The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Archive for August, 2018

Silent Night

The summer night is silent – not like that “holy night” kind of silent, but rather without the singing, and the lowing, and yon virgins. Instead, a ghostly fog has risen up, backlit by a nearly full rising moon. Creeping up out of the shadows of the bog-land in the bend of the nearby river, beneath and through the trees it moved slowly through the still air. It spread an aura over the night, not quite sinister, but quiet enough that the silent place where the night winds normally blow were filled only with the occasional yip of a distant dog, the drop of languishing pine cone to the forest floor, and the padding of my two companions paws in the volcanic soil. The dogs tested the silence with thoughtful snuffles as we shambled along the fence line, taking in this emptiness and waiting with all the rest of nature for someone, something maybe, to speak.

The highway traffic from 3 miles away was hushed, blocked and shushed by the skulking cloak of fog. And so we stood, we three, beneath The Pines, waiting on the night. An eternity passed before us, with only the moon for its spotlight.

The fog had pushed as far as the house, a thin and shallow blanket, and I thought to bestir and go back inside. But something caught my ear just as I began to step forward. Mollie sprang up, ready to run, and even Ol’ Charlie lumbered back to his feet.

The wind.

It was coming.

The delicate silence balanced the wind’s advance as gently as a new father. I tracked it by its sound over the crest of the Butte, down the hidden slopes, and across the vast expanse of treetops. A full two minutes after the first whispers filtered through the trees, the wind swept through like -well, like Mollie, the cavorting puppy eager to run back and forth along the fence out of sheer enthusiasm.

It swirled and whooshed like an impetuous child fresh from the school bus looking for a cookie.

And just like that, the bog-ghost was banished back to the river hollow. The film fell back from the night sky, and moon-shadows draped and played crisply on the forest floor of needles. The treehouse pines creaked and groaned as they swayed against the lumber. The frogs got back to work. Everything sounded once again as it should.

But yet, in the dark protected shadows leading down towards the river, a pale reflection still flits from tree to tree, a forgotten memory of a time when no human eyes were there to intrude, when no one thought ill of a mist silently cavorting in a child’s dance by the light of the moon.

I catch myself smiling a good night to this silent night. The quiet, pensive child with more to say than a dozen schoolbus children will return when the time is right.

Until we meet again, sweet child.

Sleep in peace.

Not Quite Forgotten

Warm August air blows across my skin.  It blows its portents, and news, and I listen to it with all my senses.

But tonight, it blows not so much with news, but with memories.

Gather round, and I’ll tell you a tale of long ago, of a night almost completely unlike this one.

Almost.  But not quite.

The sun was so far past the horizon as to have been forgotten.  It had been weeks since I’d seen it anyway, sequestered as I was with my crew-mates beneath the sea, silently looking for trouble.

We had found it, of course.  And as submariners do, we had teased it, toyed with it, tempted it and Fate alongside.  Trouble did not like our kind.  And there was nothing that could make us happier.

The necessities of the boat eventually demanded, though, that we sail for open water, and under cover of darkness do the things we must to continue our mission.  And so it was on that night, so unlike the one here tonight, a silent steel hull broke the surface of the water, black against the black water of the Sea, and seven men in dark gear climbed out of a hatch, onto the deck, and back into the natural world.

Our eyes, already carefully acclimated to the darkness, still struggled to see.  In that first tenuous moment, other senses rushed in to fill the demand for information.  That was the moment I felt the hot sea breeze, the only evidence of the sun’s passage hours before. It blew across us like a riderless horse, a shell of a memory of the day.

As if timed for theatrical effect, a giant billow of a cloud drew aside to slowly expose a half-moon.  The moon’s delicate glow revealed more secrets than it exposed, shining only brightly enough to orient us in an edgeless Sea of eternal swells, out until we could see no more.  No horizon, no land, nothing but waves, and broken clouds, and a narrow ray of moonlight illuminating the black metal sail against which we  edged our way around to the aft deck.

The boat moved through the water soundlessly.  The steel hull demanded an accompanying thrum of an engine, the song of machinery, the bustle of a ship’s crew.  But there was none.  The ship was built for silence, and the men bred to stillness, to defend its silence.  With no shore to crash upon, the wavelets slid wordlessly into the inky black East.

With our work done, we returned to the faint red glow of the open hatch, and one by one slipped below into that foreign realm to which we had become native.  I gulped one last draught of this night, of a world so big as to render this small sphere of humanity silent and insignificant. The secrecy of that night’s work remains sacred even tonight, decades later.  Only this one thing, this one memory of a hot breeze on a summer’s night remains to bear witness 

I left the night sky to its own, pulling away like a departing lover.  And I left that hot, breezy August night behind, turning again towards the sounds of trouble.

It would be from the lengthening shadows of post-equinox northern latitudes that I would draw my next breath of fresh air.  Forgotten was the squandering laze of equatorial summer.

But… not quite forgotten.  

Not tonight.  

That hot air will never be forgotten.

When the wind shifts

When the winds shift

When the winds from the place where the Great Bear steps from the sea
Ceases to call me
And passes on instead to other folk

When begins the the Winds from where the scorpion pinches the Scales of Balance
I sniff at the new scent, and look up to the heavens.

My name had been called
By the Herdsman, the Ox Driver
The Bear Guardian points
Beneath his Staff flows the river of air, and in it is borne the report, warnings, tidings.
And maybe… maybe if I knew that language better, maybe a portent.
Or an Omen.

Tantalizing fancy of wandering mind
To conjure up the unknown language of a mythical messenger
Or does it?

Or does the Wind bear on its wings
The Words of God?
Does the rhythm and timbre
of the quivering pines
sing a chant
joining my thoughts to the Great Melody
A song from the Creator?

I feel emotions that the new scents trouble, Memories that ring
like the keys of the marimba
Struck, and vibrating,
setting the air to a hum
The combination of memory,
and scent set to a rhythm I seem to already know
Fills my senses

Fills my mind
With what may be
With what could be
With what should be
When the Winds shift
I am called to remember
To return
To balance