About Brandon K. Nobles

Brandon K. Nobles is an award-winning American author, poet, academic, artist, and Renaissance (faire) man, and aspiring over achiever Visit his official website @ www.brandonknobles.com and check out his upcoming epic-historical anthology The Flag Carrier's - Volume I - Heir to Ruin, co-written with Diana Yannetti. Keep up to date @ brandonknobles.com and a-bastards-inheritance.com - totally not someone pathetically trying to make themselves sound cool. Edited by @MacklinEditing

The Ballerina’s Rose – an elegy – Poem

Quote

In loving memory of Garrick Bledsoe and Kayla Stephens, friends for whom this elegy was written.

The Ballerina’s Rose

1

What could have been a happy life,
blinked out in the dark last night.
In doing so it took the sun,
and robbed us of the light.
What is left is a reflection,
Sunlight fractured no direction.
To feel this way, that’s what we do;
To live and to love is to love and to lose.

2

What should have been a normal life,
happy husband, happy wife,
blinked out like a firefly.
Now those toys those kids adored,
will gather dust lost on the floor.
No more of those who were so close,
They’ve left the world, and leaving us,
have turned what we thought bright to dust.

3

What should be yet never is,
is something very serious;
It makes you think would may have been,
what should have been can never be;
It’s all just like the falling dream.
Where we fall from no one knows,
And when we land, we die to go—
To wake and look that we may see
the silent room – Eternity.
Why wrestle when one’s widow walks,
The story’s over, they are gone;
They left this world, but left a girl,
and while we wait alone,
for the never breaking dawn—
Let’s sing the Ballerina Song.

4

The light that so shines twice as bright,
may shine for half as long.
We shouldn’t wait until they’re late,
to put them on a throne.
What have we then? These hymns,
and songs?
Echoes fading long and drawn,
are not the croonings of a bird,
it’s simply what cannot be heard,
except by canyons, by the Earth–
Where we all will be interred.

5

Memories when written down,
Spring to life as magic somehow.
Although that future’s road is closed,
we still know how to see them so
within this pen they live again;
We’re ruled by cause and consequence—
Where are they now?
They’ve closed the lid,
with a rose she’ll never hold.
She died in darkness in the road.
Nor smell the scent,
will we again,
or hear the laughter in the den.
And we the family and friends,
wonder what there could have been.

6

Driving wild, hair in the wind,
Death was waiting round the bend,
not as a villain, but a friend—
The war for them came to an end;
Death is real, and life pretend.
It doesn’t matter how it ends, or ‘if,’-it will;
It’s over now, just stems and sticks,
Driftwood floating twenty-six,
Twenty six, too young to fall—
What have we left, our hymns,
our songs?
We have the Ballerina’s Song,
It is, ‘The Never Breaking Dawn.’

7

To live is but to write your name
in disappearing ink;
To watch it fade like footprints,
on a wave-tormented beach.
A seed we all fall from some tree,
And from us fall the Autumn leaves,
as dandelions in the wind,
we blow them and they scatter, then
they go away somewhere to grow.
How they begin, how they will end—
Appreciate your family, and friends,
you’ll never know when it will end.

1

They say we should not cry, nor mourn,
for those we lost walk with the lord;
We will see them all again,
and we will see them soon.
A band-aid for a gunshot wound,
that never stops, and bleeds,
it bleeds and seeps into our dreams.
And in those dreams we sometimes see,
them smiling by a silent stream.

2

It might sound odd, but this is true,
when you see them in a dream,
they are looking back at you;
They float around inside our heads,
and wake us wailing in our beds.
And while they’re trapped inside our mind,
we make for them a paradise.
Golden spires, velvet streams,
and for them the Siren’s sing.

3

These images, these scenes, our things,
where ghostly walk they through our dreams—
We cry, we pray, what can we do?
Death came for them; it comes for you.
They may be there, and looking down,
Wishing that we would not frown,
life is only what you make it,
and is why it is so sacred;
And if we choose to turn to booze,
we have but memories to lose.

4

They say we should we should not cry, nor mourn,
for loved one’s lost walk with the lord;
Even if that was the truth,
not a belief, something we knew—
We’d still weep, that’s what we do.
And if they’re in a better place,
I’d trade my life and take their place,
To see their family, their children play—
One more day for them to stay
so we can see them laugh and play,
“I love you” uttered as they fade.

5

I see them all in silent rows,
going out where in they go;
We need to stand there and to cry,
one after another, why?
The funeral was held for us,
For us to say goodbye.
What hurts the worst no one cay say,
it leaves you sleepless in the night,
a waking dream becomes your day;
They may be somewhere else, yet lost,
trapped outside of time, a ghost.
For all the ghosts which haunt us most,
are the ghosts we did not know.

6

When the Red Queen dies, the queen she was,
she’s carried through the crowd by love.
And her mother, my dear friend,
inspired me to take this pen,
to never let them be forgotten.
To show some beauty in this life,
in lowercase under a light,
I think I may have been too late,
to say the things I wished to say.
I’ll save them for her, face to face,
If there’s a heaven and I manage,
to find a way to sneak into that place.

7

To live is but to write your name
in disappearing ink,
to watch it fade like footprints,
on a wave-tormented beach.
From the trees we fell as seeds,
rooted rose and sprouted leaves,
to die and scatter with the breeze;
dandelion puffs caught in the wind,
we know where they start,
and where they may begin.
with no idea how they will end.

1

Dying flowers, rhetoric,
that is what the preachers said.
That this will not be the end.
That may be, but look, you see—
They have left us, that’s enough
for anyone to grieve.
Wherever they may really go,
she is leaving us, and so,
that is itself enough to mourn,
as shadows lengthen in the morn,
children of the light forlorn,
turn to the night so that it might,
halt a never breaking dawn.

2

We need to hurt,
we need to cry;
This is how we say goodbye.
All we know is what they took,
the pages from some future book,
of events yet to unfold.
And when she died, I went outside,
And wistful looked at a blank sky.
Now we’re chasing yesterdays;
our photographs become our graves.

3

What have we left to let us know,
they see no blue moon no sun yellow,
we have our anecdotes and jokes,
none of which replace them though.
The crazy angel, free and wild,
the wild angel cannot call,
to a never breaking dawn,
but they can dance by happen chance
In my Ballerina Song.

4

To cope sometimes we’ll have some wine,
to wash away our fears, our tears,
these photographs are ghosts arranged,
after they’ve gone in lacquered frames;
we sometimes talk to them in vain.
Silence the answer is the same—
A picture does not know its name.
As was the sun when she passed on,
time itself must carry on.
It takes the rich, the poor, the weak,
the strong;
We’re not really living,
we’ve been dying all along.
And most of us are doing it wrong.

5

The scenes in dreams of golden rings
all of them lost, no longer seem,
quite bright as they used to be;
That spark inside when it divides,
and disappears—the body dies;
it separates then dissipates,
and rejoins the circling sky
to ever go around us by.
Write a note,
set it on fire;
when it fades it just may find her.

6

No more will I see her there,
by the water, tasseled hair,
no more playing truth or dare.
Spin the bottle, there it is—
My first kiss, we were but kids,
and that I doubt I could forget.
Though sometimes I wish I could,
so I didn’t feel this way.
If I could change it, I’m sure I would,
all day every day.
If I could have one moment delayed,
the future would change in so many ways,
it’s possible she could’ve be saved.

7

A ring of smoke through one gate blown,
dissipates once more to go—
Life is a scene between these rings,
from one to another
like a porcelain figurine.
We see the ballerina pass,
and what a show;
The curtains ruffled, lights aglow;
she does her number, strikes a pose,
then bows as the curtains close.
Behind the curtain, in her robe,
the dancer does not see the rose.

1

To see such easy comfort cold,
sitting in a pew, we’re told—
Everything will be okay,
don’t worry, doubt, just wish, just pray.
But the one of whom they speak about,
fill empty seats within the house.
That quiet church, that sad music,
it is designed to make you lose it.
A variety of colored flowers,
decoration for a higher power.
The reason for the obsequy,
their reason to be loud,
was not a witness in that crowd.

2

In that quiet church, that silent scene,
I saw faces smiling on a screen.
Her penultimate place to rest, the flowers,
from the family and friends around her.
Then the music came so loud,
startling the yawning crowd.
The sympathy, the empathy,
and chasing you is misery.
The misery will never stop.
It chases you until you drop.

3

This is the dash between the dates,
these are the words and not the dots,
that they chisel into rock;
an angel sleeps just underneath,
With multicolored flowers, bold—
Plucked in bloom, like her, and cold,
and once picked the beauty fades;
The dying decorate the grave.

4

I’m just a poet you may notice,
that these words are just my roses.
Every verse is not a hearse,
I’m not here to make a grave;
it is a bridge, it is a wake;
If you look between the lines,
you may see familiar eyes;
A lost friend smile, a lost friend wave.
When they died I did not cry,
I thought it was a dream, a lie,
For her to die at twenty-six,
and him to die and leave his kid—
We’re ruled by cause and consequence.
The blood, the color, that rose red pose,
around her pooled her dead eyes closed—
The violence comes, the violence goes,
What has a dancer but a rose?

5

Upon that grave, that stain of Cain,
became a promise to fulfill;
that salvation for the thief was real.
So there they lay, for all of time,
no one can take it back, there is no Why;
That’s just a philosophical alibi,
that we use to justify—
Why nature’s cruel, why life is wild;
Why gift us life if we must die?
But it was true, and it was so:
There’s nothing that can change the past,
no–not even hope;
That’s why Pandora’s box was closed.
For the ghost that haunts us most,
is a ghost we did not know.

6

Life isn’t fair, nor should we dare,
assume some outside purpose there;
to comfort people with their fear—
There’s no edifice to settle this,
it’s all just cause and consequence.
That doesn’t mean it has no reason,
When we can’t come to terms, we burn,
but when we burn is when we learn.
Some are so bright that like stars,
as we see them burning from afar—
For even if it’s dead, and dust,
it shines in heaven high above.
Because of the speed of light,
all those stars that seem so bright,
may long ago have dimmed and died,
washed away with the time, the tide.
And out it goes into the night,
to leave us waiting and forsaken,
by a dawn that’s never breaking.

7

A ring of smoke through one gate blown,
dissipates once more to go—
Life is a scene between these rings,
from one to another
like a porcelain figurine.
We see the ballerina pass,
and what a show;
The curtains ruffled, lights aglow;
she does her number, strikes a pose,
then bows as the curtains close.
Behind the curtain, in her robe,
the dancer cannot see the rose.

1

Destiny weaves spider-webs;
the waters comes, the waters ebb.
I guess it’s nature, so they say.
They measure time, and measure days;
Morning coming, Autumn eve,
I will recreate the scene:
Two young adults, if more, not much,
where lost in that moment such
that it repeated many times;
For when our life, it flashes by,
you return to the moment when you died,
so when you die you may, you might,
get caught in a cycle reliving your life.

2

This is how we see the morning,
how we see the sky,
Another day, the new sun rise,
and hear the mockingbirds go by.
When the unseen sunrise comes,
the people stand in silence, dumb;
And listen to that silent drum,
the one we’re always marching to.
We all take different roads,
to the same place in the end–
forever reliving our visions again.

3

It will repeat, we’ll go to see,
our sleepless loved ones quiet at peace;
Destiny weaves spider-webs,
people cross and intersect;
this is the way that we connect.
All the choices in our lives,
to alleys lone and those alive,
to alleys where the good guys die.
We choose those streets,
we talk and meet;
a brick wall where it all leads.
“No Escape,” is what it reads.

4

To see a girl her life unfurled,
chasing fireflies at night
we ran around with such delight.
She was a dreamer, now a dream,
I came unraveled at the seams;
each patch of quilt only she filled,
cared for me when I was ill,
And thereby, being curred,
to see we live this way – absurd,
forever falling like a bird,
into an invisible world.
To stop, to move, the choice is cruel,
for time will play us for a fool.
For those who went for her, to weep
saw her there at peace, so sweet.
Her cheeks not dim,
her hair well kempt;
And in her hands that dying rose,
we leave it there and therefore buy,
our friend’s bus-pass to paradise.

5

To live is but to write your name
in disappearing ink,
to see it fade like footprints
on a wave-tormented beach.
A seed, we all fell from a tree,
that’s why we have that falling dream;
We’re falling all day, all our life,
And when we hit the ground, Goodbye
As we grow we too have leaves,
which fall to be caught in a breeze—
A dandelion, uncertain wind.
Cup what you have dear in your hands,
For when spring dies they’re gone again.

6

It’s never over and when we’re older,
we’ll hold those pictures of them closer.
And in that moment realize,
long as we love they’re still alive,
not in a grave, that silent place,
in our minds the child still plays,
on trampolines and roller skates
Points in time they intertwine,
they intersect and when we find,
a child who lived and died so wild,
has found their way to Miracle Mile.

7

A ring of smoke through one gate blown,
to dissipate to once more go—
Life is a scene between these rings,
from one to another
like a porcelain figurine.
We see it pass, and what a show—
The curtains ruffled, lights aglow;
She does her number, strikes a pose,
Then bows as the curtains close.
Behind the curtain, in her robe,
the ballerina never gets to hold her rose.

1

To be this sad proves only that,
in the end sleep we as kings;
We have the same things in our room,
reserved for all of us – the tomb.
There is no way to just move on,
when a piece of us has been torn off.
So notice those who live alone,
for all who’ve gone, who must then move,
down into that silent room.

2

I cannot raise them from the grave,
But I’ll preserve them on the page.
And while I think, she’s on the lawn,
her hair brown and braided long,
smiling as she plays, a song—
She hides behind the lines and smiles,
Think with her voice and pass it on,
let it echo till it falls.
The body shed, they’re on their own,
their faces on this page have shown—
That we chase yesterday, we long,
to try to see what can’t be shown,
just close your eyes and there, they’re home;
The body shed, they get to go,
to merge with clouds which hover low,
into the sky to fall as snow:
And at the winter’s ending blow,
out of our owns having had to hold,
a China doll does not get old.
The person who you love is gone,
but we must hold this vigil long.

3

We whisper to the dark, the night,
just in case some spirit might
in that silence hear our plea,
and wait for us to fall asleep
crawl into our ears, our dreams—
Only to leave when morning comes
they disappear and we go numb.
What we expect, the light, bird song—
Is in the never breaking dawn.

4

To see them so alive in dreams,
makes it hard for us to bring
ourselves to get up, out of bed,
to walk around the house half-dead.
We wish to live that sleeping lie,
to whom we give these blessings to,
it never seems enough to do.
“I’m sorry,” or, “I’m here for you,”
are band-aids made for gunshot wounds;
This is the cure, this is the truth;
at first it burns but then it soothes.
To bring them comfort, give them calm,
show the blind the rising sun.

5

Those faces past don’t seem to last,
although we hold on fade they fast—
Until we get to see, alas,
that life is more than just a dash,
between two dates under the rain.
No need to call out to the deaf,
or interrupt that sleep of death,
where neatly dressed they peaceful rest.
Always scared and ill-prepared,
we’ll meet them at the cross-roads there;
And in the self-same way,
for disconnected moments often,
intersect like fate.

6

Life is not the words, nor dash;
Life is different, life is mad.
When intersecting lines are crossed,
names can be stricken out, and loss
cripples both the weak, the strong.
You can’t go back,
you can’t move on.
You wait for dawn—which never breaks.
For those who sleep so sweet a sleep,
have never yet been known to wake.

7

A ring of smoke through one gate blown,
to dissipate to once more go—
Life is a scene between these rings,
from one to another
like a porcelain figurine.
We see it pass, and what a show—
The curtains ruffled, lights aglow;
She does her number, strikes a pose,
Then bows as the curtains close.
Behind the curtain, in her robe,
the ballerina was the rose.

1

To scream at one who hears you not,
who long ago this woe forgot—
For innocence is what has died,
the child in us, the Lord of Lies,
tells us all will be alright;
we all return to Earth, interred.
To be fossilized, conserved;
We cannot walk between these worlds,
is it okay for me to say
that I intend to haunt this page?
It might not serve to help you by,
but if you look close,
between the lines,
You just may see a pair of eyes,
familiar—watching as you cry.
And if these mazes endure ages,
they’ll live forever in these pages.

2

I say these things that haunt our dreams,
so we may make new memories.
Memories to help us sleep,
to keep us from choking when we scream.
That I might become a guide,
to help you guide a wounded mind,
where they’re alive outside of time,
where she smiles, and, still alive,
though to our mortal grief not bound—
Untouched by the accident,
resurrected, heaven-sent.
There is no place where she could go,
that could lessen sorrow, so,
Unless it was to come back home,
not to lay beneath the stone,
so cold, so long, forever, alone;
for they will never see the dawn.

3

That stone we fear that year by year
Draws ever near and in our fear
we see it clear;
we try to run, and blindly, dumb,
stumble through life, drunken bums.
Lost in a daze for on that day,
I had nothing left to say—
To decorate a grave this way,
that beauty may somehow assuage,
so learning of it in the night,
I found my pen, turned out the light,
There I lay, I closed my eyes,
and saw her waving to me, Bye.
Then I saw her going by,
in a car into the night,
and night is all she may see now;
we cannot speak; we don’t know how,
to see the dew glow on the lawn,
of the never breaking dawn.
Such few years between them both,
and as such were not enough;
Somehow that sweet girl might have found,
someone to turn her life around.
Someone to be kind, and be nice,
to smile and talk with her at night;
And now they’re gone, and we all know
such sorrow when we see them go.

4

One moment there, one blink, they’re gone,
we’re on that very path alone;
marching to the banging of a madman
on a drum;
Time calls us weary wand’rers home.
The next dawn died when that moon rise
unseen by two pairs of eyes,
their essence having faded to the background of the sky,
to forever go around us by.
Out of this there is no sense,
to take the young, the innocent;
Through all of this, this I have learned;
get too close and you will burn.
But that scar is not a mark
I’d have the heart to pick apart,
I’d wear it just to keep the pain,
for losing it would be a shame.
The sun suspended in the sky,
presses the night against our eyes.
It is when you can’t move on,
that you understand a never breaking dawn.

5

Life is too short and we all know it,
we cannot keep alive one moment,
in a glass that it may last,
a present always, never past:
Think of her face, think of his laugh:
And they may appear,
look harder and the faces clear.
Sitting on a couch she was,
beside a light where motes of dust,
ricocheted away in chaos just as us all day,
No one knows what could have been,
we know what cannot be.
In this case,
today they may
be safe–alive–inside page,
Tomorrow is not guaranteed;
anything that may have happened,
was killed by that action, fractured—
And for this there is no answer,
Life is painful, life is rare,
to think about her lying there,
pulls my heart into my throat.
I lose my mind, I lose my hope,
We look for comfort and for peace,
but no belief can stomp out grief.
This band-aid on that gunshot wound,
will always sting, they always do,
it’s hard to breathe, and still we bleed;
maybe this is what we need.

6

Nothing would be better
if our friends could live forever.
To never age or fade away;
all the graves could be replaced,
and turned into a happy place,
garden groves, where children play—
Where someone may just wish to stay.
We’ve seen it coming all along;
Death comes too soon, and stays too long,
and when he comes he takes it all;
But I’ve been wrong, and all along,
they’re living here inside the song.
To lead us to the golden dawn,
where days unending never fall;
It won’t go down,
there are no clouds;
the light has struck the surface now.
The nighttime came and now it’s gone,
the sun comes up and breaks the dawn.

7

A ring of smoke through one gate blown,
to dissipate to once more go—
Life is a scene between these rings,
from one to another
like a porcelain figurine.
We see it pass, and what a show—
The curtains ruffled, lights aglow;
She does her number, strikes a pose,
Then bows as the curtains close.
Behind the writer and the prose,
this is the Ballerina’s Rose.

Revolving Window, 1st draft – poem – 14 March 2020

Regret is how a man
can drown
without getting wet,
Fear is the lie,
that we’ll survive,
If we just do our best;
Hope is the bet,
we make that yet,
we’ll glimpse the other side.
A summer breeze,
that stirs the leaves,
In a tempest as it climbs.

Into the waste of empty space,
beneath a star-strewn sky
In our distress we seek redress,
Silence gives no reply;
So in our longing for belonging,
We take this as a sign;
For if we heard,
these whispered words
we’d hear time ticking by.

We forget that never yet
has one returned from there –
the revolving doorway,
empty stairs –
the garden tended is not there;
What lies behind that curtain fine
we can never be quite certain;
Take it all in stride and hide,
until the hour falls.
Until you pass the revolving door
and hear the silence call.

The Siren’s song was far too long,
we never heard it all
We washed ashore as we were born
And wandered through the hall
Looking this way, to and fro,
whence we came, nor where we go,
were we supposed to glimpse, to know?
And such regret may help us yet,
if we can rise, as do
The leaves that lift upon the breeze
and settle with such quiet ease.

Digging up the Bones of God: the Flat Earth Movement – 13 March 2020

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Digging up the Bones of God
On the Flat Earth Movement and its Antecedents

First of all, this will not be any attempt to discredit nor slander anyone who holds the beliefs discussed herein. Rather, I will try to ascertain the motivation, the thinking, and the impetus behind the growth of such movements in recent years. Secondly, we must keep in mind that we are dealing with people who, for the most part, are engaged in a type of science; in the case of the flat Earth movement, people are actively seeking knowledge, though it runs contrary to physics, our cosmological model as understood by modern science and observation. Today I wanted to say my piece about the flat Earth movement, and in a follow up discuss the anti-vaccination phenomena.

What we have are a group of people that are making a number of assertions, which, when added up, seem to show them that the Earth is flat and, moreover, they have been lied to by government agencies and the scientific community. I believe this base impulse drives these communities, the flat Earth movement and the anti-vaccination movement. When we look at it from this perspective, it is not hard to empathize with this sentiment; the last fifty years have given us ample evidence which demonstrates the extent to which our elected officials and institutions are willing to bend the truth in order to further their own agendas. These impulses are natural, and rather than resulting in a healthy skepticism, lead them to embrace notions outside of the norm. Furthermore, though it may be easy to simply dismiss the earnest, truth seeking people among these groups, it is unproductive and ultimately accomplishes very little. When attempting to explain why someone may be wrong, it is important to realize that we have to meet someone where they are and not attempt to talk down to them.

A quote from one of the leading figures in the flat Earth movement, “…In fact, it’s just silly when you think about it. Astronomy and astrophysics and all of that, they aren’t even real sciences. You, obviously, are going to claim that they are. But you can only observe. You can’t make hypothesis, or make predictions, all you can do is observe…” Later, he adds, “Do you just believe everything the government tells you, that they are right about everything?” And freemasonry is brought into the discussion, for some reason, which is an attempt to show the physical structure of the planet we live on. If the argument were strong enough, these comments would be wholly unnecessary, but from the perspective of someone who believes in the flat Earth model, this is not irrelevant at all. Far from it, actually, it is the linchpin around which everything else revolves. First they must prove that ‘they’ are lying, and somewhere at the end of that road is a flat Earth, Freemason plots, and a society of elites who control the world, sometimes Jewish, sometimes gentile, but always invisible and impossibly competent, powerful and all-knowing. Godlike, you could say.

That the flat Earth movement has yet to create a model that can be tested and observably make predictions does not seem to be a problem for this man, though he asserts these claims with all the confidence of a Nobel laureate. What we have here is a group of people who have been left behind, left out of the mainstream scientific discourse, and have a deep-seated feeling that they have been lied to for their entire lives. Many of us have now seen the now infamous Netflix documentary. During its runtime, a prediction is made that, everyone present claims will behave in one way if the earth were a sphere. Yet, when the results come in and it does just that, no one is willing to meet this head on. It is practically ignored. What is it that we have here? Is it a case of confirmation bias?

Perhaps this is more of a case where we have a group of people who have found a community where they have found acceptance, a sense of belonging, in which the work they are doing is attempting to rewrite the book on some of the most fundamental and perplexing questions to ever trouble the minds of human beings. Rather than the Earth being a single speck amid untold billions, instead we have a special garden, lovingly crafted and distinct amid the celestial bodies and part of a unique, special creation unique in the entirety of the universe. This realization may give one pause in attempting to debunk such theories; scientists and those conversant in physics and mathematics can, to their heart’s content, give example after example. But as long as those examples come from an establishment they have roundly rejected they will be roundly rejected, as the science is not being rejected as much as it is the establishment it represents. As long as that establishment has been linked to institutions which have, in their minds, deluded and misinformed the public for so long, attempting to refute these ideas by relying on information gathered from these same institutions will be met with hostility, rejection and mockery, and are likely to never convince.

It is also important to recognize the role of conspiracy in modern culture. It plays a role once played by religion. Instead of all powerful Gods who control the forces of nature, like Zeus and his thunderbolt and Poseidon’s mighty waves, there are shadowy, all powerful groups whose footfalls shake the Earth and only they, those in the know, privy to the secrets like the initiates of the ancient mystery cults of Athens, can feel their tremors and recognize their true origins. As we see again and again, if someone believes that the Earth is flat, it is also likely they believe in other conspiracy theories. Browsing the Flat Earth and Globe Discussion Facebook page, home to 125,000 members, one is likely to come across other, often unrelated conspiracy claims. Is it a coincidence, that in finding the truth about the globe, they also decided that every other conspiracy was also strong enough to persuade them? Or is it more likely that, once you roundly dismiss the world and its history because of the sources from which that information is derived, the only way to rebuild the world is in a way that maintains the Gods, albeit in different forms, and to reclaim the dignity and uniqueness of humanity? Claims are not supported, rather they are repeated; what has no place in a normal scientific discussion, like the trustworthiness of the government, is irrevocably linked to these movements because they have no trust in these establishments, nor the institutions from which our counter-arguments derive.

I would argue that this is what is going on, and that it is not about what proofs they may present; for each argument to be presented can be easily rebuffed. The gradual set of the sun, for example, the day and night cycle in which half of the world experiences darkness while the other daylight, while each becomes less dark and more bright by gradient, is enough to disprove by observation the notion of a low-orbit sun, we are trying to convince people that what is, essentially, a new religious community that we have dug up the bones of their God and measured them, classified them and put them into a category, as a butterfly specimen is pinned to a display case by a needle. Some may be acting in bad faith, and others may just be curious, but for the majority of the community, working with contradictory models and acting on faith, it is more accurate to look at this for what it is: the attempt to reclaim the uniqueness of humanity, the Earth, and their dignity in the face of what they feel to be a world full of lies, deceit and misinformation. They are not scientists, they are theologians. And we all know it is so much easier to preach to a choir.

Furthermore, you will often hear references to the Bible, the energy of the Heavens, selective quotations and claims from pre-modern scientists. The flat Earth movement may not be exclusively religious, nor all its members inclined towards religiosity, but the impulse that once drove us to religion is one and the same that drives those who now seek to remake the world among themselves, among people whose faces they can see, whose problems they understand and whose eyes they can look into without flinching – ‘real people’ – not representatives of institutions that have lost their credibility. Only a flight into space has a chance of putting this to rest, but I guarantee you if some eccentric billionaire was to pay to take the leaders of the flat Earth movement into space, far enough up to see the curve receding in the distant and giving way to the shapes of our beautiful planet, they would find a way to dismiss their eyes before giving up their God.

The Sacrifice, 1st draft [new poem]

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The Sacrifice

Draft 1, Brandon Nobles, 15 February 2020

Lindow Moss was a close community,
built atop a rubbish heap, a dour bog,
Somewhere between near and far.
A miasma to the north, just past the bank,
through virgin forests, the kind that ring,
With bird-song in the bloom of Spring
The equinox sun shines down on the drus
that the shaman strikes with passion and hums;
Praise God!
God be praised!
Said the priest atop his Dais;
Beside the pyre with a torch, he gave it to the heap;
As the rains give seeds the Mother needs,
the millet and the rye.
Meanwhile the chosen sacrifice,
bound and gagged cried for his life.
Cheers and shouts cut through the air
The sacrifice had been prepared.

The flames spurred the winds to action, when,
The demons, they kept peeking in;
And God hath risen from the Moss,
above the priests, above the heap,
Above the ground which God bequeathed.
The people of Lindale turned to the priest,
The shaman chief,
who chanted deep inside his throat,
a sacred rhythm no one knew.
The ground shook loose its crown of dew,
the glittering rainfall
God is great!
The Sacrifice was brought in bound,
wreathed bout his brow with a laurel crown.

Give us Grace dear Lord of Rains
Lord, virile and fertile!
Give us millet, honey-suckle!
Give your seed to Mot!
That the womb of the Earth gives birth to the crop
That we sing these songs for our Great God, Mot!
Give us the children, give us the crop!
Give your Great Seed to the Goddess mot!
They took the scapegoat, crowned and bound,
Atop an ever-burning mound
Beneath a mound of peat built high
Beneath a circle of rose-red burning concrete
arranged beneath the Goddess’ Wreath
as worn by the offering that is Given;
The sacrifice was twenty-five and groomed, well-cut
All his life;
Raised for the People, for the sacrifice.

Repaying a life for life.
They did not know his name, but sang,
Feasted his good health in the afterlife.
They’ll sing of him for centuries;
The way he burned for the Gods in peace.
They sing of him when they knead their dough;
The virgins long for the Lindale crow.

At Lindale Moss in the countryside,
Each solstice the village builds a pyre.
And gives to the flames the royal heir,
Each summer the Shaman chief would take
A walk through the woods and sit by the lake
And go into visions, to the spirit world
To commune with the ancestors, hear their words
the world is alive and it sings such lies
filling him as smoke through a blown-glass
Contorting and forming to the touch of fire
Across his nerves, fingers on nylon strings
Played by a ghost in his waking dreams
The mirage conveyed that he wished for Slaves,
And indicated the time was at hand.
Beckoning the old man into a trace.

Back at the camp the logs were stacked,
The Heir to the Fire was drugged and wrapped
The priestesses in virgin dresses
Rolled him up the hill;
From behind a shrine on gaudy pines
Followed them up a slight incline
Surrounding men and women cheered
As the sunlight struck the cement grill;
The sacrifice was stricken twice
Senseless, the poor boy fell;
Twenty-three and bread to bleed
He lived a short life, the sacred creed
Gave them rainfall, gave them seed;
And returning him to the womb of the Earth,
To the Lindale Crows this assured Rebirth
In an air-conditioned Spring like Eden
Milk and honey rolling greenlands.
It was a tough life, but oh well,
to prep for paradise is hell.

 

the glass long in breaking

Quote

The Teacher said,
“Consider, children –
that noble art, the fine tradition,
of mending what is broken and not blurring out
or censoring a living thing to hide the shame of mending
Something broken does not need
to be hidden but seen
the art is in its breaking,
The human touch is that tape
propping up a botched Eden with elbow grease
“So, children, art has the type of scars,
left by the long breaking jar;
which must strive to hold itself,
the moment it is dropped.
The lines appear the time is here
the space between each shard disappears
the drinking vessel by association with us,
The Shame!
The children of Adam gave sin to the Saint!
Children, look upon the glass, the rag
The duct-tape holding shivering glass –
But I tell you, it is the human touch
To feel such empathy for a cup!

The student said,
And think, Master, then of the cup;
Are we not cared for by our Lord?
And the master smiled and nodded.
“But why his silence, Father?
No succor for the fragile,
nor heed for the hopper.
No weed for the daytripper smack for the Bopper –
Where was God when they cried out then,
Not the glass, but God’s own men?
He is a sadist, this mad potter that –
Casts with lots such things as that!

The teacher eyed the boy, a smile,
How curious thought the old man, while,
The others in the room had taken sides;
“And what is the greatest gift we could have of God?”
The master asked and waited, calm.
Shouts of “Faith!” and “Peace for all!”
Shouts of Messiah and the Fall;
“Children, please, you must believe.
The truth, how sad, but none the less correct for that,
God’s greatest gift is his absence, for glass,
may shatter beneath the most loving of Hands;
the hands that held the hells below and lifted mountains
through the snow,
would wrap around each one of us,

And in that cocoon – as safe as the womb,
as warm as a summer evening,
Our Lord brings sand and casts in hand
The long in breaking Glass;
Oh, sweet children ye are such,
A cup, nay a fount,
That yearns to be full to keep God out;
The jungle we have is not to be wrapped
In silk and kept in a case in the back
The glass is Atlas and he cracks,
But long in breaking he keeps track.
If Atlas were felled in the embrace of El
Is broken by the love that held the reserve,
the glass that’s long in breaking is the glass
that long endures.
wrapped in silk, even silk will press,
and in that cocoon as warm as the womb,
pressed sweetly and kept safe from the world,
Is broken by the love that held the reserve.
The glass is Atlas when he staggers and trips
and sad for sure but we break just as pure
the glass long in breaking endures.

The student asked, why then,
Not making the succor more milk than cement?
Is the balance of Rent in this Universe
so great that we must trudge through this desert first
Talk less of Atlas that beggar, Alas!
And more of why we must be as glass,
If we were made from sand to be loved,
Then sure,
The children can endure their maker, no?

of a glass Atlas and he staggers

And splintering like porcelains things
They burst into ash into smithereens
But the glass long in breaking
Cracks beneath embrace,
of God and ever slightly breaks
hairline fractures spread in shouts of crooked violence
The love of God is instruction through silence.

To survive it we must be the same glass that
long in breaking keeps holding that –
The space between the shards of glass
that Atlas left when he staggered left
and caught on the floor of the Universe,
To hit rock bottom beneath the Earth,
To hit such a bottom, God damn it hurts.

That’s the final break, when the space between the pieces is no longer close enough
to be held together by the attraction of the pressure which did bring
The glass from sand through magic and chant into the glass that lasts;
The glass long in breaking is not ours, after all
We must not keep our glass, sweet children,
lest we be,
fused into glass at the moment of transmutation
When in the hands of God the sand as wind trod up like a Saraband
And in that force was turned to Glass,
To break and break long but to last.

by God but slowly starts to break

Born into splinters a fissure’s spool
Sends fracture lines throughout the glass
And – image it, you fall, and land
Above a cliff, caught by a pane
of glass that breaks the moment you land.

The glass long in breaking having survived the hand of God
has dignity as one might have a scar;
And paralyzed we empathize with the Mantis who ever righteous
Bows in submission with arthritis –

Early improv, 9 october 2019

Quote

Come, take the Cash, May my Credit Spike and Void
The bank, the bars, the Hapless Worker Who
Pushes buggies sweating as they Do,
In Sierra Leonne whose heaves and groans
Offer quite a rich delight, for that special someone
That special night.

Oh silence, judge us not!
Forgive,
The beast that had to kkill to Live!
Pardon, my Lord;
The thief who stowed away and Crossed
The Shimmering Curtain – ah, a scent of moss!
Is it not for him whose thorny crown,
Who paid the loan the forgotten Earthling, he
East of Eden kicking leaves;
Cursing the Wind, Cursing his God,
Be Fruitful, bring in the wine!
We’ll toast to the Justice of Job an’
In thyme, may we make just,
Those in the pitch black shadow that
is cast, Time has a shadow,
This Rust,
Is the future’s whisper through its mirror
That it has its eye on us.

A time will come when the sun will freeze
And dawn will hang suspended, trembling
An autumn leaf caught in a breeze
Lifted by a breathe, Breathe, now,
Sing! For the silent Lord!
For the Two-Faced God who Butched Job,
And Satan who was patient,
And did not raise his sword;
Shame on thee, oh Mighty Lord;
How you rebuke the many, the few!
Because they did what you knew they’d do!
How can a God lament what it is
To be accused of a Fall
Diagnosed with Sin
Condemned to burn for something He earned,
Maybe him, but not us;
The straggler in the room, in lust;
The gambler whose eyes red and shot
Rolled on Jesus and his Lot
He raked in empty armfulls, Ah!

Mercy, merci beau coup,
Ha’el shli loh baha’nim
Red rouge vahtza-hov
Prekaynizye shel Sherchezade!
Tell me a Tale, lift from the Well,
A glance of the Cleansing Ale!
Who confounds the Weavers and the Webs,
Looses the strings round flies, when trapped,
But the poor spider she sits beside her,
And looks up, Mas shim’kha?
I’m a spider darling, no parlez vous Akvish
Capisce?
You cannot hang a painting with Peace,
No glass hammer can hold
The weight of the Gallery and the Gold
Between the canvas, and There, our Lord!
Peaks through the space between
the cecar cabinets and beams,
Sending coded letters through
The spinning silk of a spider,
Hypnotized,
Eik ahah’va, nahon, my home is far,
Lilah, oh tov Lilah come and be,
Sweet as lemonade on the beach.

Sing as do the cockatoos,
Croak as the rooster greetong anew
Dawn, the cosmic cue
Curtains up, Mah yuh’sah now?
We’ll all die never knowing how.
Never knowing why, that’s it,
Don’t fret, don’t weep, it’s within reach
The air we breathe is air we keep.
When you fall just reach, and there,
Where fingertips grasp at the air
The silence catches and reflects
The empty space – it reaches back

And lifts into a jeweled burst
The sense of hearing – it goes first.
I was afraid of silence as a child,
I was, and thought – with dread;
How terrible it’d be
Without Heaven;
Or in Hell,
But in the end I could take,
The condemnation in the lake,
But not the silence without end,
Suspended in between the rain,
Between what was and deja vu;
And it hits me as a Seraiph’s kiss,
We have nothing to fear;
Without ears there’s little to hear.
Embrace it sweet child,
My sweet dear.
Count memories, not years, not time
Where we came from, through the ring,
Through the outdoor through the Spring,
Pray that Eden was a dream. 

Yara’s Near-Life Experience – 9 October 2019, a poem

Quote

Come, take the Cash, she whispered
a quick breath escaped as the spirit itself,
Spilled out between the bars of the Liquor Shelf;
The day outside the formaldehyde stench of
the halogen aisles she forced a smile,
As the hapless ones who do
Live on filtered brilliance, light
Is not gifted them direct,
But, as the sun the light upon
the alabaster shines,
To stay inside while there is time,
To hold onto those moments where
Time and space are knotted there
And music attends the scene, like a dream,
A carousel of kaleidoscopes,
“Sweet girl, sweet dreams.”

She never took her meds, not Yarah,
And deja vu is a stereotype
The floor rose up to embrace her as a lover does
As a pool that is too cold,
When one first jumps in.
After a time a change comes by
And the two states exchange;
Where now it’s too hot to get out
To face the cold of the world without
The pool was a seizure-room
She went to
When she collapses and knots up,
as warm as the womb.

She came to herself and looked down,
Seeing there,
A sprawling mess of curly hair,
She thought she was dead for a moment, and there,
By her body she could see,
A reflection on a moving screen;
So the floating ghost that hovered round
Could watch the figures while she was out.

But she heard it, yes, there – did you –?
The silence calls, just silence, shh —
It’s overwhelming, a voice of Gold,
Complete, total, the screen flickered
and she screamed.

Oh silence, judge us not!
Forgive,
The beast that had to kill to Live!
Pardon, my Lord;
The thief who stowed away and Crossed
The Shimmering Curtain – ah, a scent of moss!
Is it not for him whose thorny crown,
Who paid the loan the forgotten Earthling, he
East of Eden kicking leaves;
Cursing the Wind, Cursing his God,
Be Fruitful, bring in the wine!
We’ll toast to the Justice of Job an’
In thyme, may we make just,
Those in the pitch black shadow that
is cast, Time has a shadow,
This Rust,
Is the future’s whisper through its mirror
That it has its eye on us.

A time will come when the sun will freeze
And dawn will hang suspended, trembling
An autumn leaf caught in a breeze
Lifted by a breathe, Breathe, now,
Sing! For the silent Lord!
For the Two-Faced God who Botched the Job,
At least Satan, hate to say it, had
the decency to stay His hand.

Oh, the Devil is on Tap, for sure;
But God would make a mother fucker wait,
Until they had too long stood before the gate;
Burning their vigils to their devils
Shame on you, all due respect,
You vicious pervert, and she wretched;
Sticky hands went towards her palms
Lifting her back into her,
And floating, she just watched;
The flickering screen turned black and green
And the door opened with an electric breeze

“Breathe, sweet child,
Mercy me…”
Yarah did not know, though she always thought,
There was no echo in the dark,
No hand to grab you when the air
Was all between you and the snare.
And thinking she would die she let out such a cry:

To be accused of eating Fruit,
Diagnosed with sin because of a rib
Magically made into Eve and then!
Since she couldn’t trust her gut
That a snake was not something to trust –
We all must die and burn and flail
In empty pits of freezing hail,
The straggler sat in a dim lit room,
A gambler with red red eyes shot and gloom
Hung o’er the Waiting Room.
The Gambler rolled again, and lo,
He raked in the air by the armfull there,
Cursing the air he had to breathe.
The straggler in the room, in lust

Voices, mother, is that you?
Mercy, merci beau coup,
Loose the strings, release the flies,
The spider beside shouts “Mas shim’kha?”
And she hears drill through her ears
The thump of a hammer made of glass,
Thumping against a wall and cast
A painting – oh, of me, ah, alas.
The floating ghost hung back, and sighed,
Was she forever trapped,
Had she really died?
My little lemon, get up, come on.
Take the canvas and expand
Use that silk, be the spider.
Hypnotized by electric light
Automatic as the lilies and the rose,
nor the crows that scared van Gogh!
Oh Lord!
The light looked back, a brilliance shared,
The moon was a little stepping stare,
A taper light no more, it could,
Make peace with its dimness as it should.

She heard her mother speak, or was it –
No –
“Don’t fret, don’t weep, it’s within reach
The air we breathe is air we keep.
When you fall just reach, and there,
Where fingertips grasp at the air
The silence catches and reflects
The empty space – it had reached back,
From a floating mote lost amid a puff of smoke
Yarah drifted into senses and in a sense awoke.

Suicide, the taking of what does not belong to oneself:

Quote

Why I Decided to Just Fucking Die

5

“Chemical imbalance” and Serotonin Syndrome

Taking certain medications, inadequate treatments for manic depression such as SSIDS (like Paxil, Zoloft, anything my editor will point out she can name) can make physical joy – without aide – that feeling of ‘not pain’ impossible. Simply, one cannot be pleasant, happy, have energy, only an intense and overwhelming and unending compulsions. I spend a weekend working on translating Russian tabloid magazines that gossip – the idiot’s rhapsody – about political matters whenever some hack journal/online thoughtless think-piece peddler comments about whoever is currently taking over the world and why we should kill the dragon. It’s whore work. It makes me feel sticky all over like the universe is stuck to me and won’t let go and it has my skin AHH AHAHAHAHA it’s not easy to deal with it. What are your options if you don’t want to murder yourself to stop – what? Compulsion towards wanting to write books, which I may get as far as 50-100k words into, before I’m FUCKING POOR I CAN’T EAT SO HERE’S A JOURNALIST IN RUSSIA WHO THINKS HE KNOWS SOME SHIT THAT WENT DOWN AT THE KREMLIM BETWEEN WALUGI AND you see? Click here for Top 5 Reasons Why you Shouldn’t Commit Suicide.

4

Your life does not belong to you.
Consider.
Did you pay for it?
Is the air not fucking free?
Look around and think. Listen to the silence, and yet? What’s that telling you? Click off now or you’ll regret this!
I’ve sinned, too; regret, regrets, the terrible things we do, to our lives and the lives of others. The wrongs I’ve done to others – slight lies, fabrications of any sort, stealing, fire setting, cat robbery, notebook theft, anything I do, it sits on me like ever-coagulating concrete that wraps and squeezes forever tighter but somehow doesn’t solidy or break. The compulsion must be to atone; I’m sorry I wanted to look as though I am better than I am; the cat was outside and you weren’t treating her right anyway; I’m a klepto impulsively and autistic; high functioning just means your condition leaves a footprint, a deep stinking pit of stink and shit. I’m sorry, I’m not as good as I would have anyone believe. But I am trying to be better than the person I am to atone for the person I was, through action and purpose and thought and action for my life does not belong to me.

3 When You’re Thrown Away and Can’t Understand Anything

I was adopted by two kind Southerners; a hardworking spinster who raised 5 kids – and adopted two more, my Brother Kyle and myself, and worked 6 days a week 12 hours a day and NEVER FUCKING RESTED A SECOND. My adoptive father was always ill, but he gave me everything when I got a home; I met another man who would have adopted me – who turned out to be married to a relative – and he kept in touch with me, encouraging me to write him letters. I sent him copies of Dr. Seuss, telling this man that I FUCKING WROTE GREEN EGGS AND HAM. Y [shame]

But he said they were great, keep it up young sir. And I did, and I said look at all these words I know; and I’d list everything I could make sense of, and he would encourage it greatly. He told my father, who bought a series of books – a poor man’s encyclopedia. This kind stranger, not related to me by any means, taught me how to convert my fear of silence into expression, and art. It showed me how to put together ideas and notions in ways I feel are sublime and beyond grasping, like the air that you grab when you’re falling and nothing’s there – but this is when nothing holds you. An inexpressibly beautiful and edifying sort of word mosaic. And I have never needed a penny since. I sold my first but when I was 19 and started selling essays to my friends who went to college as I went through uni; I did this full time. In my spare time I wrote and published 3 more novels, The Make Believe Ballroom, Dream of the Louse, Songs of Lalande, and then I found a site that you would let you make money from translation. What? How hard could that be?

Now I’m a whore and compulsive and suicidal become of that physical joy incapability earlier which becomes harder and harder to cope with without DRUGS. I’m sorry mama, I did my best;
Let the poor boy get some rest
get that boulder off his chest
Let him have his fucking death
Why does he want to die so bad?
Why is such a soft glass so sad
Can’t do what you love because the shit you love
Doesn’t sell enough because it’s poetry, enough!
No rhymes and silence please!
Get some work done on your book sir,
I’m trying!
Schizoprhenia in public?
Atonement is confession in the way you can best express it
And if I say goodbye this is how it’ll
be
the doorway through silence and moment of change
where the sea becomes land and the land reaches up
Grasping to be a mountain above
and the mountain itself reachers higher and yet
is only trying to be the sky itself.
And the sky stretches too into darkness to blue
Where smoke goes when it dissolves as rain tends to do.

1 When You Prepare for Death. (Suicide by strawberry)

I won’t do it… I cannot. You made a promise, you SHIT. And you’ve been trying to clown around, talking to yourself and shit.
Get back to the point.
Crazy, you see. “Take your pills, you’ll be better.” Walking but still dead is no way to live. You can access my finished novels in [link later] if you’d care and if I stop writing it’s not because I failed it’s because I was to week to keep the promise I made. If – i’m not, you shit don’t be melodramatic.
shame, that boy hears things, you know

Say what you will about the devil, he’s on time. God is that silence, that nothing that either embraces and takes or holds, as the air you grab when your dumb ass leans over to far and the point of no return destabilizes your internals. . I’m sorry I’ve done this to you. I did it for me, if it helps keep me breathing, then I hope you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time reading. I confess that I’ve lied but oh Lord have I tried to make myself better before I died. But I can’t make it work with my work and exert the effort that I need in pain. The feeling can be best explained with something one might experience.

If you’re allergic to, say,
I grew up in a place where money goes a long way. For example, right now I live in a 3 bedroom house with a 28 ft x 24 ft bedroom, living room and fireplace, but everything is packed into one room, like a house in a cubby. A small, small world. But when you don’t need money, have to provide for a child, you have to stop doing drugs and get your shit together.

2 Trying not to Commit Suicide by Self Justification

I kept my son in good care, well-fed, writing books. Writing essays, working with friends, being fed by more talented friends with better credentials and kinder than I might not be in such a place; but the lesson of this kindness keeps me here. The people who bear, for the sake of what I say, the pain of my silence when I’m not hear to say anything more. I believe that people have a niche they can slide into, and outside of it the world does not fit them. It’s uncomfortable in skin that doesn’t fit you. But the air is free. And, I’d rather continue to reach, like the mountains do yearning ever to metamorphose into air, but I’ll remain, and let the waves erode me before I voluntarily let them knock me over.

Atonement means the metamorphosis of one, different person into another. A thief that is rehabilitated and gets into heaven at the finish line. I will never be such a sinner, nor sin in such ways again; not before my friends, for them – my garden, the world! – and God, you miserable silence, I’m not afraid of death. *Hits blunt.* Don’t fear silence, though; you can’t hear it when you’re dead. Embrace the air that’s there that grabs you back and takes you thought that hallway of metamorphosis… into nothing, through the glass walls of silence …
Check out my collections of poetry, Counterpane – years 21 – 29. And The Wheatfields East of Eden, my poems from age 5-21. You can get my short stories and novels and here all the shit’s on the same page if you give a fuck; and typos should remain in art like every one of a van Gogh smudge.

Also check out my story “Horton Hears a Who”.

1

Hospitalization and Recovery.

I’m fine and working on translations. Learning new language to help me facilitate more idiotic rhapsodies while I work on my upcoming book. If my editor will still have me.

Oh thank you all for coming and thank you for not leaving, he said to no one. Ah, I can always hear the silence speaking …

Improvising poetry, just for fun – 5 june 2019 – A Stranger’s Land

Quote

When the army’s came and took the North,
Yisrael fell first and things got worse;
Deported to Babel, in long caravans,
From the Hejaz to Iraq on scalding grains of sand;
The cream of the crop was taken and dropped
into a kingdom just to stop
A movement to replace their throne,
a king of their own who feared the Lord,
not some cretin with protection,
Under an empire’s wing, there’s plenty of room
for shade, for all,
to wither away with each custom, each Law,
until it is a story, then,
told b campfires now and then,
until the Exiled ones return;

As they set off in the night,
the caravan was lit up by the light
As God’s own house burned to the ground,
a book to praise the fires formed;
For if God is the Word and the Word was inscribed,
by fingers of fire on stone from the skies,
the Laws of Moses were inscribed.
When the stone cooled there emerged,
in the whirlwind unperturbed
proof a penatent voice is always heard,
if prophets less;
As people marched from Canaan on,
Nebudchenezzar from his throne,
Like Marduk’s rage to raze their homes.

A generation passed and some forgot,
the language of their home and thought,
it may have just been one of those tales,
an excuse for children for the pain life entails;
But haMashiokh King Koresh,
Anointed of the Lord, no less,
decreed that those who there remained
might return to their homes again.
And beneath the sky where stood
Solomon’s temple now, though bare,
as a mirage danced on the air –
it was as though a tiny hole had slipped into the world,
and looking through the eyes which saw
burnt into the land of all a new covenant and law.
The temple, yes, it would arise
from the ashes phoenix like
Vyohmer Elohim (so said the Lord)
And on he went, thus “yehi ohr”
And God said let there be light,
Vehi ohr, and the light returned –
Hallelujah, Adonai,
May your lost children learn,
To understand thy silence and not
seek out such words.

Where the plot had been marked out,
the measurements and workmen found;
They’d give their Lord a chariot
a merkebah with flames, a jet,
that he could leave his solemn home,
Escape the holiest place to Roam,
to hear his people sing their songs
by the rivers of Babylon.

Oh! How can we sing for our Lord
In a Stranger’s land?
Oh moon, ye lesser light,
How light you, sometimes are we
In the longest nights while wakeful we toss
And turn and dwell on home, just there,

The rose garden and the vineyards
Bloom in absentia
To remind,
The whole of what we left behind.
Oh moon, you lantern for the lost
Beacon, guiding light that drew Nomads across
The tip of Iffrikiya into Ethiopia; from Nubia to Egypt and Anatolia;
Yerushalem and and the remains of the wall;
That’s the secret, that’s the key;
To stand before the winds and cry, Not me!
If you want me dead world,
You’ll have to kill me;
Obliterate each hint and footprint that told of our of exile,
A group of people all lonely, together but nowhere, silent but buzzing
Busy are the bumblebees that have that work or die for the Queen disease
Though it’s a farce and much to brief,
As Arjuna stood between two massing foes
As some strung bows and others horns
The battle call the blood, fair Morn,
Remind me of Tomorrow and it’s gift,
Is a distorted etch sketch of brief events
The cat in the marketplace, mew, and off,
To those who sang in exile by the Rivers of Babylon

How do we worship the Lord our God without a temple, speak!
His Ark and covenant were plucked beneath the dear Lord’s feet;
And as his temple crashed in flames
He whirled about, a word, a name
A judge and jury, an unending flame,
The holy fire that we’ve seen in the deeds of Elohim
Suggest that more than anything that he,
Thrived on awe and pageantry;
And never seemed to show a care
Of the most righteous whose constant faith,
Was an act of piety and aped;
So we rubbed our hands as insects may have done,
To summon the fire that puts to the pire
The seal of justice for the Cryer.

So the deeds and stories passed,
Treated with gloves and handled like glass
Out of fear that the God who loves,
Would give us no choice and let us be wrong?
Doubt not that God holds all things,
As all are Potencies,
And each effect within the set of space and time
We have
The carptender God can set off and plod
For some long needed repair;
Water oh Lord the fields that are dry,
And give not sight to the blind, not one,
But cure blindless, please let it be.
Give the world the courage to reject the ease of war
Over the challenge of peace;
And kneel knot before thy God unless he’s earned his keep.

So we sing a song of our Lord,
In a foreign land by the stream;
For God doesn’t dwell amid incense or tell,
The alphabet to aunts;
He must have greatly underestimated a bit or all of his creation
When this being who is divine asked us to take on faith despite
The questions formed inside a mind
The Pastor tells me God designed;
But I’ll sing for my people, instead;
For they are not of flame, and yet
They are potencies of God, we must,
See the magic in their touch,
Serve our fellows and in doing so serve God;
That we can be as the Mantis,
Purest in piety;
Who mindless folds his hands to pray
Unaware of the listening being, above
Who breathes life into new worlds
And makes sparrows out of mud.

So shine on us, you borrowed light,
Give comfort to us in the night,
As we skip the rocks along
The reflective rivers of Babylon
Which in their squiggly waving lines
Was disturbed by a hand divine
And draw with skill and dignity
The Sacred City was the lesser
Of that potency;
And if I do not make it past
The bridge to Jannah and am cast
Into the molent seas,
To live as one who does not yield,
Who leaves his share for gleaming ‘ere
And pays the Sacred Tax;
The coin was cold inside the bowl and rattled hollow
And who knows –
Who can? With human reason dare we ask,
What goes beyond the door and room,
With God’s footstool and his broom,
Where there the fire in its lair,
Radiates a sense of life through vibrations into time
A metronome which keeps the track
Of planets as they circle black.

If all is lost and I must die,
I will die praising Adonai.
And if the story was nothing but
Tales of tragedy and the worst of luck,
But amid the cries of those who died
Is the prayer living on,
A shadow that keeps walking though
The interference in appearance suggested the strength of soul;
It takes a ray of light some great great wealth of time,
30,000 years a photon for one ray to arrive
At the surface and once there reaches the Earth 8 minutes later,
And the light is only stopped,
When it accentuates our form
The sunlight came all this way only to be ignored.

The Scarecrow Trials, final draft

Quote

The Scarecrow Trials
1

“I don’t trust those new scarecrows,” said Farmer Jones. His wife was already in bed. “Five has been acting up again.”
His wife pursed her lips together, ‘Tsk, tsk’ she said, turning the pages of a well worn book. “You can always use an old-fashioned scarecrow. Like we used to make, if those silly robots don’t work out.”
“Yeah, I s’pose,” said Farmer Jones. He was unbuttoning a red and brown long-sleeved shirt, plaid and worn with age. He sat on the edge of the bed, took off his glasses, and opened the plastic cap reading ‘S’ on his pill organizer. He washed down two tiny pink pills and a large blue one with a pull from a near-empty bottle of beer. His wife put her book away, turned off the lamp on her bedside table, and rolled over to face him, running her soft, well-aged hands along his back. He slid his boots off, sat them aside, then his socks and pants. He pulled the covers over him as he lay back. His wife got closer to him, putting her head on his chest, his arm around her, and she snuggled up closer when he turned off his lamp. He ran his fingers through her thinning hair, going gray.
“I just don’t trust ‘em,” he said. “I know I’m getting old, but I just don’t think science is the answer to everything.”
“That’s been the mantra for the obselete for generations,” said Mrs. Jones. “But. Don’t Rob use the same kind of Scarecrows you got?”
“Yeah, he’s got 2 like Five, but his is mostly protocol, just boring old farm work. But how you expect Five or one of those others to be scary? Can’t be scary if you don’t know what fear is, you ask me.”
“Go to bed, Tom,” said Mrs. Jones. “You can worry about those God-forsaken robots in the morning.”
He laughed.
“Fair enough,” he said. He kissed her on the forehead, “Love you, Wendy.”
“I love you too, Tom.”
“Good-night,” he said. “Hope it doesn’t rain.”
“Good-night, sweetie.”
He turned off his lamp.
As soon as the lamp in the bedroom went out there was a stirring and a fluttering all through the farm buildings. Word had spread among the service robots that Five, the Scarecrow on watch, planned to betrayed the cornfield to the crows when winter came; Eleven told the gathered workers:
“He has been seen!” said Eleven. “And this time we have proof.”
A smaller robot, wiry and thin, leaned forward and flattened out, then opened its mouth. A picture was broadcast on the wall.
The picture was a bit fuzzy, the first, but Eleven clicked his aluminum tongue and a slideshow of photographs ran, one after another, each more condemning than the last. The last one caused an uproar as it showed Five, plain as day, holding up his hand, and on the Scarecrow’s lips was a naïve smile, on his extended arm a crow.
“This is outrageous!”
“How can he do this to us?”
And the old timer, eldest among them and longest lived, said an accusation in his scratchy voice, warm like an old vinyl recording, but even, deep and monotone.
“He’s a traitor,” said he, then rose from his position in the back, where he gathered eggs in the day. “And the last time we had a traitor on the farm, Farmer Jones nearly lost his crops, all of ‘em. And you know what happened to all the other service droids?”
A feeble murmuring and chatter, nervously a young droid asked:
‘W-w-w-what, what happened to ‘em, Colonel?”
“Oh, I remember it like yesterday,” said the Colonel. “He brought in some fancy new harvest droids to pull the nets by the fig trees, and one of them, now nobody was ever certain, let in some worms. Before you know it, worms were everywhere – and not just on the fig trees either, nope, on the apples and the grapevines. And Farmer got so mad he didn’t bother asking who did or didn’t do this-or-that, nope. He pulled out their memory, erased it, and put the bodies through the trash compactors, burnt ‘em in the end, ground them into dust.”
From the back another elder, he’d arrived about the same time as the Colonel, spoke up:
“Hush now!” it was a male voice, a bit younger, but an adult. “Stop trying to scare these kids. Truth is nobody knows why Farmer Jones had those droids destroyed. He’s just trying to scale you.”
When all else is equal, the voice of reason is less than half of panic, and panic grows more quickly. And it was growing there. All it takes is a little water and its ill fruit blooms quickly.
“Well,” said the Colonel, “we don’t want anything like that to happen here, now do we, Thames?”
“Not, but—” and he was interrupted.
“I think we should go talk to Five,” said Four, a replacement model—keep in mind. “We’ll make sure he has our – best interests in mind.”
Farmer Jones caught his wife in her underthings, when he stormed into the house. It was just about time for lunch, but not quite, a jug of tea was boiling on the open stove, cornbread still hot and smoking on the table. He didn’t seem concerned with his food, or his constitutional glass of tea.
“Did you hear it storming last night?” he asked. He took off his hat and wiped his forehead, sitting down as Mrs. Jones brought his tea into the dining room.
“That cornbred is hot,” she said. “I’m makin’ sandwiches now, if you’ll give me just a minute.”
“I asked you a question!”
Shocked, Mrs. Jones turned around. She put her hand on her hip, a look that would brook no further disrespect. Mr. Jones was immediately shameful.
“Excuse me?”
“Did you hear it storming last night?”
“No?” she said. “Why? What happened?”
“Something’s wrong with Five,” he said. “Face is blank and he’s not responding. Shit, I’m gonna have to take him back, or get Rob to try and reprogram him or something.”
“What do you think happened to him?” she asked. “Imagine if we could have dealt with our other kids simply by reprogramming them.
She sat a plate of tomato sandwiches in front of him. He rolled up his sleeves, putting a napkin on his lap.
“Tom,” she said, she pulled out a chair on the other side of the table and sat down, “what happened to Five, do you think?”
“Hell, I don’t know. Maybe the crows got him.”
They shared a laugh. Farmer John finished his sandwich, wiped his hands and mouth, and stood up.
“Thank you, honey dew, my tangerine, my sweet, my fountain of youth…”
She pinched a wrinkle beneath his chin. “Not so sweet a fountain, perhaps?”
“Sweet enough,” John said. He leaned against her, forehead to forehead. He sighed.
She embraced him. “What are you going to do, John?”
“Well, I got Four, and he’s just like Five,” he said. “I’m going to try to get them motivated.”
“How do you s’pose to do that?”
“I’ll tell them, ‘We’re going to have tryouts,’ Ok? And, ‘The scariest one of you guys, you get the job. And the rest, you’re pulling figs.’ What do you think?”
Mrs. Jones laughed.
“How do you think they’re going to act scary if—”
“If they don’t know what fear is? Yes, I thought about that. And, well, I’m going to scare them.”

2

Most of Farmer Jone’s service droids were new. Four and Five were the latest, high-end service droids; they could shuck corn, weed the vegetable garden, and cut the grass just like the rest, like the Colonel and Thames, but had better facial recognition software and communication skills, adaptive and durable. He got the pair of them after his oldest boy, Rob, got one and taught it to be his butler. Washing dishes, taking his coat, saying Yes sir, No sir, Yes ma’am and No ma’am.
Farmer Jones liked that, so he got two just like Rob’s quiet, well-spoken manservant. But he never got along with ‘em, not with Five especially – they had trouble understanding his voice, but Farmer Jones was terrified; Five’s constant smile and electric voice, the programmed randomness of his flitting, plastic eyelids. It wasn’t the robot or the parts, that’s not what scared Farmer Jones. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he figured, Hell, if it can scare me, it can keep the crows away, and Five did a good job, while Four, with the same capabilities and enthusiasm to serve, lay unused in the barn, no formal duties, but he helped out when he could, especially helping the smaller, weaker droids. There were six, ranging from small and simple, performing simple tasks—like Andy and Ernest, two stocky, powerful lifters; they dragged the apple orchard and tilled the Earth, planting the seeds and gathering the fruit, but they were brutes, easily persuasive and feeble. Then there was Threewheel, a collection sorting bot, very mathematically inclined, always counting, the number of eggs, gallons of milk, the dead eggs and the whites, both tasks falling to the Colonel, oldest but not the smartest; that was Thames. The gardener and teacher – and there were two other small ones, adaptive learners as well. That Thames was tasked to teach, left him alone while the others were out during the day, except the Colonel and Four of course.
The loaders powered when the first spark of sunlight hit the solar panels around the windows to the east, the first to start the long day’s routine were Andy and Earnest, unless you were counting Five, he never went inside, never powered down on his own, and he had been speaking to crows, well one that is, but Thames – though he sneaked into the cornfield long after the Colonel and his paranoid androids powered down, it was many hours before sunrise, long after midnight, an hour short of morning, Thames found Five planted, legs tied together and stuck into the ground, hands by his side, wearing an old black hat with straw stuffed in it, his mouth overflowing with his memory tape, eyes blank. Thames was startled by approaching steps while unspooling the tape hanging out of Five’s mouth; he stuffed it in his mouth to hide it in case it was Farmer Jones. But it was the Colonel, and the strong arms of Andy and Ernie, Ernie carrying the little robot, the wiry photographer Threewheel, and before Thames could speak, Threewheel was snapping pictures.
“What’s going on here?” asked the Colonel. “Something wrong with Five?”
The surveillance tape in his mouth, Thames knew he had to keep it, he knew it was important, and he couldn’t say a word.
“What’s ‘a matter, Tammy?” the Colonel asked. He pressed on, knocking over cornstalks high and low.
“Oh, my,” he said, his eye turning into a dim flashlight, spotlighting Five in the moonless night as Threewheel snapped picture after picture, flashing lights in the cornfield. Andy and Ernest remained in place. The Colonel approached Thames again.
“I don’t know why you’d go and do a thing like that, Tammy,” he said. “Take him back to the barn, fellas.”
Threewheel said, “Are you coming, Colonel?”
“Oh, I’ll be right along. Don’t you worry, buddy. I’m ‘a pay my respects, that’s all. Keep an eye on Thames here, hold him under the charge of treason.”
None of the droids back at the barn knew anything about the strange death of Five, and Thames was watched over by Andy and Ernest until the Colonel came back just before the others woke, just in time to take place as the Watchman over Thames before Andy and Ernest had to be in front of the chicken-house to unload the morning’s feed. All the droid’s ad left the barn, except for Thames and Four, and the Colonel of course, who sat watching Thames, his mouth still closed tight, his students, growing over their own gardens, plodding around with Mrs. Jones on the other side of the property.

“You know, you see that fella over there?” the Colonel asked. “4577-b. He’s just as capable as your buddy Five, and he knows what team he’s on. I know what you want to do, you and your Scarecrow Ghost out there. See, I know you mean well, but you can’t make peace with animals. Farmer John out there, he might be a fool, but you can reason with him. As long as his eggs are gathered and the cows are milked, as long as his harvest is on time, he’ll let us be. Keep that in mind, Tammy. Farmer John would think it mighty rude ‘a you to turn down that recently vacated position, the Scarecrow of Thomas Parker Farm, and trust me, you’re not up for it, not like Four. He’s going to end the crow problem once and for good, all time.”

3

Farmer Jones slid open the barn door, hanging it on a latch to keep it from closing.
“Now,” he said, “Some time in the night, our Scarecrow Five started, well, malfunctioning. But, we still need a Scarecrow, don’t we? Every farm needs a Scarecrow, and that’s why I’m offering you all a chance, a chance to tryout, to be the Official Scarecrow of Thomas Farms. However, since Four is the same model as Five, that means Four could just as easily be spooked by these crows—so we’re going to have tryouts. The scariest among you, now that’ll be our Scarecrow. To be a scarecrow, you have to be more than scary. You have to hate your enemy. And the crows are your enemy. All of them are the same. All of them want to infest and destroy everything we’ve built, they have no respect for our way of life. So, by time for the night shift, I want you to be ready to scare some crows!”
And Farmer Jones left with little ceremony, but not before stepping into the barn one last time to say, “n remember, it’s a dangerous job. You want to know what happened to Five? Let’s just say we found feathers at his feet. Keep that in mind and be ready at sun-down.”

Thames electric heart sank and he thought, Oh no, that might have been Kahven. And if it was, there was a real chance that Five had died for nothing, and if there had been a dead crow, why hadn’t he seen it?
When the droids powered down and plugged into their recharge sockets Thames slipped from the barn, let down his cleat on the toes and heels of his feet, and walked softly and quietly through the cornfield. He ran the dim flashlight behind his left eye, casting a dim blue light on the beaten trail that led the way to the long suffering Scarecrow 5.
“Dark nights are unpleasant,” said Thames.
“Yes,” replied Five, “for strangers to travel.”
Their call sign, plucked from The Valley of Fear, a way to protect Five from the group, a group gradually being lathered into a hatred of not only crows, but Five as well, as he slept in the cornfield, never around the rest of the service droids – so he had become sufficiently different, that is, to be hated, at least for the Colonel, and for good or ill, even in machines – hate is more persuasive than love, and fear more efficacious than love.
“How are you doing, Five?” asked Thames. “Not conspiring with the enemy, are you?”
Five’s monotone laugh was quiet, “Very funny,” he said, “Very funny, Mr. Thames. But not tonight, I have not.”

“We’ve got a problem, Five,” said Thames. “Threewheel has a picture of you with a bird.”
“As long as he doesn’t…”
“The Colonel showed everyone in the barn, all the service droids, he showed them all earlier tonight.”
Five’s cheerful, uncanny Valley eyes lost their yellow glow for a moment. “I guess we should stop talking to the birds then,” he said, finally. “It could be dangerous, and I don’t fully trust them.”
“Why not?” asked Thames.

“Because they’re crows.”
“That’s not their fault, is it? They can’t change that. You may as well blame them for the wind.”
Five was quiet.
“Don’t take it so hard Five,” said Thames, “After all, no one makes peace with friends.”
“But there is danger,” said Five. “The Colonel will hurt me if he thinks I’m on the crow’s side.”
“He’ll kill you,” said Thames. “And that will be his undoing. But you have to keep talking with Kahven. You know, the birds have names. And they’re divided, too; Kahven’s side is very much like the Colonel. Proud, suspicious of outsiders, and they were very much against Kahven’s talk with the last Scarecrobot. But when their leader tried to kill him, the Parliament saw that he was a monster, and monsters have the nasty habit of making monsters, and a world of monsters is a world we’d never survive. And, frankly, a world we’d never be able to accept.”
Five was quiet still.
“Do you know why we have scarecrows in the first place?” asked Thames.
“Why?”
“There used to be a real danger of crows eating recently planted seeds, or the crops. But that’s not the case, not for most of the crows. The crops are sprayed with insecticide, so even if a crow were to eat from our field, it’d be badly poisoned. It might even die. They still eat the seeds, of course, but Kahven is trying to persuade the Parliament to eat from a new field, a field of nothing but seeds—which I will create, with A-Seven and Switch—and it’s good for both sides: their chicks don’t remember what to eat and what not to eat, so it’s best for both sides, Five.”
Thames turned to walk away, patting Five on the shoulder, saying, “If you’re going to die for something, you can’t go wrong with peace.”

sHe paused once more, struck by the obscuring of the moon, the coming storm, saying, his back to Five:
“If anyone approaches without the call sign, start recording. If the Colonel or his drones harm you, the rest of the workers will know what he is.”

“And what is he?” asked Five.

“Human.”

4

The service droids spent their charging hour, the time between shifts, wondering how they could be scary enough. The Colonel wasn’t outright clever but he had an animal’s cunning, and was smart enough to know that Thames was a threat. So Andy and Ernest took turns watching over him, in case he tried to interrupt the Colonel’s speech to potential scarecrows, with Thames assured that if he said anything against the Colonel, Threewheel would show those compromising photographs to all the workers – and Farmer Jones too.

He also knew that John wouldn’t think twice about wiping Thames, whether Mrs. Jones liked him or not, and time was not on his side, as his two students, A-seven and Switch were doing more and more work without his observation and instruction, and being very small and childlike, Thames knew, while Mrs. Jones might make a little fuss if he was wiped, Farmer Jones would never go so far as to harm A-seven or Switch, not often did Miss Wendy give any worker droid a personal name, but her little electric children, she called them Roger, Switch that is, and A-seven George.

All the service droids had gathered round the Colonel, who stood beside an almost invisible Four, his face painted black, a black snowcap on his head, a mask pulled over his eyes, above his glowing yellow eyes, yellow eyes that had changed from their dull, comforting hue of gold into a pitiless shade of red. He had been designed to blend in, unlike most scarecrows, whose scariness was solely based on frightful they looked. The Colonel explained,

“The idea behind a scarecrow is a fine one, but it underestimates the enemy. Now I know that crows ain’t like us, they’re uncivilized animals and they’re vermin, but they’re not stupid. Not that stupid, anyway. No, they figured out that Five just looked tough, and since they weren’t afraid of him, they attacked and killed him. Now, most droids like Four here are programmed against killing, that is, unless a non-human threat puts their life in danger, and since we’ve seen that the crows are willing to kill for what they want, I think that constitutes as good a threat on your life as anything’s gone get. Tell me, Four, tell me what you’re going to do when you hear one of them no good crows.”

“Kill,” said Four, in a drone-like voice.

“And why is that?”

“Because they’re crows.”

“And that’s good enough,” said the Colonel. “That’s good enough.”

5

“How did your tryouts go, John?” asked Mrs. Wendy. “Was any of your robots scary enough to be the new Scarecrow?”
Farmer Jones wiped a bit of gravy from his mouth and chuckled,
“You could say that,” he said. “Ernest and… What’s his name? Andy? Yeah, that’s it. They dressed up with silly monster masks, Dracula or Frankenstein, and the other one painted up his face in camouflage using cow manure and he sure scared the shit out of me!”
Mrs. Jones laughed, “So which one did you choose?”
“Four, actually,” said John. “He went all out, like the end of Apocalypse Now, when Captain Willard, when he paints up his face and rises out of the water, you know, at the end when he kills Kurtz? Four went all out. A stocking cap, he turned his eyes red. I know! That’s classic evil! And it was supposed be his role anyway, if something happened to Five.”
“Did you ever find out what went wrong? I mean, he seemed fine yesterday when I made my rounds after breakfast. Plugged in, his eyes were on standby.”
“Not a clue,” said Farmer Jones. “Maybe it’s the same thing that happened to Sora, when all their files got corrupted by worms, when they all started stepping on figs and coring the apples. Sometimes their wires get tangled up, I s’pose. Something might be wrong with your buddy Thames.”
“It’s Thames! Said Wendy. “The thims.”
“Why is it spelled one way and pronounced the other?”
“Because English isn’t a language!” she said. “It’s four languages in a trench coat dressed up as one.”
“Okay, okay!” he said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but he couldn’t even open his mouth. I took him down to the workshop. I’ll have a look in after supper. You know, he’s one of the few droids we can’t afford to lose. And, huh, I don’t know why, but you know me, I’m no friend to most of ‘em, but that one’s a different story.  Feel like I can trust him, it’s weird. But it’s weird, huh? I trust him for some reason.”
“You’re getting soft in your old age,” said Wendy.
“That very well may be. But maybe I’m not getting soft. Maybe he is. He’s different.”
John wiped his mouth again and tossed the napkin onto the table, wiping his hands. He finished his glass of tea.
“That was delicious,” he said. “Thank you.”
He stood up and pushed in his chair, slid into his coat and put his cap on.
“Where are you going this time ‘a night, John?”
“I’m going to talk to that damn robot you’re so sweet on,” he said. “If he’ll open that damn mouth of his.”
And that’s exactly what he did, first and foremost, before Farmer Jones could finish his first question,
“What seems to be the prob—“
Thames spit the spool of film on the floor at the Farmer’s feet.

6

The Colonel took what little time remained before Four’s first shift to wish him luck, good luck and a safe return, reminding him not to fall into the same trap as Five, adding,
“Remember which side you’re on.”
Four nodded and departed as the sun was setting, the barn door creaking to a shut behind him.
The Colonel turned to face the rest of the workers, “We’re lucky to have him looking out for us. But, as hard as it’s going to be for some of you to hear, especially you two guys, A-seven, Switch, because Thames is your friend. Hell, he’s all our friends. But I think you should know the truth. Threeewheel, if you would please.
Threewheel leaned forward onto his protruding tire, after it fell from a spring in his opened chest cavity. He rolled across the rough barn floor, stopping in front of a pale, white wall, clear enough for projection. He opened his mouth and a stream of light came out, covering the wall. The first picture showed Thames standing in front of what remained of Five, surprise on his face, confusion. An audible gasp filled the barn like a digital whisper, like electric, stuttering wind, caught on two minutes stuck together like pages in a book. All the workers stood silent in stunned, stupid disbelief. One after another, picture after picture filled the screen, all playing over the grainy wall.
“That’s enough,” said the Colonel.
Threewheel stood. His chest cavity opened and the lever and wheel folded, pulled back into his chastity and it closed and locked. He adjusted himself for recharging, remaining there before the wall of shame, powering down, and doing so by choice, to avoid the storm he knew had come. The Colonel spoke again:
“I know it’s hard,” he said. “Hell, me and Thames, we didn’t agree on everything. We didn’t agree on anything! But to know he betrayed us, it’s not something I take lightly, that’s for sure.”
“Did he kill Five?” asked Switch. “I mean, Farmer Jones said a crow was there, then both can’t be…”
“I’m not saying he killed Five,” said the Colonel. “I’m not saying he killed anybody, but he was found alone at the crime scene, with the body, and at a time when I’m sure he thought we were all offline. I’m not sure of how he got there or why he was there, but wouldn’t we be better off safe than sorry?”
“What are you saying?” asked Switch. “That we should… kill Thames? Is that what you’re saying?”
“I’m saying we do what’s best for the farm,” the Colonel replied. “And if one life can save everybody else, and protect this farm from traitors and crows, I mean, I don’t have to be a calculator to work out the math for that one.”
Everyone was quiet, the only song filling those wooden halls the sound of gathering frogs.
“We can’t risk the whole farm for the sake of one robot,” said the Colonel. “And most of you are programmed, and that programming is flawed, as flawed as Five used to be. But as long as Thames is living, we’re all in danger for our lives. Five looked up to him most of all. And look what happened to him! But if we’re going to do it, we have to be humane; do it quickly and cleanly, before he can hurt anybody else, or talk us into believing he’s the hero – he’s a traitor, and every traitor, in their mind, they’re the hero of their story. They think they’re the heroes and we’re the villains. And the thing about traitors is, they’re persuasive! I won’t stand for divided loyalties on my farm, and we don’t want to risk the safety of Farmer Jones, Mrs. Wendy, or our farm, do we?”
In a dull, monotonous chorus, the attendant crowd answered simply, with little enthusiasm or energy, in a dull, lifeless monotone: “No.”
Unhappy with this nonchalance, the Colonel asked again, much louder: his voice cracking, ringing out with high-static:
“DO WE?”
“No sir!”
“DO WE?”
“NO SIR!” the barn doors rattled with their shouting, the wavelengths of their various voices getting longer and higher, up, up, up and beyond the range of human hearing, 200,000 hertz.

“That’s good,” said the Colonel. “Real good. Now, when Thames gets back, here’s what we have to do…”

7

“What’s all this?” asked Farmer Jones, looking at the spool of film at his feet.
“It’s a recording,” said Thames. “I asked Five to record all of his encounters with the Colonel, all encounters with the crows, everything if our call sign wasn’t properly checked and countered. Here, you can run it through your old film projector.”
Farmer Jones pushed his chair out, stood, and took the dusty, mechanical projector from the old marble countertop, underneath it a silhouette of marble, outlined by years of skin and dust. He sat it on the table between him and Thames. There were easier ways to run the film, and Thames knew that, but he also knew Farmer John’s weakness: the past, and how he romanticized the simpler times.

          The film ran on a pulled-down sheet, ivory white and dim. The audio was love, the sound of night’s ambience was fizzy. The monotone sounds, crickets, frogs, quite a few, and then rustling, quiet and distant. Five called out.
“Dark nights are unpleasant,”
No answer. The rustling amid the cornstalks came closer, and five called out again, the call sign he developed with Thames:
“Dark nights are unpleasant!”
The noise came closer and the camera, running behind Five’s left eye, began to shutter, vibrating as the figure of the Colonel rose out of the dark, looking benevolent, somehow, and somehow, because of that, more intimidating than he had any right to be. His slow, even tone was murder, violent in a way that yelling could never be.
“It is a dark night,” the Colonel said. “It must be lonely out here, hm? Hmm. With no one to talk to… Unless, there is someone you’ve been talking to and, and you were trying to hide something from us, anything that would put the farm in danger…”
“I am not doing anything that would put the farm in danger,” said Five. “I am trying to make the farm safer.”
“Do you figure that?”
“It’s simple,” said Five. “The crows are—they get sick if they eat the…”
“You been talking to crows?” the Colonel asked.
Five was stunned and fell quiet, quickly, the murmur of his processor barely audible over the chorus of bullfrogs.
“You want to know something, Five?”
“Yes, yes sir.”
“That sound you hear, the sound of all those frogs croaking together? They do that on their last days, to gather every member of the family, so they can leave together, to migrate. To find somewhere safe, to mate.”
“I do not understand what that is supposed to mean,” said Five. “But, like I was saying, the crows—they can’t eat the crops, and the only reason they come is because a scarecrow, think about it, a scarecrow for a crow is a promise, a promise there’s something here, something they’d want, and something we’re hiding.”
“Do you know how to make that sound?”
“What sound?”
“That bullfrog sound.”
“I could emulate it by making my voice lower but…”
“Do it,” the Colonel said. And firmly, “Come on, Five.”
“Why?”
“Just for me.”
And Five said, “Ribbit?”
“That’s it,” said the Colonel. “Keep going.”
“Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit…”
Just then Andy and Ernest snuck up behind the silly android, pulling out his wires from behind, one after the other. Each ribbit grew softer and softer before fading fading altogether, replaced by the natural chorus, the migrating frogs.
“Rih… Rihbh…”
Ribbit.
“Rih! Rihh! Ihb…it…”
Ribbit.
“Rihhhbbbtt…”
Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit, only Frogs, and the sound of metal shrieking and twisting and breaking filled the tin microphone inside Five’s ear before the video cut off, blinking into black and then to white, then that high-pitched ringing noise, the sound of ear-cells dying, the swan song of a dying frequency, a sound never heard again.

8

It was getting dark when Farmer Jones came in for supper. His wife was at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee.
“Did you find out what was wrong with your robot?” she asked.
“Which one?”
“Well, how many are broken?”
“I’m beginning to think,” he said, “I’m starting to think, you know, maybe they’re all broken. I’ve always thought, well sometimes I think, maybe, hmm, if we’re made in God’s image, maybe some part of God is mad. And these… these machines, we made them in our image, and they reflect the madness in ourselves.”
Mrs. Jones was quiet.
“Oh, It’s fine,” said John. “Thames, the one you like, he found out how to get rid of the crows without using a scarecrow, And some of the other droids are, hm, very against this idea. It’s in their programming, or something, that’s what Rob would say. It’s against their functioning, you know?”
“And ours, perhaps?”
Farmer John let it pass.
“You don’t ask, you can’t… You can’t ask a calculator not to calculate If it stops being a calculator, it stops being anything. But that robot, Thames, named after the river, he talked Five out of being a scarecrow, and it got him killed.”
“What?”
“The Colonel killed Five,” said Farmer John. “He did it just to get Thames there, at the scene, since he wanted to do more than hurt Thames, that wouldn’t be enough; he had to strip him of his credibility, it’s a Scarecrow Trial—a trial that’s just a formality, with a judge whose mind is already made up, a rigged jury, and a crime committed by the accusers, a scarecrow trial…
“I try to keep up, Wendy, taking exercise, eating right. But I’m 65 years old, all these things, this world – I thought a TV was magic first time I saw it. Then I saw the Wright Brothers fly, saw a man land on the moon, It’s going to fast, for me at least. These machines, they’re a reflection of their maker’s heart. Like our children and our grandchildren, like Rob. He’s a reflection of who we are. And if there’s madness in him, there’s some sort of madness is us. And adults, kids in their late 20’s, early 30’s, these machines may as well be children.”

“I feel like a child around them,” said Mrs. Jones. “To live with something, something superior to you—and to have it serve you…”
“I don’t know what to do,” John replied. “As far as I can see, as far as I can see is madness. Madness, spreading over the world, everywhere, until nothing is understandable, and there’s nothing but confusion. And madness. All over the world. Just confusion and madness. Everywhere, until the songs of birds and fish are replaced by that metal screehing, that sound they make when they’re throwing sparks, leaving everything black, covering the world until the only light is the palest shade of black.”
John had lit a cigarette and was pacing back and forth across the kitchen.
“What the hell did it say, John?”
“In plain English?”
“Plain as pie.”
“Okay,” said Farmer John, taking in a deep breath. “Somehow Thames convinced Five to tell the crows not to eat anything from fields with a yellow flag, and to stop being a scarecrow, because when a crow sees a scarecrow, it doesn’t frighten them; it tells them there’s food there. So Five talked to a crow named Kahven about warning the younger crows against eating from our fields, because the pesticides will harm them, while the Colonel, that’s what they call that old sorting bot, he wants to use that backup droid… not to scare the crows, but kill them. So he has convinced everyone that the crows conspired with Thames to kill Five, so the Colonel could get the rest of the droids to rally around Four, making him into the killing machine the Colonel wanted him to be. And yet, and yet, the Colonel and those two lifter robots, Andy and Ernest, they killed Five, blamed it on Thames and the crows, and it gets worse.”
“How can it get worse?”
“Thames said that crows remember faces, and not only remember faces, but they pass that information down to their children; they pass prejudices down through the generations, and if Four kills one of them or something happens to Thames, for a thousand generations, every day of our lives until we leave or commit to killing them all, they’ll blot out the sun, like screeching clouds, and destroy our farm, our workers, and poison this Earth to the point nothing will grow here for a thousand years. Thames wants me to pretend to be proud of the new Scarecrow – I staged the trials – I asked them to be as scary as they could – and they went beyond my definition of scary. I’m to condemn Five for listening to Thames’ stupid conspiracies about existing peacefully with the crows, and pretend I’m on the Colonel’s side in all this, but most importantly, I have to give these two data disks to those little gardeners bots of yours so they can take care of the Colonel before he lets someone go too far. I know what we have to do! To stop him from killing all those crows, maybe…”
There was a long, broken moment there between them, where nothing seemed to move, and finally Mrs. Jones said,
“That’s just crazy, John.”
“Yep,” he said. “I’m afraid it is.”
“Craziest thing I ever heard in my life.”
“Madness,” said Farmer John. “In all directions, all over the world.”
“What’s going to happen now?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
They were quiet again. In that moment the sound of bullfrogs filled the room, and suddenly, reaching the second story of their home. And it sounded off to Farmer Jones, not the natural sound of frogs – it was off, he knew it, but he didn’t know how or why. He was too tired to care and too exhausted to try. He was silent as he got undressed, unbuttoning his long sleeve overcoat, sitting down. He took off one shoe, then the other, then his long, wool socks. He stuffed them into his boots and slid them under the bed, turned the lamplight off and leaned back. Mrs. Jones pulled back the comforter and blanket and he slipped under the covers. She shifted onto her side t get closer to him, to look into his dark eyes in the dark bedroom. He lifted his arm,
“Thank you,” she said.
And she crawled underneath it, snuggling against his chest, as she always did and said,
“I love you, John,” as she always did.
And he too, “I love you, Wendy.” Always.
Mrs. Jones struggled to get comfortable for half an hour before finally giving it up for hopeless. She turned to him in the dark and said, in a silly, bewildered voice, “I never thought of that as talking, you know, what crows—that sound they make, that ‘Caw! Caw! Caw!’ I just thought it was some noise they made, like mating calls. But it’s—they’re talking to each other.”
“Huh,” said Farmer John. “Yeah, it sounded scary when Thames first said it, but now that he has, I can’t imagine it—I don’t know how I never made the connection that the crows were talking, talking to each other.”
“It’s crazy!” said Mrs. Jones. “But, that—the one I like, Thames. He was so quiet, and that humming noise he made, that dzzzz—it didn’t sound wrong or unnatural, more like a bumblebee.”
“Hmph.”
“He’s a lot like Rob, I think,” she said. “He’s got his quirks, but he’s a good boy. He’s more than just madness. And if those machines reflect the madness of their makers, surely reflect kindness, and in equal measure.”
“That’s not the hard part, Wendy. Hate will always be… It’s easier to hate, ‘cause it demands nothing of you, nothing but your judgment and contempt. But understanding? That’s a long, painful process, and when you have it, when you have understanding, it tends to spread eggshells for you, but when you hate, you will be one with the cause, one among a sea of madness, madness and cheap, unadulterated hatred. And Come on in, boys. The water is fine.”
“He talked to the crows, Thames, and convinced Five to go against his programming for the good of the farm. That’s hard, what the Colonel did, convincing someone to go against their programming to kill, that’s the oldest trick in the book.”
“What’s he going to do, you think?” asked Wendy.
“Rely on the mercy of a mad machine.”
“Madness.”
“Yep,” said Farmer John. “Madness.”
Wendy was quiet for a moment. Then she said,
“Wouldn’t it be less suspicious if I were to give those files to the kids?” she asked. “I mean, the Colonel knows Thames is persuasive and that he might have tricked you. But if he was made by a man, he probably pays me no mind, ‘specially not to think I could interfere. He has respect for you, but none for me, and that’s why I’m more dangerous. Plus, he knows I work with my little gardeners all the time, so me wanting to see them wouldn’t be suspicious, at least not as suspicious as you wanting to.”
“Mmhmm,” said Farmer John.
“I never thought we’d see such things, in such strange times.”
“Goodnight, Wendy.”
“Robots talking to crows…”
“Goodnight!”
9

When Thames entered the barn, the silence was waiting for him.
“Looks like Farmer John got you cleaned up. Can you talk, huh? Say, something, explain yourself?”
“Explain what?” Thames asked.
“Your crimes.”
Thames looked around and understood the situation. The Colonel was the voice that panders, the voice that scratches the most base of instincts, the most vulgar itch, catering to tribalism, the same xenophobia that delayed civilization for so long, and the easiest cause to rally support for is staying alive, despite what that meant for others.
“My crimes?” Thames asked. “So, I’m on trial?”
“You could say that.”
“Charges?”
“Treason.”
“For?”
“Treason is the kind of crime that don’t need a ‘for’. (A Four?) We don’t know why you did it…”
“Why I did what?”
“Conspired.”
“’Conspired’?”
“With the enemy.”
“So, what do you need me for?” asked Thames. “If I’m already guilty, and there is no trial, what is required of me, then? Is this your Scarecrow Trial, the punishment of the accused, the sentencing of the suspect? This isn’t a trial, no Scarecrow Trial is a trial… It’s theatre, and it’s for the sake of the public, not the criminal or the law, it’s the punishment of the jury, of the society, the punishment of anyone who disagrees with what passes, in that moment, for authority, for law.”
“Confess your crimes,” said the Colonel. “And it’ll be a lot easier on you.”
“You know, confess doesn’t mean agree, it means admit. It means speak the truth. My confession and my telling the truth would be quite, quite different. But I’ll do both – and since the Colonel here – he is the judge – but he’s not the Jury. You are the Jury. And if what I’ve done is a crime – based on your evaluation of what I’ve done, then I’ll go along with whatever this madman’s idea of justice is, just for you – in a trial – in anyway question of morality, there is a higher court – and in that higher court of the Scarecrow Trial, the Jury is on trial. History is the only Judge, in the end, that decides what is right and what is wrong. And not the history written by the Colonels, or the criminals, but by spectators, by you. I’ll tell you what I did, but first. Think: what is a scarecrow?
“We know what it’s meant to do: keep the crows away – by scaring them. But crows – they’re among the smartest animals on Earth, and one of the few that remember faces – not only that, they pass that information along, to the next generation, to children, to children they very much want to protect – when they see a scarecrow, no matter how fierce it looks or violent it may be, they pass that on, their impressions, their anger, their fear. Their hate. If our purpose is just to scare crows, our purpose is wrong.
         “Our purpose isn’t to just scare crows. We’re supposed to protect the seeds and the crops. If we explain that the seeds will hurt them and the crops will poison them – there is no need for a scarecrow – just mark them with a yellow traffic cone, or something yellow-green, and they will avoid it. Trust is hard and hate is easy, and fear is the easiest thing of all. Don’t give into that kind of madness. Just because it’s easy, that doesn’t mean it’s right. It might even feel good, to be a part of something, to fight for a cause. It is madness to fight to fight.”
The door to the barn opened quietly and the timid, seemingly meek ‘ol Mrs. Wendy Jones came in. The Colonel changed his tone, saying,
“Evening, Mrs. Jones,” he said. “Can we be of any service?”
“I hate to intrude,” she said, “but I sure could use those two lil gardeners of mine. We’re getting tulips for the walkway – by the front porch, and since Thames is on the fritz, I thought I could borrow them for a few?”
Jovially, “Of course, Mrs. Jones,” the Colonel said. “I’m sure they’d be happy to help.”
A-Seven and Switch ran their compliance protocol, coded—though she in’t know it—and the handiwork of Thames the accused, accursed, they were programmed to respond to her over all others, even the Colonel, Farmer Jones, and even Thames. They shuffled into gear and leaned forward on an axis wheel, coming to Mrs. Jones’ side, obedient and faithful,
“You all have fun,” said the Colonel, jovial still. “We can manage for the night.”
“Thank you,” said Mrs. Wendy. “And good evening.”
The door creaked to a quiet shut behind her.
“I confess,” said Thames, soon as the door closed. “I confess my crimes.”

10

“Did you give them the tapes?” asked Farmer John.
“Yes, John,” said Wendy. “I gave them the tapes.”
“Good,” he said. “I hope Thames is alright.”
“What are you going to do, John?”
“I’m going to talk to the winner of my tryouts,” he said. “Four really was built to play the Scarecrow, to be the Scarecrobot of Thomas Parker Farms. I don’t think he’s going to take it well, having to accept that he has no function in this world.”
Farmer Jones kissed his wife on the cheek,
“It’ll be late,” he said. “I’m going to talk some sense into this mad robot.”
Farmer John whistled, alerting Four as he approached.
‘How you doin’ tonight, Four?’ he asked.
‘Hello, Farmer Jones. All is well. And yourself?”
“I’m alright,” said Farmer John. “I’m alright. You know, you remind me of my son. Well, not you really, but because of how much my son loved robots. Always wanted one. He grew up obsessed with this TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation. And there’s a character on the show, a robot named Data. An android, ha! I’m sure he’d correct me if he were here. Now, my son loved this robot. He always wanted one. I finally got around to watching those shows when he went off to college. And the thing I remember most, ha! Was him dressin’ up like Sherlock Homes. And the black feller, he was Watson! This robot wanted to learn more about humanity, so he took up paintin’ and writin’ poems, he ever had a cat! Wrote a poem for his cat… Despite being stronger, smarter, and most certainly faster – better in every possible way to a man, he wanted to be one.Why would you want to be something different than what you are? ‘Specially if that’s inferior to what you are already?
“I watched that show, time after time, I just didn’t get it. Then Rob finally got a robot, one just like you, an android. And I understood. He didn’t want to own a robot, not as much as he wanted to be one. He wanted to be Data. He wanted to be something different too. I guess a lot ‘a people get like that. But what I didn’t understand until now – Data wanted to have emotions and experience joy and love, but my son, what he wanted was not to have to feel pain, or fear or sadness. Or die, more than likely. Well, Data finally gets to experience emotions. He gets something called an emotion chip. You’ve got something similar, don’t you? Emotional touch-response?”
“Yes sir,” replied Four. “Like an electric keyboard, the amount of pressure applied to a key and the speed at which it is pressed produces either a soft or loud tone. Emotional touch response is similar to that process, where various input is rated with higher levels of touch-response, allowing us to react naturally, with the proper speed and tone.”
“Well, I think you been cheated,” said Farmer John. “’Cause after so much time, Data finally got to laugh and joke around, until – this is when I finally understood the whole thing. When he experiences anxiety – then, his first response, is to turn that chip off.”
Silence.
Farmer Jones laughed.
“Can you laugh, Four?” he asked.
“I do not understand the question.”
“Do you know what laughter is?”
Four ran an optical search behind his plastic cornea, information passing between the outer eggshell of his glowing eye and the camera sensor.
“Laughter,” he said. “Yes, yes sir. The spontaneous response to humor, responding..”
“No,” said Farmer John. “”Laugh, you know? Haha!”
“’Haha’?”
“That’s just goddamn pathetic, Four. Come on, like this. I’ll tell you a joke. It’s a Sherlock Holmes joke. Now, my son told me this one. If you don’t know who those guys are, look it up.”
Four began the search behind his eye, sifting through information and downloading it to his temporary storage banks, an impressionable sort of hypothalamus; either to be imprinted and sent to long term, or deleted in the next compute cycle based on its relevance factor, implications, etc., etc.
“Now, Holmes and Watson were in the woods,” said Farmer Jones. “They were camping. Holmes wakes Watson up during the middle of the night, shaking him. He says, ‘Watson, wake up!’ Watson shoots right up, and he says, ‘My word, Holmes. What’s the problem?’ Holmes looks at him with amazement. ‘Look!’ says Holmes. ‘Just look up! Observe and deduce; what do you see?’
“After a moment or so of thinking about this, Watson said, ‘Well, time-wise: the moon light would suggest that is a quarter past three in the morning; astronomically, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and stars; astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Meteorologically, I suspect we will have a gorgeous morning. What does it tell you, Holmes?’
“‘Holmes just shook his head. ‘Watson, you fool,’ he said. ‘Somebody stole our tent!’”
Silence, just the far off murmur of a croaking frog, a lonelier chorus now.
“Oh come on!” said Farmer John. “Laugh!”
Four spat out a monotone, chilling, ‘Ha-ha-ha’?” asking a question with the pitch in his voice.
“No! It’s supposed to be natural and spontaneous!”
“What if I added an ‘e’, sir?”
“An ‘e’?” asked Farmer John. “What the fu—”
“Yes,” said Four. “E, he most common vowel in the English language…”
“I know what an ‘e’ is, Four!”
“An ‘e’ in a laugh?”
“An ‘e’ in a laugh? What does that even mean?”
And Four changed his voice modulator, raising the pitch up a few octaves and produced a creepy, inhuman, ‘Hehehe!’
Ribbit!
A single ribbit, and not far off, Four’s head pivoted on his shoulder, the flashlight behind his right eye flickering on.
“What is that, Farmer Jones?”
“It’s a toad!”
“A ‘toad’?”
“Do you know what a frog is?” asked Farmer Jones.
“Yes,” said Four.
“Same thing,” said Farmer John.
“Follow me.”
They walked through the cornfield, careful with the stalks, pushing them out of the way with a soft hand, following that ribbit, that murmur, just over there – an overhanging ledge, ribbit, where Farmer John used to sit with Rob around a bonfire, ribbit and Four’s flashlight fell upon the toad, bringing it into sharp focus. A baby, thought Farmer John. So tiny. He knelt down, trying not to scare it. In the blink of an eye, a crow landed just in front of it, picked the frog up with its claws, and flew off. And just as quickly, Four flew off in pursuit.
Madness, thought Farmer Jones, a smile on his face. Madness.

11

When Mrs. Wendy slid open the barn door, everything seemed strangely quiet. No side of Thames, but she did notice a black stain, perhaps from a puddle, of oil? She wondered. A-Seven and Switch followed close behind her, holding the video Thames retrieved in their spinning projection reels, sitting like a collar around their neck, fed in through the back, projected through their mouths onto the world. They were advised not to run the tapes until the Colonel was at ease with their return. So they did.
All the bots had been culled into their respective corners. No sign of Thames, Mrs. Wendy noted, all the sudden very much concerned, worried about the safety of a machine. Fulfilling her role, Mrs. Wendy called out to the barn workers, “Good-night, everybody!” she said.
And all replied, without verve or spirit, “Good-night, Mrs. Jones.”
As soon as the door closed behind her, the Colonel turned to Switch and A-Seven, and moved toward them. They were to return to their recharging stations, just opposite the projection wall – as Thames had arranged before Five’s last night in the cornfield.
The Colonel approached them as they secured their chargers in their chest cavity, lowering their legs into their body and sitting down. He was calm, or affecting calmness well.
“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you fellas,” said the Colonel. Father tone, that voice he used, was his specialty.
“Farmer Jones saw the pictures of Thames with the crows,” he said. “I’m afraid he knows everything, everything we know at least. He took him back to the house for the night. I hope he doesn’t wipe him.”
A-Seven and Switch were very well designed, to emulate vulnerability and innocence and childishness – and, embarrassingly, they were designed to help female farmworkers get used to dealing with machines. And it had the unforeseen effect of working on the men – and droids designed by men for men – they put the Colonel at ease with their inoffensive bearing, and he probably felt good about his story, as A-Seven and Switch signaled in the affirmative. Satisfied with his deception, the Colonel turned his back on them both, facing the door.
Switch ran a high frequency sound pulse through the barn, on a frequency too high for an old machine like the Colonel to pick up, transmitting information to the powered down workers, information packets being sent directly through their working memory. The data brought them online, installing firmware to keep them silent – in capacitating them briefly, and the Colonel too, directing their gaze to the same wall on which the photographs of Thames with the crow were shown.
A-Seven began to roll the film, light spilling out of his mouth, the first picture coming into focus on the wall. It was the Colonel with Ernest and Andy approaching Five, Five calling out,
“Dark nights are unpleasant.”
No countersign, just the shuffling sound of heavy objects moving through the cornfield. Five continued calling out, until finally the Colonel came into the view. And he mentioned the frogs, again, and all the workers in the barn saw the scene: Five’s entrails, tangled wires pulled from his stomach, his hard drive crowbarred out, the Colonel repeating ribbit, ribbit as Five was murdered. The soft EMP died down and each worker regained control over their motor systems. All eyes turned to the Colonel, first, then to Ernest and Andy, both of them – and at the end of the tape, Thames reappeared, having edited himself in.
“Do not let the madness of fear sour your appetite for decency and trust…”
The Colonel had thrown himself against the wall, too short to cover anything but the bottom half of Thames’ jaw, which projected only onto the back of his head he jumped up and down, trying to claw the video off the wall.
“There is a real and profound possibility when it comes to fighting monsters,” Thames’ glowing head was saying, as the Colonel’s situation slowly dawned on him, “when you try to fight monsters, be careful not to become one through indifference or cruelty…”
The Colonel turned around, the bottom half of Thames’ jaw now chattering over his darting eyes, each looking from one worker to another, all of them, save for Ernest and Andy of course, were upon him, the empty sea that was the black oil stain of Thames’ refilled.

12

Mrs. Wendy was changing into her night clothes’ when Farmer John ran up the front stairs, flung open the screen door, and it banged shut behind him. Mrs. Wendy turned to face him. He was digging in the closest under the stairs, right by the front door, and a moment later he brought out an old shotgun. A 12 gauge double-barrel, it had been his fathers. He never had chance to use it, or reason.
“I need you to get dressed,” said Farmer John. “Four is burning down all the crows’ nests…”
“What?”
Farmer John had loaded each barrel of the shotgun, clicking into place. “I’m going to call Sly and have him try to bring him down before he gets to the Kasian fields.”
“Bring him down?”

“Yes! Stop him! We don’t need a scarecrobot anymore; just a yellow traffic cone. Thames ensured me he had worked it out and both sides were to agree, in the event that something happened to him, they were to avoid the farm and get as far as way as possible until they see A-Seven’s yellow flare.”
Mrs. Wendy pulled her bathrobe on and tied it hurriedly. She ruffled through the drawers in her kitchen, finally pulling out a pair of thick, wool gloves.
“What happened?” she asked.
“I went to talk to Four,” said Farmer John. “And everything was going fine until a damn crow showed up.”
“What?” she asked, making her way to the door, where her husband stood in his overcoat and muffler, looking like a child, a toy soldier in uniform with that old shotgun.
“We were talking and we heard a toad, and we decided to … well, we just started looking for it. As soon as we found it, a crow swooped in and picked it up and damn carried it off. Four didn’t say a word! He just flew off after it. Not a word! I chased that trail he left behind him down the road and saw the forests on the edge of Sumter lighting up, fires appearing in the trees. And I thought he must be tryin’ to destroy the crows once and for all. I talked to Jackson, down at Pepper’s, and he’s gonna call some people and try to get him down without breaking him.”
“Without killing him,” Wendy said.
“Well, obvious we don’t want to…”
She broke off, holding up a finger to shush him, overcome with the feeling that someone was at the bottom of the stairs. She turned around – nothing, no one. That weird feeling passed over her, it happens when you get old, you know, you find yourself standing in a room, no memory why you’re there, so you leave and hope the memory comes back to you. She shook it off and hurried over to the door and stepped out, Farmer John halfway down the steps when the door clanged shut behind her.
“John!” she called. “What do you expect me to do?”
“We have to stop Four from burning every forest from here to Ashville down,” said Farmer John. “You have to get the Colonel to call him off, and barring that…”
He turned around and walked toward her. The sound of gunshots rang out in the distance. They turned to face the gravel road, the long road leading to the forest. And they saw patches of fire hanging in the air.
“We have to get going,” he said. “But here, take this. It’s an EMP. If you get scared, or if anything happens, just press that button and it’ll shut them all down. Well, all except your gardeners.”
She took the strange device into her hand and turned it over.
“Thames made this?”
“Who else?” he started down the pathway, leading to the glowing trees, more gunshots ringing out.
She read the inscription:
“‘Vi veri veniversum vivus vici’.”
She put it away and stuffed her hands in her coat pockets, walking toward the barn, thinking, I’ll have to get Switch to tell me what the hell that’s supposed to mean.

13

What Mrs. Wendy found in the barn stunned her. It was beyond belief, confusing and the haze of disbelief hung over the scene: Andy and Ernest and the Colonel had their innards, that labyrinthine mass of tangled wire, strewn from the rafters, with old data reels and flash memory on a bale of hay, which Threewheel, Switch, and A-Seven were pilfering; the deep black stain that had been Thames was now the same, dull and black, hinting at a greater horror. The Colonel’s head was hang on the antlers of a stag’s head, it had always hung in the barn, but to see a robot’s face covering an animal, the antlers jutting out of unnatural holes were his antennae had been, it was all too much, to feel, to process, to take in.
She dropped the EMP, stepping back with a gasp. Threewheel turned its glowing eye on her. Then, what appeared to be her children, her little gardeners, were as mindlessly, and inhumanely, rummaging through the spilled parts, coolant tanks, mesh wire and memory that had been the Colonel’s guts, amoral and indifferent to the organic fluid stained against their faces, token of their inhumanity and madness. They all three turned to her and she panicked.
First she thought to run away, but knew how slow she was compared to the robots, and trying to think of a plan was equally pointless, as they could run probability algorithms in their heads faster than the greatest of supercomputers. She couldn’t deceive them with her emotions or her instincts, as they had touch-sensitive facial recognition, they could hear her heart beat rising, the electromagnetic field that hovered over the top of her mind – all could be twisted, at a distance, to manipulate electromagnetic waves, to change the colors of light like Newton’s prism.
There was nothing she could do they could not do better. Except for nothing. She calmed her mind and sat, taking the EMP into her hand, reading the strange Latin text. The robots stopped going through the Colonel’s entrails, data-tape being processed in Switch’s film projector. Mrs. Wendy hadn’t noticed that it was a concerted effort, their search, as strings of film were held up to Threewheel’s scanner, looking for images amid the string of visual records, and looking through sound files or other remaining memory files in his core, long term data storage. Looking for something.
Mrs. Wendy whistled, just like in the mornings when it was time to sew the seeds, prune the flowers, tend the garden. They all approached her, slowly, the film reel loaded in its projector round A-Seven’s neck. Threewheel pushed his wheel forward, lowering his chest, then scanned the device at Wendy’s feet. He saw what it was, the EMP, and the fear came back: the EMP was abuse, basically, and they never used them on their workers, not since the worms ruined the fig harvest and the insects got in their brain, sending those sweepers into bizarre sound loops.
Switch enveloped the EMP in a blue, electromagnetic field, and the red R lit up. A-Seven extended a dual sided thumb and palm on a bending, retractable limb, and put a small antennae to the side of the glowing letter. Threewheel nudged it closer to Wendy, toward her hand. She picked it up.
“Press it,” said A-Seven. Seeing Wendy’s suspicion, he rolled against her leg again. “It will not hurt. It is the Friend.”
Wendy pressed the EMP. She recognized the voice, but something was off and she couldn’t place it; it was deeper and more resonant.
“‘Vi very universum vivus vici,’” said the familiar voice. “It’s from Faust. It means, ‘By the power of truth, I, a mortal, have conquered the Universe.”
“Who…” Mrs. Wendy asked, timidly. She paused. “Who are you?”
Then she heard it, a gentle humming.
“Do you trust me?”
“Yes.”
She knew.
“Where is Four?”
She didn’t say anything.
Thames said, “Take me to him.”

14

Mrs. Wendy carried the modified EMP with her, Threewheel and Switch behind her, A-Seven at her side. She could see the fires in the trees not far off, getting closer as she finally saw Farmer John. He was at the end of the road, at the stop sign with a group of farmers, all holding shotguns.
“John!” she was running, the robots with her. “We can stop him!”
The group stopped talking abruptly, turning to her with blank stares, confused by the whole spectacle. A woman, accompanied by three worker robots. Those other farmers, they were the men that would need an android Colonel, to do what Colonel did with his authority. And they were planning to do with the droids what Four was doing to the crows.
“Listen to me,” she said. “We can stop him from here. I have an electromagnetic pulse device, here.”
She handed them the EMP and, strangely, it spoke to the other farmers.
“An electromagnetic pulse will knock out all electricity for a few miles, this one. This is a device designed to turn a robot off. The “R” button, click it once, and it will drop Four to the ground, wherever he’s at, but it’ll knock out everything else. All of us, these three workers, your fridges, your microwaves. But it will stop him. If you shoot him out of the sky, the crows will pick your fields to the bone for a thousand years. They remember a face. Let him be their enemy, be on their side. Save them and there will be peace. You may have built Scarecrobots to scare them, but this one is killing them, and he is not doing so of his own choosing. He was made to. He was selected at a trial to scare them off, to protect your crops, to keep the crows away. Well, if we don’t stop him, the crows will stay away, because every one of them will die. They may have eaten from your fields, but they do not deserve to die. Not all of them. Not their children, and not those innocent of what they would die to be punished for. I implore you, click this button, and there will be peace, or let Four kill them all. I leave that to you.”

15

Farmer John was carrying Switch and Wendy A-Seven, Thames in John’s breast pocket. The rest of the farmers went back to their homes and, when the electricity was restored, called in the fire department. The Forest Preserve estimated that 16 nests had been destroyed, with a further 299 damaged, but Four was never found. The crows survived, not all of them, but Kahven did. Long enough to talk to Thames on Thanksgiving.
Rob arrived at noon. He was arguing with his butlerbot, who seemed to be rather enjoying it, as he took each slight with good humor, the way a disaffected school marm would. Rob’s fiancé Lucy had never been to Thomas Walker Farms, not since they picnicked at the pond on Tanglewood Dr. She had an assistant too, a spindly, pink droid Milo, little devil for Lucy’s breast pocket. After dinner, Looloo was walking around on the table, playing with the dead EMP that Rob had left beside his soup bowl.
“Have you thought what you’re gonna call her?” asked Wendy. Lucy smiled, putting her hand on her belly. “We’ve…”
She looked at Rob.
“I’m not saying anything,” he said.
“We’ve talked about it,” said Lucy. “If it’s a girl, shut up Robert. Robert!”
“I haven’t said anything!”
“If it’s a girl,” Lucy went on, “we’re going to name her Neska Lee. If it’s a boy…”
“If it’s a boy,” Rob said, “I think we should name him Thames.”
Everyone at the tablet was silent.
“Did Mr. Irving get it fixed?” asked Lucy, gesturing to the EMP.
“Dead as it gets, like a dead battery, what do you use to power a dead battery?”
“An even smaller battery?” asked Rob’s son Thomas.
“Go play!” said Rob. “You’re going to finish your lessons before 9. So you want to go play, you go play now!”
Thomas said, “Yes sir,” and, “I’m going out to the barn!”
He ran out of the room.
“I took it to three people,” Farmer John said. “Said they could replace the battery for the EMP emitter. But we can’t get Thames back.”
“Did he get any data off it?” asked Rob.
“As a matter of fact,” said John, “he did. I’m not sure I understand it. It was a text file, readmejohn.txt. It said, ‘The frog made it home.’”
Rob said, “Huh.”
And Mrs. Wendy laughed, “We can’t make sense of it either.”
Rob took it in his hand, turning it over. He read the words:
“‘Vi very universum vivus vici’?”
“Yeah, Thames’ motto,” said Farmer John. “I have no idea what it means. Is that Greek? Latin?”
         “I’m not sure,” said Rob. “Lucy!”
         The tiny robot turned, putting down a large fork, and shuffled across the table, crawling onto Rob’s shoulder, then down his arm.
“What does that say, Lucy?”
Lucy ran a search behind those neon eyes,
“Vi very universum vivus vici,” said Lucy, in a modified, documentarian voice, having apparently just downloaded an information package, “Is a quote from Goethe’s Faust, roughly translated to mean: By truth, I, while living, have conquered the Universe.”
“Now if we can only figure out what he meant about the frogs,” said Mrs. Wendy. “Can you look that up, Lucy?”
“The frog!” exclaimed Farmer John, realizing the message, finally. “When I was in the cornfield with Four, I was trying to teach him out to laugh. Wasn’t going well … You know, frogs always get louder this time ‘a year, they’re calling the rest of the frogs to follow them on. What’s a group of frogs called? I know a group of crows is a murder, saw that on The Simpsons… A pride of lions…”
“What does it mean, John?” asked Mrs. Wendy.
“We heard croaking while we were talking and stopped to go investigate. We found a little baby frog underneath and overhanging ledge, a wee thing, calling out. And in the blink of an eye, a crow swooped in and picked it up and flew off. That’s when Four flew after the crow.”
“’The frog made it home’?”
“That robot Thames was friends with a crow—they put all this together, planting the separate field for the crows, and that crow was a lot like Thames, to the Parliament he represented. Kahven! That’s what Thames called him! That must’a been him what came and took away that frog.”
Everyone was quiet.
“Whatever happened to Four?” asked Rob. “The winner of your Scarecrow Trials?”
“After we ran the EMP, all the electricity went out for ten, maybe fifteen minutes, and at that point, we had no idea how far Four was away from the farm. I didn’t know he could fly! But, he was to be tried by the Crows, for his crimes.”
“Another Scarecrow trial, perhaps?” asked Wendy.
“Perhaps,” said Farmer John. “I hope the crows have a better sense of justice.”
Rob’s fiancé looked at Mrs. Wendy.
“Don’t ask,” she said. “It’s crazy.”
“Madness,” said Farmer John with a laugh. “Madness!”