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    Friday
    May062011

    Excerpts from In the Ashes of the Sun 

    Inside the plane men argued with cows and hooves clattered on the steel carriage floor.  One man looked at Sane from the corners of his eyes.  Warm light seeped in through the windows as the flight swung into the radiation of the sun searing hellishly in that sad magenta sky.  The plane passed over the edge of base and bonfire smoke billowed up from the garden of the general’s headquarters where burning sheaves of paper and animal head mounts were piled in flames.  Huge suds of foam rolled in from the wasteland and Sane’s organs constricted in dread as he gazed upon the damp shore.  He scanned the sand where two boys played with the loaded rifle he had left there and they were pretending they were at war.  Further down the stretch of beach, on a small bluff, fresh graves grew upon the grass of a humble cemetery, and from out the doors of the packed chapel soldiers spilt onto the tombstone yard.  Newborn supplicants gathering to hear sermon and dying to be saved, as they believed in God and feared He was coming.  Watching from the plane window Sane spotted the teal tarp covering the equipment he used for the chapel fumigation and he wondered if other species in this world took revenge. 

     

    On the beach a lost child steadied a rifle in a fictional world of war and aimed the barrel at his dodging friend and they laughed.  The kid pulled the trigger and blew open the head of his friend full of imagination and there was screaming gore in red horror and manslaughter and please God no.  Sane looked away to the chapel which was brimming with worshipers and it was obliterated.  The fire smoked black and the chapel ground was a stirring bloodbath where people squirmed with wood planks lodged through their bodies and others flailed around the cemetery burning as pages from the book of life fluttered away in the wind like charred doves.  The blast was audible from the plane, and inside men squeezed toward windows to glimpse the gutted and torched chapel ruin.  Soldiers onboard erupted in commotion and the pilots radioed the base to report the explosion.   Sane knew he would not get away with this and felt spiritless and ill as he turned his blanched face toward the gleaming pink seabed locked in a sunset embrace.  The ocean was gone.

     

    The plane passed above a long pier rooted in the damp, vaporous shore and stray ships and destroyers roped to the pier’s mooring bollards lay tilted and lopsided on the flat sand like toys slackly noosed to gallows.  A distant lighthouse shrunk in isolation on the edge of a succulent headland slope burying into sick mangrove forests, the blend of rocks and plants weaved into the glossy sand in a quilted tessellation.  The shadow of the plane traced through a withering kelp labyrinth sprawled across the wet floor of the missing sea and the long algae stalks spread over the sand and bleached coral reef like witch braids strewn about her bone white skull.  Birds feasting on scampering crustaceans lived in bliss and pecked apart gasping fish, exposing clattering ribcages and raw meat for swarming gnats and flies to devour and nest their larva brood within.  Through the aquatic necropolis shoreside natives stepped, crushing fish bones like eggshells, hauling catch in full dragnets, and exploring the turquoise remnants of sunken ferries and doomed armadas drown centuries ago in the age of the middle passage.

     

    Sewage pipe effluence spilled into a growing cesspool of human waste merging with mounds of plastic in a slow current across the sand of the evaporating abyss toward extinction.  The flowing discharge overcame an expanse of glimmering jellyfish that burned a trail of gold into the manacled sun tortured on the hem of the Earth.  Wayward sea turtles crawled toward the horizon in search for water while stranded sharks and whales inhaled and exhaled gently their last breaths.  On the seafloor a helicopter landed by a submarine to rescue sailors marooned by the universal riptide. 

     

    Further out, a gigantic pit held surviving remnants of the ocean, and the water of the monstrous tide pool rippled bloodred.  Trapped in the volume of this doomsday soup, lashing seabeasts swam mad with fear and claustrophobia and they ripped each other to shreds.  The wailing creatures breathed in blood and there was carnage and the stench of the pit reeked like rotting reptiles.  A whale breached desperately and sprayed crimson from its blowhole and then drifted down in a melody of death.  Slipping up through a film of floating entrails and fins, a colossal tentacle whipped across the surface of the loch, snatching a panicking dolphin and dragging it crying into the frenzy below.  A starfish the size of a tank shuffled out from the edge of the pit and escaped under a bed of wet seaweed. 

     

    The plane flew over other saltwater lakes that broiled metallic orange like fallen pieces of the burning sky and neared an archipelago off the peninsula where little islands resembled tropical boulders in a desert of sand and reef.  Hundreds of natives had abandoned the rocks and were moving inland in a long human chain that snaked across a sandy seafloor channel between the islands.  They walked in wonder past walls of coral and men carried spears and women held their children with perpetual love and the children were not afraid.  A parched and meek nation of seafaring orphans, the column of dark refugees prowled across the trenches of a star-crossed Earth.  They the miserable vagabonds banished from their homeland, they the exile sons of Saturn. 

     

    Set in motion by cosmic fear and primeval instinct, the islanders trekked through soggy ocean sediment like rift valley primates crossing the threshold of enlightenment, occasionally combing the sand for shiny fragments of modern science buried amongst crumbled artifacts of the once epic dynasty from which they fell.  They ignored the decelerating plane approaching overhead.  Onboard, the lieutenant affirmed to the pilots that the migrating natives, whose exodus was not anticipated, were to be the recipients of a food drop.  He demanded the pilots eject the first round of rations immediately and said, “drop it on the goddamn heathens!”  The passengers were instructed to hold on during this act of kindness. 

     

    Sane gripped the seats straps over his shoulders and Violence was hastily rolling a cigarette.  The cargo hold door opened and sunlight and cold air came screaming into the cabin.  The plane began to tilt in an incline and some men were hollering in reference to the cattle whose eyes were wide with fear.  The cows, still roped together, had not been secured to anything, and as the plane leaned further up they bellowed and their hooves scuttled on the metal platform in a pattering slide downward.  The cargo boxes dropped out of the plane first, followed by the thirty-three cows that fell stiffly through the sky like wooden ornaments.  The airborne cows passed deployed parachutes attached to the cargo boxes on their way down to the desolate seabed. 

     

    ...

     

    Stalked by a crescent moon, their flight crossed below contrails in the mayday sky, over the floor of a vanished sea and toward the frozen sun.  The plane passed high above a flaccid naval minefield arrayed on the edge of the  continental shelf.   Suffocating shoals of fish filled dark vertical ridges cut along the steep and craggily slopes which prevailed as a vast cliff drying in abiding dusk.  The coast lay behind them, and the exposed seafloor was a dripping alien badland.  In shallow, remote pools of liquid filth blues whales died in breeding grounds, their carcasses to be the last meals of wretched bottom dwellers.  Sleek canyons and empty bedrock plains gave way to the drained ocean basin and the colors disappeared as the plane transcended a bottomless underworld of seething black vents and dormant volcanoes.  Sane struggled to stay awake to see these things that fell beyond the realm of wild dreams and tears ran down his face in a merciless assault by grief and pain.  He would die without her in a conscious nightmare and fulfill the destiny of a masterpiece.  The cabin of the plane was engulfed by a motorized, soothing buzz, and as he drifted to sleep Sane reminded himself that all he had to do was fix a tree. 

     

    some chapters later...

     

     

                  Any discussion amongst the soldiers regarding going any further was settled by the lieutenant whom ordered eleven of the men, Sane and Violence included, to accompany him inside to confront the colonel.  Leaving the bulk of the soldiers behind, the dozen men followed the ogre up the steps to the first level of the temple.  A chameleon looked on as the visitors were led through the dank pavilion where scenes from an epic myth covered the black stone walls and told the sanskrit story of a scared elixir churned by totem idols beneath the everlasting sun and moon in an ocean of milk.  The men continued down a walkway along the wall of the temple and passed through shadows cast by weathered columns blemished by the bullets of past regimes.  On the wall deteriorated carvings of god kings unleashing barbarian hordes to butcher the armies of Hell in a dark and cosmic forest and beneath Heaven in judgment sinners were immortalized in bloodcurdling eternities of misery as though in depiction of a dimension parallel to the measureless horrors that lay below like nightmares of indescribable evil in the minds of men so on Earth do demons dwell.  Dead language hieroglyphs and profile inscriptions of high echelon warriors slain by nemesis legions in china blue seas carved into the wall centuries ago by nameless orient craftsmen moldering in the dust of their own travail. 

     

     

    some other portions...

     

    The three planes arrived at the periphery of a boundless cloud blanket spread over the rainforest.  They flew above the rolling clouds soaked in the sunset and the men admired the glorious sky.  Soldiers speculated as to how they were expected to accomplish the vague and impromptu mission at hand and what they would find at the base.  For fifteen minutes the flights tore onward in the crisp air above the darkening cloud line.  As they approached their destination, the fighter jets split paths with the descending cargo plane.  Light faded away as the plane sank through the thick layer of brooding, grey clouds.  Men stared at droplets of acid rain skidding across the windows, and as the plane broke free beneath the dense could base, visible in all directions was the systematic destruction of the world as far as the eye could see.  Here humans sacrificed humanity and nature in the suicidal creation of a burning hell on Earth.

     

    On the smoldering perimeter of the terrible citadel below, machines devoured the valley forest, gouging and slashing apart screaming tropical stands in the trembling jungle, senselessly slaughtering species forever unknown.  Thick scars disfigured the warped charcoal summits and ridges of the surrounding hillsides lay scorched bare in a terrestrial nightmare.  Trucks hauled timber through the arboreal madness and over defoliated patches of withered terrain, then disposed of the wood to be severed in grinding lumber mills.  Dynamite explosions ripped open chunks of the ravaged mountain upon which roamed titanic machines and augers that bore mining passages deep into the desecrated earth.  Tracks running from out the recesses of those rich mineral caverns cut switchbacks down the mountainside and proceeded into the jaws of gigantic rock crushers projecting conveyer belts which carried the rubble to ramshackle factories on the outskirts of the infernal complex. 

     

    The dozens of factories quivered upon an expanse of dirt, and from smokestacks plumes of chemical pollution billowed up and swirled into the clouds and the sky was shaded green.  Hundreds of slaves plodded like beetles across the ground of the diabolical compound in heinous exploitation, their dark skeleton bodies shuffling into the factories near one end of the fortification, and into fated cattle cars on the other.  Gun towers were positioned above a concentration camp where men were digging their own graves beside a cluster of corpses stacked high in a testament to manmade mayhem and mass murder.  Smoke and ash drifted from the chimney tops of an incinerator situated by a muddy river which harbored timber barges and flowed downstream under a concrete dam and into an enormous reservoir.  Tributaries irrigated paddy fields and oil palm plantations and fed water into a seagreen moat encircling a stone temple which stood like a fortress in the center the base.

     

    A thousand slaves labored in the dust of an immense limestone quarry located by the airfield.  Work brigades of famished men chiseled away at the solid strata, smashing boulders with sledge hammers and loading rocks onto carts at gunpoint.  Belligerent soldiers in black uniforms whipped and beat exhausted slaves to death and kicked their battered bodies off the ledges of quarry walls.  Elephants and men were together roped to great stone slabs which they pulled up the sides of the pit in agony.  From the window of the descending plane Sane stared down upon this hades in vertigo shock and the soldiers onboard sat still in disbelief.  A portion of the airstrip was being constructed, and the landing cargo plane passed over bulldozers, steamrollers, and chain gangs breaking rocks and slaving to expand the tarmac.

     

    The plane touched down and a few dismal guards directed it past grounded fighter jets, bombers, and missile batteries toward corrugated tin hangers rusting beside a control tower.  When the plane stopped the soldiers inside stood up and gathered their gear as the cargo door opened.  The engine was turned off and the lieutenant designated a solider to watch Think and assigned Violence to watch Sane.  Then the men, fifty-two in all, led by the lieutenant, stepped down the plane ramp toward a unit of ten disheveled soldiers in black raiment.  Pungent tar and death and the raging clamor of the crumbling rock quarry filled the muggy air.  The soldiers in black were giants, standing above eight feet tall, heavily armed and breathing hard.  An assembly of undertakers, they wore no badges, dog tags, nor name tapes, and each possessed a crazed look in his eyes.  

     

    Stepping off the ramp, the lieutenant saluted to the giant soldiers. “You men have been busy,” he said.  None saluted back and the lieutenant became aggravated.   He had seen more combat than any man there and in such calculation standing amongst these killers expected respect.  He stepped as close as he could to the opposing front and center solider, an ogre of ten feet, while still being able to look him in the eyes.

    “You don’t return a salute from a senior officer?”

    The ogre wore a blank expression and breathed down into the face of the lieutenant whom knew he faced a madman.

    “Where the hell is your uniform?”

    There was no response.

    “Do you speak English?  Are you American, goddamnit?”

    The ogre smiled and said, “yes, sir.”

    Some tension dissipated.

    “Who’s in charge of this operation?”

    “Colonel Madhouse.”

    “Well I’ll be damned if he’s not the man we’re here to see.  What’s your name, soldier?”

    “He took it away from me.”  With his empty eyes the ogre was not was looking at the lieutenant anymore, but toward Think, who was the only man in sight not wearing a uniform.

    “Where’s the Colonel?” the lieutenant asked. 

    The solider looked back down at the lieutenant.  “He’s expecting you at headquarters.  All troops are to be escorted.”

    A decrepit transport truck started and pulled-up to the company.  It was covered in camouflage netting and the ogre told the men to get in.  

    The lieutenant looked at the truck, at the ugly grunts. “We’re going to walk, and the pilots stay with the plane.”

    After radio communication between the ogre and a scratchy voice from the other side, it was arranged that the giants would ride to headquarters in the truck to be followed by the company of soldiers on foot.  The pilots tended the plane and it was required that Think remain (behind) as well.  The soldiers in black boarded the bed of the truck which shifted upon their weight and slogged forward.  The company shuffled warily behind as the truck drove along the neglected airbase and Sane looked back at Think who stood by the plane with the pilots.  Each brother feared for the other.  A set of the renegade soldiers also stayed with the plane and one disclosed to Think that the visitation was dead on arrival.

     

                  Sane and the soldiers walked behind the truck as it jostled from the airbase onto a red dirt road amid a wide mud plain toward the temple at the core of the complex.  Over the squalid panorama that lay before them factory smoke swelled in to the dour sky and the ashes of cremated humans rose from incinerator chimneys and drifted through the air like alabaster phantoms.  Incarnate lungs inhaled the molecules of the incinerated and the atoms of the dead coalesced in the cells of the living.  The soldiers traveled away from the cacophony of the rock quarry and heard explosions in the distant mountains.  Sweeping rows of rice paddies drenched the sordid landscape and stretched from the road into the steaming mud-strewn hills.  Dark figures toiled solemnly in the paddies like silhouettes exorcised from that sodden plain to serve in a kingdom of second death, as serfs condemned to dredge hunchback through wet fields plucking rice stalks in tedium until they themselves are reaped from the earth. 

     

                  The ground shook and up road, pounding toward the convoy marched elephants.  The truck swerved to the roadside and the soldiers stood by to let pass this tortured herd.  The vanguard elephants pulled wagons loaded with mining supplies bound for the quarry and these deprived beasts swayed forth quavering deranged, their ears pierced by wounds and bodies scarred by heavy lashings, shapes and numbers tattooed into their skin.  The road ruptured as a mammoth dropped to its knees in a painful groan, tears pouring from its eyes.  From out the truck bed leapt the ogre wielding an electric prod and he yelled and shocked the weeping beast upright and it trudged on.  Directly following the elephants were rows of slaves that lurched in chains and misery and of the dozens of living cadavers not one looked up.  Trailing these slaves were several more elephants upon which, in mounted howdahs, sat grunts in black armor gripping bullwhips, and dragging on the dirt before them in bloodied chains at the end of the coffle sagged a few mangled and smashed corpses of men that had been stomped upon and flattened by the saddled elephants manned at the rear.  The beasts passed and the truck and soldiers moved on.  The company crossed a concrete bridge over a canal carrying reservoir water from an upstream baray and some men paused to gaze through the haze and upon the churning factories, death camps, and the temple ahead. 

     

                  Surrounded within a fence barricade, the factories were thrumming beside a huge pile of mountain rubble. Stone and dirt rained downed upon the mound of earth from an elevated conveyor belt.  Sentries in black oversaw a column of prisoners transferring the rubble in large baskets to warehouses.  From the road the soldiers peered beyond the lattice of fence into a warehouse at rows of slaves sloshing about and sifting through pools of brown water in search for rocks.  In an adjacent building men hammered stones apart and labored over faceting machines cutting gem.  As the troops passed along the road, they saw a guard drag a worker by his hair out the warehouse doors and throw him down at the entrance.  Wielding a knife, the guard stood above the lapidist whom squirmed as the blade stabbed into his chest and cut through his abdomen.  Blood spilled and the wincing man watched as his small intestines were pulled out from his stomach by the executioner whom then palpated and inspected the organ for precious mineral.  Finding hardstone, the guard sliced into a piece of the entangled mess and removed a ruby which he examined before pocketing and walking away. 

     

                  Along the road the soldiers were overtaken by several jeeps towing trailers which were mobile cages filled with scores of crestfallen prisoners that grasped the wire of the rumbling trailers like frail zoo animals and they peered at the trespassers inanely.  Their feeble bodies pasty with quarry dust, sweat and blood ran in black lines down the chalked and vapid faces of the detained such that they appeared as though in masquerade.  Visible on their foreheads were numbers and symbols that had been burnt or carved deep into their skin in the mathematics of a genocide.  There was no desperation in their expressions for these hopeless beings had resigned to die in bondage.  The last of the trailers rolled by and of the slaves captive within was a man Sane thought resembled someone he knew, and expect for this last car, all the trailers were driven right at a fork in the road toward the barbed wire gates of the concentration camp.  The end car continued down road to the temple and the truck and nervous soldiers followed across train tracks that led up to the camp.

     

                  As the soldiers reached the fork in the road, they looked toward the camp which was encircled by rings of fence, and dispersed amidst the barbed wire were contorted and shriveled corpses.  Gun towers stood at each of the five corners of the camp and all the ruinous buildings were similar expect for a brick incinerator near the river bank.  The chimney of the incinerator stood charred and smoking and the noxious fumes from burning flesh putrefied the air.  The soldiers hastened to evade the stench of death yet still glanced at the camp.  Beside the incinerator were heaps of livid bodies splattered in mud and night soil and assailed by swarms of flies.  There was a dirt mound near the shuddering slaves that were being forced to bury their peers alive.  Undertaker soldiers supervised the sobbing gravediggers shoveling dirt on breathing men in sin and the fearful knowledge of a shared fate.   After smothering the living in dirt, the slaves were stripped of their spades and thrown into the pit by the guards.  Gunmen shot to wound each slave resisting the cold earth tossed upon their cries and tears and memories of other realities and thou shalt not.  The minions covered their victims and stood upon that melanic golgotha like demonic crusaders avowing the triumph of death.  If God made these men in his image, then a monster he must be.   

     

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