The Long Road to Hospice

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One of the first images on the walls entering the Underworld.

[An odyssey of a man in Hospice. Chapter one of many]

Life was good — and we still wondered

How many more times will a mother cry

Before the thunderclap beckons from some distant places

To soothe the wound of the living?

Inflicted by the dying —

Without concern, for time passes

And enters into the unspoken

Where time will pass no more.

Forever with us, for those who wish to be alone.

— For now, an elevator, a hall pass, a locked door opened with a magic button along the wall

And then – The Underworld.

Hell passes through the unreality.

So real, the life unimagined

That comes with death

And enters our world as a marauder

And leaves as a whisper of memories past.

Memorize the signs, for something is sacred.

Caretaker Plus – written on his hospital bed

No beeping – no more electronics

Just an IV and an old man

Much older than he should be

Curled up symmetry of form molting into the underworld.

Note the significance of form:

Bruised flesh from a fall only a week past

Concave outlines of his skull that reveal far too much humanity

Withered flesh, so eager to lose its grip

To let us go.

Eyes don’t wander. He looks around, but doesn’t see

Golden pills – red and blue and all things in between – anything to help him through this time, beyond a merciful

hand to guide him to his death – death is release – we cannot let go.

I say ‘let my people go!’

Beyond this point, he has already gone

There is no more for him in this world

Please, let him go.

Inhuman cries – turning in his bed, cleansed of filth — except the bit that matters

Words that make sense in purpose,

But not meaning – cries of no father or friend or brother

Hours pass

The moment is still with you – forever with you

Tainting the memory of things.

Friends, brothers, everyone enters in passing

Only one is allowed to leave.

We huddle around him

Eyes wander

What will he see?

Open untouched tapioca

Five unopened bottles of Ensure

The waiter walks into the room asking about supper.

I admire the bones — They held on much longer than the rest of him.

The flesh, I care for less.

It gave up much too soon and

Revealed his every weakness

Bloody scabs and bruises along his arms, head, chest

The color purple, darker and darker

It eats him alive.

So, now he rests

What drugs allow you to forget the cruelty we exhibit for the doomed?

No beating, no ringing, no sounds to assure the mind of passing

Just the faint breath that barely leaves his lips

We look out from the window and see mountains far away

He looks out to a brick building.

Eyes wide

What does he see?

Feed him acid and let him see God

Demand of the afterlife the same cruelty

If only to maintain this — One reality to the next

Let him die.

With no more riddles on his lips

Why do we suffer?

No more.

An older woman wearing all white, including a white coat with a red cross on the front pocket

Walks in without a smile.

Reservation confirmed for the underworld

But not the great beyond

Nurses enter — we leave

We can’t by chance hear his inhuman screams, as they shift him in his bed

They wheel him away

We follow behind

Creeping death, four idols in the form of friends and family

The writing is on the walls

Omens of good faith

Charlatan’s words printed

And bound by wooden frame

The moon is halved within the palm – thumb and pinky fingers hold a white dove each

With words of hope and faith

Blessed, the touch

Removed from our bodies

To enter this final place.

What is the underworld?

A waiting room with a coffee machine

Dim light – no more mountains

Brick walls outside.

The sun is hot — The day is beautiful

Enter

Cradled like a baby to one side

Head low,

One last bed time story

From mother’s maidenly lips

And we all fall asleep.

The walls are bare

The walls are bare.

Blanket tucked in – one window with one view

Onward, toward the great beyond

An old man, but not the same

Just tired from the cruelest game.

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How to Train a Crow to Kill

6b2f6c7eb94e3ad9f7ee4d4cadf3dec7It took two-hundred thousand years for the human population to reach one billion. Then, it took two-hundred years for our human population to reach seven billion. It will only take one year for that to drop to zero. I’m not saying the world needs to end, but something has to happen or humanity will never learn to respect the god damn crows.

A crow is a handy friend. If you offer them affection they will return it tenfold. The love of crows is magic. A crow is a loyal enough friend that you’ll never have to ask him to kill. He’ll know the deepest, darkest rage of your heart. My rage calls me in whispers. I like to think it’s the voice of the crow offering a subtle wish for the world. I’d like to say, “Let it all burn”, but I know that’s far too much to ask.

What I say instead is, “let that bastard suffer” and they do. One crow pecks the eyes. Another pecks the kidney. And another. Two more go for the eyes. The man falls. Dozens of crows attack. Pecking. The man kicks. Screams. Cries. Blood trickles from tiny wounds all over his face. The bastard suffers and all is right with the world.

Crows are in good humor, which is always dark. They get a good laugh from shitting on passersby, but they really love to see someone get hurt. This one fellow kept chasing this rabbit who ran out onto the ice. Back and forth they went, you see, because the crow wouldn’t let the rabbit escape the ice. Whenever the rabbit would get close to land the crow swooped down and prevented his departure. This went on for several minutes, until the rabbit fell into the ice.

They kill out of rage or to lighten their moods. Murder is a good time to a crow. They’ll kill to make a friend happy or ‘cheer them up’. You want a crow friend, if only for the entertainment of their sinister humor and utter brevity.

Step One: Feed them. This might sound simple, but finding what they like isn’t easy. They’re not trash birds, like people think. They’re ‘leisure lunchers’. They eat what they can find, but won’t eat any scrap of trash they’re presented.

The other issue with feeding them is that a rotten bastard blue-jay is likely to steal it. They’re much faster than crows. It’s difficult to get the attention of a crow before a blue jay grabs its meal, but always worth the effort. Crows have unique spirits that we can only understand by being their friends.

Step Two: Talk to them. After a few feedings, talk about the weather. Crows are adamant about the weather. You have to learn how to talk to them about it, however, as it’s nothing that we’re accustomed. What I find easiest is a simple, ‘How about that weather?’ comment. They eat that up. They won’t shut up and they expect you to listen. They’ll quiz you on what you remember and, what you don’t remember will be repeated… often.

Step Three: Let them in. Crows don’t need a place to stay, but once you’re their friend they like to check up on you. Leave open a window or some slot in the door, like you would for a puppy. Always leave a ‘crow’s entrance’ or they’ll come crashing through a window.

*Master the second step and they’ll never abandon your friendship. This is, in part, because they hate losing friends that care about the weather.

Step Four: Kill a fucking blue jay. The mortal enemy of the crow is the blue jay. The annoying sounds they make agitate the silent rage of the crow. They’re annoying birds that care nothing for the weather. Kill a blue jay and make a friend for life.

Step Five: Never tie your shoes. If you have Velcro sneakers a crow won’t bother with you, because they like shoelaces. They love impressing a new friend by tying their shoes. So, leave them undone. Walk around a group of friendly crows and let them have fun.

Also, if they see some loose rope or even a bit of fishing wire, it’ll end up tied. One of my good friends tied a bow with some fishing wire around a small-mouth bass. They’re in good humor, these guys.

Step Six: Construct an Altar to the Dark Lord of ‘Enu Ana Rlyeh’. Some fellows speak of a forgotten world (I don’t know how they remembered). Crow’s wings take them to other worlds than these. We witness the flutter, but not the flash, as distant worlds present themselves to the crow. They speak to me of a place founded above a beating black heart. I built a model city based on their description. Since then, I’ve been a good friend to them.

I built the city with Popsicle sticks and glue. I also gathered some of their favorite rocks (soapstone, marble, limestone and basalt). It’s about ten feet long and wide and they use it as a playground. I enjoy watching them grasp a purple marble meant to depict the ‘Eye of Negach’, which they toss around for a good time.

Step Seven: Ask them if they know that a group of them is called ‘a murder’. Most of them don’t, but once they do they think it’s the funniest thing. Murder is a hilarious joke to a crow. They like watching people kill more than watching people die. They’ve told me several times, kill after kill. They enjoy murder, maybe more than the weather.

After the seventh step, a crow becomes a ‘Ka-Num’, a ‘well friend’. A well friend is a brother without all the blood. This is when they ask if there’s anyone you want to kill. Whatever you do, don’t say no. Not that anything bad happens. It’s just rude.

I made the mistake of saying I wanted every god damn person on the planet dead. After that, Ka-Num meant something else. I thought we were brothers and I was right. I just didn’t understand what that meant to the crows.

The crows pecked a hole into the center of the model of Enu Ana Rlyeh. An anomaly of black feathers and mud covered the opening. They fed it worms and covered it with dirt and hay. The anomaly ate everything they brought. I asked what they were doing and they said, “Killing time”. Dark humor, again, but still a damn good joke.

I never had a friend in man. Talking to people feels so complex. I gave up after failing for years. People don’t make sense to me. We breathe poison and talk politics and think nothing of it. You could slip anthrax into the water supply and we’d find someone to blame besides ourselves. It’s easier to assume it’s some viral marketing for a new color of Mountain Dew.

Crows don’t care about politics. If you’re a crow you’re a crow for life. The loyalty and affection they’ve shown me is more than I ever saw from humanity. It’s easier to befriend a crow than it is a man. Men have ideas. Crows have fun. They tinker and peck and have as much fun as they can.

The thing in my basement within the model city of Enu Ana Rlyeh is looking more like an egg with every new day. It spasms and coos, as the opening widens. Warm black sludge drains from the opening and covers the egg. I don’t dare touch it. The stench is enough to keep me away.

I awoke the next morning without my right foot. White bandages covered a stump above my ankle. A pair of crutches waited at the side of my bed. I went down to the basement. There were dozens, much more than a murder, of crows.

The crows turned when I entered. You would’ve thought I had eleven heads!

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Their wings fluttered and they floated through the air. Whispers invaded the room and echoed from within the egg. A narrow slit at the top of the egg folded outward. A beak pushed through the opening and echoed the dreaded curse, “Killing time”.

“The Sin Crow emerges!” The crows declared.

“Plague of crows!” I shouted. “What is this?”

“Breathable cancer. There is no end more fitting for man than upon the wings of the Sin Crow. The final days of man are upon us!”

Molten waste poured out of the egg. The crows fled through the open window. Black lava flooded the basement. A black hand emerged from the egg and spread its fingers across the room. I limped out of the basement and fled down the street.

My home sank into the earth and took the entire block with it. I couldn’t escape the shadow of the crows that followed for miles in the sky. The wild eye fluttered above the clouds with an enigmatic wink, as the crows within flashed out of existence. A hole in the sky swallowed the miles of flying crows, who went without question into that other world.

All I wanted was a friend. All I got was breathable cancer. Good joke. The Sin Crow is everywhere. You have one year, maybe less. Enjoy it, good people. Make a friend. Maybe it’ll be enough to call the Sin Crow back to that fallen city. Or maybe, just teach a crow the names of your enemies and count your blessings.