently from side to side.

“Now my dear I believe there was some business to tend to, Right, good. Who I am is simply all too important, at least for you, right now, to go into in any detail, however I do have a certain proposition for you which holds something for us all and if you will be so kind as to accept my proposal, I will more than gladly loan you any wish you desire. So,” he said, raising his eyes slowly from the horizon to the sky above him as if counting off the seconds, “Do you accept?”

“You, um, you, I don’t think you’ve made the proposal yet.”

“Of course I have!” snapped Herr Doktor looking from the sky to her with a twinkle in his eye. “I made it at the very beginning, of time that is. Full force of Dr. Law and all that… if something’s troubling you.”

“I’m afraid I…”

“Do!” coughed the man in coat tails looking quickly away.

“What was that?” said Herr Doktor looking around on the icy ground and poking bits of ice with his cane as if turning over rocks.

“Do!” chimed the man in white gloves sticking his fingers in his ears and twirling them around voraciously.

“Do?” asked Favasha, looking from the man in coat tails around over her shoulder and a little disgusted by what she saw for by now the man in white gloves was not only twirling his fingers in his ears but picking his nose with his tongue.

“Fantastic!” cheered Herr Doktor, “then it’s settled. Boys the post-nup-prompt please.” said Herr Doktor as he tapped his cane on the ice and the four of them came to a stop before a rather large iceberg that protruded from the ice skin at a forty five degree angle, surrounded by smaller plates that in a way, at least for Favasha, resembled the tombstones of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.

“Here,” said the man in coat tails, “give me your wrist.” And he took her abruptly by the wrist, made as if to check her pulse, and then raised her left arm high enough to peer into her clean shaven arm pit.

“But what I…” mumbled Favasha feeling a bit afraid amid this mix of seeming nonsense and crass behavior, among such disturbing company. But she didn’t know what else to do, under the circumstances, not even knowing where she was, other than comply.

She noticed something falling from the hand that held her left wrist and felt something warm running down her arm.

Only she hadn’t quite figured it was blood until at the same time she saw the red-brown droplets on the ice and felt the finger in her arm pit.

“Oh, Jesus!” she screeched horrified by the sight of the blood, pained by the finger jabbed into her arm pit and the violent shove of her arm back down upon it and sensing herself on the verge of hysterics.

“Yes?” replied Herr Doktor.

“There, there,” said the man in coat tails, “just squeeze it in tight. It’s not so bad is it?” He was holding her arm down at her side and pushing against her shoulder.

“All around the nice piece of bush Reginald thought of his finger, all around the nice piece of bush, pop off the finger!” came the voice from behind them singing.

“Off with your head then Mr. President!” snarled the man in coat tails, slowly letting up on Favasha’s arm and beginning to lift it again with great care and a certain delicacy of touch.

“Sorry, wrong number,” said the man as he twiddled his white gloved fingers like a pianist.

Something fell from her arm pit and Favasha looked down in utter revulsion as a solitary little finger twitched upon the ice.

The man in coat tails bent at the knees daintily, plucked it up with a white, blue and red silk handkerchief, stood with his hands wrapped in the handkerchief, gave an elongated blink of both eyes, then crumpled the handkerchief until it disappeared and raised both hands for inspection. They were ten fingers clean.

Favasha looked down on the ice and it too was clean.

“Never to worry, just a formality, protocol you know,” said Herr Doktor as Favasha spun around.

Herr Doktor stood, bent slightly forward in a position similar to that often taken by waiters in a restaurant in which fine wine is served. He held out an open book.

Favasha looked at it a moment.

It had no pages and no writing and appeared to be made of stone.

“Sign here please,” said Herr Doktor smiling his demented smile, the corners of his mouth down turned as always.

The man occasionally referred to as Mr. President reached across her field of vision with a white gloved hand. In it he held a golden cross, which he clicked at the top to produce the nip of a pen at the bottom.

“But what…” began Favasha.

“The guest book, it’s the guest book, now hurry up and sign. Reginald will point you to your room.”

Favasha took the cross shaped pen and then reluctantly looked over her shoulder to Mr. President who whispered “do,” smiled, closed his eyes and nodded gently. She then turned her gaze to the man in coat tails beside her who waved with the little finger of his raised right hand, smiled broadly, removing his jagged front teeth to reveal the masterpiece of contemporary dental work underneath. He pocketed his fake teeth, withdrawing from the same pocket a small bell which he then rang with zest complimented by a beaming television smile while he rolled his eyes in the direction of the iceberg that had previously stood before them.

The iceberg however was nowhere to be seen and amazed instead Favasha saw two rows of waist high white lilacs, like the confetti throwing crowd through which a newly married couple must pass, glowing resplendent atop an arching carpet of billowy clouds upon which she realized she was now standing.

Beneath her, in the moon light, as she looked over to one side she could see far, far below the shadows of the clouds drifting over a lush green landscape of smoothly rolling hills through which wound the white golden skin of a river.

Over her shoulder the moon leaned in through a rift in the clouds, a single moon beam falling upon the surface of the stone book.

She bent over and, staring at the shadow of her hand upon the cold surface, commenced to sign.

The moment she finished applause erupted around her then died down quickly.

Favasha stood up straight and looked around at the night’s sky. Behind her the man in white gloves oft referred to as Mr. President flashed the red neon light of the applause sign he held over his head and applause erupted again.

“Welcome, Welcome, Welcome, Your welcome to… You’ve Made a Deal!” said the man in coat tails with the aplomb of a tabloid talk show host, leaning in toward her and smiling his perfect television smile. “The drum roll please Mr. President!”

With this, a dramatic and tinny drum roll filled the heavens.

Favasha noticed Mr. President was rapidly tapping two fingers over his heart while moving his eyes side to side like some animated marionette.

“And the Deal of the Day  is….”




The wind had for a spell abandoned the tall pines to an unending and lucid silence. With the moon gone and the clouds beaten to bones innumerable geometric holes had been torn open in the nights sky through which the shimmering body of the far away stars could now be seen clear and cold, the infinite translucence of times ancient.

Beneath which, tucked in a cleft in the land, surrounded by tall sturdy pines, the two men sat.

By the time the man had concluded his story Kreis had fallen over on one side curled in the fetal position up against the base of the stone, shivering with closed eyes.

“But no one can…a man…where he must…” Emil trailed off returning his eyes from the shimmering light of the starry heavens to the sleeping Kreis beside him.

He gazed at Kreis for a long time before he stood, a bit unsteady, his bones aching from the cold, removed his coat, clutched it to his breast for a moment with clenched fists, smiled at something, nearly laughed out loud and then, with an elegance becoming a matador (who kills with the cape, the cape!) shook it out and laid it tenderly over the contracted body of the sleeping Kreis.

Emil raised his eyes again to the heavens as above him. Above the small cleft in the land surrounded by dark sturdy pines bristling in the now gently persistent wind, Emil could see the venom full Scorpius chasing Libra out of the Milky Way. It was as if he were at the bottom of a deep well, the whole of the sky condensed into the aperture above, the frozen light magnified by the surrounding darkness, expanded as space itself beneath the dome of his skull.

Emil gazed for a while at these celestial signs before he laid one hand on the granite slab to steady himself and leapt from the cleft in the hillside wood.

He walked for a long time beneath those stars, beneath so many frozen and far away celestial lanterns, through the Black Woods. He walked intently like a man who knew full well where he was going, irrespective of the darkness of the wood, he seemed to be guided by some invisible hand which led him on.

Much time had passed, an immeasurable amount of time, or it could have been no time at all as, for Emil, time had long ceased to exist, replaced instead by a rhythm, the rhythm of his feet upon the earth, the rhythmic beating of his heart, before something, and he will never know what exactly, compelled him, in the darkness of that wood, to lean against a tree with arms outstretched and close his eyes.

His heart was pounding like a drum and a touch of fear crawled across his flesh and wriggled about inside him.

He looked up again toward the heavens with closed eyes and felt the belly of the scorpion sucking him into the air, the white light of its legs raining down around him as if the temporal bars of a somehow eternal cage.

He took a deep breath, turned and bowed his head to the flames.

They streaked across his eyes.

He was in the middle of a vast nocturnal city and bonfires burned casting bits of lurid form about the air caught in an intangible mixture of shadow and light. Smoke billowed, clotting space like a horde of flies and the masses rioted rushing through the smoke, bits of limb and body, raised arm and barred teeth flashing upon the sooty screens of convex and concave air and he heard barrages of rifle fire and breaking glass and instinctively he began to flee from before the place as the shadows rose and the light from the flames flared across the sky until it seemed as if the dark minded heavens themselves had gone mad with the touch of Phoebus’ chariot as beyond the East winds, between the scorpions pincers and poison tail, Phaeton lost the reigns.

He fled through the darkness as the conflagration grew and the moving shadows stripped across all and sundry solid, the facades of the ancient and modern buildings, garage doors, glass plates and stone faces awash in flickering waves of a garish light, the over passes, blind street lamps and gutted autos, trash cans and piles of rubbish conspiring to coat the world in endless alcoves of threat and pending violence through shadows thicker than the night itself.

Running he rounded a bend upon a grassy knoll on the corner of some unnamed cul-d-sac and descended from this close cut lawn onto a torch lit plaza at once full of all the finer forms of all times of human existence… for there, mingling among the cocktail hour masses, were gesticulating men in whale bone corsets with hip boots and bunny slippers, wearing buffalo hats, demure women in bonnets with sleek satin slips wet in the fire light which illuminated jade bolo-ties, dumbfounded Greeks in girdled robes smeared with ash, tuxedoed tonsured Germans wearing plastic devils horns with blood dripping from their eyes, Andalusian women in saffron teddies and sapphire g-strings carrying melons and eggs, Sumerian men in jock straps with tin swords, sporting boleros and joking, somber Chinese in cassocks wearing the cross, Eskimos rocking lace trimmed parasols in pressed white slacks and lemon yellow rugby shirts with cups of tea in their hands, Georgian men twirling plastic pistols and rubbing each others’ asses with red painted pieces of rhetoric, Norsemen wearing the uniforms of the Royal Navy and veiled tiaras strumming guitars, frowning Tibetans in berets with lambskin sashes, wearing multi colored spotted panties and wielding scimitars, Egyptians in yarmulkes and medieval armor draped in fur coats shifting their weight uncomfortably from leg to leg, Macedonians in fedoras with woolen mittens and vinyl body suits playing with yo-yo’s, wigged Samoan men in trench coats open to expose padded bras and cotton leg warmers puffing out their chests and threatening a fight, Bolivian women bare breasted with sun glasses in their hair donning kilts hool-a-hooping with lascivious llama like eyes, Arabs in coonskin caps with rhinestone studded gloves, golashes and polyester boxers smoking cigars and as ever trying to trade, Indians wearing toupees and parkas, pantyhose and scarves, mingling with the young girls clad in seal skins laughing, hiding behind the poodle skirts and evening gowns of old men, midgets in muslin with long dark braided hair totting polo mallets, and in the middle, in the dead center of the plaza, the white bull, in its horns a wreath of mistletoe, head to head with a Chinese dragon with the body of a snake, the feet of a lion and the whiskers of a cat which wound its thousand legged body through the crowd.

It was then in an instant that the plaza fell silent and the raised heads of the crowd, the dragon and bull turned toward him and he too turned to find himself before a door which he opened onto a long hall carpeted in a deep blood red.

Along both sides of the hall were ever so many nameless, numberless wooden doors and as he passed some were open and he saw on the left balding bearded white aproned doctors pulling blood through a rubber tube from the clamped open neck of a mule they had bound to an iron ringed cross laid upon a table and feeding this blood into the pale skinned arm of a beautiful young milk maid who sat on a cushion on the floor with her sleeves rolled up watching the proceedings with indifference as the fingers of one hand spread open to distract her from the pain.

Further down the hall on the other side he peered into a room with a single, solitary red chair pushed up against a wall on which someone had scribbled differential equations in black ink, painted up high a picture of a balloon, sketched a steam locomotive in blacks and grays and carefully painted a line of leafy green trees receding into the distance beside a door way that led to another room in which he could see a child’s beach ball on the parquet floor, a small balcony with a rod iron railing beyond that and beyond it the spired domes and campanile of a city that somehow resembled Venice.

A number of doors down he glanced into a dank gray cell in which sat upon two concrete blocks two hideous conglomerations of jumbled organs and veins, resembling two torsos sans flesh, stacked atop one another, the four arms of each busy snatching at the ripe skin of a large pile of fruit on the concrete block between them and shoving masses of this into the gaping hole of a neck at their mid-section.

Even further on, on the opposite side, another door was open to reveal a crusty plated rhinoceros chewing its cud in front of a rock, upon which sat three naked women with a red blanket over their legs gazing out across the sea at the blue gray silhouettes of the two square rigged clipper ships, sails full furl, heading out into a sunset of brilliant yellow and rose tinged cloud. He walked on down the hall, finally coming to a halt before a closed door and finding himself for some reason reaching for the monkey headed latch.

The door opened onto a white walled room small but bright from an unknown light in the center of which a chess board rested on a table. As he seated himself at one end of the table the door from which he entered vanished and across from him the old, one-eyed man with a floppy hat smiled moving black to his red and he understood reaching for a piece of his own, bishop, knight or rook, or perhaps the queen, he knew not which, before he spread his hands wide in confusion or was it indecision? And the board folded in upon itself at the center, the pieces sliding down toward the median as on the opposite side of the room from which he entered a door opened and out he walked back onto the same plaza.

But this time the plaza was empty, utterly deserted save for rows of swirled marble Ionic, Doric and yes even occasional Corinthian columns, reaching toward the deep cobalt blue of the soon to be starry vault of the sky.

He walked on beyond the plaza, he walked on for a long time until his toes felt the deep sand and a wall rose behind him against which he sat.





Favasha stood upon the carpet of clouds, bathed in a golden moon light, running her fingers over the pedals of the white lilies that formed the balustrade of her bridge, her thin blue silk dress caressed by the wind, pushed into her warm body, softening every soft curve, elevating the sight of her form to a point beyond perfection, where radiance is but a veil and the rosy vivacity of life a petty mask for the splendor within.

“Well go on, walk, time is of the essence you know,” said the man in coat tails, glancing down again at his gold pocket watch, adding with a bow, “Your Majesty.”

Far beneath her the Vltava wound like a white gold snake through the heart of Bohemia, ever refilling inspirations ancient chalice with the new wine of unrequited dream…

“Go on, it’s just down there, he’s waiting, go on…” said the man in white gloves knitting his fingers nervously, “it won’t take long at all.”

“What won’t take long?” asked Favasha, turning around to see only the distant face of the moon gazing at her unremittingly through a rift in the wind blown clouds. Our two friends had vanished.

“The ceremony of course, it is what you agreed to,” said the man in coat tails suddenly beside her, swinging his watch back and forth like a pendulum.

“What ceremony?” insisted Favasha.

“Never to fear, your the guest of honor, he’s selected you to read it!” said the man in white gloves on the other side of her as he took her by the elbow.

“To read what?”

“To read it, what else!” said the man in coat tails, taking the other elbow rather forcefully.

“What it?”

“The gospel of course! You know…” said Mr. President, beginning to tug at her as she leaned back in resistance.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what your talking about.”

“The book, he wants you to read the gospel, after all you helped write it, we all helped write it, but you especially, and to give it to him as a gift, on his birthday no less, he’s invited only the best for the occasion I assure you, now hurry up…” explained the man in coat tails with a beaming smile and a wink of his left eye, his hand firmly on her elbow but applying no force.

“But what gospel, and who’s he?” asked Favasha relaxing for a moment.

“The gospel you helped write, the one you burned Your Majesty, flames have always been dear to his heart. Don’t ask how he treated Theophilus after he torched the Library at Alexandria. His joy was immeasurable! You couldn’t have given it to him in a nicer way. Your generosity will be duly rewarded we assure you. He as you well know is the Lord,” said both our friends in unison as they at one and the same time heaved on her arms like a fisherman his full nets… and Favasha like the projectile in a catapult went flying.

There was a strange electric blue phosphorescence to the air as she flew over ravines and gullies, dipping and swaying held close to the body of the earth in the white gloved talons of some prehistoric bird with leathery wings, a gold pocket watch rocking round its neck as they flew, over springs of stallion blood leaping into the air boiled and ebullient, past the poisonous emerald eyes of insects in bogs of peat moss, and on among the fragmentary dreams of grave stones translucent and radiant, past trees with leaves of noosed rope, to a forest of giant, frost covered pin wheels that twinkled in the breeze of their passing like falling meteors through the stars, over the valleys of bewilderment and annihilation, on above a narrow winding trail through the peaks of delusion they flew, as beneath her the cracked snow coursed almost digestively with a sea of sponge-like shadow where blindness touched her until again slowly she could see the colors of foreboding and love, disease, agony, guilt and joy stretch out to the horizon before her, reflected upon the waters of the great lake in the forms of sheep and rams, white flamingoes on a purple gauze covered marsh, magenta jaguars and glassy red giraffes striding over enormous jade pythons, which slithered over around and through the egg shell covered remains of a gigantic statue, a statue that must have once stood over the edge of this teeming plain like a shepherd on a hill above his flock, now fallen where it lay with giant broken feet and crumbling handless arms and heartless torso, at the sight of which her stomach rose as the wind ravished her face and the white gloved talons dug deep into her ribs, piercing one side.

Further on she began to rise, carried through a frozen maze of men and women she’d thought but stars adorned in an armor of white hot crabs that, as they moved sideways to withdraw, exposed tired faces which appeared as no more than a billion masks of death peeling and cringing and laughing with lugubrious pride. Machine like this army moved in solambnistic splendor through the heavens, marionettes of fabricated zeal turning over each other pinion to wheel and, as she looked away, suddenly she saw the mirrors through which she flew, mirrors and cobwebs woven of tattered flags, bits of fabric and splintered glass, sticking to her hair and pouring from her watery eyes like cathederaled candle light.

It was then that the creature in whose claws she hung began to descend in a deep arching spiral and she was overcome with waves of an emotion tinged in shades of utter amazement, dizzying and euphoric, yet terrifying, a strange, twisted feeling that slowly overwhelmed her, consumed her, devoured her, a feeling much like happiness, only… falling.




When Favasha came to, still reeling from the sinister dance through the heavens that placed her stomach, head and all that she could call her consciousness into a swirling sieve, her rib cage and stomach still throbbing where the talons had pierced her side, bruised and rubbed bits of her flesh raw, the first thing she saw were the dim outlines of the crystal chandelier directly over her head.

It was quite dark, save for a single strip of light that entered the room from what appeared to be the key hole of a door on the far wall. It was impossible to tell how large the room was or if there were any windows or other décor on the walls. Straining to turn her eyes as far as they would go to the right without turning her head, she could see that the ray of light had an odd amber color and reached across the floor in a razor thin line to stop a few feet short of the bed in which she lay.

It was a large bed with silk sheets, the color of which she could not make out in the darkness. All was quiet save for a faint, far away sound that resembled a child singing a lullaby and the distant trickling of water.

Exhausted, confused, and bewildered, Favasha’s eyes felt heavy, as she turned her head to look across the room she had the feeling she was in some great ship, rocking in heavy seas.

For an instant she thought she heard the flapping of wings and attempted to raise her head but soon realized this was not to happen, her head had turned to a mass of cold lead, rolling listlessly over the space of her foramen magnum as if skull and spine were no longer attached, her frozen cheeks caressed by the silk pillow as again she closed her eyes.

“There, there now,” whispered a voice from not so far away in the darkness. “The dead must have their sleep… if they’re to rise.”




“Rise and shine Your Majesty, rise and shine, off to the races, hehehehe!” gleefully crowed the Peryton from behind the door as he jiggled the key in the lock.

Favasha opened her eyes to see a blinding flash of amber light accompanied by the sound of heavy breathing, nostrils flaring and numerous hooves clomping across the stone floor. She raised her hand and used her forearm to shield her eyes from the light and could make out a number, three four, it was hard to tell, of forms coming toward her, the amber light radiating behind them.

“Come along now!” grunted one of the beasts as it moved to pull the blanket from her naked flesh, “it’s bathy-bathy time! Gotta anoint the ointment! Scrub in the scabies, scour the scorn.”

Another beast bent forward with a ruffle of feathers and the clomping of hooves, and Favasha suddenly felt hot, putrid bursts of breath on her face, “We wouldn’t want to have to call the Simurgh would we Your Majesty? Eggs like that we don’t need to lay, eh?”

“The Simurgh?” muttered Favasha, still struggling to adjust her eyes to the diffused amber light of the room to make out the dark, elongated head leaning over her. “Is that you Mr. President, ah, um…Reginald?”

“Don’t tempt her with the Simurgh,” came a softer, somewhat sultry female voce from near the foot of the bed. “She’s come a long way for this, no need for a little bird shit to spoil the party. The Simurgh’s been coo-coo-cooing in the Tree of Knowledge for too long anyway,” said the voice somewhat fading away before getting nearer with,  “No Presidents here dear, just us Ravenna Peryton, the Lord’s proverbial milk maids, washer women on wings, circling the skies over the pillars of Hercules we used to say.”

“Maybe she likes the Simurgh,” said an older, raspy, wheezing voice from over by the door. “Didn’t make a peep when she reached for the apple…and she hasn’t stopped reaching yet.”

“She came all the way here, bearing gifts no less,” said another voice from beyond the door, adding almost as an after thought, “the fruit of His loom, if you know what I mean.”

“Where am I?” whispered Favasha, using her elbow as a visor over here eyes, trying to prop herself up with the other and still hoping with no end of trepitized hesitation to get a good look at the creatures surrounding her bed.

“The tower of refuge, of course!” said the creature nearest her, emitting a burst of air through its nostrils that smelled of cow dung.

“At the crossroads of the four winds dear, atop the great plain,” said the gentle voice at the foot of her bed. “It’s always his favorite party spot. How he loves the smell of the Kanun. But don’t you worry. You have to save yourself, keep up your strength. Get ready for the big show! Better yet, you’ve been given the best room in the house! Completely safe from the cycle of blood as long as you’re in the tower. At the appointed hour you’ll go, it’ll flow and He’ll be there waiting.”

“Need you always mother,” said the creature nearest her face with a grunt and another putrid burst of moist, stinky breath. One of the creatures stomped its hoof on the stone floor impatiently.

“Let’s get on with it, I’m not flying with the Simurgh today, fucking know-it-all,” said another with a rustle of feathers.

Favasha’s eyes had slowly adjusted to the light and at last she could make out the party surrounding her bed.

The sight made her feel no better.

The Ravena Peryton, as they called themselves, the Lord’s milk maids, had heads like deer, only with two hollow, short, cylindrical, golden horns atop their heads and tiny, tiny black beady eyes that resembled sewn on buttons with a drop of water rolling around in the center. The rest of the form, from what she could tell, looked like the torso of a woman covered in pale bluish feathers, in place of arms there were three sets of short, penguin-like wings with tiny, worm-like fingers at the ends. In place of nipples on their six breasts there were something that looked like small up-turned claws from which hung golden rings, oddly resembling door knockers. The lower part of their body looked like a deer on its hind legs, only with a small tuft of feathers instead of a tail, which quivered timorously with some sort of pending orgy of excitement, frustration or rage whenever they spoke.

One of the creatures suddenly emitted a loud fart followed by the sound of a series of balls squishing on the floor with a dull plop, plop, plop. Then the sound of a thick viscous liquid, far heavier than water, falling into a metal bin began to fill the room. From beyond the door out in the hall she could see, with a slight raise of her head, the edge of something that looked like one half of a giant clam shell, the liquid inside it slowly being stirred by a Pertyon with an oar.

“Semen of the white falcon my dear, best skin milk in the world. Home made soapy balls, thanks to Wedgwood Peryton, a touch of well aged menstrual blood a la the Eva Braun archive, some pig spleen from the Paris police, a little ruby dub-dub down with the ol’ C. Taylor’s best soon to be retired African needle, an Adriatic sea urchin eminemia, a peel and pluck o’ from the Sade center, flown in of course on the red eye special, a dash of clitoral clowning from friends you’ll never see and you’ll be flyin’ in no time!

“But…what…no…but I don’t…” muttered Favasha in wide-eyed terror.

“Bath time dearie, you’ll be off to chapel soon,” snapped the Peryton beside her and Favasha began to squirm, flip, roll and scream as with a tip, tap, scratch and pull, series after series of cold, calloused, worm like fingers softly clawed at her body.




Basil Bagert could hear the voices fading off up the darkened trail as he staggered back toward the street. He’d been thinking about Antonín’s sister again, or more like Antonín’s sisters tits, which were wiser and more divine than the history of human philosophy as offered by Antonín. But they could not be isolated, they came in pairs, that over intellectualized Promethean idiot a tit attached to tits, “da fuck might even make a de- de-cent brother-in-waw,” he hiccupped beneath his breath, “if ya could teach him to fucking shop up…” stammered Basil as he swerved the wrong way round the juncture of the path, sidewalk and street.

There was the loud sound of a car horn and Basil, still lost in his contemplation of the inseparability of tits slowly looked up, his head swerving like the hips of a hoola dancer on a speeding truck driver’s dash board.

The car screeched to a halt in front of him and Basil, taking pains to show his good intent with unavoidably exaggerated gesture, rested his hands on the warm hood for a moment, slowly smiled, and then rolled himself around to a door handle on the passenger’s side, opened the door and more fell than stepped in.

“Soz vhere wez goin,” was what he could muster as the engine reved and the light turned from yellow to green, the first inklings of an autumn dawn beginning, slowly, sweetly, silently to heave open the vault of night across what could be seen of the eastern horizon.

The drivers teeth began to chatter.

“I hopes youz guyz ur weal jinn-u-es-esses cuz I can’t sake no mor o’ that Ant and his fuckin swood,” shouted Basil, adding, “Hey, youz guyz likes horshes, Pookie shurz liked horshes.”

At that the driver and passenger turned their heads eliciting a sharp, “Oh shit! Werez youz guyz frm, I didn know da circus waz n town…” As Basil fought the urge to pass out, busy crossing and recrossing his eyes in search of a focal point, the door slammed shut.

Any reply from the chattering teeth of the Dj-inn Singers was lost amid the sound of a backfire as a cloud of bluish-grey smoke rose from the rusted exhaust pipe of the faded green Škoda. The car lurched forward, well worn tires grabbing what was left of the winter gravel on the road, and eased down Ujzed, rattling over the tram tracks, swerving in and out of the side streets of Malá strana, the driver’s teeth chattering, searching for something, something lost and sacred, searching for something they hoped not to find.




Emerging from her toilet, Favasha was clad head to toe in splendorous satin robes of red and blue, the richness of the fabric catching every hint of light, holding it in ransom, seductively rubbing it over the voluptuous curves of her body as she walked, the Peryton following in somber step behind, carrying her tail, a wreath of dew stained daisies in her hair, her naked feet stepping on slugs and turds, splashing through puddles of piss and dove semen as they headed toward the top of the stairs.

Wedgwood and Weasel Peryton stepped up to grab her arms with great delicacy, only corrupted by a sense of urgency, and she was ushered down the dark winding stairs of the tower of refuge.

There was the sound of someone fidgeting with keys and an iron lock. As they neared the bottom of the stairs the tumbler jiggled into place with a series of dull clanks and the door swung open.

The light was blinding, the view breathtaking.

As her eyes adjusted to the light Favasha’s ears were assaulted by a deafening cacophony of tenebrific, orgiastic sound. She stood atop a hill in some sort of open courtyard defined by a series of vaulted arches, strands of ivy growing out of the cracks in the soot stained stone, the open space beneath looking out across the horizon in all directions as she turned her head.

It was a horizon like none she had ever seen.

Death black smoke billowed in the distance mixed with rising tongues of flame, smoke clotting out the heavens. The air was hot and her face began to burn. The smell acrid, putrid and assaulting. It was as if the sky itself was back lit only by flames, before which, rising in silhouette, were cities full of sky scrapers and minarets, apartment blocks and Basilicas, skeletal cathedral domes, spired towers and triumphal arches all belching smoke.

As seen through the holes in the flickering garish light of the cloud smeared sky, winged figures dove and rose and swirled, fighting the battle of the air. Humanoid they were, of all different shapes and sizes, carrying torsos or bits of building stone and severed limbs in their claws, warped bits of steel girder licked by the light of the flames, the tattered edges of cathedral, synagogue, temple and mosque, minaret and tower ripped and twisting amid the fray, winking at the black death of the sky like momentary stars imploding in the instant of their birth. Riotous figures filled the flaming rooftops, terraces, balconies and gutted windows, raised arms thrashing, swaying, beating, grasping at the void of space before being plucked alive from the fire by the winged figures falling through the air, swooping down, in and out of the cloud and flame.

Near the edge of a wood across the plain that bordered the courtyard beneath the second arch to her left a fire burned amid the tall, swaying pines, tornadoes of flame swirling ever higher, devouring the air, turning the whole of the forest into a giant convection oven with sparks and burning pine cones and white hot branches rushing madly through space as the flames enveloped the wood. Yet the trees remained as they were even as the violence of the flames intensified, battering the pines from every side, growing ever larger, the whole of the forest ablaze in a maddening frenzy of destruction, ablaze while not being consumed.

A screaming then fell through the skies over head and the ground beneath her feet shook to a cavalcade of explosion. Through gaps in the smoke and cloud, almost beyond the curve of the earth, deep grey clouds the shape of mushrooms rose in a line from a world far away.

The deafening sounds that filled the air in their wake heeded only to the assaulting rumble of the massive machines rolling in through the gaps in the wind, bigger than blocks of flats, their teeth-like treads tearing the body of the screaming earth, crawling across the black plain before the burning cities, surrounded on all sides by a tide of tiny, stampeding horses, the riders drawn swords flashing in the distance, lances stabbing the sides of the machines as if some sickly joust, a clowns army of Don Quixote’s assaulting the rumbling bulwark of the mechanical beasts, loud speakers blaring party anthems and parade marches adding to the garbled, deafening, madness.

Never still were the armies, rolling and colliding like some storm tossed sea, breaking on the watch towers which dotted the plain like so many towers of babble, under constant assault, their scaffolding bedecked in Christmas lights, chains, waving banners and flags, hanged and impaled bodies, musicians, huddled behind the parapets on high, playing as fast as they could to fan the fires that erupted again and again amid this sea of orgy and gore, stuffed Santas and Easter bunnies, lost parade floats drifting over the crowds like puffy clouds, occasionally bursting into flame, spewing balls of orange and purple smoke, arrows and spears cast into the air in waves, rising to stick like tiny splinters on the shadowy underbelly of the burning body, falling slowly as the shadow spread over the armies below.

Never still were the armies, writhing, pushing, punching, stabbing, sucking, screaming, clawing, kicking, biting, grabbing, yanking, tearing, mobbing the chapel’s forecourt, in endless waves of tortured anguish, yearning, desperation, lust and greed.

Beside her on the right, beneath the third arch, she could see a cemetery, overgrown with weeds, covered in dead leaves, trees pushing up from beneath crypts and family vaults, cracked and tilted headstones and funerary statues jutting from the undergrowth like twisted stone corks in a rotting sea of sewage. And, above it all, hanging from the trees, frayed ropes around their necks, lifeless heads bowed, so many angels, their wings smeared in shit, a thick brownish liquid dripping from their limp fingers and toes, their bodies moving ever so slightly, swaying with the passing of the fetid breeze, emitting the softest of songs to the wind’s caress, like so many wind chimes.

Turning around to shield her eyes from the terror, beneath the ivy covered arch behind her, she could see the wood of martyrs, the crucified in the trees. There was much bounding, shakes and moans as the hammers pounded cold steel through flesh into the fresh wood.

The trees were filled with so many men on ladders, groups of men scattered around the base of the trees, hoisting awkwardly the bound bodies of the willing, handfuls of hammers and buckets of nails. Where ever arms could find a place on a branch thick enough, the bonds were cut, the limbs outstretched and the nail went in.

A storm was brewing, static lightening blanketing swaths of the sky thousands of meters above, the shrill heat of the wind breathing slowly across the plain as fissures in the fabric of the clouds brought down gusts strong enough to tear the last of the green leaves from the oaks. The crucified hung in the naked trees at odd angles that appeared almost riotous, mocking their own deaths, ridiculous, disco like in their strung up strutting. Their eyes cast to the windy heavens, loin cloths rippling in the wind. Looks more of surprise than fear contorting their faces. Trumpets wailing to drown out the clack clung shuffle of incessant hammering. There was no silence in sight as the branches creaked and bent under wind and weight, no expectation that any rain could ever wash the blood away.

“Magnificent isn’t it?” came Herr Doctor’s voice leaning in from over her shoulder, extending his right arm and pointing out at the horizon. “Made it myself, I did, with, of course, a little help from my friends! See there,” he whispered, pointing to the trees, “Look how they’ve risen! The fools would crucify themselves if they could. So eager for the sacrifice, the celebrity, the pain. Makes the foliage seem thicker, the way they’re stretched across the wood, high and low, here and there. Like so many leaves…”

Favasha stared, open mouthed, speechless and pale.

“Now,” said Herr Doktor with a broad smile and a wink nearly pressing her cheek, “Let’s get on with the party, shall we?”





It was then that a silence descended, weighty and immortal, over all and sundry across the fields. The hot wind held its breath, the billowing smoke froze, raised hands and swords, violin bows and horses hooves, banners and bunting, fingers of flame and flaying knives, open mouths and eyes held still in their scream, strands of saliva holding light caught but unreflected, hammers permanently raised, shadows deep and stained in stillness, clawed hands outstretched, wings paused mid flap, fluttering feathers frozen.

The two figures standing beneath the ivy clad arches, upon the altar of the Chapel of the Four Winds, were frozen still as well.

Favasha’s field of vision grew narrower, narrower and narrower, at last fading, fading to a field of white, white, white upon white that soon enveloped her.




Slowly Favasha returned, slowly, falling into herself as if from a great height through which the whole of her life had stretched, contracting now, condensing into the bits of sound that dripped through her ears. And there were whispers, endless whispers, whispers of an unforgivable sin. Whispers crowding out her mind, writhing beneath her skin.

Opening her eyes she saw only darkness, before something began to expand and her eyes slowly adjusted to the deep, faintly flickering amber that solidified the air, molding and shaping it like the dancing shadows of an unseen fire into hints of form banished as soon as created. It was as if her eyes had opened on a piece of fabric rippling in the wind, draped across her face, a living fabric, crawling, as if woven of worms, the worms themselves then woven of ever smaller worms, coarse and hairy were the quivering fibers of the air, inching upward, dancing bits of shadow defining the shifting spaces in-between, infinite, alluding to something impossibly beyond, as if the space behind her she could not see, but feel, feel behind her, was out there somewhere, defining that fabric, giving the air form, on the other side. Her eyes scraped against it, their movement pressing in like a finger to soft wax, the intaglio space of their passing shifting her focus in an impossible search for a point to define.

Favasha could feel her chest swelling, breasts pressing into the space before her, inside becoming outside like a breath held without walls, defined only by its own expansive continuity, by the impossibility of escape, of the need to merge, to be one with itself.

“Go on,” said the voices in unison. “On go now, reeead!” they whispered.

She couldn’t tell if she was looking up or down, straight ahead or to the side. There was no way to tell, but her chin was high, her throat strained, the back of her neck crushed down upon itself as if someone was pushing her forehead into the center of the earth, trying to force it to collapse upon itself, yet at the same time pushing with unimaginable pressure up along her spine, and out into the cosmos through the back of her skull. The only way to escape the pressure was through her eyes and they rose as if climbing a ladder, following the fabric up, up and up, detailed and slow in motion, until, exhausted from the climb, the line of her sight met with an edge, as if a wall, upon which she could focus, an edge defined by a shift in color, the darkness beyond alluding to a space less solid, deeper, demarcating the ledge upon which her gaze for a moment could rest.

It was then that far, far above her, at the top of the infinite arch of her vision, she could see a pin point of electric blue light with a white circle at the center, an infintesibly small circle as clear as an eye held to her face yet further away than the farthest star that began to fall, rocking on the air, pulling away from the electric blue light beyond, growing slowly larger, slowly larger, falling toward her.

“Go on,” whispered the voices, swirling around her, inside her, pausing to inhale through her open pours and orifices, “Reeead!” they hisssed.

All grew immeasurably cold, a cold that sliced and scraped, peeled and burned. Favasha’s eyes followed the falling white body for an indiscernible amount of time. It could have been seconds, days, years, eons. It’s edges began to fissure and splinter, to fray, to curl into a crescent, the darkness separating it from itself. And as it did so, it began to glow brighter and brighter and brighter.

When, at last, the white body appeared to be just above, as if it was about to fall into her eyes, she realized, suddenly, with immaculate clarity, what it was.

A feather.

A simple, single, feather. Solitary and distraught. Glowing as it rocked through the air above her eyes, glowing as it passed through her, drawing her gaze down, down, down to the sheet of white paper into which it, and everything in her, then merged.

Favasha was that sheet of paper, that feather, surrounded by a field of white upon white upon which, around her on all sides, dark lines began to slither and wind, building themselves up like self generating walls, gaining volume, flexing to cast the shadows of the labyrinth, pulling together, closing, opening, gathering in a stormy, stressed, guttural sound that tore through the space around her, the space that was her, as dark and light collided, with inexplicable force, exploding and imploding yet inviolable, to form a vortex that swirled around her, alive, fragments of the whirling walls reaching out toward her, pulling her apart, caressing her lips, her tongue, reaching down her throat.

“Reeed!” screeched the voices from the impossible center of it all.

And Favasha’s lips began to move, her tongue crawled up her throat as if returned to form from the inside out, it dragged along her teeth, curled out over her lips before beginning to roll across the swirling walls around her, as pieces broke off in joints and arches and lines, pieces that grew in size and stature into letters and then words, towering, resounding words, lined up in rows, sounding off in tones ominous, catastrophic and unyielding, tones instantly subdued like the fading call of an echo off the canyon walls of desolation lake, into the whispering insistence of her own voice as it fell, as the feather did, slowly, down, down, down inside her.  Until at last she could hear, hushed as if in a lullaby, from impossibly far away, the sound of her own voice, reading, “Late in the afternoon…”




“Late in the afternoon on the fifth day of the Spring month of Aprilis, as the warm rays of the sun streamed in through the arches to illuminate the west side of the Coronation Hall of the Palace of Herod the Great in the city of Jerusalem, shadows cast in cryptic glyphs across the marble floor, shifting subtly with the passage of every second, every eon, every age,  Pontius Pilate, the Procurator of Judea, leaned back in his chair and cursed all and sundry as he shifted his weight uncomfortably and studied the parchments before him.

Why had they? Why?

For the last hour he had been pouring over the indictment filed by the Sanhedrin after the High Priest Caiaphas ordered and secured the arrest of Jesus of Nazareth the night before.

As if the journey from Ceaserea had not been wretched enough. The dust combined with the stench from the donkeys the Jews had tied up along the road to celebrate their Passover feast sickened him, his sweat and the heat had brought on a rash and, together with the masses of pilgrims that flocked to the city at this time of year, forcing him to deploy his soldiers to thwart any attempt at riot, the journey had been mercilessly slow.

Upon his arrival the Chief Priests were waiting. They had stopped, as was customary, before the marble steps, between the forum and the Praetorium so as not to defile themselves by entering the tribunal of Pilate. Jesus of Nazareth, bloody and bruised,  was handed over to the Roman guard in chains and dragged up the marble steps to be cast at Pilate’s feet, where he stood in the blazing sun among the pillars on the platform called by the Jews Gabbatha, from which he was accustomed to pronounce sentence.

From their stone seats at the base of the stairs, in loud shouts so as to be heard by Pilate standing above, the Priests laid out the charges and brought in their witnesses. Pilate, upon hearing that, while the man’s parents had been from Nazareth, his current dwelling was in Capharnaum and his crimes had been committed in Galilee, was relieved. He dispatched the prisoner and the angry Priests to Herod, of whom the man was a subject, and retired to the shade of the coronation hall.

Not long thereafter a message had arrived from Herod, who would have nothing to do with the man, and had taken the time to sign an indictment, written out by the High Priests, returning Jesus of Nazareth to his charge.

Pilate leaned forward, stared intently at the scrawling Hebrew on the parchments and cursed again.

Just then a small bell rang twice at the far end of the Coronation Hall and an attendant entered.

“What is it,” said the plump Procurator with out looking up, the index finger of his right hand tapping irritably on the marble tableau that served as his desk.

“A messenger has arrived,” replied the confident, non-descript attendant, “from Rome…”

“Rome?” replied Pilate, “Rome?” he repeated incredulously as he looked up beneath his bushy brows. Pilate smiled faintly when he saw that it was Bar Taal, his favorite personal assistant and trusted confidant.

“Yes Imperator,” replied Bar Taal, “From the Emperor himself.”

“Bar Taal…” said Pilate leaning on an elbow and turning to look out into the blinding light that filled the arcade, rubbing the rash in his arm pit, “Do you think the members of the Sanhedrin despise me?”

“Imperator,” replied a calm and careful Bar Taal, “You know the priestly authorities have always expressed distaste for anything that undermines their power, let alone completely subverts it, as does the government of Rome.”

“But do you think they despise me, me, personally?” the Procurator tilted his head to the side, stopped scratching his rash and turned slightly to meet the eyes of Bar Taal.

“Imperator, you are the supreme agent of Rome in a conquered and restless province.”

“Today,” said Pilate with a note of exacerbation in his voice, his eyes rolling across the cluttered desk, over and up to the smoothly carved and beautifully ornate capitol of one of the marble columns that supported the arches. “The High Priest Caiphas has placed a heavy burden on my heart Bar Taal, heavy enough that I would personally slit his throat were it possible.” The Procurator lifted his chin in the direction of the parchments spread over his desk. “See there,” said Pilate with a sigh, slowly closing his thick fatty eye lids, “those pages are his doing.”

“Yes Imperator,” answered Bar Taal, “I see and I know that he has long been a thorn in the side of the Roman administration.”

“It seems to me,” continued Pilate as he slowly opened his eyes to the cool shade of the vaulted hall to stare at the cracks and fissures that had come to adorn the ribs of the vault in the year since his last visit, until his eyes refocused on the fragments of dust that rose through the swaths of pale yellow light that poured between the columns before disappearing into the shadows, “That the High Priest has persuaded the Sanhedrin to conspire against me, to act in such a manner as to slander me in the public eye. They have even convinced Herod to sign the indictment. The dark circle of the Sanhedrin is enlightened by manipulative and cunning minds and, it appears, through the charges they have brought against this Nazarene, they mean to force my hand and thereby incite the wrath of the people against me. This innocuous lunatic is immensely popular is he not and yet those idiots wish him dead?” Pilate reached across the desk for a sliced pomegranate, brushed away the flies and then pushed the bowl of fruit toward Bar Taal as he watched the brilliant flashes of light that leapt from the edges and corners of the golden trays carried by a line of servants as they filed across the far side of the arcade past the two white marble lions whose open jaws guarded the staircase to the upper terrace of the garden.

“It is quite true Imperator that this Nazarene has a large following,” said Bar Taal clearing his throat and wringing his hands behind his back.

From the upper terrace of the garden a peacock cried and a great fluttering of feathers could be heard as a small flock of sparrows lifted from one of the balconies above the arcade.

“And I fear that the sentence that you are required to pass will not go over well with the people,” said Bar Taal as he eyed the rotting strawberries, oranges, apples and grapes in the carved wooden bowl, the flies rising to swirl aimlessly in the air with every shake of the table.

“Unfortunately my dear Bar Taal my hands are tied,” he said, smacking at a sand flea as it bounced across the desk and into the void beyond, the sound echoing through the hall. “Treason is treason and looked upon as a serious offence. Even if I wished to release the man witnesses have confirmed under oath that he has threatened to destroy the Temple of Jerusalem, blasphemed the gods of Rome and attempted to provoke riots. From what I have heard this morning one of the men commissioned to arrest him even lost an ear in the scuffle.”

“I understand Imperator but if I may be so bold as to offer advice, perhaps it would be best to let this man languish in prison until Jihah returns with the Syrian Legion from the North, lest you are at a loss to quell any further disturbances.”

Pilate nudged the bowl of fruit again and nodded amiably toward Bar Taal.

“I’m afraid my dear Bar Taal that that is impossible,” said Pilate, squirming in his chair again and scratching vigorously amid the rolls of fat at his midsection. Commander Jihah has already sent word that he expects the Legion to be delayed by up to eight months. Confident in his victory, Caesar has again sent a legion to Gaul and we can expect these troop movements to cause innumerable delays until well into the next year. Besides, the Palace Guard and the Cohort are well armed and have more than enough strength to suppress what ever timid uprisings may occur. I am far more concerned with the possibility that even the smallest of these disturbances might fly as bloated rumor to Rome. Or that that rat Vitellius catches word of something,” Pilate inserted a little finger into one nostril, pulled it out violently and paused to look at the moist yellow brown dust that stuck to it before continuing, “The High Priest is well enough aware of this. You see, were I to delay the execution of the Nazarene he would persuade the Sanhedrin to issue a statement of Protest, whereby the radicals and especially the devout among them could well begin to raise their voices and perhaps their arms. Caiphas is shrewd to the point of ruthlessness and his position makes him nearly untouchable, nearly,” said Pilate as he wiped his little finger on the edge of the fruit bowl and nudged it again toward Bar Taal.

“I trust, Imperator, that soon, in your wisdom, you will find a way to pluck this thorn from your paw.” Bar Taal slowly reached for a bruised and waxy pomegranate and Pilate smiled half heartedly.

“Soon my dear Bar Taal, I shall find a way,” swatting at the swarm of flies.  “Now what was that about a messenger from Rome?”

Bar Taal bowed deeply and walked backward down the hall, clutching the pomegranate to his heart.

Pilate gazed again at the parchments scattered across the tableau before him, a faint anxiety welling at he thought of receiving a messenger from Rome.

He massaged his eyebrows with the thumb and forefinger of one hand, rotating the skin of his elbow on the cool marble tableau methodically, trying to empty his mind of the troubles that had embodied so much of his day.

By the time he lowered his hand and looked up, a shadow already stretched across the floor of the Coronation Hall. Spreading like a sea of ink, creeping up the columns, blotting out the pools of light that streamed in from the courtyard. As the shadow reached toward him it split apart, rising up over his desk and across the wall behind him.

There were four of them, horsemen from what he could tell, judging by the dust and the dull metallic jingling of their armor and spurs. Cavalrymen from Rome who had ridden long and hard to bring their message.

A strange light seemed to radiate from behind them, casting their thin forms in silhouette, masking their faces.

Pilate felt the muscles of his neck tighten and yank at the lobes of his ears, the corners of his mouth pulled down inadvertently and the skin around one eye tightened as he tried to hide the need to squirm and scratch his side on the back of the wooden chair.

The hall echoed with the heaviness of their step as they approached. An echo that continued to reverberate in the head of Pontius Pilate long after the riders had stopped a short distance from his seat. One of the men stepped forward, his hand disappearing into the shadows of a column as it reached toward Pilate’s table with the document, only to come into sight again before Pilate’s eyes, appearing to glow in the cool of the hall, to glow a faint color blue.

“Long ride from Rome?” Pilate asked, hoping to mask his nervousness with casual indifference. The horseman gave no reply and Pilate reached for the document, snatching it irritably from the rider’s hand.

He felt a chill rattle his spine as he smacked the dust from the rolled parchment in his hand. He was frightened of Rome, of what they might have heard, of what awaited, his fate there, waiting silently in the document he was now unrolling. A mouse ran across the floor behind the riders out into the blinding light of the courtyard beyond, the motion catching the corner of Pilate’s eye so as to make it twitch.

Pilate shifted his weight uncomfortably in the chair, all too aware of the growing pool of sweat between the cheeks of his ass further inflaming his rash.

He unsealed the black died linen tie that held the parchment and unrolled it slowly, trying to catch the eye of the silent cavalryman as he did so, looking for a clue as to its contents, but to no avail, his face was still lost in shadow. The ink had faded and smeared, the parchment crackled with age. “To Pontius Pilate Procurator of Judea by the order of…”  Pilate dropped the document on the table, twisted the ring on his little finger, scratching his forearms on the edge of the tableau, and took a deep breath before lifting the document again and turning to hold it toward the light.

His eye brows furrowed. A strange, pained, confused look rolled down his face as the muscles tightened around his puffy eyes. His head started to shake slowly back and forth. “yes, yes a writ of execution, some fool named Eblis yes but, wait, what is this…” Pilate couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d seen the signet before. A long, long time before. But it wasn’t Ceasar’s, not Tiberius’. The imperial seal, yes, no doubt, as official as it gets, the highest of the high, but it’s from, it’s from the house of…

“Augustus?” he sputtered out loud, raising his eyes, unseeing, to fall on the figures standing rigidly before him, “but he’s been dead for what,” looking down at his hands, counting now, 10, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, it must be 23 years, at least…

Pilate looked to the parchment again. This is incredible. Simply impossible. Some sort of joke? He could feel the rage rising inside him. The journey, the rash, the heat, the indictment and now this… He raised his eyes angrily, only to find that he was alone in the hall. The four horsemen had vanished.

From out of the shadows to his right a mouse darted into the middle of the floor, it paused on the edge of a pool of light, veered left, then right, then left again, avoiding the sunlight. And then it was gone, leaving Pilate alone in the Coronation Hall. He looked back to the parchment in his hand.

“Bar Taal!” he bellowed, slamming his fist into the desk, “Bar Taaaal!”




“Not that I would understand,” said Pilate wearily. “Not that I could understand,” he said as they walked side by side down the hall toward the presidium. Pilate’s hands and forearms were caked in a cracked white mud, applied by the court physician to help alleviate his rash. He took a long, heavy pause and stopped, “So where is this prisoner from Rome… Eblis is it? I want a look at him…”

Bar Taal smiled kindly and took Pilate by the arm. His lord was not having a good day. Pilate had insisted there were horsemen, that they had vanished. But what horsemen? He himself had brought the message from Rome, a rolled parchment, left at the city gates and placed it on his tableau. The prisoner had been left with the garrison at the city gates as well, and he had ordered him taken to the upper prison to await Pilate’s command.

Pilate was perspiring heavily and repeatedly closed his eyes for extended periods of time as they walked down the cool marble hall. He knew Pilate had never handled the heat well. At least, after the physician had rubbed him down and coated him in mud, Pilate had conceded. Rome was Rome. Pilate swore the order from Augustus would be upheld. Augustus? Not that it mattered. What mattered was that Pilate, even if he did believe the order had arrived from an Emperor some years dead, would follow through.

“Did you know? They had cut out his eyes,” said Pilate to Bar Taal as they walked down the dark winding staircase toward the upper prison. “That’s what I heard, though the official version varies. No one knows why, his eyes, imagine.”

In the cool dampness of the underground vault Bar Taal shivered. The darkness, so much darkness always made him feel uneasy. For the last half hour Pilate had been telling him stories of the Emperor Augustus, of his exploits, the murder of his uncle, the Pax Romana and his bizarre death at Nola.

“I was a young man, like you, when I heard about it, full of ambition, a knight in the service of the Empire.” Pilate forced a smile, unseen in the murky blue black air of their descent to the cells.

Pilate’s thoughts quickly turned back to the agony of the day as his hand caressed the cold slime of the stone walls. Those swine in the Sanhedrin. It was a conspiracy. Maybe even Herod was in on it? They had not gotten along ever since the collapse of the aqueduct he had designed to carry off the refuse from the Temple. Herod had furnished the material and architects and he had long suspected that he had conspired to see the project fail, to turn the Jews against him. Now they wanted that Nazarene dead to incite the masses against him once more. And were he not to play along? Were he to just let the man go? The Sanhedrin would send their distorted word to Rome. Vitellius would rally to their cause and he’d soon find a dagger in his back.

“I suppose,” sighed Pilate as they entered the faintly flickering airs of the cool cavern that contained the holding cells, “that now that Nazarene is here too somewhere?”

“Of course your eminence. Yes, yes, of course, awaiting your orders, here in deed,” said a man stepping from out of nowhere. He was a hunched, grubby, balding excuse of a man, proceeded by a stench that could only compare to the sewers of Jerusalem at the summer solstice, a sickly mix of urine, rancid meat and excrement, jingling a set of keys in one hand and slowly waving a dimly lit torch in the other. The sight of the pools of light and shadow dancing across his wet eyes and toothless smile made Pilate’s left eye begin to twitch. As Pilate and Bar Taal stepped closer to the jailer they could hear a low growl mixing with the sound of the jingling keys and the crackling of the torch flame. The lice ridden mutt at the jailer’s side was showing its teeth. The jailer kicked at it with a curse.

“Apologies my lord, the beast has no manners, no manners for my Lord. Frightened of its own shadow, it is, frightened too.”

“The Procurator wishes to see the prisoner brought from Rome today,” said Bar Taal, escorting Pilate by the arm in as wide as possible a circle in the narrow confines around the jailer and dog.

“And the Nazarene,” said Pilate, closing his thick fatty eyelids for a moment and picking at the dried white mud on his right forearm. The mangy cur growled again and stepped forward into the torchlight. “And keep that beast away from me!” screeched Pilate, his eyes torn open to stare at the moldy ceiling as he began to twist the ring on his little finger before cracking the knuckles of his right hand again and again.

“Here, here, here, the Nazarene, yes, Jesus, yes. King of the Jews they call him, Here, here,” snickered the jailer. “Nothing but a fool, if I may add my Lord, a poor sick fool.” The dog attempted to follow as the jailer stepped forward in the direction of one of the many sets of iron bars that lined both sides of the cavern and received a sharp smack on the ear with the heavy iron key ring before backing off into the shadows.

The jailer raised his torch and Pilate could see a pair of bony, bluish-green knuckled hands clutching the bars. “This is the one, this is the one,” said the jailer, nodding his near bald head incessantly.

“The king of the Jews, eh?” said Pilate to no one in particular with a sigh.

Bar Taal took the torch from the jailer’s hands and handed it to Pilate who raised it towards the hands fixed on the cold iron bars. The only sounds were that of an occasional drip of water falling from the mold covered ceiling, the crackling of the torch flame, the low, sporadic growling of the dog and the slow, heavy breathing of the assembled men.

The Nazarene stood with his face obscured by shadow, the only feature that Pilate could make out at first was a set of eyes that seemed to glow almost innocently in the darkness. Bar Taal grabbed the mid section of the torch in Pilate’s hand and tilted it toward the cell. The man leaned away, back into the shadows, but the shackles on his wrists wrapped around the bars prevented him from doing so. His face was bloody and bruised. He was wearing only a soiled loin cloth and splotches of blood had coagulated on the hairs of his sunken chest and streaked down his arms and legs.  Pilate could sense a certain fear in the man’s eyes, a fear that had grown since their first encounter on the Gabbatha, his face, however frightened, and despite the beating he had received, still appeared almost childlike. Pilate felt a touch of sympathy like a pin prick between his eyes and looked away quickly. Something in him wanted to order the cell door opened, the chains removed and bid the man go on his way. But that was impossible, he would have to play out the game.

When he looked up the Nazarene was staring at him. The flames flickering in his eyes. The world melted away in the force of that gaze. With everything in him Pilate wanted to look away again… but couldn’t.

Later, when he recalled that day, as he so often did, a number of things stood out in his mind. How he had angered his wife by not keeping his promise to release the man after she had spoken to him of her haunting dreams, but couldn’t tell her what had happened in the end, and so she had left him, the ease of hatred with which the priests had called for the man’s blood, the rage stemming from the conspiracies against him and, above all, the sight of the torch flame in the Nazarene’s eyes, the dancing shadow, the silent moving of his lips. Even in his dreams Pilate could see those lips, those eyes, that face.

“And the prisoner from Rome, where is he,” snarled Pilate managing at last to look away from the king of the Jews, glancing over his shoulder at the bowed balding head of the jailer who was checking his few remaining hairs for fleas. Pilate was making every attempt to breathe through his mouth to avoid the stench. He sighed deeply and awkwardly rubbed his brow again with the forefinger and thumb of one hand.

“Here, here, you see, come forward you, you, you devil,” shouted the jailer as he reached through the bars to grab the man by the hair.  “Here here, my lord, you see,” said the jailer slamming the man’s face into the bars. Came with the Romans today, the horsemen they were, four, four horsemen, could tell by their walk I could, horsemen, by the dust. They brought him straight here. Didn’t say a word, did they,” he said, turning to the dog still growling in the shadows of the far corner. “Not a word. Just his name. Just his name they said. Eblis. That was all, Eblis, right Scabrous, right indeed, Eblis,” said the jailer nodding to the dog. “With Scabrous as my witness my lord. “ He pulled the face tighter against the bars, wrapping the greasy hair around his dirty hand. “He’s here you see…”

Bar Taal’s couldn’t believe his ears, “four cavalrymen, here? But that’s impossible…” Bar Taal held his breath for a moment and didn’t dare say a word.

Pilate jerked the torch from out of Bar Taal’s grip, stepped to the right and inserted it as near the bars as he dared. The surrounding darkness pulled back in waves from the features of the face held to the bars.

At that moment, as the face came into view in the flickering torch light, the whole of Pilate’s body was filled with an intense quivering sensation. Waves of a sensation resembling pleasure broke across the back of his neck and ran down his spine. Pilate thrust the torch back toward where the Nazarene stood at the bars, then back toward Eblis again. The two prisoners looked at each other in tense silence. His head moved back and forth, back and forth again and again and again. He had experienced an epiphany. He was beginning to shake. “My gods, it can’t be, it can’t be!” he sputtered over and over again. “Bar Taal, Bar Taal, look! Do you see, or have I gone mad? Do you see?” Pilate nearly shouted before turning to the jailer with “Let him go for a minute, so we can get a good look at him.”

The jailer reluctantly obeyed. Bar Taal turned his gaze between the two prisoners standing at the bars again and again. “I, I don’t understand…”

“You have eyes, look!” shouted the Procurator, completely overcome with excitement. “My dear Bar Taal,” said Pilate beginning to snicker, the smile across his face stretched as wide as the Nile’s mouth. “They’re like Castor and Pollux! The nose, the lips, the eyes, the chin, the height, the build! Ha ha! Twins! Identical twins! There are two kings! Two kings’ of the Jews!”

“Did think they looked a bit alike myself, did I,” said the jail keeper, turning back to the growling dog, “Didn’t I Scabrous, indeed.”

Pilate could hardly control his excitement, nearly doubling over as far as his fat belly would allow struggling to contain his divinely inspired laughter while turning his eyes beneath his raised brow again and again between the two prisoners as bits of their faces were illuminated by the flickering torch light before suddenly cutting the laughter and bolting up right again.

“Who are you!” Pilate demanded of Eblis. “Who are you?” he demanded turning to the Nazarene. “Are you brothers? You must be brothers! Of the same seed!”

The prisoner Eblis was the first to speak and he did so in tones barely audible, so low that Pilate had to strain to hear.

“I am whoever you say I am,” he said with a hiss.

“Then you too are King of the Jews” shrieked Pilate, breaking out in fits of laughter again. “And he,” he said, pointing to the Nazarene, “He is you!”

Bar Taal was stunned. It couldn’t be, but it was. The two men, the  Nazarene they called the king of the Jews and the condemned man from Rome looked exactly alike.  They both had long auburn corn silk hair knotted and soiled by their imprisonment, a ruddy peach fuzz, marred by scabs and bits of dirt that rimmed their chins. Both their jaws were even scared in the same place. The same height, the same build. The only difference seemed to be, as far as Bar Taal could tell, on close scrutiny, that the lips of one man, the Nazarene, turned slightly up at the ends, while the other’s, just as delicately pursed amid the swelling, curled slightly down at the ends.

Pilate didn’t wait for a word from the Nazarene.  “Seal off the prison,” he ordered, struggling to contain his giggles of joy. “No one in or out. Bar Taal, arrange to have this man Eblis flogged so that he dare not speak again. Oh, and ensure it is done in sight of the people, in the forum. You will tell the soldiers in the guard house and the executioners that they are to refer to him as the king of the Jews. Now, come quickly, we must prepare for the sentencing.” Pilate bounded for the stairs his fat jiggling with joy beneath his tightly stretched robe in the semi darkness, flecks of white mud trailing behind him, unseen in the darkness.




Less than an hour later, Pilate stood in the shadows of the covered Praetorium bay behind the seat of judgment on the Gabbatha, dressed in the tasseled splendor that accompanied his office, gazing out over the sun beaten city and the frenzied mob gathering below. Things could not have gone better. The heat and his rash be damned. “I’ll give them their Nazarene,” he was thinking over and over again, bending forward and raising his gown to scratch the fatty thighs between his legs, flecks of the white mud that covered his body falling on the ground around his feet.

Pilate stepped onto the Gabbatha as the mob of Pharasees that had gathered in the forum at the base of the stairs pressed forward, swelling in size. There was no wind and the late afternoon sun bore into his eyes, forcing him to squint.  Over the din of the crowd, from the height at which he stood, he could hear the bleating of the lambs, waiting to be washed in the Probatica pool before their slaughter in celebration of the festival. Within a few moments, Pilate was again covered in sweat and scowled, scratching at his ribs. Most of the mud had flaked off and the rash was inflamed again. The mob surged again and again toward the line of centurions at the base of the stairs, rabid in anticipation of the spectacle, their brains boiled by the sun, made wild by the scent of pending blood and pain.

Pilate began to cough and then raised his arms in the shape of the cross and, with out stretched palms, brought them slowly down to his sides in an attempt to silence the crowd. This having failed, he ordered the trumpets blown three times to let all know that judgment was about to be passed.

As Pilate’s ears filled with the call of the trumpets, he could see a white palm dove as it glided over the mass of priests, fluttered and came to rest atop the head of the statue of Augustus, atop a column to his left. The other pillars scattered across the courtyard, used variously for the public flogging of prisoners and by the Jews to tie up animals before sale, were empty, without bust or bird.

Now, as all knew, it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. The priests, pushing and shoving one another pressed forward and the centurions guarding the platform let the most senior pass to the stone seats at the base of the stairs to ask Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Who do you want me to release to you?” Pilate asked the crowd, leaning forward patronizingly with his hands on his hips and scanning the faces of the Chief Priests seated below. “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate extending an ear toward the Pharasees.

A man called Barabbas was in the lower prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising a few months before and Pilate thought he could hear his name being spoken among them as he approached the edge of the platform to better hear their request.

The chief priests turned and stirred up the crowd, which began to chant over and over “Release Barabbas! Release Barabbas! Release Barabbas!”

Pilate was baffled. These people never ceased to amaze him. But in a few minutes he would know if they would take the bait.

“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

“Crucify him!” they shouted. Pilate clenched his fists in anticipation.

“Why? Is he guilty of soooo terrrible a crime?” asked Pilate hoping to entice them further, both pleased and strangely pained by their request.

They shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

“But wait,” said Pilate, “Could this be your king?”  he turned and raised his chin to the archers behind him who disappeared into the shadows and returned a few moments later with Eblis. The man had been dressed in a purple robe, a crown of thorns upon his bloody head.

“Ecce homo!” shouted Pilate to the mob, “Here is your king of the Jews!”

“Crucify him! Crucify him!” shouted the crowd.

And Pilate said to them, with a raise of his eyebrow, a smile burgeoning across his face, “Really? Shall I crucify your King?” They had taken the bait with ease.

The chief priests answered in unison, “We have no king but Caesar!”

Pilate thought for a moment before saying, just for good measure, for he knew the conspirators would not believe how easily he had given in, “Then I wash my hands of this man’s blood. It is your doing!”

With this the assembled priests and people answered, “Let His Blood be on us and upon our children! Release Barabbas!” With the shout of the crowd and the stamping of their feet upon the ground Pilate watched as the palm dove perched atop the statue of Augustus spread its wings, rose into the air and flew out to the west, disappearing into the sun.

Pilate did his best to draw his face into an expression grave and serious, ordered a bowl of water and turned to wash his hands before the crowd.

Between the relentless sun and the dizzying euphoria that accompanied the ease of his victory, Pilate was worried he was about to faint. He splashed his face with water. “Barabbas it is,” he shouted to the crowd while drying off his face and hands with a piece of soft linen and the crowd began to roar.

Pilate ordered the trumpets blown again, seven times, to announce the coming of judgment. He offered a eulogy to the Emperor, listed the charges against this king of the Jews and condemned the man to death by crucifixion. He then wrote an inscription for the cross, as he had vowed to himself to do, with the words: Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm, (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews).

When the High Priests heard of what he had written they were extremely dissatisfied and loudly pleaded with Pilate to change the plaque to read that ‘he said I am king of the Jews’. But Pilate had had enough of their accusations for one day and replied with a sly smile, “What I have written I have written,” and ordered them to leave him be as he turned, disappearing into the Palace shadows.




Pilate sat in the cool of the Coronation Hall, twirling the ring of the little finger of his left hand, smiling as he watched the creeping bluish shadows push the last of the sunlight back out of the inner courtyard, listening to the last rumblings of the dispersing mob, thinking how the fraternity of cavalrymen, the brotherhood of the equestrian order into which he was born, had delivered him this beautiful victory. He no longer needed to squirm in his chair. It seemed the rash had gone as suddenly as it had come.

A bell at the far end of the hall rang for the third time that day and Bar Taal entered, approaching Pilate’s seat confidently.

“You see Bar Taal, as I said, the thorn has been plucked,” Pilate said looking up toward the ceiling as one of the peacocks in his garden began to screech again.

“And what of the Nazarene?”Bar Taal dared ask.

“He has been taken care of. I have ordered that he be…”

Bar Taal could only see Pilate’s lips continue to move, the sound of his voice drowned out as the other peacocks joined in the screeching, their shrill, forlorn cries echoing through the otherwise empty hall.

“…so, you see, it’s as simple as that,” he heard Pilate say as the echoes faded.

Not wanting to look foolish Bar Taal excused himself, bowed to Pilate and left the Procurator of Judea, alone, staring off unseeing into the shadows, turning the ring on his little finger, with a smile on his lips.




Some hours later, a man, or at least what appeared to be a man, after having been flogged, judged and mockingly paraded through the streets carrying a cross, bedecked in a crown of thorns, was led out beyond the city gates, toward the hill called Golgotha.  From atop this hill all of Jerusalem could be seen and, if any of the executioners busy preparing the crosses or guards dragging the prisoners up the hill had taken the time to notice, they would have seen that the chained and beaten man referred to as king of the Jews was smiling, ever so slightly, the corners of his mouth still turned down, at the sight of the city below, rimmed by its tiny wall and five gates.

A small group of on lookers had gathered but were kept by the guards at a distance, the women weeping, screaming in grief, gnashing their teeth and pulling their hair, calling out to their beloved Jesus of Nazareth.

Between swigs from a jug of vinegar wine, the executioners affixed the plaque Pilate had written to the top of the cross, dragged the king of the Jews through the dust onto the wood and reached for their hammers.

“Most powerful king, we are about to prepare your throne,” bellowed a stout man with thick, hairy, sweat covered forearms before pouring a handful of dirt from his opening fist into the condemned man’s hand. “Here,” he whispered, “hold this while you climb.” He turned, and reached for an iron nail from a nearby bucket.

It was then, as the hammering began, that four men arrived on horseback and stopped on the west side of the mount, where the incline was not as steep as the side the criminals were brought up. Their sweat frothy horses scraped at the earth and shook their manes, nostrils flaring. The gathered mourners, still kept back some distance, their ears ringing with the clanging of the hammers and the screams and anguished moans of the two thieves being nailed to their crosses on either side of the king of the Jews, assumed they were Pharasees come to confirm the execution.

But the king of the Jews was strangely silent as the nails were driven through his wrists and feet, his glimmering green-blue eyes cast toward heaven.

The four horsemen, their faces cloaked in shadow, seeing bits of the writhing maggot that was their Lord being torn and nailed to the cross, nodded in agreement, jerked the reigns of their horses and rode off in haste.

When at last the hammering stopped and the cross of the man all believed to be Jesus of Nazareth was raised to the sun bleached skies over the Place of the Skull, at the very moment, as the cross was inserted in its base and fully erect, the air was filled with the low, howling blast of trumpets rising from the city below, trumpets resounding from the Temple to announce the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb.

Above the hill of Golgotha, strange clouds began to gather, appearing from out of nowhere, swirling in circles, approaching from the four corners of the earth, and a hot, foul smelling wind began to blow hard and strong.

If any of the centurions, bored and impatient for the death of the condemned, eager to get home to dinner and their wives, covered in their red cloaks to protect them from the approaching storm, passing the time rolling dice in the dust at the base of the cross, had bothered to look up, not just to glance at the encroaching clouds after the dust devils swirled past, but to study the face that hung below the plaque, they would have seen that he was smiling, smiling still.

A sweet, sickly, maniacal, angelic sort of smile it was, the corners of his lips turned slightly down at the ends, as the clouds grew darker and darker, billowing in low across the land, the hot wind more ferocious and fetid, the storm gathering mass enough to blot out the sun, closing the circle of light above the cross, turning what was left of the day into night.

Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani,” Eblis whispered from upon the cross, his glowing blue-green eyes up turned to the heavens from beneath his crown of thorns and blood splattered brow, the insane laughter then erupting from inside him stolen by the terrible roll of thunder exploding directly overhead, obliterating the sound of the trumpets rising from the city below, massive fingers of lightening splitting the vault of the heavens again and again as, in the Temple of Jerusalem below, to the amazement and mortification of the High Priests, the purple curtain of the Holy of Holies tore, from top to bottom, in two.




Favasha opened her eyes to the sight of a large book, open before her, held by skeletal hands of stone. Upon its blank white pages, large purplish red drops began to fall like rain as she blinked her eyes. An intense cold enveloped her and she was wet and shivering.

Looking around she saw that she was standing upon an elevated, circular sanctum covered by a floor of bronzed wood, before a jade lectern carved with the heads of monkeys and lions, the eyes of which were inlaid with silver and precious stones, glittering here and there, winking at her. Flashes of light tore apart the darkness in which she stood, and looking out from under the ivy clad arches, she could see bolts of lightening reaching out from above the Chapel of the Four Winds, across the great plain, bolts of lightening endlessly splintering as they flew toward the four corners of the earth. With each and every brilliant flash, bits of screaming, mutilated faces, eye sockets empty, pressed out from the columns supporting the arches, fading back into the darkness of the leaves of ivy as quickly as they had emerged.

The drops began to fall thick and heavy, staining the page a purplish red, turning into a stream near the spine, pouring into a growing pool at her feet and Favasha looked up to the oculus in the domed roof of the Chapel of the Four Winds to see from whence they came.

Over her head, suspended in the air far above, was Herr Doktor. Blood dripping from a gaping wound in his crossed feet. He was naked save for a soiled, piss stained loin cloth, his back and chest, from what she could tell, covered in gashes, coagulated blood and scabs, festering welts and boils oozing with yellowish puss. Lightening continued to tear apart the sky above him and, in the momentary after glow of each flash, he appeared no more than an enormous maggot, writhing in ecstasy through the space between light and darkness, before the return of either trust him back into the semblance of a man with arms out stretched in the shape of the cross, blood running down the under side of his arms from the wounds in his wrists, tricking over his cut ribs. His head, adorned in a crown of thorns, was tilted back towards the heavens, his body convulsing, writhing subtly as he slowly turned in space, hovering in the air above the Chapel of the Four Winds like some giant neon sign suspended in the desert night, slowly turning for all the world to see.

It was then that he lowered his chin to stare down at her, the light in his green-blue eyes twinkling brightly, his mouth still down turned at the ends, the smile creeping across his parting lips as the laughter began, slowly at first, in snorts and grunts and snickers, rising in intensity, demented and maniacal, utterly homicidal, reaching a crescendo of  frenzied hysteria that shook the earth at Favasha’s feet, rising to fill the entirely of space, heavier than the air while rising, as the armies, long frozen in stillness across the horizon, the crucified in the trees, the angels hanging by their necks, the flames in the forest began again to writhe and roar, a sea of shadowy maggots as far as the eye could see, set in motion again by the laughter, by the smell of the blood, shaking the space around them into cruel, murderous forms, the flames flickering higher than ever, the smoke billowing, the wings beating, the fetid wind burning, hail falling amid the rain drops of blood, moving forever the body of time, orgasmic in its horror, pressing in toward the altar with glee, greedy arms outstretched, fingers trembling in hopes of touching, even if for an instant, the body of their Lord.




Looking around at the melee, her teary eyes wide with horror, trembling from the fear and cold, Favasha noticed Mr. President in his black suit, and Reginald, still in coat tails, standing on each side at the base of the altar. Calm and composed, usher-like they stood as the hordes below, on all sides, crushing each other in waves, clawed at the air, centimeters from their calmly folded arms. In turn they looked up at Favasha, offering her a strange sense of comfort amid the chaos. Reginald waved the little finger of his right hand and smiled before looking down to check the golden pocket watch hanging by a chain from around his neck. The man referred to as Mr. President turned to stare at her intently as he dug in the craters of his teeth with a white gloved hand,  before blinking repeatedly with a slow nod, removing his hand and mouthing, “do.”

Meanwhile, out across the plain the armies were growing, the rabid forms at times splitting in two, one half fighting onward on the ground, the other taking flight to occupy both heaven and earth, mutating into countless dark spirits, taking the war to the air, phantasmagoric bits of body flying through the flickering space with long dark red flaming tails like human meteorites of blood and bone, rising and falling, colliding and clawing, streaking infinite tracers of violently swirling light through the cloud clotted skies, arms out stretched in desperation, straining with all their might, hair pushed back by the wind of their flight, aflame as well, mouths open to expose sharpened, glistening teeth as they swooped passed the altar, reaching in vain to touch their Lord, screaming madly before rising in a return to slam with unbelievable force into the invisible barrier behind which stood Reginald, Mr. President, and Favasha, not to mention Herr Dotkor, crucified, laughing still, spinning slowly in place in the air above the altar of the Chapel of the Four Winds, as his unholy guests, screaming, splattered again and again and again, at every possible altitude, on the dead space encircling him, leaving their admiring forms splattered in stains blue-green and deep purple, like so many bugs on a windscreen.

“You’ve done a good job,” said a voice suddenly beside her. Slowly she turned her eyes. It was Herr Doktor, owl’s head cane in hand, bespectacled, dressed in his fine, but ill fitted suit. “Now it’s time to close the book,” he whispered out of one side of his mouth, jabbing with his cane toward the book on the altar. “We mustn’t waste the good wine on this rabble.”

Without hesitation Favasha obeyed. She reached forward and closed the stone cold book of blood stained white pages and the second she had, that very instant, the world around her vanished.

The book was gone, as was the wind and hail and rain of blood, there were no more mad armies, flying spirits screaming, billowing smoke and flames. There was no Chapel of the Four Winds, no arches, no altar, no plain of destruction and death, no crucified Herr Doktor in a loin cloth, spinning slowly in the air, laughing to set the world in motion.

She found she was standing alone in an otherwise empty plaza filled only with the swirled marble of Ionic, Doric and occasional Corinthian columns reaching eternally toward the deep cobalt blue of the soon to be lifted vault of the starry night’s sky.

“After all, a promise is a promise, a deal is a deal,” whispered the air around her as it caressed the folds in her now dry blue silk dress. “Now go on, he’s over there, you’ll have to walk,” said the voices, as the wind, like so many warm hands, caressed her breasts and ass, pulled across her panties and cunt and ran its fingers through her hair. “Though we hate to see you go.”

At the edge of the plaza and across the fields beyond, as the first light of dawn sketched the distant body of the softly rolling hills in silhouette, she could see a small spot of light, like a candle flame, glowing, in the distance.

“He’s there,” said the voices as she focused on the corner of a wall beyond the fields, “waiting.”

“Thank you,” she whispered to the emptiness.

“No, thank you,” said the voices seemingly surrounding her. “It was a lovely party. Too bad you have to go, we were just beginning to have fun.”

With these words falling from her ears, Favasha began to walk, determined and unhesitatingly, without the least hint of reservation or fear, her eyes firmly fixed on a spot in the distance, down the steps at the plaza’s edge and out across the fields.




Emil didn’t dare look at the wall, for he knew it to be a wall composed of all things ever made by the industry of human hands, the longing of hearts, the wonders of the minds eye; things past and present.

The refuse of time rose into oblivion at his back, writhing, subtly, with the passage of every second, every hour, every year, every eon, every age as if it too were alive. So many bits and pieces, parts of arms and legs, rotting muscle, sinew, tendon and fractured bone, toes, feet, ankles and vertebrae in enormous sooty gelatinous celluloid blocks from which protruded out of empty mouths and eye sockets, tiaras, bits of pearl necklaces, badminton rackets, newspaper, chunks of imitation animal horn, prosthetics, punctured balloons, rusted egg beaters, torn leather wallets, broken arrows, shattered crystal decanters, plastic container lids, shards of colored glass and needles, piled, compressed, wound upon and into the mingling fenders of rusted autos, bashed briefcases, tufts of synthetic fur, gears of all shapes and sizes, broken bits of lathes, lenses, candelabra, pumps, pieces of porcelain, worn down horseshoes, bent cork screws, shattered coffee pots, splintered chop sticks, slices of random machine skeletons left to rain and rust, sections of sweat stained feather boas, torn drum skins, dulled and bent hoes, shards of soiled wax-paper, abraded alligator skin belts, disposable diapers, plastic bags, shoe horns, broken pottery, rusted anchors, paraffin and chipped cats eye marbles, expired lipstick cartridges, bent crank shafts, cracked dishes, the ashes of burnt incense, brittle scythes, warped fan blades, used bars of soap, torked iron girders, bent ten cent nails, tin cans, smashed green and gold circuit boards, bank books and partially melted plastic cards, twisted aluminum siding, wood shavings, smashed vacuum tubes, rubber insect wings, cast steel, knotted and looped monofilament, strips of parched caulking, splintered dog sled skids, fractured sun shades, binoculars and microscopes, shredded blankets of polyester slacks, mercury drained thermometers, bits of scalp and ornamented feather, rusted swords, phosphorous toy dolls, on ad infinitum, the reducto absurdum of time as measured by the manipulation of human hands, hands whose will has been long since forgotten, passed away, removed, rising in compartmentalized blocks of gigantic, rust, dust, soot and cinder stained cellulose brick, rising into the light lightlessness of the eternal sky, rising at his back.

This was the wall of eternity he knew. The sand filtered through his toes, oozing out over the tops of his feet like blood. He drew his knees to his chest. Around him it was dark, save for a flickering amber light, a light that painted the depthless expanse before him in tones deep and primordial.

Then he could hear the sound, the faint, disturbing vibration coming from the wall behind him and by accident or intent he glanced back to see the insects. Countless swarms of which now clung with tenacity to the wall at his back, roaches mostly and other exoskeletoned creatures, layers upon layers of them, in staggered legions of relative size spread up across the wall, legs, antennae and cilia ever so slightly quivering. Above this he could make out the line of bats, tens of thousands, millions and billions and trillions of bats, the animals da Vinci said man should best imitate to fly, fidgeting in place while clinging to the wall, copulating with it.

Turning away with a mix of fear and disgust before him he saw the same bats, standing rigid in ranks, the faint white light of stars impossibly far away glimmering in their soulless eyes, staring at him as his eyes fixed upon the legs of an enormous creature, the size of three men, standing with dry, crusty bird legs, the hair of it’s fat body clothed in oily fur, it’s face quickly hidden by the veiling of a raised, leathery wing as he raised his gaze hoping to catch it’s eye to assuage the rivers of fear that tore through him, until in the same instant the sound of the wind, withdrawing, retreating back into the body of night, raced across the ranks of bats turning them back into no more that the tall grass waving in the fields, pulling his gaze up toward the heavens where far, far over head he could see a faint light, a falling star perhaps, a falling plane? Arching across the sky toward the gently rolling hills beyond, vanishing if for an instant in the razor’s edge of light that defined the coming of dawn, only to reappear, luminous, before the silhouette of the hills, far across the plain, having landed safely.

He released his held breath with immeasurable relief and looked to his right where, in the pale light of that impending dawn, he could see a figure moving silently across the fields, walking, slowly, determined, toward the beating of his heart.