It's your first night in your new apartment. Your stuff is still in boxes. Your furniture (with the exception of the mattress on the floor) hasn't arrived yet. The utilities won't be turned on until the next day, so you're making due without. A flashlight...

September 2nd 1868 Arrived in Cheyenne in the new Wyoming Territory early this morning on the new Union Pacific line. Has been three years since I rode the locomotive. Did not realize it would remind me so strongly of Atlanta. Spent the last day of the journey with the phantom smell of blood and iron in my nostrils, and the bile rising at the back of my throat, but it is over. God willing, I will never have to ride the train again. Cheyenne is new born and mewling like a babe. Immigrants from the east and across the seas teem here, filling the streets with a babel of tongues and the raucous laughter of drunken listless youths. The hound I purchased before leaving tugs at his leash with delight at the sights and sound. The plot of land is still two days ride across the border and to the Southwest, but true to his word, the man from the bank has hired a guide to take me there. Sent a last letter to my wife and boys with instructions to meet me here in the spring, and have purchased a wagon and the supplies for construction. The guide, a half Indian fellow, I'd wager by appearance, but civilized in tongue, has helped me hire two young men: a Irishman with a sullen chinless face, and a German, watery eyed and stinking of bourbon. Both despicable wretches, but they have agreed to work for a pittance, and both claim to have experience in homesteading. They may intend to kill me, seeing an easy mark in a naive settler, but I do not fear these drunken children. I've seen a generation of these boys spilled open, and I know what they are made of. September 8th 1868 Have crossed into the Free Territory of Colorado, after a day of the level prairie of warm wind of Wyoming, into the Front Range. This land is wild, in some... strange way, and like nothing I've ever seen. We are following a river through the shadow of two jagged peaks, and camp tonight just a few miles from the parcel of land. I requested remote, and by God, the bank man did not fail me. The Kraut and the Irishman grow demure and quiet without spirits, and I see no possibility of violence in them now, lest they suspect me of hoarding whisky. They will do fine quick labor, and return to Cheyenne to drink and fuck the profits. These are men of dust, and serve only this purpose. To think, good men like me fought and died to protect these jackals from the reach of Lincoln’s tyranny, God grind his bones. I will be free of that monster soon, and if it should spread it’s federal borders this far, then I will burn my new home to the ground and move west yet again. Sons of bitches will have to push me into the sea before I swear fealty. Found a skull just off the deer trail, when I went to make water; it was bleached white and divorced from jawbone and neck. I try not view this a portent. Tomorrow, we should reach the plot, and begin. September 9th 1868 The bank man has lied to me, the foul stuffed pig. The plot of land, clearly identified by compass and map, is not the idyllic grove his words painted, but a swamp. A sodden hollow filled with mud and grass, ringed with broken and dying pines. I would flay my guide alive if I thought his wretch of a employer might feel a sting. Am determined to homestead here, however. This may not be the land I desired, but it is mine, by God. The Irishman and the German fell trees for me, and I have found the highest place, where the earth is damp the least. I will tame this land. The hound does not like it here. He growls at the horizon and pads in small tight circles, looking always behind him. September 10th 1868 Guide has vanished in the night. He was to spend the next few days properly mapping the borders of my land, but he has fled. Worse still the Irishman and the Kraut have grown skittish at his departure, the German tells a tale of hearing screaming in the woods last night. But in morning light, the guide’s tent and belongings were packed away and gone. It shames me to admit, but my first night was filled with unease. There is something about this land, unlike any in the East. It seems to breathe and pulse around me, like it watches me with a cold intelligence. The trees sing softly in the breeze and in the smallest hours, when sleep had fled into the dark, I fancied I heard whispering voices in the breeze. I will share none of this with the laborers; they are weak and callow enough as it is. If superstition infects them, I will be left alone here while they flee.

It begins gently at first, softly falling like a child’s tears.  It is a sad thing, but not so unusual and wholesome in its way.  And the wind lightly blows, almost tenderly caressing your face.  This will not last, but it’s nice isn’t it? In the...

When thinking back to my earliest memories, nothing is concrete. A string of hazy images come to mind like random snapshots out of time, each one associated with certain feelings and emotions. They are imbued with a mystical dreamlike quality, a gift born of childhood...

They say that the hour of three A.M. is the time when spirits can become active, and I’m sure of that. My apartment was always a little too quiet for one in the city, especially at night. No drunk shouting in the street at that...

Unlike the larger circuses that dominated the railroads, the little medical show still puttered along in the old ornate wagons and trailers. This made travel much harder but allowed for the doctor to make his own curious, meandering paths. Max often wondered how his life had been hitched to every whim of this strange little man, but as Arthur reminded him, if he really cared that much they could have just quit. This particular detour had led them to a small town in eastern Iowa. A brutal drought left the fields near scorched, and summer heat made the small crowds sluggish and irritable. The morning sun had only just begun to crawl up above the treetops and already Max felt his shirt clinging to him. The Doc wore his standard three piece suit and kept time with a polished cane. The old man rarely ever showed the wear and tear of the roads. Probably because his trailer had an icebox. As they made their way on foot, DuMonde informed Max that this was a house call. He was responding to a letter mailed by a desperate family seeking help for their unfortunate child. And why had he brought the former boxing champ along? Simple a precaution, rest assured. The young man had his doubts, but the farm house they were aiming for was no more run down than any other lonesome homestead in the middle of nowhere. As they approached, a solitary donkey sounded the alarm, and his braying brought the owner of the house out the door. He was a short, stout man with a weathered face and an unnaturally tired look. Max thought he saw others peering through the windows at them, but after very brief introductions, they were lead away from the house and over to a storm cellar. “Heard about you coming to Des Moines last season,” the man explained. “Thought you might be able to do something about this.” He threw back the cellar doors and led them down into the darkness. It was difficult to see much of anything with nothing but the morning light shining in to guide them. The stench down below was unreal. The unmistakable odor of rotting meat and feces reminded him of neglected monkey he had once seen locked in a barren cage. The only thing that kept him from gagging was the fear that the smell would get into his mouth, and even the decorous doctor covered his nose with a handkerchief. Once Max’s eyes adjusted to the lack of light, he realized there was a pile of badly stained blankets near the wall to their left amidst piles of dung and fly-ridden scraps he couldn’t identify. The farmer took a rake that had been resting near the stairs and poked at the lump. The thing that shot out from beneath the blankets was such a confusing flurry of limbs that even Max had a hard time understanding what he was seeing. It was human, though really only by technicality. The boy crawled about on four twisted limbs, but a fourth and fifth leg jutted out from his midsection and right thigh respectively. Though shriveled, these forgotten appendages twitched and flexed as he scurried about. His mouth was torn by a severe cleft palette, though that didn’t stop him from hissing and snapping with teeth grown long and somehow sharp like rodent incisors. He was naked but covered in sores, growths, mud, shit, and rust colored stains Max didn’t want to think about. One eye bulged out slightly, causing it to look off in a different direction, though the odd shape to the iris raised doubts over its ability to see anyway. The boy darted wildly to the end of the rope that had been tied around his neck and presumably anchored somewhere out of sight. He nearly choked himself trying to reach for the three men, and when that didn’t work, he resorted to spitting and finally pissing at them. “Don’t have a right mind,” the farmer said as he stepped away from the spray. “It’s our second boy, but you can see why we keep it down here. Eats just about anything and doesn’t do much but raise hell. Killing it would be a sin against the Lord though.” Max had to hold his tongue to keep from asking what that made keeping the boy alive down there. “Very unfortunate,” DuMonde agreed. He kept his face covered with the handkerchief, but leaned in as close as he could without getting hit. For a terrifying moment, Max thought the Doc might actually take the boy. While he understood wanting to put it out of its misery, accepting the thing instead meant trying to integrate it into the show. And that meant Max would have to deal with it. “I am sorry,” DuMonde said finally. “While this is a very sad case, I’m afraid I have no room for such a child in my show.” “What?” the farmer asked. His look of detached exhaustion gave way to a visible wave of grief and then rage. “You said you handled this kind of thing! You take these monsters off those folks’ hands! Now take this away!” The man’s rising tone made his son launch into a frenzy of yowling and jumping. Max was more focused on the rake the farmer was brandishing, however. He stepped between the farmer and the doctor and took in a deep inhale. He instantly regretted doing so, but at least it puffed out his chest and straightened his spine. The farmer was no weakling by the looks of him, but Max was well over six feet and nothing but muscle. He stared the man dead in the eyes. “Now, the doctor said there was nothing we can do. We’re real sorry about your son, but that’s all there is to it. If you don’t mind, we’ll be going now.” Max let his words hang in the foul air between them for a moment before waving his hand for the man to lead them out. The farmer looked as though he might argue but swallowed whatever bile he had brewing and said not a word to them as they took their leave. The only response a farewell from the Doc got was a spit straight into the dust. The pair got the message and wasted no time getting back on the road and putting the house far behind them. “Such a shame,” DuMonde murmured as the safety of their tents slowly came into view. “Such a poor, poor child.” “I’m glad you didn’t take it though,” Max admitted. “I would have made you carry that thing back.” If the story ended here, I’m sure that everyone would have had a good laugh, learned a little something, and the credits could roll safely. Obviously, that’s not the case. This wasn’t nearly the last time Max and DuMonde had to deal with the Unfortunate. Their troubles were only beginning.

You are lying in your bed, the dull whirring of your air conditioner is the only thing separating you from total silence. You know, that particular silence that is so heavy, and so thick, it's almost the equivalent of a loud noise itself? The kind of...

This message is my map, and this map is my message. The earth here is thin. I move about it so freely, and the ease of it is a delicious thing, but it is also frightful. I dig my inscriptions by feel and touch, and because I know the earth, I know that this will be massive for your senses. Here in this layer of the planet, I am inbetween my people and your people. I float about in this soft soil like a drifting bubble, weightless and yet handled so delicately within my surroundings that my fragile dome will never burst. I am fit to drift along in euphoria. I would do this forever, if granted the chance, but I have responsibilities to my people, and to our Mother. If I were to glide about, dreamlessly, in this infinite expanse of softrock, a few fathoms beneath your manmade pave-veins, I would lose myself in the arms of Mother, and she would love to have me lost. That exquisite moment will not arrive until your end-time comes. For now, I must finish the task I have been chosen for by our matron. She was born from the hardrock and the fire at the very core of Mother, and so I cherish and love her for choosing me to finish this map for our people. If I were to abandon my quest and return home now, I could be in the heartfire of earth within two of Mother's circles. Perhaps that holds no meaning for you, but because I have lurked just beneath the pave-vein in your greatest den and homestead of New York City, I know that the word I must use is "years." You measure your core by a finite passage of time in units. We measure ours by Mother Earth herself, as you once did before in history, before you created the deathly grid and thought yourselves too intelligent to honor Mother. This is what saddens her, and this is the cause of the war between my people and your people. It has taken me over one thousand of your years to reach the earth just below your pave-veins and grids of softrock. At first, I did not understand, and I would glide along through the thin places as your slow moving metal boxes with the rubber feet would adhere to the limited paths that you have provided for them. They are lumbering beasts, unable to dig, deaf and dumb constructs that are reflective of their creators. I do not pity you, because if you had used her gifts the way they were meant to be used, you would be as my people are now.

On his way home that night, as he walked through town, a man stepped out of an alley in front of him. He tensed to defend himself, but the man just stood there. Looking him over, he realised the man looked like a hippie. Something...

When I was a child I lived in a rented two-floor house. Both my parents worked so I was often alone when I came home from school. One early evening when I came home the house was still dark. I called out, "Mum?" and heard a voice...

When I was a child, I lived in Radnorshire, one of seven children and the youngest of six girls. As my parents had six other girls and an infant boy to take care of, they left me to myself, and I ran about like a wild thing. Not that they didn't love me, but they had other things to do. I was about five when I began to see the Bwystfel. It roamed about the farm, slipping in the shadows, and the only way to see it was to look for the shapes that were darker than the spaces between stars. Its mad eyes were like coal sparks, it laughed like a goat in pain, and it was always angry. I watched it from a distance: one spring, I saw it kill a nest of sparrows – closing its hands about the nest until the little naked birds smothered on its flesh -- one summer, it poisoned the sheep, biting the ewes' legs until rot and infection ate into their flesh that no about of doctoring could fix. Later, it skulked into the shed and sliced the handyman's chest open, then danced his blood up the walls and over the rafters. My parents said it was an accident, but knew better. "The Bwystfel did it," I told my father, and he boxed my ears for being a liar. No one believed me at all. . . except the Bwystfel itself. It grew angrier. At night, it crept into my room, giggling and ripping the blankets away and pinching me. I shared a bed with two of my sisters – we didn't all have separate rooms like you do – and when the Bwystfel came, we shivered together, too afraid to move until morning. We were very little girls, and nobody trusted us with a candle, so we had no way to drive the thing away. It tormented us in whispers, calling us names and telling us we were bad children, because our prayers that it would leave us be weren't answered. My sisters refused to speak a word of it, and they wore the Bwystfel-inflicted bruises like jewellery – saying they'd fallen over or been bitten by the cat. I decided I would have to find the Bwystfel myself and scare it away. I took the statuette of Florence Nightingale that my mother gave us to hold when we were sick and a stone with a hole in it, both for luck. As it turned out, I would need the luck. I walked for ages, got lost, and eventually stumbled into a small wooded copse where I had never been before. Under the trees it was cold air, and pine needles and dried leaves lay thick upon the patchy grass. I clutch Florence. . . and then I saw the bones. Bleached and ancient, they lay scattered in a circle: small bones, large bones, bones half buried in the loam, bones with scraps of dried flesh still clinging to them. A sheep skeleton hung suspended in the tangle of a blackberry bush, and canes had grown through the eye sockets of birds. I started to cry – I knew I'd found the den of the Bwystfel.

I. Well, I've finished my education and learned everything there is to learn about singing, and despite the difficulties, I've found myself at the heart of Music City and struggling to get my material out there. I haven't been able to meet with any labels and I'm barely surviving on gig money. I have an audition at a new place that's opening down by Broadway Street. It's a Vegas style night club, very yuppie. I can sing, but I also have to dance with the other girls. My first song will be "Moulin Rouge." They were impressed with my audition, and they may pay me for some choreography ideas. Maybe I can get some hours there. Regardless, times are hard for everyone right now. Any day that people hear me sing is a good day. My voice is lucky, and I'm so excited for the future that I simply had to start writing my feelings down in something other than song form. II. I learned to bartend and made some good tips this evening. I also sang with the band, and even though everyone there was drunk, I think they really liked me. The more I sing, the more I feel like I was put here on this earth to make people happy with the sound of my voice. I'm not trying to be conceited. I am forged through the sweat of my brow to make beautiful sound. I also make a pretty good vodka martini. III. My boss, Bobby, thinks he's Brett Michaels. He keeps going on and on about how he's going to make me a star and how much money Alleycats is going to make with me singing at the helm. People applauded after the girls worked through my dance today. I told Bobby that he should tie cat collars with rhinestones around our necks and buy us hair extensions to attract more clientele. He went for it. I'm excited. I've never been able to afford hair extensions before. The last song I sang before I went home this evening was amazing. I saw a table of drunks in the front row who appeared as if they were crying. That's the best feedback I could possibly ask for. IV. Some of my teachers came by today because it was my day off. They're quiet, mostly, but they expect what I promised them four years ago. I always thought I'd be able to get my education and disappear without going through with it, but they've found me. They want results, and I only have a month. Even though they paid my way and coddled me through learning the art of vocal performance, I don't think a piece of paper on the wall is worth this. It doesn't matter. I can't back out now, and I'm destined for the big time. V. Bobby is interested in more than helping me promote my career. I was flirting with a local blues singer in the lounge tonight after singing, and he flipped his shit. Said that I couldn't afford to have a boyfriend in this business and the only person I'd be hooking up with was him if I wanted to keep my job. I noticed that The Better Business Bureau is right across the street when I left today. I'll keep that in mind if he gets out of hand. VI. More teachers came to see me, except they came to the bar itself. I would have been ashamed, except they didn't talk to anyone, so no one knew that they were there for me. They wore the black robes in a night club in the middle of the city, so they obviously care little for outward appearances. They focused on me so intently when I was singing that I got scared. I did well, but they're giving me the message, loud and clear. I have to fulfill my part of the bargain or I'll lose my voice. If I lose my voice, I have no future. I'm scared.