The Third Day Excerpt: Meeting Kaja

It had been four years since we’d won the Olympics and I had grown up, I walked with more confidence in my stride as I lived the life of a college student registering for classes, living in a dorm room, attending classes, working on computers, talking with my peers none of whom knew who I was, the anonymity gave me freedom. I had managed to get through almost all four years of University until the day a reporter for the student newspaper discovered me. I was totally unprepared when one day a man came running up to me and said, “you’re Vlad Smirtonev, aren’t you?” But I guess it would have happened sooner or later and I was fatalistic about it. I admitted it right away.
“Yes, I am.”
“The Olympic shooting team captain?”
“Yes, and who are you?” and then he started talking fast making his pitch.
“I’m with the school newspaper, and I was wondering if I could do an interview with you? And maybe we could take a couple of pictures for the article too?”
“I don’t think so, I left that behind a long time ago.”
“It wasn’t all that long ago, and people would really like to know that a national hero goes to the school.” I hesitated, maybe it was my vanity and the reporter sensing my indecision pushed his advantage.
“Look, the photographer is right over there, and we can take the pictures right now.” He waved over to someone on the sidewalk behind us to come over. I turned and I saw her for the first time, Kaja the woman who would become my wife. She was beautiful, a round face with long blond hair cascading down her back, a camera around her neck and her hair falling around it, she walked over smiling, her face shone in the sunlight, or maybe the light emanated from her. The reporter kept talking as I watched her approach us, “and then go to a coffee shop and do the interview before your next class.”
“How do you know…” My thought trailed off, distracted.
“I looked up your schedule. What year are you?”
“This is my last year.”
“How have you managed to remain anonymous?”
“I didn’t want anybody to know so I didn’t talk about it. I just wanted to be like everyone else here.” When she walked up I asked, “you’re the photographer?”
Her answer was a simple, “yes.”
“This is Kaja.” The reporter said, knowing he had me.
“Well…, I guess I could talk to you.”
“Great!” The reporter said, “let’s do the pictures.” He stepped out of the way and I smiled at Kaja as she aimed the camera and with the bright flashes of light the pictures were taken and the memory of the interview washed out of my mind.

Then coincidence, or synchronicity or plain fate intervened. That same night I went to a party, the house was jammed with people. I was off talking in the living room with a group of my friends, when from across the room I saw Kaja come in the front door. She was dressed in a white peasant blouse and black jeans. I kept my eye on her as she talked with her friends until finally she was off by herself and I could pry myself away from my friends.
“It looks like we were destined to meet again,” I said.
“Or to meet,” she giggled. Looking into her gray eyes I could see forever. I could see the future, our future. Her smile was the sun and brightened the room, and for the first time in my life I was filled with hope for the future. “You’re the gun enthusiast, right?”
“Well, it was a little more than that,” I said.
“I know, I’m just teasing a little. Mikal is a big fan and when he found out you were at the school, he made it his mission in life to hunt you down. So, you were on the Olympic shooting team?”
“I was the captain of the team.”
“Does that mean you’re the best?”
“One of the best. Not many people in the world can shoot better than me.”
“What made you so good?”
“A lot of natural ability, good hand eye coordination, and a father who was glad I was good at any sport.”
“Do you still shoot?”
“I thought I did the interview this afternoon?”
“Well, you didn’t answer the question.”
“No, I put that part of my life away after the Olympics. I thought it was time to do something else with my life, it was something I was good at, but not my life.”
“So at the risk of asking a clichéd question, what’s you major?”
“Computers, they’re the future, and I want to be part of the future.”
“And you couldn’t be, in shooting?”
“I guess I could be a coach, but it’s a lot of politics and I had six years of politics and politicians on the national team.”
“What’re you going to do after graduation? Design computers?”
“No, I don’t think I’m smart enough for that I guess I used all my natural ability on shooting, but I’m good with my hands so I can fix them, maybe have a shop and sell them.”
“When are you going to open your shop?”
“After graduation, for my services to the state I got a scholarship for University and a small stipend to get me started in life.”
“You gave better answers to me than to Mikal.”
“I didn’t want to talk to him, I only agreed to the interview when I saw you.” She smiled, she was clearly impressed and flattered by what I had said.
“What about you?” I asked, “are you going to be a photographer?”
“Sure!” She said, confidently, “Kaja Valorc girl photographer! Sounds like it comes straight out of a comic book.” We both laughed at the joke, as only two people can who are sharing a private joke and a private language that lovers speak in, “it’s maybe not as ambitious as you, but I could see myself working on a magazine or newspaper.”

We spent the rest of the night talking to only each other looking into each others’ eyes. As the night progressed slowly the crowd thinned out, and we sat on the couch in the living room, talking and holding hands until we were the only two left. About two or three in the morning the hostess came in, she wasn’t angry she only smiled tiredly at us.
“Kaja, I’m going to bed if you two leave, can you lock the door on the way out?”
“Sure,” Kaja said, “we’re only going to stay a little longer anyway.”
“Or you can stay the night.” She turned out the light in the other room, and we were bathed in a soft light and everything that followed seemed to be happening in a gauzy impressionistic film, like in the movies. We talked until we couldn’t talk anymore, and we stretched out on the couch holding hands until we fell asleep. The next morning we awoke on the couch still holding hands. It was the most beautiful night of my life. As we awoke I noticed that her makeup had worn off and for a brief moment I was taken aback, not all looks are classical, Greek in symmetry or precision, parts of her face, taken out of context she might not be pretty but as a whole she had context. but the moment passed and I saw the true beauty in her. In that moment you also catch a glimpse of yourself reacting to our superficial ideas of beauty, but you quickly forgive yourself when you let these superficiality’s wash away and you see her and the underlying beauty that is there, and the makeup was only magnifying the beauty that is always there. I could see myself waking up to her every morning. The night seemed to take us out of ourselves, out of time, we became immortal, at least for a little while. Later when I told her of this feeling she said, “it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Although I hadn’t known her very long, and we hadn’t had much of a chance to talk of many things I felt comfortable with her like I’d known her and about her for a very long time.

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Words to the Ether

Words to the Ether

I

I wanted to give you the world you want.
I gave you words & worlds
To believe.
You returned those gifts
w/ gilded ignorance.

There is no faith
For the faithless.

II
I grew up in an ideal world,
I played in the grass,
The tree’s
& the streets.
I looked to the stars
& dreamed
Of the world to come.
I was brought magic.
This Eden was childhood
I want to return to that Eden,
But I can’t.

III
I was brought magic
By the words
Of my ancestors
& it changed me forever.
You know their names
Carved in your mind
Waiting for me to join them.

Xmas

XMAS
Merry and I were sitting around in her room listening to Rolling Stone’s and Marianne Faithfull albums. Merry was sitting on her bed with her legs tucked up under her, a magazine in her lap, her head bowed over it. She looked either as if she were praying or about to go off on the nod. Her anorexically thin arms were scarred over from where she had etched Nazca like lines. The Stones and Marianne Faithfull were two of her obessions. I could only guess at the others.

I was sitting on the floor, picking at the label on my beer, watching her not talk to me, wondering how I got myself into this. It had been my idea to get together. I wanted to tape some stuff off her albums, I’d finished that, but that was only the reason I got in, the excuse. I’d been trying to figure out what her trip was for a while. Was I her boyfriend? Did I want to be? I wasn’t sure. She alternately attracted and repelled me, and at the moment her personality was the diametric opposite of her name. But I didn’t really care about that or any of the other things. What I wanted to do was get up on the bed and fuck her, but she was never interested in sex, which had got me wondering about her in the first place. Then there were her parents, out there, looming somewhere beyond the closed door. In my imagination her mother was right outside the door ready to pounce at the first untoward sound.

My imagination was starting to get the better of me. It was beginning to feel as if time had stopped in here, you couldn’t tell it was Christmas Eve. I was intent on escaping a family gathering and the intrigue it included. I’d heard all my uncle’s stories and what they thought of each other, and it was starting to feel like the hypocrisy of the season. I took a final swallow of my now warm beer that I had been nursing for an hour, or at least what had felt like an hour.
“You should try Sushi,” she said, suddenly.
“What?” I asked, the words felt foreign, then I recognized what the words meant. “Oh, yeah, I’d like to…some time. Do you want to get another beer or something?” I asked, now not really concerned if her mother was right outside the door or not, I just needed to get out of that room to make sure the rest of the world still existed. It was beginning to feel like a matter of survival. She picked up her glass that had contained Jack Daniels and looked at it and made the major discovery it was empty.
“Yeah, sure let’s go.”

When she opened the door there was a moment of decompression, relief. In the living room, everything was as I left it when I had come in. The Christmas tree stood blinking and glittering in a far corner, with a nativity scene under it, the presents set around it with care. Manufactured frost limned the edges of a bay window. Facing the tree and the TV her father sitting in a brown recliner watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for god knows how many times that night, a highball on an aluminum TV tray at his side.
‘The perfect Christmas scene,’ I thought to myself. It looked like he hadn’t moved since I’d gone into Merry’s room, or maybe it was a remnant of the time distortion I’d been feeling. He didn’t say anything as we walked by and into the kitchen.

The kitchen was warm and filled with the smell of golden baking breads. I had brief flash of my mother baking for a Christmas past, the smell of cinnamon and yeast in the air, her hands dusted with flour and the sticking remains of dough. Merry’s mother was preparing their Christmas dinner. I quickly sat down at the kitchen table not wanting to take a chance that Merry may want to beat a hasty retreat back to her room. She took the bottle of Jack Daniels off the top of the refrigerator.
“You want some?” She asked me.
“No, just a beer would be cool.” She handed me one of the beers I had brought with me, put some ice in her glass and poured herself another Jack Daniels. I had planned on being drunk by now, but thanks to Merry’s preoccupation with whatever magazine she had been reading I fell behind. I took a couple big swallows of the beer not only to catch up but to relieve some of the tension, or at least something that felt like action.
“So, John,” Merry’s mother said, “what are you doing for Christmas? Are you having any relatives over?” I wondered if she was just being conversational, or was it a subtle motherly hint that I should be leaving soon?
“No,” I said, starting to pull nervously at the edge of the beer’s label, “on Christmas Eve we all go to my grandmother’s, all my aunts and uncles are there, we have dinner.”
“Oh, what do you have?”
“Uh, usually roast, shrimp, lots of baked things.”
“That sounds nice. Merry’s aunt Susie is coming tonight.” Merry finished her drink and got up to get another.
“You want another beer?” She asked from the refrigerator.
“No.” I said, tilting up the half filled beer I had left. Her mother looked concerned.
“Merry, shouldn’t you go easy on that, you’re starting to get drunk, what’ll John think?”
“Mother, it’s Christmas, and this is only my third one.”
“And the two before John got here.” I felt the room pressurizing.
“Haven’t I given up everything else?” My ears perked up, I was pretty sure the “everything else” was heroin. Merry had always talked about heroin like she had some personal experience with it. She’d get this faraway mystical look in her eye like she was recalling some long lost love. When I’d ask Merry about it specifically, she’d become elusive. “This is the only thing I have left.”
“Yes, honey, I know and we’re all proud of you, but it’s not polite to get drunk in front of your company. And you don’t want to be drunk when your aunt arrives, do you?” Her mother looked more concerned than angry, but Merry was glaring at her mother. Was this a last stand, or just another clash in a continuing war between them? When had it started? When Merry was a child? When her main armament became heroin? I tried to fathom what pain had caused Merry to try and numb it out with heroin. Her family didn’t seem that much different from mine, a comfortable home, and nice things, and her mother seemed caring. The room was quiet as they stared at each other in concern and defiance. I was afraid to move for fear the chair might squeak, and their attention and stares would focus on me. I was starting to feel trapped again, with a door in plain sight, but so far away. If I could make a break for it could I get through the door before they wrestled me back into the chair? I downed the rest of my beer so I would have a reason to get out of there. I realized I didn’t want to know the answers. Better my family, and skirmishes I understood. My family seemed downright functional to me.

I put the empty beer down HARD. “Well,” I said, awkwardly, “I better go.”
“Are you sure? You don’t have to go.” Her mother said, “you’re welcome to stay, Merry will get out of this mood.” Merry stood there defiantly.
“No, really, I have to go,” I said, “to my grandmother’s, they’re expecting me.”
“Here take the rest of your beer,” she said, opening the refrigerator.
“No, that’s all right,” I said, just wanting to beat a hasty retreat.
“Well, have a Merry Christmas, John.”
“You too. Merry Christmas.” As an after thought I added “I’ll see you later Merry.”

I walked out into the yard. The world was different now, it was snowing hard and had been for a while everything was covered with the first snow of the year. I tilted my head up and watched the snow falling out of the void of the night, it was dizzying. I felt the cool flakes as they landed and dissolved on my skin. There was preternatural silence as if nature itself realized the solemnity of the night. I felt warm, I wanted to run, make snow angels, build snowforts, have snowball fights, the pressure that was inside had lifted. It felt like the moment existed outside of time, if I just stayed here time would stand still and the moment would exist forever, but I realized it couldn’t, sooner or later reality, time, life would reassert itself. I walked to my car, and stopped wanting the moment to last just a bit longer. I listened to the silence of the falling snow. It was Christmas.

Fiction

Fiction
By Jim Cherry

One of Jim’s students raised their hand.
“Yes?”
“Mr. Cherry, why aren’t you a writer?” The student was talking about the stories he read in class, stories of his youth, stories he’d written when he did have literary ambitions, and he’d had adventures to make into stories. Once he had opened the sluice gates of his imagination where he wrote so hotly that he had to carry notebooks around with him so the words wouldn’t get away from him. Stories all his friends told him were great and that he should write a book. He did write a book, a novel, and now it sat in his “files,” an affectation he picked up from his literary hero’s. But he didn’t work on it any more. He hadn’t read it in a long time, he didn’t even think about it much any more.
“I did write a little,” he said, answering the girl’s question. “But I discovered as a writer I was a much better teacher, and that it was more rewarding teaching you guys about Hemingway and Fitzgerald.” He wondered if the answer satisfied them. He wondered if the answer satisfied him.

He closed the door of his apartment behind him and he turned on the TV. Some people sat in bars nursing their broken dreams drinking, trying to forget the promises of their youth, their promises to themselves. Others drowned that misery in a sea of possessions, a big house, all the best cars, stereos, Blu-Ray players, iPods all that money can buy. But television was his drug of choice, it numbed him. Numbed him against the flood of images from his subconscious, quieted the riot of voices that sought release through him.

The television flickered vacant images against the wall of the next room, Jim fell across his bed like a sailor washed ashore on a desolate beach. He stared up into the milky blankness of the ceiling. He closed his eyes and hoped for sleep. The lives of his literary hero’s their shadows cut deeply across his life and imagination, he lived their adventures, attended their parties, loved with them, he could see the far off life he dreamt of for himself. His new book being released by a major publisher to critical and popular acclaim, being interviewed by the major newspapers and magazines, the interviewer hanging off his every word. Book signings with a line of people trailing through the store, all waiting for him. The movie deals for his books sitting on his desk waiting for him to sign. The lunches with agents and attorneys and when his cell phone rang excusing himself and taking the call.

He could also imagine the fantasy of the writer. When he had a few minutes to himself to think, he imagined for himself a life as a teacher, teaching plan laid out if front of him, safe in the security of teaching of those he admired, safe from the ire of critics, no publishers demanding his new manuscript, he dreamed of how he should have taken the simpler path in life.

Jim woke up, in that night he dreamed all the possible futures, living those lives to their fullest, reveling in their glories while feeling their failures. The poetry of these fictions and truths gone like a ghost in the morning light of the rational. He sighed and realized he was still here, it was still his life, he had to get ready for work again, to teach. It had all seemed so close, so real, like he could almost touch that other life, that he could insert himself into that life, but it was dream, it melted like sugar in the realization it was a little wish fulfillment displayed like a movie flickering against the walls of his movie mind. Or was it? Maybe this life was the dream? A waking dream of the writer of what his life could have been like? He heaved another sigh. He didn’t know. Metaphysics bows before reality or at least before the work a day world. He had to push such dreams to the side to get dressed, go to work, teach kids, and all day wondering which was the dream? And which was the fiction?

The Third Day -the first five pages

Vlad was lying in the rubble of a bombed out building amid the chunks of concrete and twisted steel. The buildings look like tattered paper, their facades ripped off and their interiors exposed, furniture still inside and the rooms look strangely like doll houses, blocks of concrete with steel sticking out of them twisted into abstract sculptures of war. Bricks and concrete pour into the streets like frozen streams. All shades of gray, black and whites, war bleeds the color out of life.

Vlad wasn’t trying to blend into the rubble so much as to become part of the rubble. His rifle jutted out in front of him looking like nothing more than an errant piece of pipe. His face was caked in dust, his lips were parched and cracked “Pfft”. He spat out some concrete dust as soundlessly as he could. He lowered his head back to the sights of his rifle. If someone spotted him up here they’d send a patrol to flush him out. He had a vision of an armed militia bursting through the door to the roof, machine guns blazing as Vlad scrambled across the rubble like a wounded spider trying to get away until his body gave out to the invasion of the bullets, and fall dead. The crimson of his blood pooling on the gray-white powdered plaster before soaking in, and absorbed away until it became nothing more than a dark blotch, part of the lifeless color of war. Even worse, he imagined all someone on the street below had to do was simply aim and fire a rocket launcher toppling what was left of the ravaged building. These scenes played over and over again in his mind like a movie.

The sky was starting to lighten to a robin‘s eggshell blue, he could hear the twitterings of the first birds of morning, the sound of the birds, the last remnant of when life had been normal. Sarajevo is a beautiful ancient city of traditions, culture and history. It looks like any other European city. A Platz at the city’s center, ancient architecture, balconies lined with plants, the streets, empty at this time of day. Along with that history came rivalries that were long submerged and simmered for generations, and when the lid was thrown off, war came. Vlad saw a mangy looking dog sauntering down the street, stopping occasionally to forage in the rubble, suddenly the peaceful morning is shattered by the first gunfire of the day, the dog’s head snaps up looking in the direction of the gunfire, his ears perked up, at the sound of the next volley of gunfire the dog scampers off.
“Even a dog has sense enough to avoid war.” Vlad thought to himself.
No more of the birds would be heard either that day Vlad knew, leaving not silence, but an eerie emptiness.

This was the third morning he was lying in wait. The third morning without sleep. The third morning without eating. The third morning without a cigarette. The third morning without his wife, his daughter. And the third morning of going over the events that brought him here to kill his best friend, his life had become an act of remembering.

The last argument I had with my wife before I left, we were in our kitchen trying to keep our voices down so our daughter wouldn’t hear us fighting. My wife Kaja, she had no make-up on, her blond hair cut short, her clothes were worn but assembled for as much style as possible, she looked haggard from the deprivations of the war, she was still beautiful the war hadn’t taken that away.
“Why does it have to be you Vlad?” She demanded.
“Because no one else can, no one else knows him like I do. Maybe I’ve been stalking Janus all my life, or maybe providence put me here to study him, someone to know his habits, traits, idiosyncrasies, to be the balance to his counter balance.” What I had said was true, and with each passing day it became more and more true, it seemed I was put next to Janus for a reason. Even from the beginning we were destined to be friends or rivals, we were a little bit of both.

I was thirteen when me and the other members of the national shooting team first heard of Janus. It was a time of great hope in our lives we were training for the Yugoslavian national shooting team. I had been recruited because I was thought to have been one of the best shots in Yugoslavia, but so had the other members the team, it was a great honor for us to be chosen. I was elected captain of the team because I was the best shot on the team, maybe in all of Yugoslavia. We heard rumors of Janus before we ever met him. He was rumored to be the best shot in his province, and that he never missed.

One day shortly after that, we were out in the woods, our training field carved out of the forest, we were surrounded by lush, verdant trees. We were practicing on the firing line with our targets at the end of a rope and pulley system to deploy and retrieve the human shaped targets from the far end. We were all dressed in the team uniform, navy blue sweat pants with a white polo type shirt with the National emblem over our hearts. We were all shooting as one of the coaches walked down the line.
“Krystof!” He barked at one of my teammates, “aim at what you’re shooting at, don’t point the rifle and hope for the best!” We were of course the best shots in Yugoslavia, so we knew enough this was just a coaching tactic to motivate us. The coaches were all of the same mold, barrel-chested bullies, aggressive and belligerent, some ancient idea it would make men out of us. They acted as if they were drill sergeants and we their recruits. They thought they would tear us down and rebuild us in their image, they parsed out their praise for only what they couldn’t refute, excellence. It was our talent that made us rebels, we mocked and mimicked the coaches when none were around.
“Tomko! You’re not holding your breath as you squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk it!” and as he walked farther down the line I could hear him getting closer, “Ranko! Concentrate on what you’re doing! You can’t bully the bullet into the bullseye!” The coach got to the end of the firing line where I was just as I had finished my shooting and had retrieved my target. He grabbed it from me as I took it off the line and held it up as he looked it over. I could see the light shining through the holes, it was almost perfect only one errant hole outside of the bullseye.
“Vlad! Your shooting is exemplary!” I remember the coach in his overblown tones, “the head coach is right, someday you’ll lead this team to Olympic gold medals. Boy’s come look!” My teammates gathered round and all admired my shooting. It was then the head coach brought Janus out to the practice field.
“Boys! Boys! Settle down,” he said, “I want you to meet the newest member of our team, Janus. Janus is a remarkable marksman and I’m sure will be a leader in our goal to win at the ‘76 Olympics. Vlad as team captain you will make sure Janus is welcomed and acclimated to our team.”
“Yes sir.” The coaches stepped back and there was an awkward moment, he was dressed in a black leather jacket and a white button down shirt with far too wide of a collar, the fashion at the time. In the future the brilliant white shirt and black leather jacket would be a trademark of his, he was already developing his style. Janus saw my practice target.
“Not bad,” he said, looking at the target, “I bet I can shoot better than that.” Ranko being a friend and faithful to the team said, “Vlad is the captain of the team, and the best shot.”
“Are you the captain because you’re the best shot?”
“The team voted me captain.”
“Then it is an honorary title?”
“Let’s see what you can do.” I said, handing him my rifle. As I sent the target down to the far end of the firing line he said, “Your sights are a bit off but I think I can compensate for it.” Then Janus shot and when he pulled back his target, the bull’s eye was in shreds, five shots through the bull’s eye, it was clean; NO other holes.
“You always shoot like that?”
“Always.” There was another awkward silence then he said, “Let’s shoot again!” Because we had nothing else in common we shot, that was how it always ended. I shot well, Janus shot better, perfect.

Pete Townsend is Wrong, or Let’s All Sell Out

Pete Townsend is wrong! He’s sold Who songs for use in commercials. For someone who, as a member of The Who, satirized the idea on the album “The Who Sell Out” the satire has become sad reality. Townsend has justified the selling of the songs with the roar “It’s my song. I do what the fuck I like with it.” The problem is what if the original owners object?

Who are the original owners of songs written by Townsend, The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Clash, The Moody Blues (the list could go on for pages)? We are. We’re the ones that originally bought these songs. We paid for these works of art, buying them in albums, CDs and in live concert settings. We’ve given rock artists a lifestyle that is the envy of their fans, a rock and roll lifestyle has even become a cliché for a lavish, if not decadent lifestyle. The artist, our proxy, is living out our rock and roll dreams and fantasies.

Art, once it’s released, has the nasty habit of becoming more than the artist intended. Rock and roll has became the soundtrack to the living movie of our lives. The audience imbues the songs with meaning beyond the music or the lyrics. Perhaps the words and music helped us experience the world in a different or a new way, striking a chord within us that we related to on a purely emotional level. Perhaps it had a more visceral effect. We listened to the music while we were high and it helped expand our perspectives, or maybe we were listening to the song when we kissed our first girlfriend or had sex for the first time. Maybe when some were on foreign battlefields and it’s the music that reminded them of home, or made the fight for survival tolerable. What is Townsend’s reaction to this? He is totally dismissive of his fans that have supported him for over fifty years with the quip, “I don’t give a fuck about the first time you kissed Susie.” When we bought your albums, CDs and tickets we invested in you, and what you said it stood for, art.

The reason for the artist wanting to sell his songs to corporations, whether it’s to replenish their retirement plan, exposure, loss of control of their catalog, or even simple greed are less important than the reasons the corporations want these songs. You have to ask yourself why would corporations want songs that include themes of rebellion against authority, personal freedom, alienation, violence, sex, or any of the myriad other themes that have been incorporated into rock music over the past 50 years?

Corporations want these songs because they come with a built in audience. Not only do they bring an audience, but the music carries a resonance with the audience that elicits an emotional response to it that is far beyond what any jingle or pre-fabricated music could elicit, and corporations are eager to exploit the audience, artist and message.

Art, rock and roll in particular, as used in commercials waters down and trivializes the original message and artistic intent. If corporations can assimilate a rock song into their corporate fold they can control the message and make that message cease to be dangerous. The Clash song “Should I Stay or Should I Go” which is about catching your girlfriend with another man and the repercussions of choosing to stay and confront the situation or leaving. Now, as used in a commercial, that choice of staying or going is reduced down to going to your high school reunion. The original intent, meaning and connotation is trivialized in the listener’s mind and the far less dangerous message of consumption is instilled, and the only thing that has left is The Clash’s punk credentials.

The Jet Factor
One of the arguments for bands, especially newer bands to sell their music to commercials is for exposure. The theory being a national audience hears your music on a commercial and like it so much they’re inspired to buy it and become fans of the band. But does that actually happen? The best example of this is the band Jet and their song “Are You Gonna’ Be My Girl?” After it was released in 2003 it was used in 2-3 commercials and on the soundtracks of several movies. If by the logic of doing it for the exposure, Jet should be one of the biggest bands around today. As well all know, they aren’t. After the initial flash of exposure Jet is no longer a force on the musical scene, at least in a high profile manner, and are more an answer in a trivia game than a viable band. Others that got a first flash of success such as Sara Barellis and Dirty Vegas very quickly met the same fate as Jet. So like waiting for American Idol to deliver it’s first actual American idol, we’re still waiting for a commercial advertisement to launch its first star. Why hasn’t commercial advertising broken a star yet? Commercials have put the name of the artist on the commercials but very quickly discontinued the practice? Why? Because commercials aren’t about the art or the music, they’re about selling a product which has nothing to do with the music.

Want to be Branded?
The trend of the last few years is the urging of “experts” telling us if you want to be successful develop your brand, establish your brand, as if this were a good thing. Let’s not forget what a brand is, the sign of the owner burned into the flesh of their property. For corporations who wish to use rock and roll songs in their commercials, this is exactly what the corporations want to do, establish the music as the property of the corporations and to control the music of rebellion and freedom. The message of the song becomes the message the corporation chooses, and however they choose to use it. The artist becomes a de facto spokesman for the corporation, endorsing the product or philosophy the corporation wishes to impart. How then will an artist reclaim their integrity and message?

Literature
The commercialization of art isn’t limited to popular music, contemporary literature has also come into the sights of the corporations. In the recent past ideas have been floated about corporations subsidizing high profile writers by paying for product placement, much as in the movies, or having actual ads in the front or backs of books. If that were to happen what is to stop a corporation from approving ‘the message’ of book or ‘asking’ a writer to change the message, or tone down any aspect of a book they didn’t like? Would a book like “1984” ever be published again?

Corporations have also tried to assimilate writers words and images into their message. Jack Kerouac, a beat writer whose works espouse personal freedom and rightly indicts consumerism as a factor in the loss of those freedoms, has had his image used in ads for Khaki pants. More recently Chrysler has used a poetic passage from Kerouac’s “On The Road” which at the end equates the passage with great gas mileage! A more banal misuse or twisting of Kerouac’s words cannot be imagined. But the corporations would prefer you to listen to their MPG message than Kerouac’s rhapsodizing of the freedom of the road and of finding adventure and personal experience in life, which to Kerouac are priceless and give meaning to life.

One of the accusations against Western society, especially American culture in particular, is that it has no history, no culture. In the last hundred years America has come of age. America has developed its artists in every discipline, painting, music, literature, architecture. The last century started a period of American exploration into art, if allowed to continue who knows what heights it may attain? If we’re bold, perhaps a new period of American creativity may rival that of the Renaissance. Artistically America is starting to accrue a nice body of work, but if we let it become a culture for sale, a consumer product with corporations controlling the message we have accomplished nothing except to consume ourselves. If we let corporations have their way, maybe someday in the future we’ll all be going to see Pepsi’s Mona Lisa.

Sources: “The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial” by John Densmore, pages 115-116. “Pete Townsend Gets His Wish” http://www.notbored.org/townsend.html

The Captured Dead

Comancheria 1874

The dark of the night pressed in around the warriors, save the light of the fire carving a shelter out of the liquid darkness that surrounded and threatened to drown them. Each was dressed in brightly colored shirts of red, yellow or blue buckskin. Medicine shirts the shaman Isatai had given them. They huddled around the fire looking glum. They couldn’t even look at each other. All they could do was stare into the flames. It was early June, it must have been warm, but they all huddled in close to the fire trying to gain its warmth. The white man had driven them to this, into the night.
“Why are you not dancing, celebrating?” Isatai asked. “What you have done today is a very brave thing.”
“We did a terrible thing, the wasichu will kill us all.” Said one warrior.
“It will bring the soldiers.” Said another.
“They will outnumber us, and their bullets are faster than our arrows.”
“Have you no faith?” Isatai asked, “did not the medicine shirts I’ve given you protect you from the wasichu bullets today?”
“They were farmers, gatherers not warriors.”
“The soldiers are many. Like the buffalo were, now are the soldiers.”
“Did I not predict the drought? Did I not ascend to heaven to visit the great spirit and look down on the wasichu’s god? The great spirit gave me the power to defeat the wasichu. And yet you do not believe?” The warriors all sat, unbelieving. “I will show you. Look into the flames and you will see.” Isatai started chanting, drums pounding, the rhythm gathered and met the beat of their hearts, and that sound matched their thoughts. It was one sound they could hear, then they felt a deep pounding of hooves vibrating through their bodies. As they stared into the fire they saw the face of a great buffalo, its mane, flame. It grew in their eyes, engulfing them in its spirit, the vision raced through their hearts like an engine. They believed. “What we have done today will bring the soldiers.” Isatai said, “the dead will come to protect us.”

The wagon train wandered aimlessly over the prairie like a ghost ship over the hard brown ground. The horses followed the trail etched into the hard earth by countless other wagon trains almost imperceptible to man’s eyes. Most couldn‘t see it until they were shown the signs. They pulled their loads of wagons and supplies inevitably forward, without destination. Its destiny to never arrive. The Indian scout didn’t see any of the settlers through his spy glass, he handed it to the General on the horse next to him. Sherman looked through the spyglass, surveying the horizon. He didn’t see anything other than what was there, desert. More scrub than brush, he thought as he surveyed the horizon.
“Nothing there.” he said, handing the spyglass back to the scout.
“The horizon that’s where the visible world meets the invisible world.”
Sherman’s grizzled countenance looked like he was perpetually in pain, his beard seemed more a moss that covered the crags of his face. He pulled at the top button of his blouse. Summer was coming and it was getting hot. Puffs of dust billowed out of everything with just a touch, the leather of his saddle creaked as he unconsciously adjusted himself. He was more used to life in the saddle, and the trail, of campaigns, too many and bloody. What he’d seen in his years in the war between the states, what he had done to win the war, some vilified him as a criminal, others a hero. The war had carried him to the edge of madness and back. He imagined it had pushed some of his enemies over that barrier. His mind had become hardened by the horrors of war, but the Union still existed and that’s all that counted. Now he had another job to do, another war. Not a declared war in the way the war between the states was, but a war nonetheless. End the Indian problem, get them on reservations or kill them as renegades. He was here to finish the job and finish it he would. The scout with him was wearing a blue blouse, stripped of all insignias. The Indian scouts liked wearing the blouse, it made them feel like they were soldiers. Some even wanted to be sworn in, so he swore them in. It didn’t matter a bit, it was an illusion Sherman could live with and the Indians thought they were soldiers. The Indian wore the blouse open to the waist, as a savage will. Underneath a necklace and some trinkets, he had two feathers braided in his unkempt hair. Sherman looked at the scout contemptuously.
“Is there something wrong?” The scout asked.
“No. I just don’t understand why you help us track down your own people.”
“The renegades are not our people they’re of a different tribe.”
“You’re all Indians.”
“Do you not get along with members of other nations? Do you not fight amongst your own people?” Sherman had hunted down a fair amount of his own people in the war. Some were even friends from the Point. How could you make a savage mind comprehend the difference between war and betrayal?
“Sir, it must not have happened long ago, the wagons are still grouped closely together, the horses haven’t pulled them all over tarnation.” Sherman signaled his adjutant, who gave the command “forward!” The company moved towards the ghostly wagon train in unison behind Sherman like a snake moving across the desert.

The soldiers approached the wagon train cautiously, expecting an ambush. The wagon train a mere lure to pull them in and in the course of trying to figure out what had happened, out of nowhere the warriors would appear. Coming within eyesight of the wagon train it looked abandoned. They could see the arrows everywhere, in the canopies of the wagons, in the wooden planking, and in the flanks of horses. As the soldiers came alongside the wagons they could see the buckboards were awash in blood.
“God almighty, lookit all that blood. How could they survive that?”
“Quiet in the ranks!” Sherman barked. “Where are the dead? They usually leave them where they fall. Colonel Mackenzie, take a squad of men and back track, see if you can find where the savages attacked.”
“Yes, Sir!” Mackenzie saluted smartly and motioned to a few men and they galloped off in the direction the wagon train had come from. Sherman motioned to the scout.
“Look in those wagons, see what’s left behind.” The scout jumped off his horse and looked into the back of the nearest wagon. When he turned back to Sherman he was somber, “they’re in there.”
“Who?
“The people, they’re dead.” Sherman motioned to another man.
“Check all the wagons!” Soldiers galloped to the wagons looking in, then a few jumped off their mounts, looked ashen and fell to the ground retching. A sergeant went to a lieutenant and whispered something to him. Sherman watched all this from atop his horse waiting for the lieutenant to make his report. The lieutenant approached Sherman, he was grim faced.
“They’re all there, sir, they’re all dead. They crammed all the bodies into the wagons, sir. They twisted their legs, and bent over torsos to make them fit.”
“Your men have never seen the dead?” Sherman asked.
“It’s worse sir.”
“Worse?”
“They mutilated them. They chopped off their privates and stuffed them into their mouths. Some are disemboweled with their intestines draped over them. I think one has the top of his head chopped off and his brains scooped out.”
“I’ll never understand the Indian mind.” Sherman said. “When did this happen?“
“By the ripeness of the bodies sir, some time yesterday.”

Sherman’s adjutant, Colonel Mackenzie, whom Sherman had dispatched to back track the wagon train returned pulling his horse up short of the general.
“Sir, it wasn’t that far back the attack occurred, all we found were some arrows in the ground and pools of congealed blood.”
“That’s all right Mackenzie we found them, look in the wagons.” Then almost absently, to no one, Sherman muttered “I wonder what made them do this?”
“They wanted us to find them.” The scout said.

Sherman rode at the head of the column as they headed back across the desert floor towards their encampment. The orange sun was hanging low in the sky. In the distant haze Sherman saw dust being kicked up like something big was behind it, he squinted, but couldn’t see through the haze any better.
“Give me that spyglass.” he said holding out his hand, knowing without even having to think about it that the order would be obeyed. The scout handed Sherman the spyglass, he opened it and looked in the direction of the haze. All he could see was a wall of dust. He peered into the gloom, suddenly it parted. He could see the brown bulk of buffalo behind the dust, bobbing up and down like a living locomotive. There shouldn‘t be a herd that big this far south he thought to himself. But he could almost hear the pounding thunder of hooves, and the thrumming vibration in his chest. He saw the mane of the lead animal, he couldn’t be sure, he looked again, he thought the mane was aflame, but it couldn’t be. Still it looked like the herd was heading straight towards them. He thought the buffalo was looking him right in the eye, that it would run right through him. “We better find camp before that herd runs us down.”
“Herd?” The scout asked, “herd of what?”
“That buffalo herd.” Sherman said pointing out to the plain.
“Sir, there isn’t a herd of buffalo anywhere near here.” When he looked out at the plain again he saw nothing. What he had seen or thought he saw seemed to have evaporated into the haze of the setting sun. The wall of dust had disappeared leaving only the fading sun.

Among a grove of pitched tents, Sherman’s stood larger than the others. It doubled as his field command center and would be considered by his men luxurious with a cot, desk, and a couple of canvas field chairs. Sherman sat outside the tent in one of the chairs. The night on the plain was a dark blanket of night that was only cut through by the camp fire’s light. He stretched out his legs towards the fire, a tin of coffee in one hand, cigar in the other. He mulled over what he’d seen on the desert earlier in the evening. It couldn’t have been a herd of buffalo. He thought his eyes must’ve been playing tricks on him, a reflection of the setting sun in the lens of the spyglass, perhaps. Or worse yet, his mind was playing tricks on him again. Maybe the slaughter of the settlers had affected him more than he thought, and it had unsettled his mind…. Sherman had ordered the scout to report to him.
“Are the Comanche that committed that atrocity upon those homesteaders near here?”
“I don’t know.”
“What I saw on the desert or what I thought I saw…”
“What did you see?”
“A herd of buffalo.”
“The white man has killed the buffalo, there are no more herds near here.” Sherman growled at the scout, “I know there are no herds near here. I made sure as many of the buffalo are gone as it can get. Have you seen the photograph of the stacked skulls of buffalo, a pyramid of bone on the brown prairie ground? Done on my orders. Kill off the buffalo and you kill off the Indian’s way of life, kill off them.”
“It is said by the shamans of our people that at dusk the horizon is where the visible world meets the invisible.”
“What’s a shaman?”
“What you call a medicine man.”
“Do you know what those renegades may be up to?”
“It’s hard to know what they will do.”
“Do you know if they‘re planning an attack?
“I cannot tell the future.”
“Do you know where those Indians are?”
“It’s a full moon tonight.” Sherman stared at him unknowingly. “If they’re planning an attack they’ll be dancing tonight.”
“I want to reconnoiter them, can we get close to them?”
“Yes.”
Sherman threw his cigar into the ground with a determined look of intensity on his face. “Let’s go take a look.”

Sherman and the Indian scout lay flat on a ledge overlooking the renegade Indian encampment, hoping the darkness would conceal their position. That they would look like part of the rock. They could see the glow of the campfire. It didn’t throw off much illumination to the surrounding area, it was nothing more than a yellow triangle in the sea of darkness. Embers from the fire occasionally popping and shooting up into the night before dying out. Sherman and the scout silently watched the shadow figures as they moved in and out of the light.
“What are they doing?” Sherman asked.
“It looks like they’re getting ready to do the ghost dance, it‘s suppose to bring back the buffalo and….”
“I know what it’s supposed to do.” Sherman snapped tersely, “bring back the buffalo and get rid of the white man.”
“Shhh,” the scout said pointing down to the camp. Sherman saw the figures had stopped moving around the fire and now sat in a circle drumming. They could see their arms moving up and down in rhythmic unison. Soon they heard the sound and chanting. To Sherman there seemed to be a solemnity to it. Then an Indian dressed in ceremonial robes slipped out of a Tipi and began dancing.

The scout watched the dance intently. Then a look of horror overcame the scout.
“We must go now General.”
“What for? It’s just a ghost dance?” Then Sherman saw the look of terror in the Indian’s eyes. He’d seen the look in the eyes of hundreds, maybe thousands of people who thought they were going to die. He had a vague recollection of that fear. “All right then.” The two slowly and carefully crawled back off their vantage point, over sun hardened sand and rock grinding under their bellies as they noiselessly slithered off the overlook. When the two were safely away from the Indian camp the Indian asked.
“General you don’t know about the rest of the Ghost Dance?”
“Yeah, it’s supposed to get rid of the white man.”
“No, there’s more.”
“What more?”
“It’s suppos’ to bring back the dead.”
“Bring back the dead?” Sherman considered that for a moment and then was resolute.
“It’s to break your enemies heart.”
“The south didn‘t break me, no damned Indians are. Let them dance to whatever god they have. We’ll stop them before they can conjure their damned heathen ghosts and spirits. We’ll attack at dawn.”
“You believe in the power of the Ghost Dance General?”
“Hell, no!” Sherman spat out, “but they do and I’ll kill the belief right out of them.”

The next morning Sherman roused the company early, crossing the floor of the desert to meet the group of Comanches to engage them before they had a chance to attack. As they approached they could see the Indians riding out in front, behind them the brown haze he had seen the day before when he saw the herd of buffalo. Sherman stopped, pulled out his field glasses. He saw the heathens had painted on their horror war paint, but the haze wasn’t from their horses. There weren’t enough of them to kick up that much dust, and the haze was farther behind the Indians than it should’ve been even if it was from their horses. It was separate from them, but it was following them! He tried to peer into the haze. Maybe there was a herd of bison here, somehow. He could see movement inside the haze but there was no definition to it, just movement. Sherman made a decision. In one motion he unsheathed his sword, spurred his horse to a gallop and charged! He rode passed the Indians and into the haze. Inside there seemed to be a whole regiment of warriors dressed in their paint and war clothes, screaming their war cries. Sherman galloped straight at the braves, slashing with his sword knocking them off their horses. Something was wrong with these Indians. They smelled of rot and decay, the smell of the dead. Sherman shrugged it off, a battlefield always had the smell of death, and bodies rotting in the sun with drying gore kicked up in the dust by the horses’ hooves. The Indians didn’t look right either, their color was off, even the color of their horses was off. Their color was faded, drab, and the horses breathed vaporous blasts of visible breath. He came close to one and felt it’s breath through his blouse. It froze his skin. There was something repellant about it, of the grave. The Indians weren’t acting right either. When they were knocked off their horses, shot, or wounded with a slash of a sword, they fell and then got back up and continued the fight. Sherman didn’t see any blood, but maybe it was the heat of battle and later he would see the gore. There was one other thing that ran a shiver down Sherman’s spine, he recognized some of the Indians. Indians he had killed in other battles…but that couldn’t be so. Sherman looked up at the surrounding ridge, there on their horses were Indians in full war regalia. He recognized the medicine man and his warriors calmly watching the battle, just watching.

Suddenly the realization of horror passed through his mind, his body shook, ’it couldn’t be.’
Sherman barked out to his bugler, “Sound retreat! Now!” Sherman commanded. The bugler sounded retreat, Sherman pulled on the reins to turn the horse, it reared, whinnying and almost threw him. The horse bolted and Sherman thundered off the field of battle.

Shaken, Sherman sat in his tent drinking whiskey when Mackenzie came in.
“General, you shouldn’t let those heathens get to you. Why did you call a retreat?”
“Didn’t you see them?”
“Yes sir, we saw the Indians. All that happened, as we approached the contingent of warriors, just as we were about to engage them, you spurred your horse, and drew your sword. The Indians moved aside as you charged passed them, then you sounded the retreat and left the field .”
“No.” He said to himself, his mind flooding with questions and answers that he feared, the world pressing down on him. His face frozen in shock as he unconsciously took a step backward away from Mackenzie. Sherman then regained his composure enough to dress down the man, “I never did anything that cowardly! If you repeat an accusation like that again I’ll bring you up on charges of insubordination.”
“Yes sir!”
“Mackenzie, can I ask you something?” Mackenzie stood at attention, eyes straight ahead, “Are those Indians acting right to you?”
“Sir?”
“Those Indians aren’t behaving right. Why are they forming a skirmish line? Usually they ambush, coming out of nowhere and in groups that attack different parts of our line.”
“Maybe they aren’t as savage as we think and they’ve realized it’s a more civilized way to engage your enemy.” Sherman considered for a moment.
“In this terrain? No, ambush is a better tactic. They know this land, know the hidden valleys, ravines, plenty of places to hide. They could attack us seemingly appearing out of nowhere, and disappear again. No…” Then as if hit with a sudden realization, “no, they’re doing it to draw us out…why?” Sherman’s voice and thoughts trailed off. Then he snapped, “get that scout in here!”

A few minutes later the scout appeared at Sherman’s tent. “Come in,” Sherman said, as he paced the small space of the tent, his movements agitated as he nervously spoke.
“Do some Indians paint themselves to look dead?”
“I have never heard of such a thing.”
“You told me the Ghost Dance can bring back the dead. How?”
“How am I to know? I am not a shaman”
“I’ve been seeing things. The herd of buffalo and today Indian warriors I could’ve sworn were dead, but the dead can’t fight.”
“The shaman has many powers we do not understand.”
“Do you expect me to believe that superstitious claptrap that you told me that medicine man is bringing back the dead?”
“I am not a spiritual man, I do not know the spirit world, the shaman does. We have great respect for them.” Sherman glared at him.
“Why do you hate the Indian so much?”
“Because you’re in the way. The Indian needs to be on a reservation so the white man can farm the land and make it useful.”
“It is useful. The buffalo roam the land and we hunt what we need. We are part of the land, not separate from it like you, we‘re connected to it, even the world you cannot see or refuse to see, your people consider it madness.”
“But you don’t use the land constructively. This country is our destiny, the Indian needs to be on a reservation, or be wiped away. They’re supposed to be gone but they aren’t. I’ll make sure they’re gone, I’ll make sure they’re all gone.
“I hear talk your men say your name is after a great Indian leader Tecumseh.”
“Yes, Tecumseh was a great leader my father admired him. He thought naming me after him would imbue those qualities in me.”
“Are you a great leader killing all the people?”

Sherman and the detachment approached the Indian war party. The warriors were dressed in their medicine shirts of blue, red, and yellow and painted for war. Sherman didn’t see the brown haze behind the Indian party and felt more at ease. They continued their cautious approach. Suddenly Sherman saw the haze, it seemed to manifest behind the Indians, highlighting their silhouettes against the cloud. Sherman looked up and down his line of men none of whom seemed to have taken notice of the haze, but he kept his composure. He didn’t call for a charge, he kept calm even though his nerves were like an electric pulse running through him. Suddenly, the Indians in a singularly fluid movement prodded their horses into a gallop. In his own seamless movement Sherman drew his sword from the scabbard, raised it above his head, and simultaneously he and his troops spurred their horses into a charge. As they closed, the Indians started firing their rifles, bullets whizzed past. Sherman’s men returned fire, then the forces clashed and Sherman and his men were in the midst of the Indian war party. There was fighting all around him, but no one came close to him. It was as if he were in a bubble, the fighting raged around him, he passed through the battle, the combatants moved aside like the waters parting for the Israelites. He moved through the Indian war party, but they drew away from him. As he neared the rear he saw the haze, he could see movement, and he was drawn to it. As he got closer, the movement seemed more concrete and then became clear. There was a second skirmish line, but they weren’t Indians they were soldiers in confederate gray. Their uniforms were in tatters, ripped from what looked like bayonet slashes. Holes in the uniforms, the edges of which smoldered as if a hot round had just penetrated the fabric, some of the wounds oozed a blackened gore. The Confederates came towards him, arms outstretched like they were going to pull him off his mount. Suddenly, the horse reared so much that he almost fell off, then he was surrounded by four of his men, the blue blouses reassuring from what was just beyond them. With their help he reined in his usually unflappable horse and led him out of the fray.

Mackenzie escorted Sherman back to his tent. The usually stoic Sherman looked scared down to his soul. Mackenzie maneuvered Sherman through the camp so as few men as possible saw him in this state.
“Thank you Colonel for coming to my assistance in the mass of the enemy.”
“Enemy sir?”
“I was surrounded.”
“Surrounded? The Indians had moved off the field and then we saw your horse rearing like something had spooked it. I sent in a guard to calm the horse. It didn’t look like…” Mackenzie hesitated, not sure how Sherman would receive his report.
“Didn’t look like what?” Sherman asked gruffly.
“If you don’t mind me saying, sir…it just looked like your horse was spooked. If you had fallen you would have been susceptible to attack.”
“You didn’t see the men…dressed in…”
“What sir?”
“Confederate gray, some of them looked like rounds had passed through their clothing.” Sherman saw the uncomprehending look on his adjutant’s face.
“Didn’t you see them? They looked like they weren’t alive, they were dead! We were fighting the dead!”
“The dead sir?”
“You didn’t see those apparitions?”
“We just saw the Indians and none had anything on resembling confederate gray.”
“Am I going mad? It was the curse of my mother’s people, I always feared it. I fought it all my life, but now it may be coming to pass.”
“I’ll call the medic sir.”

The medic gave Sherman some morphine to settle his nerves and help him sleep, but his fevered dreams broke through the drug. He saw a city at a distance, it was silhouetted against the glow of the fire. Flames danced in the night above the city. He could feel the heat from his vantage point. Refugees streamed out of the city like blood from a wound, their clothes singed and burned. Ash fell like a dark snow in the wake of their step, the flames of Atlanta burned in their eyes with their hatred of him. Not far behind them trailed Indians, their eyes charred black with still burning embers visible through cracks and fractures.

Sherman woke bolt upright in his cot, drenched in sweat. He looked around to get his bearings to remember where he was and reassure himself the dream had only been a dream. He swung his legs over the side of the cot, his head in his hands trying to clear the memories, the captured dead of his memories straight out of his mind. The dead of Atlanta still haunting him. He knew they were all dead and they’d stay dead, but they wouldn’t stay dead in his mind. Maybe he really was going insane like some had said. Sherman looked up noticing Mackenzie had been sitting vigil over him.
“How long have you been here Mackenzie?”
“All night sir. The doctor thought it a good idea for somebody to stay with you in case you needed something.”
“I know what’s going to happen tomorrow if we go into battle.”
“At the Point they always said a good strategist always knows what’s going to happen.”
“No, if we, I, go into battle tomorrow the dead of Atlanta will be there to avenge their deaths on me. To the south I was the most hateful person ever to walk the earth. If the devil himself appeared they would have embraced him over me.”
“You shouldn’t let your fears get to you sir.”
“Mackenzie, I’m beyond fear. It borders on madness and that is the truth. The Indian medicine man leading the renegades somehow used the Ghost Dance to bring back the dead to fight us. My dead.”
Reveille broke the morning air.
“Sir, we have to go out and confront those renegades to either capture them and return them to the reservation, or dispatch them. It would be honor if you’d let me lead the command against them.”
“No, Colonel, I know my duty and my orders, wherever they may lead me.”

As Sherman took the field of battle the dusky smell of smoldering, burnt wood and flame filled the air. His horse snorted. Could he smell it too? Sherman could have sworn he saw the glow of fire on the horizon. Sherman saw the haze straight away, and he could see motion in it from a distance, larger than it had ever been before. Like a great mass was concealed within, the mass was roiling, writhing. Beyond it, following the haze, a small contingent of Indians, one Sherman took to be the medicine man attired in a blue medicine shirt. Sherman pulled his sword from the scabbard.
“Take that Indian in the blue medicine shirt alive if possible and the rest will follow.” With that Sherman spurred his horse into a canter. The troop pulled their guns and followed suit. As they approached the haze Sherman could make out individuals within the mass. The dead of Atlanta of every breed, women in hoop skirts, soldiers, negroes their clothes covered with soot, some smoldering. Sherman could see their full necrotic state, burns covered their flesh, skulls indented by falling timbers, skin peeled and hanging from the bone. As he entered the throng, a path opened in front of the regiment until they were in deep and the dead closed behind them. They were surrounded. The dead started grabbing and pulling at his soldiers as they passed, yet they were insensate of those hands and their intentions. But Sherman could feel their pull and was afraid of what would happen if they succeeded in pulling him from his mount. They’d rend him, tear him apart as a bit of cloth. The hands grabbed at him, all he could see were the hands, white, black, red. He felt them on his boots, pulling. More came and he felt the hands on his legs, pulling, each getting a better grip on him. Then the hands were pulling at his blouse, his arms, chest. The dead were merciless. Sherman slashed them with his sword, but the blade passed through as if cutting only a vapor. The hands were on his shoulders, restricting his arms, then hands over his head and face, he felt one last pull and fell to the ground with the ghostly hands and faces pressing in on him. Then, unconsciousness.

Sherman came to on his cot in his tent, the medic was holding smelling salts under his nostrils.
“What happened?” Sherman asked, as he tried to rise the medic gently pushed him back into the cot.
“You suffered a seizure of some sort.” Looking towards the open end of his tent, colonel Mackenzie brought the medicine man in, in chains. He was smaller than Sherman had thought he was, long black hair, the bone necklace at his throat and still wearing the blue medicine shirt. He looked calm.
“We captured all the renegades sir.”
“Very good Mackenzie, what‘s your report?” Sherman asked weakly.
“We surrounded the savages and they surrendered without firing a shot. This one is the medicine man who’s been stirring them all up, promising them he could rid them of white men. He is called Isatai.”
“You really believe you could remove us from this country?”
“I am not like other men.”
“My scouts have informed me you believe your shirts can render you impervious to our bullets?”
“None of our people have been touched by your bullets.”
“How about bringing the dead back?”
“I have done no such thing. You brought them.”
“How did I bring them?”
“I have captured the dead from your soul, those whose deaths have been impressed upon your soul that you have refused to face. I made it so you could face them.”
“But still you’re in chains and you and your people will be taken to the reservation. If you ever leave it again, you will be killed.”
“You can put us in on your reservation, prison, or even kill us, your children may try to steal our religion. Our spirits will always be free. One day we will again roam this country as free as our spirits. There will be more battles of my kind and you will lose, until the invisible world is made visible to you, but you do not understand the nature of the battles. You have no belief.”
“No. Your day has passed. The Indian will be locked away on reservations or you will perish.”
“It is you that is wrong, for the captured dead of your souls will haunt you forever.”