This is my second issue of Extinct. Forget the poetry, Please. For your own reading only.(The poetry)
The words moved like a warm, moist wind, settling behind Sam's ear.
A chill swelled across his scalp, tightening the root of each hair as it passed. He could not hear, or talk, or breathe. He did not move. An iron grip held him in place.
Sam had bought a pack of cigarettes before he went to the station. He bought Du Maurier Specials because the packaging had always intrigued him. The box was a mat black with a tiny silver emblem in the center. Its simplicity made it wonderful. The way the paper was finished made you want to touch it. Along the bottom of the box was the warning about decreased life expectancy. Sam unwrapped the box and smelled the sweet tobacco. He knew what they would say: "What's the matter with you? Don't you have a brain? Craig never smoked. Why are you doing this to us?" But he didn't care. Standing in front of the counter with the pack to his nose and his eyes closed, Sam smiled almost unnoticeably.
"Thanks," the voice was now lighter, perkier and the grip on his arms was released. Sam did not move as the sounds of the busy station returned.
"I said thanks." It was a girl's voice.
Having recovered slightly from the shock, Sam turned to see his assailant who had aroused his curiosity. She was sitting on the bench in the spot where Sam would have sat. She chewed gum and looked at Sam innocently through strands of jet black hair. Her hand fidgeted with a frayed thread on her black sweater, and she bounced one black boot on its heel with the other tucked under her.
"Are you OK?" she asked, her head cocked slightly.
Above all her eccentricities, it was her eyes which held Sam transfixed. They were silver like tiny moons, high in the sky. They stood out against her pale skin and dark hair. She looked like an actress in a monochrome film, as if all but she had been colourized.
"Where ya goin'?," she asked chewing. She leaned forward inquiringly, "Helooo..?"
"Why did you grab me like that?"
She sat back again. "I was hiding."
"So, where are you off to?" she asked again.
Sam looked downward and studied the chequered marble floor of the station. "To kill myself."
"Can I come?" she asked seriously.
"Sure." The word presented itself unfiltered, but its reality, indeed the reality of what he had told her came to life when she picked his knapsack up from the floor.
"Let's go!" She smiled. "Where exactly?"
"Windego," his eyes were blank with a mixture of shock and uncertainty.
"OK." She slung Sam's knapsack over her shoulder and made her way to the ticket booth.
"I guess I won't need a return," she called over her shoulder to Sam, who was trying to keep up. She walked quickly and carelessly through the crowd, bumping and nudging. Sam felt the urge to apologize to the people she left in her path.
"No," Sam acknowledged finally, walking at her side. "The ticket costs sixty bucks. I saved weeks for this. Where will you get the...." Sam left the question unspoken as she pulled a wallet from her pocket.
"Misterrr,.." she shuffled through the credit cards, "...Boutis, was nice enough to lend me some cash today," she grinned at Sam as she pulled a hundred dollar bill from the wallet and flapped it at his face.
"You mean you picked...." Sam's eyes widened. "Shit."
She left Sam standing in the crowd that shuffled by and went to buy her ticket.
Sam waited. The station was beginning to calm. The eight o'clock rush was business-bound in their crispy shoes. Sam wondered if the shoes were disposable, and then came to the conclusion that for people with crispy shoes, anything was disposable. He liked the station better when it was empty. It was so much more beautiful. Everything was visible from the marble floor up to the pillars, to the elaborate cornices. Thinking of it reminded him of the time he picked Craig up from an early morning stop. Craig had finished first year and was back for the summer. The station was numb and noiseless except for the slow knock of Craig's heels as he hauled the heavy luggage across the barren lobby.
"Where's Mom and Dad?" he had asked.
"Dad's got some big case in court and Mom's at some neighbourhood meeting. They want to build ghettos in our backyard or something. I don't know... They miss you."
"Yeah? Why do you say that?"
"Well,.." Sam watched his sneakers move noiselessly, "when you're around, they're happy, like.... I don't know, we do stuff. We go out together. Then, when you go, they just sorta work and mind their own business."
"Oh,.. they just get excited because I'm away all the time."
"No," Sam shook his head, still watching his shoes, as if afraid they were going to run off without him, "...when you're gone, they don't have no one to brag about."
"They don't have anybody." Craig nudged his brother jokingly making Sam step off the crack in the floor which he had been following.
"Yeah," said Sam. "...anybody."
Sam was never smart like his brother. That was what he had been told. Craig always got the plagues and the awards. He was the class president and student leader. Sam only got awards for track and field. He was a good runner, but he had to think about his future; and running invitational relays and inter-schools would not get him anywhere.
Now, standing in the train station, Sam reached into the breast pocket of his jacket. His heart was in palpitation. A sign of an oncoming anxiety attack. He opened a pill bottle and dropped a tiny white pill into his palm. He swallowed the bitterness with his saliva and took a deep breath.
"OK, let's go," she had returned. She held the ticket in front of her face with both hands, her smile peeking out from behind it. Sam slid the bottle into his jeans pocket.
It would take four hours to get to Windego. Shortly after the train left the city station, a stewardess begun to make her way down the aisle offering beverages and nuts. Sam watched her vacillate from left to right, row by row as she served the waiting passengers at the front of the car.
"Beveragess? Nutss?" Sam could hear her as he turned to his window. He sat there because the girl had said she did not like to see things go by. He looked out at the busy city and wondered how anyone could not like watching the passing scene.
"So, what's your name, Mister twenty year old Samuel Abrams of One hundred and two Black Bridle Road?"
Sam's eyes widened. "How did you.." She tossed Sam's wallet on his lap. "You stole my wallet?...."
"Relax, I gave it back." She laughed. "You're so nervous. Relax!"
Sam tried to be enraged. Then he tried to be angry, and then annoyed, but he ended up smiling and laughing with her. "OK, now it's my turn. What's your name?"
"Rayne." Her smile lingered. She jumped sideways in the seat as if they were going to play paticake. "Next question!" She said playfully.
"Um.. how old are you?"
"Um..." Sam rolled his eyes around searchingly.
"Oh, you're too slow," she flapped her hand at Sam. "I moved to the city.."
"Guelph.... when I started university.."
"U of T. I got my degree in how-to-understand-professors-and-tell-them-what-they-want-to-hear-regardless-of-what-you-think. Now I live in a youth hostels because I'm overqualified for McDonald's and under qualified for just about everything else."
Sam was silent for a few seconds. He sat with eyebrows raised, letting the words settle into his brain. Then he nodded. "I applied to U of T. Didn't get in."
"You're lucky." This time, she spoke seriously.
"Yeah, right...., tell that to my family."
"Is that picture in your wallet of them?"
"Uh huh." Sam flipped the wallet open and pulled the picture folder out. There was only one picture in it. "That's my mother, my father, and my brother Craig. That's me." He pointed to the characters in the family portrait. His mother was sitting in front of his father, and he and his brother stood on either side. Their heads formed a diamond. "My brother goes to McGill. He wants to be a doctor."
"What do your parents do?"
"My father's a lawyer and my mother teaches."
"And I..." Sam's face was expressionless except for a tiny smile that barely moved the corners of his mouth, "I can't do nothing."
"Oh, come on," she said, rolling her eyes.
"I'm a runner. But there's no future in that."
"There's no future in anything. We're the 'fuck-it' generation. We're not supposed to have a future." Rayne spoke these words like sunshine, as if they came from some biblical scripture - 'And on the eighth day, God made the fuck-it generation'. "Picture it, your brother gets his little piece of paper, finds himself a wife. They move into a mansion on a landfill, have kids and raise them under the ozone hole, feeding them polyurethane slices on bread with a shelf-life of two thousand years. He works extra hours to make lots of money so his wife has an affair and they end up on Oprah. While their kids are away fighting some war in the Middle East, they die of an overexposure to some chemical in their water and their kids never make it back." Rayne handed the picture back to Sam who again sat attempting to register the matter-of-fact verbal assault.
"Beveragesss? Nutsss?" The stewardess peeked her head into their seats, grinning charmingly.
"J D please." Rayne smiled.
"Make it two." Sam nodded.
The stewardess poured the drinks and placed each glass on their trays. The ice rattled.
Sam never thought he could feel at ease with a person like Rayne. He was a shy one, the one who did not like to talk much. It was not that he had nothing to say. It was idle conversation that bothered him. It was too inconsequential. It reminded him of the Wild Wild Wilderness shows about birds. One bird would shake its head and the other would clap its beak. Then they would both bop up and down and swing their tail feathers in each other's faces in some instinctive greeting protocol. He considered himself too evolved for that, though he often felt like a bird at his parents' dinner parties. They would introduce him to their guests and immediately he would follow the greeting ritual, like the birds. He liked to watch Craig. Craig was a peacock in these situations.
"Do you wanna see my pictures?" Rayne pulled them out of her pocket before she finished asking the question. Sam did not bother answering. She dropped the pile of creased and worn photos on his tray and commented on each as he sorted through them. "That's my mother unit... that's my real father. He left before I was born...that's my dog, Gizmo and cat Chester. That's my friend Christ."
"He's got an earring in his tongue." Sam held the picture close to his nose.
"Yup, he says the only thing he owns on this planet is his body, so he can do whatever he wants with it... and that's my entire family unit including my step-father asshole unit."
Is he the one you were hiding from at the station?" Sam handed the pile back.
"No, that was my real father."
"I left home so I wouldn't have to hide from my step-father anymore."
"He abused you?"
"Did you tell anyone?"
"Yeah, I told my mother. She didn't believe me. Said I was making things up because I wanted attention."
"He hit you?"
"No." She said it with a tone that silently begged Sam not to pursue the matter further. He did not.
"So what does your real Dad do?" Sam winced as he asked the question, not knowing whether he had done the right thing by asking.
"He's a college prof. Teaches economics." Her tone was subdued, "I like to watch him sometimes, he seems so calm."
"Do you ever talk to him?"
"After all these years," her smile faded, "oh...I don't know."
The rest of the ride passed quickly. They both fell asleep after the stewardess had served them their third drink. Sam awoke minutes before they reached Windego and saw that the summer leaves of the city were now ablaze with colour. As they stepped off the train, they both recognize the smell of night and sleep falling over the land. Somehow, it was comforting to know that something larger than them was still at work, and that some things stayed the same.
From the station, they hitched a ride to Caugnawagwa Park. Rayne convinced Sam that it was more authentic to hitchhike and that taxis belonged in the city. It did not take them long to get a ride.
"Where are you kids headed?" A man asked through the window of his white pick-up. He had a dark complexion and short dark hair.
Sam unfolded his tourist map which he had taken from his knapsack, "Cau..gna.."
"Caugnawagwa, Windego, hop in." The man swung open the passenger door, "You guys camping?"
The town was named after a popular legend. The driver, Joe, was a Huron. He told them the story during the ride. We said that Wahpun brought the Windego across the Atlantic when he brought light to the land. Windego chased people through the forests when they were alone. Some say that he was a cannibal, others say that the people ran until they wore themselves into the ground. Joe said that the locals believed if you just looked over your shoulder, the Windego would disappear.
The ride to the park was not very long. Joe had a legend for every rock, tree and river they passed, and Rayne and Sam were held entranced. As he drove them up to the park entrance, he said, "You two have fun, and if the Windego comes, just look over your shoulder."
"We will." Rayne said as she slammed the door shut. She stepped back and waved with Sam as Joe drove away.
With the help of the map Sam had picked up at the train station, they made their way to the Caugnawagwa escarpment. The entire park was located on a raised plateau, but the town was divided along the escarpment. The locals were known as either the people on the hill or the people by the river. Joe had told them the native word for both, but they had forgotten.
By the time they reached the steep slope at the edge of the plateau, the sun had begun its final descent. It tucked itself into an envelope of clouds and spread its red and yellow light out from within. The lingering ray seemed to cast a peace and calm over the world. The last warm breeze of summer whispered through the trees. Sam and Rayne stood at the edge of the cliff, hand in hand.
"The fuck-it generation, huh?" Sam spoke softly into the distance below them, the glowing light on his face.
"That's us." Rayne smiled into the sunset.
There was silence for a moment.
"You know what that means, don't you?" Sam turned to Rayne as he spoke.
"We're the freest people in the world." Sam spread his arms out, "We have nothing to lose."
"Janis Joplin, Me and Bobby McGee." Rayne begun to hum the tune.
"Like Kurt Cobain said, 'Never mind'," Sam sighed tiredly, consumed with an unexplained grief.
Sam took his wallet from his pocket and removed the picture from its sleeve. Rayne smiled and reached for hers. They sat at the edge and placed the pictures on the rock beside them. They smoked Du Maurier Specials as the cool forest wind carried the pictures into the purple sunless sky.
Imagine rows, lines
a succession of rhythms
nothingness but sameness
Birds of prey
in sunless harmony
Rows of people
the stale air
in a vacuum of silence.
There is no identity
in a crisis situation
Lost is the gold
of precious gems
Eternity is everlasting
Lacking is personality
without a body is...