Saturday, July 14. 2007
Power of an Unknown Kind Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 16:12
The image of David's lifeless body lingered in my mind even after I opened my eyes. Heart pounding, I stared upward, listening as the wind whispered among the trees. It carried on its wings the scent of new rain. As I watched, clouds crept across the sky, slowly blotting out the stars. I must have fallen asleep again, because I woke to the sound of David unzipping his sleeping bag.
He rolled to his feet, and spread his arms, grinning and stretching. "Look at this!" I sat up slowly, amazed by what I saw. Our camp was an island of clarity in a ghostly world of silver and green. Trees swam in and out of the swirling mist, droplets clinging to their branches like jewels glittering in the half-light of morning. "How'd you sleep?"
I automatically started to answer, "Fine" but stopped myself. I searched for an explanation, but ended up just saying, "I had a really weird dream. It kind of bugged me."
"Oh yeah? You know, during finals last year, I dreamed that I was being attacked by a box full of pencils. Totally messed with me. I couldn't pick up a pencil for several days afterward. Just scared me to death." He just stood there, grinning. I tried to respond, but found myself torn. I felt a laugh tickling at the back of my throat, but at the same time, every time I looked at him, I remembered the pale, lifeless face from my dream, and froze, paralyzed by guilt and grief.
At last, I shook my head and muttered, "Mine wasn't like that."
David looked at me, his gaze suddenly penetrating and serious. "Are you OK?"
Again, I shook my head, numbly. My voice was almost a whisper. "I gotta tell you something."
Continue reading "Power of an Unknown Kind"
Saturday, June 23. 2007
Preface Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 21:39
OK. So, I've decided that I ought to try to finish the story that I originally called "The Nature of Things" (I've changed the name now. It's now called, "A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara). I'm picking it up again, but I'm not picking it up exactly where I left off. Instead, I've decided that things will make the most sense when the story's finished if I give you a little bit of a preface. So, without further ado, here is the preface.
The prisoner stood before me, tall and proud, ignoring the sounds that echoed through the cavern. Hundreds of people gathered under the floating globe lights, all of them, like me, looking at the prisoner. Some were mourning. Others looked angry. None looked emotionless.
We all knew who he was, but as a matter of procedure, the bailiff called out: "Prisoner, please state your name."
"I am Jonathan Bicara."
"Jonathan Bicara, you are hereby charged with treason. How do you plead?"
"I don't know."
The bailiff looked perplexed, and glanced up at me. "Jon, please," I said, "are you guilty or not?"
The prisoner took a deep breath, and spoke loudly. "Guilt is a feeling, not a state of being. Yes, I did commit the crime that you are accusing me of committing, but no, I do not feel any guilt for my actions." Continue reading "Preface"
Sunday, April 15. 2007
The Path Before Me Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 14:43
To this day, I'm not sure if it was a dream. The sights, the smells and the sounds were all too vivid to have been a dream, but I remember waking up, and the next day, I wasn't tired.
We didn't bother to set up the tent that night. The sky was clear, and whenever possible, we preferred to sleep under the stars. I laid in my sleeping bag, listening to the night noises of the forest, and watching the stars creep by. I heard David's steady breathing nearby; he was having no trouble sleeping. I found myself replaying his words in my mind, "I don't think he would. But I think that as he walked his own path, he might find that magic had left his path instead of the other way around." I had to wonder, did he know what I was asking? How would he react if I told him everything?
At some point, I must have fallen asleep. I found myself staring down a narrow dirt path that stretched across a desolate landscape toward a single cinder cone in the distance. The path threaded its way between jagged outcroppings of lava, looking like a pale gray ribbon twisting across the blackened land. I tried to look around, but found that I couldn't; my gaze was riveted to the path before me. Slowly, cautiously, I began to walk.
Someone was behind me. I couldn't see who, but every time I took a step, I heard a step behind me. When I stopped to rest, my follower stopped also. Somehow, I knew that he was a friend. The cinder cone in the distance seemed to beckon to me. I began hurrying toward it, never quite running, but walking as quickly as I could on that circuitous path.
As my mysterious companion and I neared the mountain, the wind began to blow. At first, it was little more than a breeze, a breath of hot air in my face. With each step, however, the strength of the wind grew. Soon it was a blasting roar, hurling grit and oven-hot air at us as we pushed forward.
Continue reading "The Path Before Me"
Sunday, April 1. 2007
The Nature of Things, Part 12 Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 17:46
I found myself wondering, which elements will become my friends? Can I be the type of person that lots of different elements will respect? What will they respect, anyway?
David startled me when he started to speak. "There are always people who want power. There are always some who want lots of different types of elements to obey them, instead of just a small group." When he said that, I started guiltily. He didn't seem to notice though. There was a distance in his speech. He seemed to be thinking about something long ago, and far away. "For those people, there is another route to power."
"They become witches, don't they?"
David nodded. "They know one simple thing. They know that all of the elements value life. So they start making threats. They're usually small threats at first--'do what I want, or I'll shoot this cat.' Something like that. The problem with threats is, if you don't actually carry them out every now and then, nobody believes that you're serious. So they start killing. And when they do, they find that for a little while, every nearby element is at their beck and call. That's when the real trouble starts."
"They get addicted to the power, and to the killing, and . . ." my voice trailed off.
"Yeah, exactly. They get addicted to the power, and to the killing, and so pretty soon they start trying to do more things, and bigger things. When they do, the elements start to resist. See, when they're asking something small, the elements say, 'it's just a little thing. This little life is far more important than that little thing that he's asking us to do.'"
Continue reading "The Nature of Things, Part 12"
Sunday, April 1. 2007
The Nature of Things, Part 11 Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 16:48
David started talking seconds after I opened my eyes. He seemed excited about things, and ready for a new day. I felt, well, better. I was still scared, and still wondered what things would come out of that dark place, seeking for me, but I was also sure that even in the darkest night there are stars.
Wow. That was a little weird.
"So, where were we?"
"You just said that all of the elements respect life."
"Oh yeah. But not respect. That's important. They don't respect life, they value life."
I looked puzzled.
"Don't worry. We'll get there. Let's get things cleaned up."
We cleared the camp in record time, and were soon on our way. That day, for the first time, we walked side by side, talking as we went.
"Who do you think is the greatest man you've ever met?" David asked.
Continue reading "The Nature of Things, Part 11"
Sunday, April 1. 2007
The Nature of Things, Part 10 Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 12:48
I looked forward to morning, hoping that sunlight would wash out the darkness of that place, but when I greeted the dawn with bleary, bloodshot eyes, I realized that I would have no such luck. The memory of that place clung to my mind with barbed claws. Sights, smells, and sounds that had been pleasant to me now reminded me of the witch's den.
I followed David around that day surrounded by a cloud of shock. I wanted David to intrude, to break through the silence, to tell me what was going on, but his stoic silence and grim expression yielded no comfort. I could see the anger stirring in his mind, searching for a release. I did not want to become the target of that anger.
Everything came to a head at dinner time, when David started roasting a rabbit that he'd managed to kill. The sight and smell of the roasting flesh sent me running from the campsite, retching and sobbing again.
Don't get me wrong. I've eaten my share of meat. I've enjoyed many barbecues in my time. I love a good, rare steak. But there was a fear about that place that I can't describe. One of the most memorable experiences of my childhood happened one night shortly before I started school. That night, I woke up screaming in terror. My heart was racing; my pajamas were soaked in sweat. When my mom asked me what I was scared of, I couldn't say. I didn't know. The horror of that night stayed with me, burned into my mind. I never understood what I was afraid of until I stepped into that place, the den of witches.
When I finally returned to the campsite, David sat scowling at the fire. The rabbit was gone. I sank to the ground opposite David. "I'm sorry. I don't know why that made me feel like that. I just . . ."
Continue reading "The Nature of Things, Part 10"
Sunday, March 18. 2007
And Now? Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 17:11
I had a hard time getting up the next morning. I laid awake for hours, trying to fall asleep. I felt drained, and listless. Was it my destiny to use my friends as stepping stones? Did I want such a destiny?
David was nearly ready to leave when I finally crawled out of the tent. "You OK?"
I almost blurted out the story of the night before, but instead, I answered, "just a little tired. I didn't sleep well last night."
We walked in total silence that morning. I wanted to say something, but couldn't think of what to say. I wondered what was going to happen. I wondered if what the voice had told me was true. Was I just trying to make myself feel better? Did I have delusions of grandeur? Was I really even hearing the voice? What, or who was it? And what had David done to "turn away from that path?"
It was about noon when I first smelled something. It was just a faint whiff on the breeze, and I couldn't tell what it was. "What's that smell?"
"I don't know. Let's find out."
It wasn't very far from the direction that we were already taking, so we followed it. The breeze picked up for a moment, carrying the scent toward us more strongly. "It's just a dead animal," I said. "Let's go. I don't need to see that."
Continue reading "And Now?"
Sunday, March 18. 2007
Between the Rain Drops Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 15:30
We must be the strangest outlaws ever, I thought, as we carefully locked the back door, and crunched across the graveled drive. We only had a few hours until nightfall; we had spent hours packing, repacking, and cleaning. The cabin was now cleaner than it had been when we entered. A note on the kitchen table explained what we had taken, and why. I thought about it as we walked. I was sure that David had a reason for doing what he did, but I was equally sure that he wouldn't be taking the time to explain it to me.
That guess was borne out over the next few days. We didn't push quite as hard now; the fishing gear, and other food that we had taken made food less of a problem, and we were becoming hardened to the constant walking. Our nights were much more comfortable, too. It's amazing what a sleeping bag and a tent can do.
So, the days settled into a routine. We woke up early every morning, walked until we were warm, and ate a light breakfast. We started walking again soon afterwards, and walked until mid-afternoon. We stopped for lunch and a nap, and then walked again until just before sunset. It was my job to set up camp while David went after food.
As we walked, we talked. Just about everything came up at some point, but every time that magic came up, David quickly changed the subject. If I tried to force the issue, he became sullen and silent, so I soon gave up. I still wanted to know what was going on. I still wanted to learn more about the magic. I still wondered what would become of my "mission" now that I had been rejected by the elements. But having someone to talk to was more important to me than answering those questions.
Continue reading "Between the Rain Drops"
Saturday, March 10. 2007
By The Light of Day Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 20:52
I woke to the smell of canned ham frying in the kitchen. The covers slid off as I sat up and stretched, twisting and grimacing with pleasure. "Wow. It feels so nice to sleep in a bed again." When I heard my own voice, I froze.
Was it a dream? It couldn't have been. It was too real. I padded out of the bedroom. The sliding glass door was locked, and braced securely with a dowel. That wasn't there last night, I thought, but then I shook my head. It was there last night. It had to have been. It must have been a dream.
I wandered into the kitchen, shaking my head. "Well, if it isn't Sleeping Beauty." David grinned. "Breakfast is almost ready. Nothing gourmet, but it will do."
I glanced at the stove. Thick slices of canned ham sizzled in a frying pan, swimming in their own packing oil. Oatmeal, complete with cinnamon and raisins, bubbled in another pan. I forced myself to smile. "Good. I'm starving."
I was surprised to find out that what I said was true. About half an hour later, I pushed my chair back from the table with a satisfied sigh. "Oh. That was good."
David grinned again. "Good. You ready to get moving again?"
"Yeah. I guess so. Where we going now?"
Continue reading "By The Light of Day"
Saturday, March 10. 2007
Under the Gaze of the Stars Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 19:45
I jerked awake, startled by some unfamiliar noise. I forced myself to lie still, listening carefully as my heartbeat slowed to normal. Whatever it was, the noise did not repeat itself. Hours seemed to crawl by as I laid there, trying to fall asleep. Finally, I got up.
The sliding glass door seemed to grate on its tracks as I pulled it open. I waited, half expecting David to come out of his room, tousle-haired and crabby, but nothing happened. Quietly, I stepped out onto the deck, raising my face to the moonlight, and savoring a deep breath of the cool night air. The nearby trees shivered in a slight breeze. I felt it whisper around me, carrying a whiff of pine and wildflowers.
I sank down onto the deck, leaning my head against the rough logs of the cabin. The night sky, endless and full of questions stretched overhead. "What am I doing here?" I murmured to myself. "This isn't my problem. It isn't my fight. Even now, I bet I could go home. I could tell them everything, and they'd leave me alone."
"Yes, you could. And yes, they would. But you won't." Startled, I looked around for the source of the voice.
"Who are you?" I tried to hide the tremble in my words.
There was no answer. I jumped to my feet to look around. No one. The night was still, black, and empty.
I slumped back down, resting my forehead wearily on the heel of one hand. "I've got to get some sleep. Now I'm hearing voices."
Continue reading "Under the Gaze of the Stars"
Sunday, March 4. 2007
A Surprising Shelter Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 20:12
I'm still not sure how he kept the direction straight in his mind. Before long, the sun set, sinking below the horizon in a riot of flame and violet. Then came the night, with a ceiling of stars, and a silvered moon. I had no idea where we were going. My gaze rested on the ground a few feet in front of me, watching for treacherous rocks or roots that might reach out to trip me. I followed David by the sound of his shuffling footsteps. The brisk walk of earlier in the day was gone; even he was tired.
As I plodded along, I wondered at the change in him. He didn't seem like the same person. He seemed . . . I don't know. Older. Less, and more. And then I understood. He knew fear.
The sound of his footsteps changed from muffled thuds to the crunch of gravel. A moment later, I found myself standing on a graveled road. I stopped, and raised my eyes. A few yards away, a huge cabin towered over us, dark and lonely in the moonlight.
We walked around it quietly. Once, as we passed near the edge of the yard, David bent, and picked up a fist-sized rock. He craned his neck to peer into the small windows of two outbuildings as we passed them, and then led me to the back door.
He raised the rock to break one of the windows, hesitated, and tried the knob. The door opened without a sound. He dropped the rock on the porch and walked in. The sound of the rock smashing on the concrete seemed loud and dangerous in the silent night. I raised my finger to my lips, signaling him to silence, but he waved off my my signal with a smile.
Continue reading "A Surprising Shelter"
Sunday, March 4. 2007
Learning To Walk, Part 2 Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 17:57
It was several large boulders surrounding a central pillar. I stood at the bottom of it, looking up as David wandered around it feeling the rock. I was surprised when I saw him taking off his shoes. "You're not climbing this, are you?"
"Yeah. We've got to see where we are."
"But you don't have shoes. And we don't have a rope. And, well, what if you fall?"
"Catch me," he replied pragmatically.
I was about to protest, but he wedged his hand into a seam, and began climbing.
It had taken us longer than I had expected to reach the rocks. The sun was slipping rapidly toward the horizon as David worked his way up the face. He paused for a moment to rest atop one of the boulders, and then began his attack on the main pillar. The rock was chossy, heavily weathered and crumbly. Several times, he nearly fell, only to catch himself by one hand or a particularly secure foothold. I breathed a deep sigh of relief when he finally stood atop the pillar.
Turning carefully, he surveyed the landscape below, pausing once before he had completed the circle. When he had turned completely around, he returned to the point where he had paused, and held his arm straight out in front of him. "Make a mark on the ground pointing the same direction as my arm. We need to remember this direction." Continue reading "Learning To Walk, Part 2"
Friday, March 2. 2007
Learning to Walk Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 21:25
It seemed that every time I moved, a new question popped into my head. So many things I wanted to ask, most of them starting with "why?" I felt like I was going to burst, but I forced myself to lie still and wait for morning. David had promised that he would answer my questions while we walked.
The night seemed endless, but eventually morning came. I shivered while David revived the fire. I hoped that he would offer to answer my questions before we started walking, but his bad-tempered silence forestalled the questions that I wanted to ask.
We sat across the fire from each other, staring into the coals while we waited for the sun to warm the cold morning air. I knew that I needed to take a leak, but the idea of leaving the fire made me cold, so I sat there, waiting until what had been a pressing matter became an urgent situation. At that point, I hurried off into the woods. When I returned, David was gone.
At first, I thought that he would be back shortly, so I huddled by the fire. When several minutes passed without him reappearing, I started to get worried, but by that point, I was finally warm, and before I knew it, I was asleep.
I woke with a start when he returned. It seemed like I had only slept for a moment, but the fire had burned down to coals, and the sun was already high in the sky.
"Time to get moving," he said, and tossed me something brown that looked like a cross between a carrot and a potato.
Continue reading "Learning to Walk"
Thursday, March 1. 2007
The Nature of Things, Part 9 Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 05:58
"I'm not a liar!" My pulse was racing. I paced back and forth, flinging aside the branches that tried to brush at my face. "This isn't fair!" I turned to look at David. "Why didn't you tell me that this was all based on caprice and whim?"
David held up both hands, as if signaling me to calm down. "Can I explain? Will you listen long enough for me to tell you what's going on?"
"Explain. Go ahead. Explain. I'm listening."
"OK. It's like this. Let's see." He paused. I waited, but not very patiently. As he thought, I stripped leaves off of a nearby branch. "OK. I've got a question for you. What's the difference between a magician and a questor?" My look must have told him that I saw no relationship between my question and his. "Trust me. You'll see."
"Fine. A magician and a questor, huh?"
"Well, I guess that the biggest difference is that everything that a magician does is an illusion, but everything that a questor does is real."
"Exactly. Exactly. See, that difference is very important to the elements. The elements don't have much respect for magicians. They think of them as charlatans and cheats, probably because most of them are. The interesting thing about magicians is that they will claim to have magic when they don't. The elements never respect those who claim to have powers that they really don't have."
Continue reading "The Nature of Things, Part 9"
Tuesday, February 27. 2007
The Nature of Things, Part 8 Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara at 18:26
I'm not sure which woke me, my aching muscles, or my growling stomach, but by the time I fought my way to full consciousness, both were clamoring for my attention. Overhead, stars pincushioned the night sky like they never do in a city.
I pushed myself into a sitting position, grunting against the pain in my evidently under-used muscles. David crouched under a nearby tree, feeding twigs to a tiny flame. He glanced over as I shuffled over and collapsed near the fire. "Sleep well?"
"I'm starving. What are we going to do about food?"
"I don't know yet. I'm still trying to figure out what happened."
"I thought you knew."
"What do you mean? Why do you say that?"
"Maybe I just dreamed it."
Continue reading "The Nature of Things, Part 8"
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