SAMSARA, Volume 1, No. 7, FALL 1999. Copyright 1999 R. David Fulcher. All rights revert to authors and artists upon publication. Reproduction of this magazine without the express permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited. Sample copies are available for $5.50. Make all checks payable to Samsara Magazine. Address all correspondence to SAMSARA, P.O. Box 367, College Park, MD 20741-0367. Web site: http://members.aol.com/rdfgoalie/sammain.htm. Check market listings or Web site for reading schedule.
A Letter From the Editor...
Finally, Issue #7 is ready. I apologize to the readers and contributors for missing the initial publication date. Inside are stories and poetry which show us suffering, healing, transformation, and hopefully, something about ourselves and our humanity. Some of the stories take place on our world, some take place on others, but the theme of suffering and the release from suffering is universal throughout.
Thank you all for your continued interest in Samsara. The post office box continues to overflow with mail from all points of the globe. Without you Samsara would not exist.[
-R. David Fulcher, Editor
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SHORT STORY: Sails Made of Silk 1-5
By L.J. Coleman POEM: Claymore Apartments 6
By Amelia Haller POEM: Hand in the Dark 7
By Sharon Olinka SHORT STORY: Burnt Offerings 8-19
By Dale Lucas SHORT STORY: Bird Tends to Wing 20-25
By Nancy Bennett SHORT STORY: Waiting on Wet Grass 33-37
By Michael Mahns
TABLE OF CONTENTS
( continued from previous page )
SHORT STORY: Volshebnitsa 38-43
By Jane Drichta & Leah Sturgis SHORT STORY: Spiders 44-49
By Stanley Rice POEM: The Sea, The Sea 50-51
By Dr. Herman E. Stark SHORT STORY: In the Valley of the Faithful 52-62
By Steven E. Carman
smoothed by ages
pearl of wisdom
Sails Made of Silk
By L.J. Coleman
"When you see them," Gregor said with his asymmetrical lips flapping, "don't tremble or let your mouth hang open like some cornered mutt."
Landa nodded too quickly; he threw back his jagged face and wondered if he could finally fit in somewhere, even here inside this hell. At least he wanted understanding--a clear winter.
Gregor's eyes blinked constantly as if trying to clear his vision of Landa’s fear. To Landa it seemed Gregor unlocked a lifetime of loneliness and disappointments all condensed inside the one slide of the metal door. That's why metal is so heavy, Landa thought; it attracts all of our emotional pain and that's the heaviest element in our lives.
Strange jerky movements inside the loft sickened Landa; he had tried to imagine this moment, but the crawling slow-then-quick rhythms of the black limbs and bodies stunned him.
Aramans dangled their human torsos and eight spider legs in front of white sails glued against the walls. Some lurched as they released milky webs; others danced tarantellas as their pinchers wove. Every araman stood at least a foot taller than Landa at his most courageous stance.
Gregor glanced at Landa staring at the obsessively busy aramans. "Like hyper devils," Gregor said, not able to control his laugh. He grabbed a club next to the door and smashed it at a bell; the clang shook Landa’s skull. Hundreds of human-spider faces masked with sharp predator lines suddenly froze; then they twisted quickly, unnaturally toward Landa. He forgot how to swallow his sudden dryness.
"This is Landa," Gregor said, "he will be your new muse."
Gregor's calm voice, Landa wondered, is he trying to hide his fear or is he just crazy?
The aramans moved en masse; they crept with a focus that reminded Landa of crouching, confident wolves easily outnumbering their crippled prey. They formed a ring around Landa and Gregor; a few aramans edged closer inside the invisible circle.
"I smell fear," said the araman called Natuce. The other aramans shrieked a staccato laugh.
Landa wanted to run outside the metal doors and slam them shut as hard as possible; slam away the images and memory of the aramans.
"If two of you were surrounded by hundreds of humans, what would you smell like?" Landa finally asked.
Natuce jumped within one foot of Landa. "A philosopher muse?" Natuce asked; his spider eyes examined Landa’s creamy straight fingers. Natuce reached out an appendage and gently dented the firm skin of Landa’s wrist.
Only Landa’s thoughts flinched.
"Where is your harp?" Landa asked in almost his normal voice which still sounded forced inside the loft; the words echoed now where only thoughts made noise. The aramans opened up a path. Landa walked the emotional gauntlet until he came to a harp; it held a web made of long and short strings interlaced into a design of circles and trapezoids. Landa sat and peered through the string shapes at the aramans who stared back.
He plucked a few strings; the last one buzzed slightly. He blew warm air into his cupped hands. Gradually his reaching/pulling movements smoothed, and the sounds floated across the room resonating the white sails hanging from the ceiling; they shimmered in the musical breeze.
The aramans raced to their webs and jumped and squirted dots of colors on to the silk. They painted intricate blue circles.
Gregor left, closed the door.
Landa heard the clank of the metal; he stopped playing for an instant but turned it into a whole rest; he glissandoed back to the moderato pace.
Some of the aramans began humming.
Landa thought only of the music now; ninth chords flowed through his fingers; he bathed in the harmony of the present moment.
At the end of the day when Gregor opened the doors and threw dozens of live chickens into the room and the aramans lassoed the clucking chickens, Landa suddenly noticed his aching calloused fingers and stiff joints as he sneaked out of the loft.
"I see you're still alive," Gregor said after he locked the door.
"How long did you play for them before your arthritis?" Landa asked.
"Ten years ago I found them ravaging my corn fields. It took me a month to capture a few every night while they slept; by then they almost ruined my entire crop. I only planned on keeping them for a year of weaving as payment for my corn, but when they heard my music the designs they made as accompaniment sold like hot cakes at the marina. Every year I said, 'Only one more year.'" Gregor grinned.
"When you bought my daily services, you told me it would be for only one year."
Gregor shrugged. "They must have had a hard life wherever they're from; I think they enjoy being fed and played to. Maybe you will enjoy it here, too." Gregor laughed faster and faster as if secretly telling himself better and better jokes.
Landa walked out into the first snow of winter and tried to find the path home. He wondered why the aramans hadn't hurt him; he’d been beaten several times by his own species and left for dead; maybe finding your place in the world has to do with something besides trying to get along with your own species.
Near the bridge Landa stopped and watched a tiny winter spider hastily construct a web that so far had caught only snowflakes. It never stopped and studied its art, never hesitated. Maybe the cold drives it, or maybe it just automatically knows what it wants, Landa thought; does it ever get lonely in this solitary occupation? He stood on the bridge and watched other spiders weave webs; finally an icy wind pushed him to the other side of the bridge.
At home inside a two room log house caulked with mud, Landa’s father threw stale beer at Landa. "You're late ... where the hell have you been?" Father asked.
Landa stared at his father who had only two legs and no pinchers. Even under candlelight paleness covered his father.
"You don't scare me anymore," Landa said.
Father stomped to his room and slammed the door.
Harpists are like that winter spider, Landa thought. Always in the cold, waiting for someone to touch your web so that you know you're not alone. He ate bread and cheese as he watched the snow that tried to soften the rocky landscape.
"Did you tell anyone what kind of work you do for me?" Gregor asked.
"No one asked," Landa said.
"But if they did?"
Landa stared at Gregor. "I can smell your fear."
Gregor sneered and jerked back the door. "You even hint about what you do here and I'll feed you to the aramans."
All the aramans listened and stared at Landa.
Gregor left and locked the doors.
Landa stood motionless.
Natuce crept to Landa. "We talked about you last night," Natuce said. "Tell us something philosophical."
Hundreds of spider eyes studied every blink, every breath, every twinge that Landa made. "I don't know what you mean," Landa finally said. "I'm just a muse."
"Tell us your favorite story," Natuce said.
Landa sat down by the harp. "A girl named Ulon heard there was a wizard who could grant her fantasy. When she found him, he asked her what she had done earlier that day. 'I made sand castles; while I sat on the beach I wondered what it would be like to ride a dolphin.' The wizard asked, 'If you could ride a dolphin, what would your fantasy be?' Ulon said, 'Being a bird sleeping on a cloud.' The wizard asked, 'If you could be a bird, what would your fantasy be?' Ulon said, 'Maybe building a sand castle.'"
Natuce said, "But you have to have a sand castle first. We don't have any here."
"You make the finest designs in the world; you should be proud."
"We've never seen our sails on a ship; could you take us to the marina?"
"Gregor would never let me," Landa said as he closed his eyes and juggled his kaleidoscope mind until he found a perfect geometric design of an ellipse surrounded by triangles, and he plucked the web-harp in the same sequence as his mind scanned the image. All the aramans painted their own individual variations from the geometric tune; fine yellow diagrams, red pulsating shapes, blue and silver backgrounds.
Somehow, they developed a deep sense of beauty, Landa thought.
That night on his way home a gang met Landa on the bridge.
"Rumors say there's a bunch of spiders weaving those sails Gregor owns," Gompers said, his eyes always squinting.
"People like to make up stories," Landa said.
"You're no weaver; Gregor's got arthritis. Who weaves and paints the sails?"
"Why don't you ask Gregor?"
"You gonna take a beating for that old man?" Gompers asked.
"Fine. I'll tell you. The place is packed with spiders; it's crawling with them--they're on the walls, the ceilings--you can't move without touching them, and they're sticky and--"
Gompers hit Landa on the boniest part of his jaw. "Now tell us what's really going on."
Landa fell next to the spider web. As he raised up, he carefully unhooked the web from the rails and quickly turned and wiped the web on to Gomper's face. Gompers howled, and while the other gang members laughed at Gompers rolling and screaming and clutching at the web, Landa ran home.
Landa dreamed of a tiny spider that fell off its web and broke one of its legs and Landa placed it in a box and took it to a doctor to have him make a tiny splint.
"What did you want me to come here early for?" Landa asked.
Gregor grinned. His eyes searched the area up and down the river to make sure none of the villagers were near; then he walked to the bushes and pulled out a human leg. "Help me with this."
Landa helped Gregor pull out a human body and load it on to the wagon.
"Villagers upstream believe in throwing their dead into the river during winter," Gregor said. "I fish them out and throw them to the aramans. Saves me lots of chickens."
Gregor and Landa loaded a dozen bodies on to the wagon; the faces of the dead held gaping mouths and eyes as if they hadn't remembered the season of winter and were surprised by it. Landa didn't know if he shivered from the cold or from loading the dead.
Gregor started the horses and Landa sat next to him and listened to the wheels creak, the wood groan; he listened for the dead to complain but they didn't. Gregor somehow bought their souls too, Landa thought.
At the loft, Gregor said, "Drag the bodies inside." He opened the door and Landa pitched the bodies to the aramans; they tumbled over each other and tugged at the bodies and dragged the corpses to the corners.
After Landa pitched the last body, Gregor pushed Landa inside the door. "They'll be busy for a while," Gregor said; he laughed. "I'll bet you were just about ready to like those creepy beggars." He left and locked the door.
Landa slumped against the metal door while his head throbbed and the aramans huddled in their corners and tore flesh.
Before Landa played the harp, Natuce said, "If our eating humans bothered you, next time we can wrap them up for later."
Landa shrugged. "We're not the same species; I try to understand." Horror is something you can either look at from a distance, like at a painting, or you can let it eat you, Landa thought.
"Do humans eat spiders?"
Humans squash spiders since we live in fear of them running up our bodies while we sleep or biting small pieces out of us everyday until we disappear, Landa thought. We squash them while we curl our lips and then quickly wipe them off our shoes as if we could somehow feel their tiny bodies still creeping under us.
Landa didn't speak. He played a song that hovered in the air like a lost wind current that gently floats away to an invisible horizon.
That night at home, Landa listened to his father making drunken snoring noises until knocks on the door made Landa cringe. He peered out the window; all the villagers stood in front of his shack and glared at his door. Snowballs began hitting the door; they made the same thumping noises the aramans made when they dragged human bodies across the loft.
Landa waited until the door stopped shaking; then he opened it.
"What's going on at Gregor's?" an old man asked. "There's human bones all over his dumping ground."
Landa didn't say anything at first; he looked into each of the villager's faces--each one seemed to burn under the moonlight. "Don't I have any friends at all?" Landa asked. "I've never done anything mean or said anything mean to any of you."
The crowd twitched; a middle-aged woman asked, "How does Gregor make those sails?"
They know something, have seen something, thought Landa. Maybe they've all hovered together so long they share the same horrible imagination. "Those bones--Gregor fishes them out of the river. And as for the sails-"
The crowd inched forward trying to get their ears a few inches closer to Landa’s words.
Villagers stomped snow from their boots, squashing anything under their feet.
"Any more funny business going on down there and we'll be back," said an old woman.
"Who’s stopping you?" Landa asked.
The crowd wandered away, sometimes stopping to turn and sneer at Tanda.
Landa shut and locked the door.
At sunrise Landa walked to Gregor’s; Gregor ran and slid down the hill as he waved his arms at Landa.
"What have you done with them?" Gregor asked. He trembled and his jaw fell open. He grabbed Landa and shook him until his cap fell off.
"The aramans! They're gone!"
Landa looked at the loft; somehow it felt empty.
"Tell me!" Gregor screamed.
"Maybe the villagers got them--the villagers were at my place last night; they've been trespassing and going through your dump. Wait. The aramans wanted to go to the marina to see their works on display."
"Hitch up the horses."
Landa tried to run to the horses, but he stumbled in the snow. The horses whinnied; he grabbed the frozen leather that cracked its icicles, and he hitched the horses to the wagon. He and Gregor jumped on the wagon and sped toward the woods.
"There are no tracks left in the snow; are you sure they're at the marina?" Gregor asked.
Landa hunched closer to the horses and drove them faster. Through the woods the horses raced until the trees looked like one large twirling spider web.
They rode into the village; there the only movement came from a few embers left from a bonfire.
"They're up to something," Gregor said. "They've better not burned my spiders."
"Maybe they're all at the marina."
Gregor pried the reins away from Landa and tried to hold on with his arthritic hands as he yelled at the horses. The wagon lurched and vibrated and almost fell apart with each new bump and hill. The hot breath from the horses steamed Landa’s vision as he tried to see into the distance. They wheeled around the river that carried pieces of ice smacking the bank, making the air seem even colder.
Soon sails like clouds finely decorated with sunrise colors waved in the distance.
As Gregor and Landa rode closer, they saw a black clump like a giant spider backing toward the marina. Another clump made of human arms and legs chased the aramans.
Landa yelled, but the chant of the crowd drowned him out.
Gregor drove the horses between the two clumps of beings; both Landa and Gregor tugged on the reins until the horses skidded to a stop.
"Leave them alone!" Gregor yelled. "They're mine!"
Horrified faces stared at Gregor.
"They made the sails," Landa said. "They have beauty inside them."
"Kill them and cut them up and see," a boy said.
"Whose side are you on, Landa?" a girl asked.
"The aramans have never hurt me," Landa said.
"Traitor!" the villagers yelled.
The villagers rushed the aramans.
The aramans nearest the boats threw their silk at the sails and scurried up to the spiders surrounding the masts; those too far away from the boats tried to fend off the villagers. Villagers threw clubs and rocks and curses.
Landa jumped from the wagon and pushed down three men clubbing an araman.
Gregor drove the horses into a mob who had taken off their belts and were whipping another araman.
Landa tackled two men throwing ice at an araman; when he had knocked the two villagers down, he ran over their backs and helped the araman get to a boat. He tripped a villager chasing a crippled araman; behind him fists hit Landa in the back. He fell and his hot face melted the snow while he watched legs and appendages kick each other. Landa pushed himself up; villagers shoved him and spit on him; while the villagers cursed Landa, the rest of the aramans except Natuce reached the boats.
Some of the humans withdrew and hissed and curled their lips.
More aramans threw their silk at the sails.
Natuce lay with broken legs trying to inch sideways towards the boats; villagers, like hungry ants, swarmed toward him. Landa and Gregor reached Natuce first and picked him up and ran to a boat. The crowd backed away in horror that humans would purposely touch an araman. Gregor and Landa eased Natuce onto the boat.
Landa glanced at the crowd and wondered why all their eyes together only looked like one araman eye. Then he untied the boats.
Gregor's arm smacked Landa; blood spurted from Landa’s forehead and turned the frost red on his eyebrows.
"What were you thinking?" Gregor asked. "We're taking the aramans back to the loft. As soon as the villagers leave, we'll unload the aramans."
"They can't stay now that everyone knows about them. I don't think they want to stay here anyway."
Boats crowded with aramans floated away.
"Stop them!" Gregor screamed.
The sails decorated the horizon, puffing themselves in the breeze.
Villagers edged to the banks and watched the red and yellow and blue paintings that they could never create flicker like a traveling art gallery. Landa studied the designs and transposed them to harp music inside his mind, weaving in the rhythms of the wind and water. When the last sail disappeared, the villagers growled and limped home.
Landa wondered how long it would take for the villagers to get over the shock of seeing the aramans and return to their normal selves.
Gregor sat on the bank and watched the ice knife its way through the water.
Landa began to walk home.
"I hate you, Landa."
"I used to want to be friends with you and the villagers. Now I'd hate myself if I were friends with any of you. So you hate me. So what?"