Chapter One:


Waking up in a swaddling of satin, concubines awaiting ovient. My faithful valet draping my skin in silk wraps, fruits and spice abound, as I am led to the baths. Water nymphs, their supple bodies splashing together, laughter; the ripeness of lips, curves, treasures breathe in heaves. Alone now, dark corridors, a sunbeam bursts in the courtyard; the throngs on either side hanging from turrets like unripe fruit from steps and pillars, the creeping hushes of the hall. I am led to chambers of opulent garnishing, sails of sateen parachute the steady breeze amassed by the fragrant ocean. A coronation filled with flowers, spices and the scents of the multitude awaits the boy king. A girl of amaranthine loveliness awaits as the end of the procession approaches, a voice raised and hands intertwined, they repeat the pledge to oversee the flock. The ritual complete, a chanting reverberates through the crowd sweeping across the courtyard, voices that had barely uttered, turned up in volume, filled with passion:

                Drachira!                             Drachira!                             Drachira!

Alone and older, I am seated on a throne of pewter and brass; velvet cushions and glass shards adorn the seat, one for luxury, one for temperance. One by one, they enter, the numbers evolving amid the din of dispute, the pardons of digressions, a weeping soul begs on bent knees; prostrate, for her loved one. Still another consortium tells tales of the North filled with the supplication of freedom. Weaving mental pictures float endlessly in the hollow echoes of the chamber, foraying pillagers, bludgeons of destruction, and the unending serpentine of chains enslaving humans. The growing clamor of egalitarians fills the hall, virulent soundless speeches, silent entreaties to locate the beloved, the collective abhorrence of the multitude; but all judgment is left in my hands and more pressing matters at stake. In attendance before me flock hundreds and hundreds, but thousands and thousands must die and all will absolutely. In my madness, I know this as they beat their chests and paw the ground like worked beasts, Compassion dies; I feel only a dull sickness for these swine—smiling, nodding, knowingly. Feel only sickness, my head swirling with the pleadings, the faces submerged. I catch my breath but there is none and I know now that I am dreaming; now I must wake. Wake the passion but pain emerges, the burning from lungs, to wake, a pristine accomplishment to wake. I am suddenly bolt upright gasping for breath, wring a neck still in the court, the axeman grinning as they come towards me arms outstretched and outside the wailing of a name:

Drachr!                 Drachr!                 Drachr!

as the ancient bells toll harshly in the tower

Clank!                   Clank!                   Clank!


In the not so distant future:

Roger Miller woke up to the clang and crash of the garbage truck outside. The pain across his cranium increased to the proportions of the of the hue and cry. How appropriate, he thought, as he grabbed the pillow and stuffed it over his head. The banging increased, and he realized with a groan that it was his own head pounding. He turned face down in the bed and pulled the sheets over, then grabbed the pillow once again and used it like a muffle chamber. Eyes shut tight; he took several deep breaths, and tried to reenter the dream. Was it a wedding? Coronation? Holiday? he hated the helplessness of losing the threads of remembrance, like missing the end of a movie or football game. Outside the mechanical mayhem abruptly stopped and he could hear shouting, but could not detect the language; could have been Asian or Latino, all languages sound the same under a pillow in Koreatown, southside Los Angeles.

The shouting over, his head cooled and dulled by the pillow, Roger drifted into the familiar pattern of a recurring dream. His father, long gone, and he of about age eight or so treading water in the Butler Chains, Central Florida. It was 1998, and Candle in the Wind played on the boom box sitting on the shore. Man and boy, they neither floated up nor plunged down; just lazed in the water like two Tiger Lilies. Beside them the wooden boat that had taken his father years to complete by hand in their garage swayed in the waves of the river. The last point in time where man and boy would always dwell in Roger’s mind.

Further up on the beach, he could make out his mother, her blouse willowing in the breeze, exposing her one piece. She wore overlarge sunglasses, making her look like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She was wildly waving for them to come up for lunch. Her Edith Bunker voice belying the beauty that radiated from her. She had stuck with his father from Polaris missile tests in Alaska to space rover tests in Seattle, and from a top secret assignment in Panama to an unmentionable assignment in Hawaii, as his work in aerospace took the family from one outpost to another. At the time of the dream, his father was working at the Cape, but living in Orlando, his long trek to and from work running late into the evenings, made him more a spectre in their lives than an actual person, a rumor that repeats indefinitely.

The dream maneuvered and suddenly they were sitting together on a blanket in the sand; mother and father eating bologna and pickle sandwiches. He ate peanut butter and jelly; it was the best tasting sandwich ever in the whole wide world. From his childhood view, his life was wonderful; Mickey Mouse down the road, Shamu next door. It was during that lunch that his parents had told him that he was adopted, not really theirs, not biologically. As he thought back on it; it was the last time he could remember getting along with his father or his father being well. As a teen, the righter of all conspiracies created a world in which he was responsible for his father’s failing health, the night on the patio, the wild accusations, the mummified hospital bed in their living room; . He remembered the bickering fights, he as a teenager, up all hours getting into mischief and his father impotent to do anything about it. That day on the shore was the last time he had eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The dream drew him further to a cypress tinted water; his pale body in the rust stained cypress skin. He remembered as she led him deep in to the water, the blackness, and the billowing white shroud. Swimming deeper he saw in the fading light a face, pale and breathtaking. As always, he was past needing a breathe as she took his hand, her body wan; so beautiful that he was breathless anyway, and led him up enthralled and unbreathing as she led through the deep blue, past emerald and gold to the orange of the water at the surface. Once again, they were interrupted; police cruisers wailed to the left, sirens approaching from the right. His parents frantic waited at the shore; boats flashed by like shadows, the woman was speaking but her voice was a backward tape, drowned out by the police boats turning around the island like some fucked up Miami Vice scene. The boats were on top of them now, the sirens grew louder and louder. But now the alarm clock had jumped into power.

“It looks like the coronavirus has finally run its course in California,” a dismembered voice from an unknown location. “the total toll remains at 21,369. The Governor has claimed that all people who died from covid-19 would be cremated and their ashes dropped,” A delay, “Hey where do you think?”

“Where do you think what?”

“Where they drop the ashes,” another delay, “it’s very ironic.”

“Uh, I don’t know dude?”

“Death Valley,” hesitate for groan, “get it ironic, huh?”

“Really,” another pause, “Think it might be too early?”

“No, really, they’re gonna build a memorial, all names, It’s gonna be beautiful.” Roger slammed the sleep button.


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