Lao Su approached the image of the Golden Buddha. With ceremonial reverence, she lit incense, got on her knees, and began to pray.
“Little princess, look over here.”
She ignored the voice, attempting to preserve the piety of the moment.
“Lao Su, my little princess, look over here.”
She raised her head. She turned it left and right but saw no one.
“Who calls me? Where are you?”
“I am behind the temple.”
“How can I hear you if you are behind the temple? How do you throw your voice? Are you a spirit?”
“I am the Buddha.”
Lao Su’s head jerked back and her eyes bulged. She quickly rose and circled around the perimeter of temple. There was another temple behind it, less ornate than the first. In it sat another Golden Buddha, much bigger than the other, so big he barely fit inside. This Buddha opened his eyes. He gave her the wai and she immediately fell prostrate before him.
“Rise,” he commanded , “follow me.”
“Who am I that I travel with the Buddha? I am no one.”
“Who told you that you were no one?”
She pondered deeply but could produce no answer.
“I cannot remember,” she finally replied.
“Why should it, then, be so that you are no one? Come. Our time together is short.”
Lao Su’s lips trembled, hinting at her desire to voice a rebuttal but her legs took her up from the floor before her mouth could undo her.
“But you are large than your temple. How are you able to leave it?” she said.
“What is size? It is nothing.”
He changed to the form of the Jade Buddha, about the size of a man. He then strode purposefully out of his temple, Lao Su trailing in his wake.
He led her to a khlong of the Chao Phrya River. A young man in an ivory boat waited at the dock. The Buddha entered, as did Lao. When Lao went to pay the man for passage, he vehemently shook his head.
“Who am I, that I should charge the little princess, with whom the Buddha has found favor?”
Upon saying this, the man cast off and the three of them headed down the Chao.
A short ways downriver, the man slowed his boat. An old woman came alongside it in a vessel laden with trinkets.
“I’m sorry. I have no money to buy your wares today,” said Lao.
The woman cooed happily. The wrinkles on her face bent to accommodate her smile.
“No, little princess. I did not come to you sell you rubbish, but to give you a gift.”
She dug into the trinkets- “hand-carved” hippos, common teacups, and paper fans- and emerged with a perfect glass orb, devoid of any mark or blemish.
“I cannot accept this,” Lao Su said, throwing her hands in the air before the woman could force the gift upon her. “It is pure, unlike myself.”
“Where are your imperfections? Point them out to me,” said the Buddha.
She looked at herself, searching her form for blemishes. Her clothes were a vibrant blue in color and her skin was as white as a lotus petal
“I cannot find them,” she said.
“Then you are pure. Why should it not be so?”
After Lao Su gratefully accepted the orb, the woman gave the three travelers the wai, which they returned. The young man steered the boat on.
Eventually, the khlong connected to the main river, which was crowded with a mass of people and boats. When their boat entered the main river, the people began to cheer.
“They cheer for you,” said the Buddha.
“They should not cheer for me.”
“You are my little princess. Why should they not cheer?”
Lao and Buddha looked serenely out over the people and the river.
“You shall be my princess until even eternity is nothing,” Buddha said.
“Why should it not be so?” she said.
“Lao Su, Lao Su, wake up you lazy oaf!” said a gruff voice.
When the haze of sleep passed from her eyes, she saw that she was back in the dark room she shared with six other women. A crack in the door on the other side of room provided its only light. The large man standing by the door nearly blotted out that light with his bulk.
“Mr. Scott is back in town and he’s requested you,” said the man, “I think you’ve become his favorite.”
The stench of the man wafted into the dark room. Lao’s nose crinkled. It was the smell of cheese and red meat, sweat, and gin.
“Well, c’mon then.”
She shrank back.
“Don’t be difficult. You know what happens when you’re difficult.”
She looked to the other women, who gazed helplessly back at her.
She lowered her head, rose to her feet, and headed for the door.
“That a girl. You be good to Mr. Scott, you hear? You be very good.”
“Why should it not be so?” Lao whispered.
There are vandals in my apartment complex
With bold and black spray paint
They deface the walls of my property
Vandalism is illegal
And costs money to repair
But even still
What they paint on my dull, tan walls
Is rather cool
It makes me think again:
What is art?
What is not art?
Perhaps the distinction rests on one word:
If you look at a work of art
And it offends you,
Then to you it is not art
Because it violates your tastes, your
I think of those vandals
As I ponder my own life…
Yes, I should strive to create,
To risk, to dare
But still I should do my best
not to offend though offense
Shall I sacrifice creation for human decency,
But shall I sacrifice creation all together
On a whim
In favor of normalcy and social convention?
Otherwise perhaps a passerby will not see and hear and experience art
For the first time:
An unknown violation
A clandestine hoarding and theft of
What is sex?
a sin a sensation?
Do the moving pictures on the screen
Really add up to something moving,
Oh sure, America does sex well
It drives us, demands
If you’re not screwing someone
Then you’re doing something wrong;
If you don’t look the part:
If your boobs aren’t huge
And your ass isn’t tight
And your abs aren’t hard
Then you’re as good
But is that sex
at its finest?
at its intended glory?
if we sort through all the hype
All the trysts and the moans and the cum
Do we find something good
I think back to the garden
To a man and a woman
Standing in the presence of God,
Naked and unashamed
And Him smiling on them
So many desperate housewives
Looking lusting longing
Sex may sell but it does not save
And how can there be true intimacy
When we’re afraid of how we rate
Up against the ghosts of lovers
“More tacos!” shouted Gary Jones.
It was all-you-eat taco night at the Green Sombrero. So far he had had twenty and had plenty of space left for more. You see, Gary Jones was a competitive eater and, at the present moments, he was in training for a taco-eating contest in San Diego, CA. The response from the men, women, and children around him was mixed. Some turned away in horror. Some stared at it with the bemused admiration of someone watching a 50-year old man do really well on Dance Dance Revolution. The staff of the restaurant, at least the ones in charge of the books, were anything but amused.
“El senor tiene hambre,” said the waiter to the cook.
“Still? Cochinillo! No quiero concinar nada mas para el.”
“Creo que no se los de, el estara furioso.”
The cook angrily grabbed for some pre-made tacos, set them on a plate, and handed them to the waiter.
“Son de la cabeza.”
The waiter hesitated and then headed back out onto the main floor with a plate full of brain tacos in hand. Now it is not uncommon for a Mexican restaurant to serve brain tacos, or tacos de cabeza. What is uncommon, and rather unfortunate, is the state of health those tacos would soon land Gary in. You see, the animal from which those brains were extracted happened to have had contracted rabies before it died- and not just any type of rabies, but rather a particularly deadly strain called the Solomon Virus, which is known to dampen all adrenaline-inhibitors in the brain, heighten violence in the carrier, and prevent peratalsis, by which the stomach tells the brain that it is full. With greedy speed, he consumed every last one of the tacos while the employees got a chuckle in the background. When finally he was full, thirty-five tacos later, there was not a single brain taco in that restaurant that Gary had not eaten. He left smugly and left a small tip. “The last batch was chewy,” he said as he left and the employees thanked heaven when he left.
He went belched loudly and got in his car. He went home. On the way there, he bought a bucket of fried chicken and ate it in front of the television that night. The mewings of his cat, Snickers, and the hum of the glowing box, playing its way through season two of Man v. Food, sang him to sleep.
When he woke up, he did not feel well at all. His head hurt; his stomach ached; and a wicked case of gas was currently snaking its way down and out of his digestive track. He barely made it to the John when he threw up. Yes, Gary Jones was in no shape to compete; but today was competition day nevertheless and he would not miss a competition for anything! Running to the medicine cabinet in his restroom, he threw open the door, grabbed some Tums, and chugged the bottle down. Then he fed the cat, massaged his jaw, did a few stomach stretches and headed towards the competition.
Traffic on the freeway was terrible. The side streets were worse. He barely made it to the contest, but he made it nevertheless. He signed in, got his free t-shirt, and bumbled over to where the other competitors were seated.
Now Gary Jones had never been a very social person. He was even less so when sick. So, every time one of his competitors would come up to say hi, he would growl at them and they would walk away. He had no time or energy for socializing anyway. If he were going to win this, he would need to focus all of his attention on one thing: eating.
Fifteen minutes later, the announcer began to call out the contestants. By that time, Gary felt absolutely horrible. The pain in his stomach was intense, so much so that he could barely make the walk over to the table where the contest would take place. His head pounded. The blood in his veins burned and moved through his body like sludge. As the other competitors, got in their best eating stance. He leaned his weight against the table to brace himself from falling over. When enough was enough, the announcer asked him if he was all right. He raised a shaking thumb up. He had signed a health waiver upon entering this competition. He knew the risks, but he would plow ahead. In his head, only losers backed down. Upon receiving Gary’s go-ahead, the announcer brought everyone’s attention to impending heat. He made the countdown. Then, as the crowd took in one last suspenseful breath, the announcer gave them the command to begin.
The contestants began to tear into their food. Pieces of lettuce, tortilla, and chiles went everywhere. Gary held his own for the first few minutes, but after the halfway marker he began to cough, then he began to choke. Sweat began to pour down his face. This was nothing new. He had suffered from the meat sweats many times in the past during competitions, but never were these sweats accompanied by intense abdominal pain. After consuming his first ten tacos, his body refused to take down any more. He tried to force the food down with water, but it would not go. Angry that a little indigestion and stomach flu get in the way of yet another victory, he grabbed a whole taco and shoved the whole thing in his mouth. He swallowed hard and cleared the taco off his pallet, but not all of it made it down his throat and he started to choke. Are there techniques to clear one’s throat? Yes. And a good eater knows them. But none of them worked. As his pock-marked face, already discolored by his failing health, turned a sickening shade of blue, Gary raised his hands up to his neck and signaled to the EMT on duty that he was choking.
The EMT wasted no time. The other eaters moved aside as she ran in and took Gary into a Heimlich maneuver position. It took a few minutes but eventually she got the food out. Relief flooded over the crowd. Nobody wanted to see someone die onstage. But their relief was short-lived and moved swiftly into disgust when Gary began to loose not only the taco he had just eaten but also the other tacos he had consumed as well. Competitor and crowd member alike took a great leap back as Gary lost his lunch on the contest floor. Throwing up lead to dry heaves and dry heaves lead to throwing up blood. Only the EMT dared to take a step towards him while people in the audience watched helplessly in the distance.
She set a kind hand on the eater until he calmed down, curled up into the fetal position, and started to breathe again. His breathing became shallow and strained but consistent. His gaze never left the floor. When a minute had passed and still Gary had not retched again, the EMT gathered the nerve up to speak. “You’re going to be all right, sir. Everything is going to be fine.”
Slowly, Gary turned his head upward and stared at the woman above him. She gasped and jerked her hand away. Gary’s teeth were stained with blood. Every vessel on his iris had burst. His skin had turned nauseating shades of grey and green. He looked horrible. He looked monstrous. He looked hungry.
The woman realized this, but only to late. Gary pounced at her as a lion or feral dog would. She screamed, but not for long. Gary went for her throat first. As her cries for help turned to indecipherable gurgles and grunts, the crowd and the competitors around him took up her panic for her. Though they did not know exactly what was going on, they knew this much: they had to get out of there. The crowd scattered. A few brave souls tried to play the hero and pry Gary off his victim, but he was stronger than them now and he easily tore himself from their grasp. He took a bite out of these heroes for their efforts. Some managed to escape away in cars or on foot. Others fell to Gary’s vicious overbite.
That day, Gary Jones found himself open to an epic new eating challenge. That challenge? To devour the population of San Diego.
a la The Blob and 28 Days Later….
When competitive eater Gary “Mad Scientist” Jones, in a misguided attempt to get ahead of the pack, unwittingly creates and becomes infected by the dreaded Solomon virus, his massive food cravings turn darkly to a hungry appetite for human flesh, unleashing a reign of bloody horror on the pleasent seaside city of San Diego. Meanwhile, radioactive runoff from the nuclear power plant in San Onofre turns one surfer’s humble pizza pie lunch into an ever-growing, ever consuming mass of cheese and dough. Trapped in the chaos of these twin terrors, only one thing is sure: nowhere and no one in Southern California is safe. With an all star-cast and non-stop blood-curdling thrills, this epic tale of man vs. mega-food promises to leave you hungry for more.
“So what now?” said Claire while still fawning over the dress.
“Now, now I explain why you are here,” said the woman. “He has brought you here because you wanted to be here, not half-heartedly but full heartedly. You followed him here and now I will explain why you have been called.”
The woman began to glow. Her eyes turned milkly, lost their pupils and then began to shine like the stars. A great wind swept across her body. Suddenly before her appeared a great beast. Claire took a step back, stumbled over her own feet, and spilled down onto the ground. The beast was hideous. Excrement-brown in color: yellow eyes bloodshot, thick in hide with jagged mangled teeth and long sharp claws on its feet and hands. Its breath smelled of vomit and brimstone. It snarled at Claire. She screamed. However, when it went to attack, its moments were retrained, as if an invisible chord wound all the way around its thick body.
“These beasts are everywhere in the land you call home. You did not see them because you refused to. Unwittingly, you let them control you. They bribed you with fancy things and tasty treats that numbed your senses, that blinded you to the truth; but he set you free. You see them now, but that is too small a thing. You must go back home and you must join the fight to kill them.”
Claire’s horror was replaced with shock as she turned her head toward the woman.
“Kill? Me? I don’t know how to kill that. I mean, look at me. Look at it. How am I going to do any damage?”
The woman smiled. She reached behind her back and drew from an invisible sheath a lengthy blade. As she brought it around, the blade seemed to cut even the air in twain. The woman presented Claire the blade. It was engraved with fancy letters, letters she could not read.
“Is that Japanese or something?” said Claire.
“It is in the language of the heavenlies. It spells out your new name.”
“And what is my name?”
“No human tongue can quite capture the language, but no that it is a good name and suits you well.”
Claire cautiously stared at the blade.
“How am I supposed to wield something like that? It looks awfully heavy.”
The woman held it up to her.
“Take it. It is light.”
Slowly, Claire slid her hand toward the blade. She wrapped her hands around the hilt. Then she removed the blade from the woman’s hands. Truly, the blade was as light as she said it would be. Claire carefully held the blade before here, swinging it left and right with small, controlled movements.
“I am so going to cut myself with this thing.”
“Yes, you must be mindful with it in hand, for it is a powerful weapon; but if you respect it, you will do great things for you.”
The woman removed the blade from her hands. She said a quick prayer and then thrust the blade into the beast. It shattered instantly into a thousand pieces. The woman returned Claire’s weapon back to her.
“Wow,” said Claire. Her jaw felt as if it would fall to the ground. “I’m not sure I’m ready for this.”
The woman set a calming hand on her.
“We have all been called to greater things than we could ever imagine, but we do not do them with our power. No, that would be too much for us. We do them with the power of him who has brought us out of the darkness. Yield to this power, act according to his bidding, and nothing shall be impossible for you.”
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
Please, pleeease don’t kill me he said.
he was old. A few wisps of thin grey hair were all that covered his otherwise bald head. His eyes had yellowed and his teeth were rotten. The skin on his body hung loosely from his pronounced bone structure.
Kyle R. looked down upon this man with pity. It was very hard to hold a broadsword against him. Kyle tightened his grip on the hilt once and then again. sweat had begun to dot his forehead. His mouth felt dry. after a long time, kyle dropped his arms, lowering the sword to the floor. Surely this man could do no harm. As he lowered his blade, the man’s fear turned to a sinister smile and kyle found himself looking into the face of a demonic cheshire cat. He had no more than a moment to think about this before the man, previously thought to be quite harmless, lunged at him.
As this happened a bright flash of light erupted onto the scene. The boy was blinded for a moment but eventually the stars before his eyes faded and he could begin to see the universe again. At his feet lay the man, curled up in the fetal position, smoke rising from him like mist in the early morning. In front of the boy stood an immortal, shaking his head at him.
you see as man sees, said the immortal, and that is why you fail. come, we have much to discuss.
The floor of the room seemed made out of diamonds. There was no ceiling. Just blue sky and wispy clouds as far as the eye could see. A great glass chandelier levitated over her head. In the center of the room stood a woman with long golden hair. Her skin was olive in color. Scars ran the length of her face, yet Claire did not find them disturbing. It was as if whatever injury had been done to this woman had been repaired so skillfully that the surgeon could very well have removed any trace of it if he or she wanted. Why the scar remained behind, Claire did not know. Perhaps it served less as a blight and more as a memory. The woman smiled.
“Welcome Claire. It is nice to meet you,” said the woman. “I am Wind. Perhaps you would like to put this on?”
The woman held a gown out in Claire’s direction. It was then that the latter realized that she was naked. Her face grew hot and she tried to cover over her unmentionables with one hand while grasping for the gown in the other.
“It’s all right,” said Wind, “everyone comes here like that.”
Claire yanked the dress from her hand and the woman turned to allow her dress in peace. Not until the gown was on and over her body did she take the time to admire it. The gown fit perfectly, flattering every bit of her person. She had worn many designer dresses in her life, but this one beat them all. In addition, the fabric was softer and breezier than any she had encountered before, so soft that it was soothing. It was as if she was naked in it, yet not in the ashamed way. The color was a vibrant onyx and the train of the dress billowed in most entertaining way when she spun around it. While wearing this gown, she felt the giddiness of a girl playing dress up inseparable mixed with a refinement and honor one feels at a dinner or ball.
Claire woke into darkness. She could see nothing. Nothing. She tried raising a hand to her face. She tried to touch it, but to no avail. Her arms, her legs: if she had them at all, they were of no use to her anymore. She could not even feel the ground beneath her feet. It was as if she were suspended in a thick, inky cloud.
“Hello?” Her voice had no echo. “Hello?”
Confusion set in and then anger, but more so an overwhelming loneliness. Never before had she felt so desperate, so empty, so hopeless.
Then the burning began. Fiery darts of pain began to sting her, sporadically at first then with greater frequency and intensity. She yelped in pain.
“Please, someone help me!” She tried to protect herself but found once again that her limbs were of no use to her. The darts seemed to come from every direction and she was naked to them. She screamed, loudly and intensely, hoping someone was there. But she knew there was no one. Not in this place.
“ENOUGH,” said a voice and at once the stinging stopped.
She had never heard the voice before, yet as soon as she heard it she knew it- knew him. She became greatly be afraid. She was in pain. She needed help. Would he help her? Or did he put her here in the first place and now was just going to rub her face in her suffering?
“Do not be afraid, Claire,” he said. As he spoke the pain began to subside. His voice became a balm to her ravaged skin.
“What do you want from me?” she said. Hot tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Do you want this?”
She shook her head.
He continued, “I do not want this for you either. If you will follow my lead, I will get you out of here.”
She had questions for him. Many questions. Questions and accusations. None of them came out.
“Thank you,” she said.
A great light appeared in the darkness. It was blinding to her but still she did not turn away.
“Walk with me,” he said.
She went to take her first step towards the light. At that moment she found her limbs to be functional again and the ground beneath her feet, though she could not see it, was firm. Her first step was as wobbly as a fawn’s. “Keep going,” he said. The embarrassment she felt for making such clumsy steps melted away into raw determination. Awkward step lead to confidant walk. She walked faster and faster until eventually she broke into a run. She could feel sweat pouring down her face. Her lungs burned, but that did not stop her. She had to reach the light.
“I have great things in mind for you Claire. Great things.”
These were the last words she heard before the darkness pealed away and, in an instant, she found herself in the most beautiful room she had ever seen.