T-Shirt.pdf

What a Boar!

By Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin

Illustrated by Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin

Part of the Sinclair Narratives

 

Let me think! It has been about a hundred years...no it has been a hundred and two years—to the date ‘that Boar’ has been running around the Pines of New Jersey. You know the place! You say you don’t?

I bet there are about a thousand of you right now wearing that shirt. What shirt you might ask? Probably one of the most famous rock and roll shirts the world has ever seen and you tell me you never heard of this town!

Oh the Humanity! It is not The Doors, but Morrison did quote those immortal words. It is not Grover’s Mills, that is where the aliens landed.

OK, don’t get so frustrated...I will tell you which shirt. Even though the answer might go over like a lead balloon!

Led Zeppelin I. The Hindenburg crashed in Manchester Township at what is now Lakehurst Naval Air and Engineering.

I know. Why is it named after the borough of Lakehurst, which it is next to and not Manchester? Well, ask why Portsmouth Naval yard is not in New Hampshire, but in Kittery Maine…

If you were a curious person, you might also ask why the township was named after the iron forge, which is not in Manchester Township, but in Lakehurst. Or the fact that Lakehurst is a munchkin surrounded by the donut called Manchester. Why did the Russian Imperial Army have a base there? Don’t get me started! I know; Military Intelligence...

Which kind of leads us into today’s story; see we will be running in the woods around the joint forces military intelligence’s main communication center for the country in Whiting New Jersey. It is on the far outpost of Fort Dix, which was once Camp Dix next to Camp Devon where Bjorn was brushed by Cerxes Bjorn caught the bird flu from that boar, but he was not so lucky; he lived.

At the time, it was almost a year since Wilson gave Richard Crane (the guy who stole the Romanov diadem) and the Root Commission the OK to throw a wrench into the Russian Provisional Government giving rise to the Bolsheviks; a pandemic had just started and we had deployments of troops on multiple fronts. By the end of the decade, we would have wars and massacres within America, as the pandemic continued between black and white and unionist vs capitalist WWI veterans. Just in 1920 alone, riots were rampant, the plague was still virulent, and the KKK was on the rise along with the growth of labor and social rights movements. There was a bombing. The president was sneaking his underage mistress into the White House and he was mired with a birther conspiracy as we continued the propaganda campaign in Russia.

What has ever changed in this world? Well, this time it was Russia who meddled with our elections through Cambridge Analytica in 2016 and tried to foster a civil war this year in America, as people stormed the White House, but America had fostered riots in Moscow through social media as that Grand Poobah wearing his water buffalo hat chanted on the Congress floor.

So, the answer is that nothing has changed!

___

Cerxes is quite a boar. Not that he is boring, he is just porcine. Years ago, he could remove his pig shirt and walk as a human—maybe not so mortal, but not immortal either.

He took up living with the sows that ran wild around Camp Devon. During his rutting and wallowing at the base, he became infested by the mustard gas that they mortared throughout the woods and could shapeshift no longer.

See, Cerxes is a god. Bastard son of Circe and Odysseus (Ulysses to you Irish Joyce fans), Cerxes is a wereboar. A grisserkr in old Norse, like a berserkr: one who wears a bearskin coat. Well, he was, until he ate a truffle soaked in mustard; that is mustard gas. It’s been a hundred years since he was able to take the coat off and switch back to being human and the world has gone to shit since.

He originally came over with the Greeks who opened up The Crystal Diner in Toms River. This avatar version that is.

That is one thought...

When the Greeks came to Newark first in 1900, they brought with them avatars of Zeus, Demeter, Poseidon, and the like. Now in Greece, the original avatar remains with a separate consciousness and patronage. One avatar does not know of the existence of the other and would most likely smite you or do something even more horrible if you dare suggest there was another.

What does this have to do with me, or more important, Bjorn? When he got brushed by Cerxes’ bristles he became cursed. At first, we only thought he caught the bird flu. Cerxes’ real damage did not show up for years. We started to be concerned around his ninety-fifth birthday. We both looked at each other and wondered.

The problem was he lived. Bjorn usually died on his eightieth birthday. You might think that would be a fine life, especially when I first met him in the fourteenth century, but he was now fifteen years overdue and he had been looking over his shoulder for it to catch up with him ever since. He really hates the cane he is forced to use; previously, he has never had age infirm him.

He usually engages in a bar brawl on the eve of his eightieth birthday where he would be the only person to walk upright out of the tavern. This time he woke up with a trick knee and a bad back. I guess it’s better than death, but Bjorn is not too sure.

His strength is dwindling. He is not used to decrepitude. Fit as a fiddle and dead at eighty; that is what he likes.

Today we find ourselves getting off a plane at Coyle airfield, ready to head northeast into the area in between General Lacey’s property on Jones Road (where I hid at the end of the Revolutionary War as General Howe) and below the Forked River Mountains. This was an area, up to the twentieth century, where Piney’s set their pigs free to forage. It was the closest sounder to Camp Devens. The next one would be at Hog Wallow, southwest from here past Oswego Lake.

At the airfield, Little Big Bear was waiting for us. He was set to drive us in his 1985 Chevy Blazer to the foot of the Forked River Mountains. Behind his truck was a trailer of side by sides and dirt bikes. Who would be a better guide than him? He had been driving these woods before he was legal to, so he was the perfect guide.

“Osiyo!” Bear would have said hau (pronounced how), which is Sioux for “hello”, but he believes it to be cliché. The other half of his heritage, Cherokee, usually greets you. His Sioux side is full of Bull, as in Sitting Bull. Bear is one of those from the silent clan of healers.

“How are you doing old friend?”

You could see the stress of the world drop from his shoulders in recognition of an old friend’s arrival. Not much of a hugger or one for shaking hands, he just adjusted his aura to tell you the world was fine and all was good now that the two of you are centered once more. I got into the back bench of the truck; it seemed fitting to let the two bears sit together upfront. If you didn’t know already, Bjorn means bear in Norse.

___

We had gone up Rt 539 and headed into the woods at Bryant Road, then took a left on Old Road. At the next intersection, we turned left again on Jones Road. This was the old stagecoach road out of Philly. I used to live on this road. Back in the day, it was a favorite jaunt of Ben Franklin, as he traveled from the city to Clamtown stopping at all of the taverns on the way to eat the oysters. He thought it kept up his French prowess…

Almost two miles on this trail we took a right. We crossed Old Road further on up and then went almost two and a half miles before we took a left at the crossroads. Bear parked the truck.

We were less than a half-mile from the top of the Forked River Mountains. We needed to ride our side by sides and bikes to the sign of Thor; where we then had to turn right to get to the top.

We stopped at the Christian cross, before heading to Thor’s cross. There was no difference between the two, besides shape…

Now to describe the craggy woods we found ourselves in. It’s the oldest, by far, forest on the east coast, if not North America which many ancient elemental forces call home. Not only woodland spirits find their home here, but also the naiad and undines float between the trees; for before the Pleistocene Period this was sea bottom. The Pitch Pine are grey lizard scaled nonplussed if not ugly stunted trees that cluster upon each other. They do not grow out of soil, but quartz and silicone which blends with the mycelium to make one ancient computer network. The trails are serpentine which leaves you a visibility of three feet in any direction. A strange wood that has driven many of men mad who have gotten lost within here.

 

Dave.pdf

Whispers of ghost cities of the Leni Lenape remain, who once had a complex civilization which mysteriously disappeared within, that the Piney’s have erased all memory of... Only the circles of forked topped trees and trunks shaped like lightning strikes stand within the clearings of lichen remain of their homesteads. A forested barren that once was the home to smugglers, highwaymen, and deserting Hessians from the Revolutionary War. A private and secretive woods where one must be careful of finding a stray home for they shoot first within these woods. A place of dark groves and strange ceremonies. A home apt for tales of the Jersey Devil.

Bear was helping Bjorn, who had to put his cane to the side, to move the side by sides off the trailer. After the trailer was moved, I helped Bear take down the bikes.

Two trucks pulled up. One was a panel van with almost a foot of lift and giant mud hoggers. The other was a jeep with only six inches. Out of the panel van, stepped down the Raffel brothers. They were masters of the blowtorch. Years ago, Jaimie had put a six-foot lift on a Yugo. Out of the Jeep stepped out Turtle and Moan and Groan Sloan. Turtle and the Raffels met each other back in Cub Scouts in the Wirth Den. Moan and Groan was an expert on Piney lore.

Rooster tailing into the clearing was Louie in a Polaris General. Bjorn was swinging his cane at his head for dousing him in mud. Louie ducked in time, but his WWI pilot goggles fell off. How appropriate; Louie was my driver in the Pines at the end of the Revolutionary War in his past life. I got in with Louie. Bjorn and Bear rode together. Turtle and Moan and Groan took the other side by side from the trailer, and the Raffels got onto the dirt bikes.

Scott led point in front of us with his brother in the lead of the other side by side. The dirt roads of the Pines are infinite. They range from the width of a deer path to that of some 4 lane highways. Many of the roads the Dutch settlers had found when they arrived were cut by the Leni Lenapes. They must have serviced some large forgotten metropolis; for there were too many paths for what would be needed to get between the various clay mining sites and iron forges. These woods supplied the shot and balls for the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. What the Quakers called ‘devil pills’.

“So where do all of these roads come from? There are more trails to follow than I have neural pathways within my old noggin,” Louie said shaking his head watching as deer trail upon deer trail passed by.

 

Base.pdf

“There was an extensive network before, then during WWII many new roads were cut by the military to some new secret camps. That leaves a few millions of roads that Cerxes could be on. Most of them would be too narrow for our trucks to drive on. Granted I did get pretty good at K turning on deer trails after getting one too many Piney stripes…,” I answered as we entered a clearing.

We headed up to the top of the Forked River Mountains. Turtle jumped off his bike and climbed up a tree. He scouted about and climbed back down and reported, “I have no idea.”

At that moment, we all saw an albino whitetail deer run across and down the sheerest dry ravine to the bottom of the hill. It was a questing beast.

“I thought I would never see one again. Many years ago I had seen that albino with my grandfather at Green Fox Swamp. I didn’t understand my old pappy then; he said that this one was his, but he would return for me later,” Moan and Groan reminisced.

“What happened?” asked Turtle.

“He took off for a month and came back with a scar on his palm; he never did say what had happened or where he went.”

A questing beast within many of an Arthurian tale, leads the heroes across the threshold into the fairy realm where the adventure begins.

“Well let’s get going before we lose him,” yelled Jamie as he blasted down the hill.

Scott followed his brother down the rut as the rest followed a bit slower. Jamie kept up on the heels of the deer as he darted into some foot trails. We followed behind, but we soon shrunk the distance between us. Louie was yelling the whole way.

We were heading northwest through the swamps attached to the Factory Branch of Cedar Creek. We had left the blackjack and bear oaks among the mob of pitch pines for the towering Atlantic white cedars, as we rode over hillocks of moss and lichen to fall into the peat below the rust-colored tannin water. The beast ducked in and out of moss islands held tight by massive fingers which were the roots of the cedars. The Raffels slid sideways in the peat as the two side by sides continued past them. As we exited the other side we followed through a birch stand before it returned to the overwhelming forest of giant bonsai trees. The pitch pine follows no rules of how a tree should look.

The beast then led us across another swamp, just as the Raffles took the lead again. We darted in between the pines until we exited onto an old clay road. We opened up the throttles and began to close on the majestic magical beast.

We darted quick to the right and we all followed into the clearing—and he disappeared. We stopped and looked around. Resting on the scarred earth, we looked before us into a quarry. It was the second largest lake on the site with the deepest Caribbean blue water. On the water was a ship or a barge that was half Wonka mobile and half riverboat. Sitting on a high stool in front of a copper furnace and a stovetop pipe was a queer little man.

Louie began to sing,

“Round the world and home again

That’s the sailor’s way...”

The barge was belching and puffing smoke all the while, making all sorts of malevolent, malignant Victorian gearing noises as it slowly began to swing our way. It was dragging this long tail that stretched across the lake, which created a serpentine threat of doom.

“Faster faster, faster faster,

Is it raining, is it snowing

Is a hurricane a-blowing...”

The man was coming into focus. He had thick Greek straightened curly hair that fell past his shoulders with a similar beard. Running around on the barge were three dogs, no, on second glance, it was a single dog that never quite came into focus as it ran about the deck. Or was it?

“Not a speck of light is showing

So the danger must be growing

Are the fires of Hell a-glowing

Is the grisly reaper mowing...”

The barge hit the shore and the clay fell away around it into the void of the lake. The craft continued on into the mixture of clay, silicone, and quartz, about its full length, before it came to a stop. Good thing it was not in the Suez...The dog/dogs leapt off in front of the man who was carrying a staff with the horns of the bull above it. He was dressed in Armani.

 

Quary.pdf

 

“My dear boys, glad you could make it. I was afraid you would not have received my invitation or chased after it as it was blown by the wind,” said the strange man as he gestured with his hand in the air.

“Yes, the danger must be growing,” Louie said slowly as he stopped singing.

“Bjorn, we were expecting you years ago; not to say I have not had some pull on you,” he said as he held his chin, “I see you can feel our pull in your knee,” he further commented, as he continued forward. He came in and out of focus as the K9s crossed back and forth across him striding towards us.

Bjorn threw his cane at him, but the dogs thought it was some game of fetch and snapped it in half. Bear just sat on a tree stump. It looked like he was going over his grocery list in his mind.

“Saehrimnir waits for you in the halls of Valhalla,” the man threw in.

The Raffels just stopped their bikes and stared. Louie was searching his pockets for a dog bone as I got out to meet the man. Moan and Groan had that look of familiarity as if this man fit some lore his grandfather had taught him and said, “Hades? There was a short-lived town in the woods in between here and Waretown founded by a Greek. A paper mill. A fire burned them out and most of the Greeks returned back to Newark, but there was rumor that he remained.”

“So you have heard of me,” said the man.

“Across 539 in Pasadena, it was said that when old Bill Clevenger died he would send up a sign to his wife that hell was as hot as they say it is; well, soon after his death their well began to boil,” Moan and Groan recounted.

“Old Peggy, took up with molysmatikós ánthropos on the night of his funeral. His rage boiled the water up to his well and I just stood above the pressurized steam. Unfortunately, the heat of his rage burned the two of him in his house. He never expected hell could get worse, then Peggy met him below. I have been vacationing in these woods for some years now. Plus the Italians keep me busy welcoming all their ‘hits’ they dump into the quarries out here,” Hades recounted.

It was then we all noticed the barge had drifted away and began belching once more, dredging up corpses and skeletons from the depth of the lake and spilling them into the tail that traveled its length.

“For the rowers keep on rowing

And they’re certainly not showing

Any signs that they are slowing,”

Louie finished the song.

“The mob was busy during the eighties. We ran night and day and we are still trying to catch up,” Hades said as he leaned on his staff looking to his left and right. Ghosts wearing ‘Right Said Fred’ shirts and denim jackets. One was wearing Don Johnson pastels and another one’s hair was still burning a hole in the ozone forty years after her death. It was getting crowded on the sands.

“Don’t worry, once you find Cerxes I will have an express route for you, Bjorn, to the underworld,” Hades said looking at the Nordic bear. Bear had walked to the water’s edge and began admiring the deep blue hue.

I was petting the dog head in the middle. It’s kind of like driving drunk, just focus on the middle line of the three. Louie taught me that. I think Louie was feeding the blur to the right a biscuit.

“Would you have any idea where Cerxes might be?” I asked.

“You can ask Persephone, she is out in the Alphabet Soup fields with her swine maidens; that bitch. One missed word, one dirty look, and she keeps leaving me every spring. Oh, once it gets cold again and she needs a warm bed, once more she will come crawling back down to me… How much can a man take, I ask you?”

___

We headed across the sands to the next quarry that was filled with a collection of all terrain vehicles and hundreds of people mewing about. Most of them were drunk. In the center was a flatbed truck with two women dancing in the bed. The master of ceremonies seemed to be a man wearing a dirty baseball cap selling hot dogs. On his hat was embroidered ‘Got Wine?’.

“Acoetes, start passing the hat,” he ordered.

A man left the barbecue filled with short ribs, spare ribs, steak tips, and hamburgers. He was wearing a Chicago Bulls shirt and a pirate hat.

“I wonder if they would mind if I nipped a hamburg,” Louie asked with stars in his eyes. “I would gladly pay them on Tuesday.”

We were having a hard time working through the crowd to get back into the woods to search for Persephone. The man named Acoetes went about the crowd collecting money in his pirate hat. As we followed him, we noticed most of the people were oddly dressed. I didn’t notice it at first. I was sort of caught up in a time long gone by. Everyone was dressed the same as when Bjorn and I had raided the Navy base in Lakehurst, a little over a hundred years ago, back when Cerxes rubbed against Bjorn. Many people in the crowd had patches with peach logos sewn onto their shoulders.

“Cedar Crest!” said Moan and Groan. “The peaches.”

“I could sure eat a peach now…” said Louie looking at the girls dancing on the flatbed.

“Peaches. Just east of here was a peach farm,” Moan and Groan Sloan continued, “They had a bumper crop during the Bird Flu in 1918, but the company went out of business that year.”

“Because of the flu?” I had asked.

“No, everyone disappeared. The workers just vanished leaving the owners stranded with a crop rotting on the ground. There were very few death records in Bamber Lake, or even the rest of Lacey, from the flu that year. Nobody ever really knew what happened to their fruit pickers,” explained Sloan.

Many of the women had their hair up like the Ofuku, of the geishas. A bunch of them were lining up next to the flatbed. Acoetes walked up to the man who was selling hotdogs at the back of the truck and handed him the hat. The girls got off the truck and started helping the other women up. One of them rounded up a slew of wineskins made from the hides of goats. She handed half of them to the other dancers. Then the hotdog man got onto the stage. A band began to play. We had stepped into some strange outdoor theatrical performance.

“Come, blessed Dionysius, various nam’d, bull-fac’d, begot from Thunder, Bacchus fam’d. Bassarian God, of universal might, whom swords, and blood, and sacred rage delight: In heav’n rejoicing, mad, loud-sounding God, furious inspirer, bearer of the rod: By Gods rever’d, who dwell’st with human kind, propitious come, with much-rejoicing mind,” said the hotdog man, “I am what I am!”

Acoetes was filling horns with wine which he handed out. It seemed like he had an endless supply of wineskins. The band was building up to a fever as the crowd began to dance. Bear just leaned on the fender of the side by side and watched.

Dionysius then began to pour wine all over the breasts of the girls who had their hair up. Their nipples began to rise and come into view, much clearer than Hades dogs...I must say. I hoped Louie would not tell Caroline about them.

Each of the girls came forward and the applause grew. After, the dancers presented the virgins to the crowd; the girl in the middle seemed to be a crowd favorite.

Over the band we could hear the sound of bull-roarers as everyone began to undress. Dionysius kept chanting, as the dancers handed the crowd favorite a sheaf of figs tied with grapevines proclaiming her the May Queen. The dancers lifted her off the truck and presented her to the gathering below. She vanished within the crowd. The rest of the girls on the truck were covered in animal skins.

It seemed that the weight of the skins forced the girls to get down on their knees. Once they fell forward they took on the shape of sows. In fact, every one of this group fell on all fours and began rutting about. We didn’t have as much time as Ulysses and his crew to cavort about before we expected Circe to pop up her head. So we got back into our vehicles and began our search for Persephone.

I had to slap Louie, after the tap didn’t work; some of the nude girls had not completely transformed yet and he started doing some funky chicken dance, as he began to head over. The Raffels led us into the woods, with me and Louie in the rear.

___

Alphabet soup? We pulled up the area on Google maps. In between Harry Wright Boulevard, Lacey Road, RT 539, and RT 72, in the woods on the map were several letters spilled about. ‘L’s, ‘I’s, and ‘T’s; all spilled out like alphabet soup.

“Oh those,” said Turtle, “the rye fields. Grains for the deer.”

“Those are not the Rye Fields!” yelled Scott, “They are on the other side of 539 in Pasadena.”

“They might not be the Rye Fields,” answered Turtle, “but the state did indeed plant rye there for the deer to eat.”

The letters spilled about for close to ten miles in both directions. I figured we should follow the sun to its death and head west, checking those out first. Since we were trying to kill a boar we should bear the direction of the dying sun. It didn’t sound like a bad choice.

I had Louie pull southwest through a dry section of the Chamberlain Branch as we passed over the soggy moss and peat. Then we drove south along a path that followed the river. The Raffels pulled forward of the pack again.

The deer trail came out next to the Chamberlain bridge near my old hut on Jones Road. We stopped. I got out and picked up some soil next to the cellar hole, which used to be by the home that General Lacey kindly offered me.

I remembered how I had to get Franklin drunk with some women to keep him occupied, as we had his carriage brought here. He was afraid of the Jersey Devil then, a rival publisher he had cursed with some foolish mumbo jumbo he printed in his Poor Richard Almanack. He was really surprised when his rival up and died the next month! He really resented that fear.

These woods stretching from Philadelphia to Clamtown held his favorite tavern wenches and oysters… I got back in and we continued on west chasing the sun on Jones Road.

“Alphabet soup! I could really use a bowl of Alphabet cereal about now…” Louie said as the trees zoomed past.

“I could have used some of those ribs,” I said.

We passed on investigating a square rye field on the right and then drove into the next one shaped like an ‘L’ a half mile past the first. We drove on a path through the field filled with winter rye. In the back were several women harvesting the crop. Some were petting the deer that came out to eat.

As we ventured deeper into the field we noticed many of the women blushing, looking over their shoulder, and hurrying to a thicker crop of rye. As we approached we noticed a woman standing, fixing her dress, and a man looking our way in fear. He quickly dropped on all fours and turned into a pig and ran off.

Scott was in quick pursuit before he could hear me yelling, “It ain’t him!”

If Cerxes could transform again, Bjorn would have died already.

 

Godess.pdf

“Oh, um, my,” Persephone stammered, looking around, as she continued to fix her attire, “Can I help you?”

“Was that Adonis?” I had asked. I recognized him from the lodge meetings of the DRG (The Dying and Resurrected Gods). A boor raised by the gods whose only divine talent was to bore you to death, reading the minutes of the last meeting. I kept wishing that another boar would rush him and put us all out of our misery. What a pig he was now.

“Yes...Can I help you?” she was stepping out of the rye now with her swine maidens attending to her state of dress, pawing all over her. From behind, a sounder almost knocked us over, as a group of them appeared out of the woods. Persephone was handed a basket and she began to feed them.

“We are looking for Cerxes; any chance you have seen him?” I inquired after getting out of the vehicle as I started walking over to her. Bear had gotten out too and was sleuthing about for any clues.

I could see Moan and Groan taking notes in his mind without ever breaking eye contact with Persephone; I could imagine the tales he would have for his grand kids. Turtle and Jamie were playing with the pigs.

“You have not seen my husband? I get so little time with him, when he is not with that bitch…I mean Adonis, not Hades. Hades, I have to put up with every winter; at least it’s warm in Hades...” she shrugged.

“Cerxes?” I asked again with a raised eyebrow.

“Oh, I used to know him, but routing with a boar is, well, boorish.”

“Have you seen him lately? With your eyes?”

“No reason to get rude. I don’t know, you could have just missed him; he comes here every evening because it’s like a nightclub right before feeding time. All the sows gather waiting for my basket to come out, so he tends to come...and go after the sows hear the rustling of my basket.”

“Do you know his habits?”

“I used to know everything he liked…” she said blushing, “but now?”

“Do you know where he sleeps, forages, hunts?”

“I don’t know…,” she pondered. “Try Misericorde! An old crazy French man planted grapes there he enjoys and there are plenty of snakes to eat,” she said as she turned her back to us to feed the sows, “Bother me no more. Are you sure Hades didn’t send you?” She looked back at us with a little trepidation.


Cerxes.pdf

As we headed back west on Jones Road, Moan and Groan spotted him. The Raffels began the chase. Cerxes was playing with us, he kept to the main road running through what seemed to be his favorite mud holes. Then out of a trail on our right, a gang of bikers popped out and began shooting at us. We were in the rear, when Louie slammed on the break and we slid across the trail forcing the closest biker into the woods, as I leapt out with my cane. In mid-air, I cracked my back and the berserk was on. When I landed I took out the first of the Pagans’ legs and came up under the next one’s jaw. My next blow hit one in the back. As Louie came in with his Queensberry rules stance and shuffled his feet; he spun about and fell backwards with the first blow. I shook my head...

Dave came in next. He went low and tossed a bike at three of them. The Raffles and Turtle leapt in together screaming. They had all sorts of ninja devices they had ordered from the back of Black Belt magazine. The gang got back on the bikes (that still ran) and hightailed it out of there, as Dave grabbed a jacket off of one.

We checked out the colors. It depicted Surtr, the Norse fire god that brings on Ragnarök. Dave just let it drop. We had lost Cerxes.

Driving west again we came out at Hades’ moon staff. We had a choice of driving to the other end of the macaroni or veering left and taking a quick right to continue heading west. West it was and we soon took a left at Webbs Mill Road which brought us across 539. Then we took our third left which would bring us past another rye field on Ken’s Avenue. No luck. Then we took a right on another Webb’s Mill Road heading to the ‘Rye Fields’. When we passed the field, Scott smiled and pointed at it.

We then crossed over Pasadena Road and continued straight until we came to the crossroads at Butler Place Road, when that Questing Beast ran out in front of us. He was at the back of a pack of deer and headed down Butler. Stopped in the middle of the crux was an old 1970’s Chevy C20. A tall man with wild hair and a bushy beard stepped out. He was wearing a work shirt with his name on it. He was called Bernlak. Strange name, but what is normal in these woods, especially today?

“Damn deer, he keeps chasing that herd in front of me!” Bernlak said as he took his hat off and hit his knee with it.

“His hair is green!” Louie got off, before I clapped his mouth shut. I noticed his beard had a green tint, but figured it was just from the cast of his truck.

Moan and Groan got out and walked over to me, “Henry, that road the beast ran down is where me and my grandfather first saw him. Out by Green Fox Swamp. It’s an old religious site of the Leni’s. The Natives forked the top of the trees in a circle around it and cleared out a section to show the conjunction of the moon and Venus on the Spring Equinox. You can see her in the clearing for a few nights before she gives birth.”

“Can you guys give me a hand? It seems I stopped in some sugar sand and got her framed,” asked Bernlak. He got out a hydraulic jack and some planks of wood. He placed a plank under his leaf spring. He put the jack on top and lifted the tire before he put some other planks under the tire. The other side was not as bad. The Raffels and Turtle grabbed some shovels from the back of his truck and began to dig out the frame. Bear got behind with me and we pushed him out, as Bernlak drove forward.

Bernlak got out of the truck. “Good thing you guys came around; I had left this young buck back with my wife. I got to catch me a boar for dinner and get back before anything funny...happens,” he said with his head lowered. He looks up at me and says, “You believe, last night when I got back, he kissed me on the cheek?”

“Hey, I got it! You guys betting folk?” he asked, while he took an axe out of the back of his truck, “See I got this lighter in my pocket…”

All of us just got back in our vehicles and began to drive away.

“Hey, come back!” he said, waving, “Don’t mind me; I can be such a Khidr!”

___

 

Bernlak.pdf

Further on Butler Place Road, we came to another crossroad. Sitting on an I-beam stretched across a large Black Oak was this strange fellow. He was a giant of a man reaching into a hive. This guy was cultivating some stolen honey. Below him were several carboys filled with yellow liquid with tubes running out of them into a single bucket of belching water. The man was wearing an Arkansas Razorback jersey.

“Hi Ho!” he yelled down to us as he put a honeycomb into a bucket. He left it behind, as he leapt to the ground. He walked over to Bjorn and handed him his card.

“Bee-Wolf Mead.” read Bjorn as he handed it to Bear.

“Come. All of you, have a horn!” called the man.

We all gathered about and grabbed one.

“Where is my manners, I’m Beo.”

We responded in kind. He grabbed Bear and then Bjorn in a forearm lock.

“...The huntsman, he can’t hunt the fox; come drink up!” Beo said as he released Bjorn’s arm.

We all finished our horns of mead (I think...) and all had another, with the exception of Bear. Since his ulcers in high school, he hasn’t indulged. His coolers of Pepsi, which were coveted at the bonfire parties (once the beer was gone), have since been replaced with his sun-brewed iced tea. To my left a Northern Brown Water Snake began to serenade:

...Occasionally glancing up through the rain.

Wondering which of the buggars to blame

And watching for pigs on the wing.

His tongue tickled in my ear as he sang.

Bjorn almost stepped on a mushroom that sang the next refrain:

You know that I care what happens to you,

And I know that you care for me.

“The end is coming this summer,” said the mushroom, and Bjorn thanked him for sharing.

 

Bee-Wulf.pdf

Then a man similar to the Kaiser walked out of the high bush blueberry patch in high boots ringing a high pitched bell wearing a sandwich board stating:

The end is nigh…

Donne rang in my head, as Dore’s etchings of angels and devils came to life. The pitch pines wavered and vibrated around, circling around some mountain laurel coalescing into a bare assed couple tossing an apple with a snake that were playing catch as Uncle Milt sat on a stump eating a kip.

The Raffels began walking on all fours and began digging under the blueberries. Moan and Groan produced a potato.

Some Nighttown cheap whores came out from behind some bear oak and propositioned Louie. Being a married man, he eventually pushed them aside, but his tongue still hung out.

The stag broke from the bush and I pursued on Scott’s bike round the bend in the road. As I caught sight of the beast again, it had shifted into a bear. On the next curve I saw an eagle breaking the tree line. I looked down and saw Scott’s bike far below. My vision had become keen as I brushed the tops of the pines. As we approached Green Fox Swamp I saw the eagle dive for a fish. As I followed, I caught a glimpse of my reflection. I was a Turkey Buzzard. Upon its kill, the eagle became its prey. The salmon dived deep into the still waters. As I entered the water, my disguise washed off. A whimper was heard behind me. I had seen an ass; its owner was bent over in the water behind me. The lass stood up and turned with a smile. She had perfect round breasts with large areolas and erect nipples below a smile with moon-like tusks between the funny ears of a bear. From the pierced valley between her tusks came the words:

“Our cares have an end. With the grail’s insignia comes whom we always longed for since the bonds of sorrow were tied around us. Hold still: great joy is coming toward us.”

She reached the shore and sent two arms and one head through a shirt with a dove on it that fell down unto her thighs. The snake tempted and tickled my ear again from the cedar tree. I looked to him. When I turned back she was a six-foot-tall rabbit in that silly dove shirt. He wasn’t late, the date was not important, but I knew the March hare would have shown up before the moon sat down with the bull.

A dog appeared that ate a Bloom near the shore. Upon looking up, he gave chase to the rabbit. The rabbit turned into a fish. The dog to an otter. Fish to bird. Otter to hawk. I was left without a grain of knowledge upon my shining brow of what was happening.

Where the snake had sat, now was the Khidr from before. He seemed to have a bee in his bonnet. He sang:

...If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now

It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.

From the thicket ran a fox girdled by a zoologist’s green tag. I began to have a strange sensation, as if my neck was on the line. He swung up his axe.

I was compelled to fall to my knees and lean forward. The fox ran across my neck and left the green tag behind. The Khidr swung and the joke was on me. The tag saved my life, as I saw the fox wink at me before he turned into a shining young knight.

Khidr just melted away like that man who ‘chose poorly’ in Indianan Jones. Right before his dust fell to the ground, a wind blew up and swirled his ashes into the form of Harvey the Pooka giving me the finger before they dissipated.

I was still on my knees when the rest of the gang arrived. The Raffels were both riding the remaining bike together, as the two side by sides pulled up driving backwards.

After much contemplation of our navels, the strange mead’s effect ran off. We started heading back to the last crossroad. Soon we came to the clearing where I had seen Venus to my right.

Two thousand years ago I was born under this sign in September. It was soon to be my birthday from that life, so long ago.

You think Martin Luther King Jr. had it hard? We celebrate his birthday on the closest Monday to his birth, so we can have a three-day weekend. Mine was three months removed because of some Roman emperor...

 

Green-Fox-Swamp.pdf

 

___

We went back to the first crossroad and turned right onto Mount Misery Brook Road. The rest pulled ahead and Louie seemed to intentionally slow down. Then he stopped.

“So we are trying to kill a pig so Bjorn can die?” asked Louie, looking quite confused. “I mean he cheats at poker, but that is no reason to see him die.”

“Well he has never been this decrepit in all of his lives. He is just not used to it and it is really pissing him off,” I tried to explain, “especially when some young punk starts rubbing his fur the wrong way. Oh, he probably would wipe the floor with the kid, but he is afraid he will be using a walker afterward. He can’t bear this life no more!”

“So this is his first life of bunions and canker sores?”

“Yes,” I answered

“He never had erectile dysfunction, poor circulation, blindness?”

“No.”

“Deafness, bloating, blame farting on the dog, high blood sugar?”

“Nope”

“Never had to watch what he eats? Had to quit chocolate?”

“Never.”

“Been constipated, forced to drink prune juice? Gone bald?”

“No.”

“Have to second guess a fart? Have a finger stuck up his ass?”

“No.”

“He didn’t know what he was missing,” said Louie.

Bear had come back to check up on us. “Anything wrong?”

“That would take too long to explain,” I answered, “You just have to know Louie.”

He gave a hiss of a laugh.

“What were you talking about?” asked Bjorn.

“Oh fingers up your ass and stuff,” answered Louie looking off to the side.

Bjorn just looked at him strangely.

“So what is going on around here?” asked Bear.

“Oh it is more than Bjorn,” I said, shaking my head. “See, the world was supposed to have died in September of 1918.”

“How so?”

“Well capitalism was the answer to feudalism, but the minority leadership just changed hands. The peasants still remained...well peasants. We just called them workers. After the Gilded Age, the common folk were pushed to the edge. They began to organize and fight back. There was socialism, anarchism, union wars, and the majority started to sense their power. Lords, then capitalists, always feared that the majority of the world, would well, realize they were the majority. They never forgot what had happened in Haiti. Labor versus landowners and those who controlled the manufacturing. At the onset of WWI, there was no stopping a raise in wages, but they could save money in the long run if there were fewer workers to receive the raise in wages.” I pontificated (well I hope I wasn’t…).

The movement was stretching beyond borders. These organizations didn’t see boundaries between countries. The capitalists needed a war to divide the people once more. Then afterward, the Allies put up strict laws against immigration so any bonds made during the war would be broken when the soldiers went home.”

“Why did the Allies block immigration?” asked Louie.

“Before the Great Plague, villages had strict laws against moving to other towns. When you are forced to stay in a village, they can keep wages low,” I answered, “After the plague people were free to move about and seek the best wages. Demand for labor was high. A middle class sprung up. Guilds began to form to protect itinerant professionals. The wealthy got richer and they had extra money to spare on fine art. Artists were being raised in families with expendable income and could take the chance to create some of the greatest works in history. From the ashes of the plague, a new wonderful life was born,” I explained.

“When Cerxes got stuck in his boar skin, we got stuck decaying like you Bjorn,” I said pointing at him. He shrugged. “Society turned into something like the undead, just rotting from the inside but never dying. Just rotting. Before any written myth or religion was formed, we worshipped the pig and the boar. With their death, came new life. The oldest religious sites we have found are the bear caves of Switzerland. Think of Arthur, the once and future king. The boar was a god everywhere from Greece to Egypt, Ireland, and the Oceanic cultures.

Being stuck on islands for so long without any outside contact, these pig cults continued. They would remove some teeth so the tusks could continue to grow into crescents representing the moon. The moon death. The little death. Petite morte. With these rites, came rituals of sex riding the razor’s edge of death. Bulls were slaughtered at these times too. Their horns looked like they could hold the moon in between them. Even on the northern island of Japan, there is a Caucasian tribe that raise bear cubs with their own children, only to be killed when the child reaches puberty to protect them from the gods. Slightly different, but still the same.”

“So what does that have to do with us today?” asked Bjorn.

“The century has gone by and it went to shit. Did you notice we have been bookended by a plague and there is no fucking Leonardo da Vinci sticking his head up?” piped in Bear.

“Sex and death. It is a short distance between the pecker that gives life and the asshole that gives the final disgrace, when it is shit out as the last act of death,” Louie went on like some Catholic ass in a miter.

I shook my head and tried to ignore him as I continued, “Exactly. We kill Cerxes, he is reborn, and the world is renewed. Where do you think this big fascination for zombies came from? Even this SARS2 virus sprung out from the pages of World War Z. The author of the book might be Mel Brooks’ son, but there is nothing humorous about it…” I finished.

With that, four General Dynamics Flyers cut us off filled with troops and a cohort of Pagans. Louie aimed our vehicle at the first Flyer and I leapt off with my cane out. I came in on the side of his Gatling gun sending his aim off to take out the other three gunners. I threw him off the truck. The two in the front swung on me with their sidearms. I grabbed the bar above and kicked both in turn in the head before swinging around on the bar and leapt out the back. Bear went into the fray of the Pagans. Bjorn shook his head with thoughts of a walker in his mind as he attacked. Louie stayed behind to protect the vehicles.

I had seen Hades sitting above on a branch, “I see you will not send anyone my way today.” Those gunners jumped off before their guns blew up their guns.

“Well you said you were backlogged,” I said, “I didn’t want to add to your burdens.”

A Pagan came at me and I swiped around low and took his legs out with my cane and benighted him as I looked down at him from my crouched position.

“Well, a mutual friend of ours from below; you know the guy covered in snake spittle, said he might walk his little doggy up here soon. His brother is still with us after that deadly game of pin the tail on the donkey with some mistletoe,” Hades shrugged before he disappeared.

___

Mount Misery Brook Road continued southwest. The sun was setting. Wild grapes started appearing in between the pines, wrapping around the scrub oak. South Jersey had a reputation for growing grapes, Renault’s ‘American champagne’ competing against apples masquerading as grapes in ‘Newark Champagne’ and Welch’s sobriety in Vineland. Most think Vineland was founded at the onset of the Civil War, though four hundred pounds of the Swede Johan Printz might have known differently.

We sped up the road and almost bounced out of the vehicle on a few occasions. Louie lost his dentures on one of the potholes that stretched the width of the road. Pavement in the Pines proved to be a curse more than a blessing.

We crossed Mount Misery Brook and ended up on Southwoods Road. At Rattler Road, Cerxes ran out once more, but before we could give chase a parade of women in bearskins blocked the road. The parade was following Cerxes’ course up Rattler Road to a clearing on a lake. There waiting in the center was a woman crouched down with a red and black flannel facing us, relieving herself as she chugged a beer.

“I peed there,” she said in a high-pitched baby doll voice.

She reached to her side and picked up her bow, before standing up. She shifted her shoulder to fix her flannel and a quiver came into view for a second. The women prostrated in front of her and dropped stalks of fennel at her feet which burst into flames.

In the light of the flames, I could see Acoetes in his pirate hat marinating a bull on a spit. Dionysius was manning a wine garden. Persephone was in the corner getting some deer ‘housed’ out of a bull horn. Hades came up and laid a hand on her shoulder, which she shrugged off. She caressed the questing beast as Hades sulked away.

I half expected the grail to appear, but I knew better.

I had it in my subterranean chapel in Salem.

The arktoi danced up to Bjorn and carried him away into a hut behind the woman’s impromptu commode. Before the young ladies entered the hut with him they deposited their bearskins before the threshold.

“They all sauntered in there for wee feck; that man was no melter,” explained a Gael in a Flash T-shirt, who was feeding his greyhound out of his horn of wine, “You can’t slag that iompróidh, them lasses are lethal! I might just dotter over for a juke myself.”

As he was walking to the hut he turned back, “That was a quare flash, if I may say, set those fags right up.”

Then I realized the woman in red and black was standing next to me leaning on her compound bow. “Don’t worry about your friend, he looks like a man who can handle himself, even at his advanced age…”

I noticed the Raffels and Louie were following some women who left the hut looking for sustenance from Acoetes to keep up with Bjorn. Dave surprised me as I looked over my other shoulder. He just waved at me. Turtle and Moan and Groan were sharing a horn. The woman walked me to the fire. On the fire I noticed Bernlak’s work shirt.

“Lu is quick on the draw, I could have used this lighter I had won,” she said, “I also have a new axe…”

Dionysius walked up and handed her a misericorde, “You start a little plague in a French staple port with some swine and things get out of hand,” said the goddess.

“Like that time in Brauron…” Dionysius quipped.

After a while, some of the women were leaving Bjorn’s hut. They took up their skins again. I think I recognized some of them from the wet t-shirt contest. They were dropping down onto all fours as they turned into pigs and sauntered off. The Raffels and Louie kind of ran away; Lu followed the women.

Then Lu was chased away from the sounder, when a boar came chasing at him. Bear rushed for the Cerxes with Moan and Groan behind him.

 

Tent.pdf

A pile of soldiers burst upon the scene. The clearing was lit up in floodlights. I could read the name of the general leading them, Crom. The insignias of the soldiers read the 3rd Chemical Brigade.

“Step away from the pig!” Crom ordered. He was a strong man with distinct Senegalese features that spoke with a French accent. He was cleaning his gold-rimmed sunglasses. “We are ordered to keep that pig alive.”

“What for?” I yelled.

“General Wood chased that boar from Kansas where he caught him in Lakehurst, just long enough to get a Bohemian earspoon into his ass,” Crom said, as he put his glasses back on like Boss Godfrey from Cool Hand Luke. “That boar was brought back from Étaples to be slaughtered for the general at Camp Funston; they had a nasty plague in 1596. Getting off the train, he broke free and went for some sows in Haskell. Then there was a draft in Haskell that led the diseased men back to the camp,” said Crom as he motioned for his troops to surround us. “The rest is history. We have been pig-sticking him now for a hundred years. We finally made SADS-CoV to compliment the plagues of Cambridge Analytica bringing Trump, Brexit, and the rise of the Flat Earthers, but that shit didn’t fly. We sent some of his blood to Wuhan, obtained funding from Peter Thief and Palantirstones, through the Morgans and their Rothschild’s bank, the Deutsche Bank. You believe that Jew bank funded the holocaust? The Deutsche Bank lineage stretches back to Mayer Amschel Rothschild. What a Khidr...The original Rothschild bank,” he said as he clasped his hands in front of him, “The thief was able to lead another disinformation campaign about the virus. See the Russian oligarchs got hold of the Deutsche Bank and had a taste for revenge. Plus, you see, the Russian Imperial Army Base never disbanded in Lakehurst. We just dug some new underground bases out here to keep Cerxes in check.”

“A hundred years bookended by two plagues?” I asked in a rage, “Labor wars, World Wars, Cold War; every time wages go up there is a plan to kill off people to save money in the bottom line. Civilization is just going to shit and everyone is turning into a working stiff, a zombie, and dying alone.”

“Were only concerned with revenging the Provisional Russian Government. We got our training here and were sent over and we were betrayed!” Crom yelled.

“We need to kill the pig before the world ends!”

That is when he rode up on his motorcycle. Loki. His face was covered in scars. The Pagans pulled in behind him. To his side was a large coyote. Lu’s greyhound snarled at him and burped. Our group fell back together in a circle.

Loki walked over to Crom and handed him a cigar. Crom’s eyes glowed through his sunglasses as the flame of the lighter went out. Crom Dubh. Black Crom of Lovecraft’s grimoire.

“The end is nigh my old friend!” Loki said as he spread his arms wide above him, smiled and then sneered at me, “Immortality will be a bitch with no world to live in...”

With that Beo of Bee-Wolf honey lurched out of the darkness and slammed Loki and Crom’s heads together. Following his lead were the peach farmers who began throwing peaches at the soldiers. The Raffels went after the Pagans with Turtle and Moan and Groan. The woman in red and black shot her way to Bjorn’s tent with misericorde in her back pocket and her compound bow in her hands. Beo ripped Crom’s arm off and cracked Loki’s neck. Loki died with a smile on his face.

While everyone else was busy, my Bjarki friend Bear and I rushed in. I pulled out my sword from my cane as the berserk was on me and we fought through the soldiers. Cerxes just lowered his head and waited for my stroke. At that moment I struck the mercy blow to Cerxes I could hear Bjorn’s growl as the misericorde struck him within the tent.

With that Lu, who was sitting at Dionysius’ bar, snapped his fingers and the tent went in flames. Artemis just made it out of the tent in time and yelled something fowl in Greek at him.

“Too soon?” Lu enquired.

Cerxes stood on two legs and gave me a hug. Some of the swine girls stood up and dropped their skins. Cerxes put his arms around two of them and looked back and gave me a smile as they headed into the woods. I wondered if he would soon be a hog father?

“Give thanks to your crew for only maiming the mortals, I still got my hands full at the quarry,” Hades said as he bowed to me.

___

A year later, things started to look good. As the Black Plague brought on the Renaissance, the end of the SARS-2 Virus brought on the World Spring.

Telecommuting ended the traffic jam. It de-toothed the petroleum industry leading to serious changes to climate change legislation. After two years of forced isolation, loneliness and depression numbers dropped for the first time in twenty years. New communities formed out of bedroom communities. The implosion of cities sent people back home throughout the country with the real estate market decentralized, and housing costs dropped. Wealth fled the cities as well and people looking for creative amenities they had in the cities gave way to funding for the local arts and culinary geniuses. Hollywood gave way to Vaudeville and then to local artists.

The realization of Deutsche Bank’s and JP Morgan’s involvement in the decline of the western world, did not bring them down, I’m afraid to say. They just turned on each other after backing Facebook and the social media’s demise, as people began to talk to each other in person. Facebook did last long enough to spread a world labor movement that sprang out of an Amazon warehouse headed by a collection of minorities.

The various coalitions stopped remaking the wheel and joined forces and resources (as MLK preached, too bad we only remember him for uniting African-Americans) to teach poor stupid white boys of the KKK and other dumb fucks they were poor too and the majority finally rose against the one percent. The movement fell back on old Ham operators to spread the message before a misinformation plan could be plotted against the world movement. An open-source obscure Ham app was downloaded to millions of phones before it could be hacked by some devious actors.

JP Morgan had spent their fortune already on Facebook to attack the movement, but…

The world was born again as Caroline gave birth to a little baby bear.

Life is good!