Charles Pendelton
      © 2008 Marty Langdon
Chapter 12

                Three trails of serenity

At high noon, we decided to venture into the deep sections of the woods. Another grand
escape from the habitual lifestyle of the repetitious and self-absorbed man. All the hidden trails
designed to elude the populace were, in fact, passageways that led into utter seclusion. We
slithered past the back door in a semi-altered haze of distorted reality so as not to be seen
anyone in passing. The sun radiated down upon my neck and shoulders as we hastened
make our way toward the backyard. Beneath the small concrete bridge was a low-walled
drainage area for an inactive cesspool that divided our lawn from the oasis of trees ahead.

I took nothing more than a well-made pair of pruning shears and a full canteen of water
while Peter carried the small flashlight and a large bag of Wise potato chips.

Peter sauntered past the trellis, whereas I paused under it to release the entangled arm of
a wisteria tree. It had grown in and wound around a small part of the intricate latticework,
which highlighted the structure's own network of complexities. As wonderful as it looked now,
I knew the limbs would eventually fill out in time, and by then, the beautiful trellis would be
decimated by it. As I moved forward, the calm placidity began to resemble that of a dry rainforest,
and the day was now in perfect harmony with the world around it. My senses were so completely
in tune with nature I found there to be an even balance between myself and all things.

Catching up to Peter, I entered the 1st trail, where a small pile of brown rust could be seen.
This four-foot-wide heap of rubbish was all that remained of a Volkswagen beetle, apparently
stolen for parts in the late nineteen sixties. Soon it will be nothing more than marooned
on black topsoil
surrounded by thick verdurous foliage of fully-grown trees. 

We paused to take notice of a rather large turkey vulture that had found its way down from
the sky. It was milling around the grounds and going about its business awkwardly, carefully
surveying the land for a morsel to eat, perhaps, or simply laying low. Roughly one year ago,
I planted something in the light and fluffy soil. Ten paces west of the sycamore tree would reveal
its location. I stopped and knelt before plunging my hands into the dark earth, which was like

compressed sawdust and displaced some of the dirt and roots which had begun to grow.

                                                                               Pg 61

Amidst the layers of mulched leaves rotting with some other earthen matter was the
top of a black
garbage bag. Slowly, I got down on both knees and, with minimal effort,
pulled it vertically to
the surface before placing it down upon the surrounding soil.
As I opened the bag, we could now see the top of a sturdy, well-made box.

“I wonder what's in that box?” said Peter with an
ever-growing smile.

“I guess we're going to find out.”

A little WD-40 in advance would keep the hinged lid and locking clasp
from rusting over a long period of time. Slowly, I lifted the clasp ever
so slightly out of its
tarnished loop and swung the lid open like a
freshly oiled door, thereby revealing its contents.

Concealed in a well-crafted box was our reward for the day.

“Oh wow,” said Peter with a face all aglow.

“Doctor Crow's red elixir,” I blurted out.
“Unearthed at last, he's just dyin' to go flyin'.”

Peter thought I was speaking indirectly to him, as if I was speaking to him in the third person,
when in fact, what I was doing was speaking directly to the bird on the bottle. I then handed the
bottle to my friend, and he examined it thoroughly. “Check out that crow on the bottle. This is most
certainly a drink
to have out here in the woods,” he exclaimed joyfully. It was bottled in bond, but
missing the federal tax seal strip with the pink eagle on it.
Whenever we bought a bottle of liquor,
I would remove my little Case knife, which Peter called thee ole' Texas toothpick,
and make two
incisions around the cap so that the tax seal was not marred in its unveiling.

Sure, we had a couple of quirks
back then, but who didn't?

Sometime in the mid-1980s, the tax stamp would be replaced by the dreaded bar code.

“What happened here?” asked Peter inquisitively.

“I had a couple-a-slugs one day and then
went to cap the bottle but found the cap was
gone. So, I'm looking around the kitchen, opening
and closing drawers, but the cap is
not there. Do you know that, to this day, that cap has not
turned up? I wish we had a
security camera installed, so I could see what the hell happened. There has
to be a
reasonable explanation for it. Honestly, how do you explain
something like that?”

“I know, man, things like that happen to me all the time.

“Well, anyway, since the cap was
gone, I had to replace it with something, so I used
a sturdy wine cork. That
cork came from one of Ramon's Argentine Malbecs. I found
it floating around near the driveway after
a heavy storm, and so I brought it inside,
cleaned it with some soap and water, and found it was an
adequate replacement.”

I loosened the cork before pulling it from the bottle with my teeth. In slow motion, that very
distinct popping sound seemed to reverberate in my brain, bringing back memories of
spaghetti westerns and black and white caravan scenes, surrounded by images of saloons
and gunslingers and men on horseback trudging through a gully in Yuma, Arizona.

Why Yuma, Arizona, though?
I don't know. Maybe it just sounded right.

Slowly, I brought the bottle to my nose. Bubbling over with enthusiastic excitement,
I proclaimed to Peter, “Better than soda; it's sure to burn ya.” I then positioned
myself on one knee and put a thin Clint Eastwood cigar to my lips. I sparked a
match and kept the tough-looking little cigar clenched in my teeth as I spoke.

“Now tell me, son,” I said, looking down. “Is the bottle half full, or is it half empty?”

Peter looked at it curiously before speaking. “I'd say it looks half full.”

Looking up towards Peter as Clint would have in a fistful of dollars, I replied
in a scratchy voice while squinting, “That's what I thought you'd say.”

                                                                               Pg 62

He laughed at the improvisation before taking a gulp of the flammable liquid.
We then took a sip from the canteen to cool down the back of our flaming gullets.

“Boy,” said Peter, “that'll put some fire in your briar.”

I laughed at the
ridiculous comment, as did he. We then gazed at
a small forest of trees while enjoying
the lingering buzz brought
on by some real down-home bourbon.

“It's been around
since 1835,” I said to Peter, “and that's
older than Jack. How 'bout another swig
there, ole Veets?”
I said, just wanting to hear myself say something crazy.

“Don't mind if I do,” proclaimed Peter in a lighthearted tone. After a swig
and a couple of coughs, I was handed the bottle,
where I took a gigantic gulp.
Swallowing more than I could comfortably swallow
sent my gag reflex into a
spasm of retching. “Oh-no,” said Peter, laughing while
holding his head. . .
“Clearwater Springs!”

That was the term we used when a
fellow drinker gagged on alcohol,
and the salivary glands opened up all the way
to produce water. That
quick burst of nausea nearly made me vomit.

After the water had finished dripping out, I spoke. “I may have burned my
throat clear round, but it was stone good.” I then placed the bottle
in its wooden casket once more and reburied it the same way I found it.

There was no doubt about it. We were two bibulous bastards who were more
concerned about getting lit than we ever were about passing our SAT exams.

Enticed to walk, I felt degage as we ambled down the path to further dwellings.
How wonderful it was, indeed, to have all this at no cost. We then proceeded
the 2nd trail. Allowing it to lead the way, we followed that path as it wove
around a series of immaculately white birch trees. Some were so withered their
weight could not be measured, and it appeared they could topple over with a
push of one's finger. Those that fell to the ground seemed to be hollow inside.

I then looked down at a patch of bright green moss growing on a three-foot
directly across from the dying birch. This strange rupicoline growth felt
a stiff rug to my now overly sensitive fingers. Here we tarried awhile before
passing back and forth a carefully rolled doobie. How odd was this area? Where
dead trees stood firm, and foliose lichen clung to the darkened bark of trees
like a leafy form of light green cauliflower, just gushing with curiosity.

As the pleasant smoke released itself into the air, Peter used his nostrils at a
respectable distance to escort the sweet-smelling fragrance into his nasal cavities.
Exhaling with a cough and exclaiming in a choked-up voice, “I do love the smell
of marijuana in the morning.” Then laughter from his words made me feel like I
had cut out of school to enjoy the wonders of this fine day. Within moments, the
weed had begun to work on me, and everything as far as the eye could see came
into focus as being much sharper and with so much detail. It was astounding.

I studied the xylogenous fungi which grew on a withered tree and couldn't
figure out if the tree was dead and the fungus was alive, or the fungus was
dead and the tree was alive, and this began to perplex me. I then put that
thought on the end of a long hook and cast it into the great beyond. 

Gazing about, I saw the world in a new light. Its inherent beauty had now
captivated my senses, and I thought about being free from the chore of
schoolwork. How elated I became when I finally realized it was over. In
school, I was admonished by authority. It towered above me like a mighty
hand, but here in this magical place where serenity dwells, there are no
rules or rulers. Only the gentle peace of life growing in an ever-quiet
stillness that is indeed its own.

                                                                               Pg 63

Peter then begins to remove from his wallet a flattened-out roach. Judging from its size,
I would have to say (without actually going back in time and measuring it) that it was
about the size of a ferrule. Not any type of ferrule, mind you, but the one you would
generally find wrapped around a pencil that keeps the eraser from falling out.

“It's gonna be hard to smoke this thing without a roach clip,” said Pete in a tired manner.
“Give it to me,” I said firmly.

I then removed the last match from an old, faded matchbook
before discarding the small cardboard holder.

“I can't help thinking of those kids in Junior High School. Did I ever tell ya, Pete?”
“Did you ever tell me what?”
“About the kids in Junior High School?”
“What about the kids in Junior High School?”
“Did I ever tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“About-the kids-in Junior High School.”
“I'm baffled,” said Peter confoundedly.

“There were these three kids in my class who used to always have matches on them.
Every day they would chew on the match until the paper turned gummy, and when
teacher had her back turned, they would throw the match up, and it would stick
the ceiling. No one ever got caught doing it, which is really amazing.”

“How many
matches were up there?
“And no one ever got caught?”
“The teacher never looked up.”

Peter then got down on his hands and knees, as if he were completely alone,
and began
to claw the earth. He brushed the matchbook cover into the small hole
and swept his hand
across the dirt to make it look like nothing had happened.
I threw him a mildly sarcastic look,
and he muttered in disapproval.

I handed him the match and watched in amusement as he tried in vain
to peel apart the matchstick.
After two minutes, I was getting restless,
and he was getting frustrated, so I said to him candidly,
but in a tone
that could have implied otherwise, “Give it here.”

“Christ Almighty,” said Peter anxiously as he handed me the match.

“Now, if you had normal fingers instead of frog fingers, you could do this.”

Quicker than Ed Nortin could thread a needle, did I separate that stiff
paper match into two strands turning it into a clever roach clip.

“Well, excuse me for having the hands of a layman. Now I have

to try and figure out what I just said. . . You see how this shit starts?”

“You're high, man; it's acceptable
,” I said laughing.

Pete always had these strange-looking fingers that mildly resembled a tree frog.
This was mainly due to the fact that Peter liked to chew his nails. Not recreationally like
most of us, but as a full-time habit. Let's just say that Peter would chew his nails the way
most dogs would approach a T-bone steak, thus leaving him with hands that bore a strong
resemblance to a Gecko. On occasion, Paul would taunt him by saying things like, “You
wanna chew on something, Zigfried?” While tugging adamantly at his crotch.
Nothing would inflame Peter more than this kind of sarcasm.

“Go fuck yourself, pal,” was usually not a long-awaited response.

As Peter handed me the dry flaking roach,
I looked at it and wondered if it came from Woodstock.

“What the fuck is this?” I asked in amazement.

“What do you think it is? It’s a fucking roach, man.”

“Is this the roach you put in your wallet two years ago at the softball game?”

“No comment,” said Peter growing increasingly agitated at my line of questioning.

I then began to sing fire and Rain by James Taylor.
Only this version had its own unique lyrics. . .

“I've seen fire, and I've seen rain.
I've seen Johnny barf from Boone’s Farm on the train.
I've seen Paul fall down the stairs by acting lame.
But I never thought you would save a roach
from that awful softball game.”

“Oh God,” said Peter in a tone of such profound despair, I could not stop laughing.

Eventually, I put it inside the match and closed the two ends of the matchstick.
I then asked
Pete if he had a light. He handed me his Cricket lighter, and I held
it against the roach
until it began to smolder. I then took a deep toke, but upon
doing so, the paper must have
unraveled slightly, and the burning cinder went
straight into my chest cavity. It went bumbling
around in my lung until I
coughed vehemently, and the fiery ember came flying out. I then
Peter the hollowed-out shell and said, “Nice job on rolling that weed, man.

There’s a lot I could say about this right now.”

“Go ahead; I deserve it.”

I handed him the hollowed-out shell and said,
“You should have just saved it as a historical artifact.”

“And there it is. . . The zinger.” (And we laughed earnestly.)

                                                                               Pg 64

I then started to think of High School and all the memories I had
accumulated over the years. I can vividly recall walking around

that school in our painted denim jackets while exercising our
right to be cool.

I can vividly recall walking around that school in our painted
denim jackets while exercising our right to be cool.

Who wore the hermit from the untitled Led Zeppelin IV album or who
wore the Boston or ELP jacket matters not. They were
the embodiment
of a time long ago. A carefree society that has now been
washed away
and replaced with another of lesser or equal value. All the
people who
bore witness to that envisage
will one day be gone.

And there's not a thing we can do about it
except live our lives and wonder what comes next

Will I ever miss seeing the jocks in their varsity jackets or the roar of the pep
rallies before a football game? Or smoking weed in the boys’ bathroom before
hurrying outside to play Frisbee on the lawn? Probably not, but when you begin
to long for those bygone days, then you’ll know that it is merely the wheat being
removed from the chaff, and we have unfortunately become the chaff. We have
all grown a year older, and I can only hope the future
doesn't beckon us too quickly.

We have all grown a year older, and I can only hope

the future doesn't beckon us too quickly.

“What was that you said?” I asked Peter.

“Nothing, I was just thinking out loud.”

I then heard Alice Cooper's teen anthem playing in the grey region of my
mind. I stopped it after the chorus to make sure it didn't get out of hand.

No more pencils, no more books
No more teachers, dirty looks
Out for summer, out 'til fall
We might not come back at all

                                      Alice Cooper - School's out

Looking around, I wondered if these trees would still be standing here long after I was gone
and could not come up with a definitive answer. Even time itself didn't appear to know. We
then walked from the moss stone over to the birch trail, where broken sections of pure white
bark proved useful in outlining paths, paths which led into and around this area only.

I'd lay them out like a border when I had nothing better to do, thus giving something with
no purpose a new sense of order. After a month, the bark would begin to peel away
the trunk, and when it turned a putrid shade of brown, that was usually when it needed to

be replaced. Those old pieces were then tossed aside into the foliage, where they were left
to rot. I would then inspect the area for more suitable replacements to gather before laying
them out on either side. This made the rugged path look more like a refined trail, and aside
from that, it made me feel majestic while walking through it stoned. The width of the path, I
would say, was roughly three feet in diameter, and considering that there was so much of the
white birch strewn about, doing this not only made the area look neater but cleaner as well.

It wasn't long before we reached our 2nd hangout spot.

A widened area
with nothing but four logs from a dead tree to sit on
and the imperfect circle of stones for the winter fires. It was here
where we sat for a while but said very few words to each other.

Together we looked out into a dense and overpopulated jungle of foreboding and inviting
embodiments. All majestic, all so beautifully rich and full of life's bounty, there was a
certain form of understanding we were able to relate to here. Being apart from mankind
was a wonderful escape for us; not only did it clarify the mind, but it offered us a percentage
of freedom that no one in a nine-to-five job could ever begin to fathom.

As I began to think of “Animals” by Pink Floyd, I could not imagine a better entrance
into the nineteen eighties than that album. It was definitely cooler than “The Wall”
terms of how it was laid out and pressed in the studio to give it such a trippy edge.

When the last rays of sunlight had long since dwindled from the sky, the nineteen seventies
had been cast out. It felt strange, knowing we were moving into another period of time.
Of course, we knew it was going to be better because we were no longer in school,
but apart from the obvious, what is the future going to be like overall?

The music on the radio we may no longer be able to relate to,
the vehicles in the showroom may have a different appeal, and
the technological advancements
of tomorrow will not be like
pressing a button
and materializing in Japan.

Perhaps it will be like carrying a television around in our back pocket.

Well, maybe not that advanced.

I contemplated this thought for a while and came to only one conclusion. Anyone
who has not gotten high to “Dogs” by Pink Floyd should seriously consider it.

Pink Floyd - Dogs

Eventually, we made tracks to the 3rd area.

An area overflowing with life in abundance so sweet that my eyes could not wait to
see it. Here a distinct type of fern followed the path and grew like tiny fingers branching
out from beyond our realm of sight. They appeared to be soft as silk, and fine as baby hair
to the touch. As we walked on, a reddish type of plant with black highlights intermingled
with the trees, where a new and interesting species of plant life seemed to thrive.

                                                                               Pg 65

Some of which could also be found growing peacefully beside the fern in their own little
designated portion of the woodlands, for they are indigenous to this area. Shiny green leaves
sprouted from the ground's surface, bearing what appeared to be slovenly drawn faces on the
inside of each and every one. They had a faux texture, and it seemed like the artist standing
above me had just finished painting the landscape with his magic brush.

Two perpendicular lines dipping downward, a spot in the middle followed
by an uneven, asperous line below it, which one would assume is a mouth.

Not in pretext to the situation given my state of mind, but anyone with eyes to see would
say that this leaf did indeed have a face. In a grayish-blue ink, identical to that of a
fading, ecology could suggest that between evolution and theology, there is, in fact, a
link. As I stared in silence, pondering, it appeared that the proverbial essence of life
had been touched by the mighty hand of God himself. Indeed, it was pure conjecture.

Since the hypothesis of God cannot be proven in logical terms and considering that the Bible
was written in parables, I find it necessary to have faith and believe in things that go far
beyond my reach of understanding. I do it for the sanctity of my mental health,
as well as
that of my eternal soul, which dwells deep inside a prism within my heart. So, in
those final
moments, I can close my eyes in peace without ever having to look back. If there
is nothing
there, okay, then it’s back to the beginning of a dark nothingness. But what if it’s
true, and
you didn’t believe in anything but yourself? Then you can’t say you weren't warned.

As I continued to formulate a basis for the Holy Trinity and how each
of the three was, in fact, one, I became lost in a maze of curiosity. 

Why was I focusing on things that could only confuse me?
Why do I burn out my brain on rhetorical nonsense that
theologians have struggled for years to comprehend
when I
should be concentrating on living life?

Am I truly that
far gone, where I cannot see the light
shining through the brume ahead of me?

Not watching what I was doing, I tripped over a half-rotted log before
stumbling and
running over my own two feet. I fell to the ground like I was
diving into a wading pool while
narrowly missing a collision with a tree.

“You all right, man?” Pete asked, sounding
quite concerned.
“Yeah,” I said, feeling shocked.

From a distance, I brushed myself off
and thought of what could have happened
had fate thrown me a different line. If
my face would have collided with the tree.

It hadn't even happened, and already I was bummed out.
They come from out of nowhere to destroy me, these awful thoughts.

The weed had not only dampened my spirits, but it had seeped down into the layers of my
consciousness. It always made me feel so useless like I was the biggest failure on the face
of the earth and I was going to Hell. No matter how kind I was as a person or how good
I was to other people, it always boiled down to me being burned in Hell and feeling
paranoid and miserable like this for all eternity.

I can't stand it anymore.
God, why can't I just stop smoking?

While I was now in complete denial of anything being wrong inside, I was
starting to become more disassociated with everything that was currently going
on around me. It was almost as though I couldn't care less if the whole place
burned to the ground and I never saw it again. Right about here, I truly felt
I was trapped inside a black hole with no hope of ever escaping. 

I then started to get those really bad thoughts
wondered why I even bothered to get out of bed this morning.

                                                                               Pg 66

Thoughts of being drawn and quartered in 16th century England, where even the slightest
infraction carried a penalty of such gruesome torture it made the knees buckle, or spending
your last days in Italy on a Judas Cradle, being seated on a wooden stool that rose to a point.

Weights were added to the legs to drive the object, which was never washed nor cleaned,
deep into the anal cavity. And sometimes, those inflicting the pain would
hoist a prisoner
as high as six feet into the air, Judas cradle and all, before letting them drop.

You do not want to imagine the pain involved.

With a woman, it was usually the vagina that was torn open or shattered.
It was a gruelingly slow and painful death.

The worst thought which entered my head was living in Europe during the time
of Saw Torture.
It would take a really sick mind to think of something more
barbaric than sawing a man from ass
to sternum while he screams out in
agonizing pain, though t
his torture was usually reserved for homosexuality.

Draconian laws hampered the progression of a normal society
and turned easy living into a gruesome feast for the evil doers. 

I then thought of the poor souls having to undergo the torment of being fitted to a skull
crusher. As the crank is turned, the victim's teeth shatter through the gum until the jawbone
is forced past the nasal cavity. Sometimes the eyes would pop out of their sockets. Then
there's the pear of anguish, the Catherine wheel, disembowelment, being buried alive, etc.,

Lest we not forget the terrible impalement of being forced to endure the agony of
a long non-sharpened wooden pole (roughly the size of a burly man's arm)
forced into
the rectum. The victim would always be hoisted high above the ground
while gravity did most of the work. Slowly and painfully, the object made its way to
the neck, chest, back, side or mouth.
Sometimes it would take days to die, and that
person was usually left to rot while he or she
was still alive. The end was never
sharpened, or the victims would have died within the hour.
It is a well-established
fact that Vlad the Impaler took pleasure in this form of punishment.
He would enjoy
having his meal while watching the impalings of men, women, and even babies
pulled straight from the womb. It is estimated he murdered anywhere from twenty
to three hundred thousand people in this manner.

Today, in the heart of Romania, you will find a plaque commemorating the
monster known as Vlad Tepes, who ruled Transylvania from 1448 to 1456.
Instead of erasing his memory from existence, they exalt him for the sake
of tourism. The things countries do for money are atrocious, to put it mildly.

This was the normalcy of life in Medieval times. The savagery of what
when man is given ultimate power. Within my heart, I honestly
feel that
God should have given women the power to rule the earth.
I truly believe it would have been better for mankind's survival.

I cannot help but wonder what punishment God has in store for those who
have tortured others in the most barbaric ways, either to extract a confession
or for mere pleasure. Monsters who exist only to make others suffer. I believe
punishment fits the crime, and it is written in the Bible that no sin goes
unpunished. I am
quite sure that God has a very creative imagination, and his
punishment will be far more
severe than any of us could ever begin to imagine.

In the end, I am sure we may even pity
the most wicked because
the pain and the suffering they shall endure will have no end.

Why is man so evil?
Why is he so easily led into the fire of his own damnation?
Maybe I should have just stayed inside today.

Ever get the feeling your whole life is a mistake?
That you should have never been born?

How perfect would everything be right now
if we were still in that place of nothingness?
But oh, how terrible indeed, I thought,
to be nothing now.

Many people have jobs they truly enjoy because they follow their hearts while others
are pushed into college and find that it pays off when they start earning
the big bucks.
Not everyone is going to be happy because you can't always get
what you want in life.
Some won't even finish high school but will carve their
own little niche in society by
learning a trade they are proud to showcase.

Some are dating, some are married, and some
have children so that the family tree may live on.

I know where the problem lies...
What went wrong...
I realize now that it is no one's fault,
and there is nothing I can do about it.

Can you bring back something that is lost in time?
Can you fix something that has been broken beyond repair?
Can you separate the dreamer from the dream?

Sometimes the only thing we can do is try.

Up until the writing of this book, I was actually doing quite fine.
I was able to lay the past to rest and get on with my life. Quitting
drugs and retiring from the life of a mad scientist who used writing
as a tool to escape was the first step I took. Going to work and
doing my job was the second.

Sometimes you just shouldn't dig where the ground is too shallow.
Sometimes you get more than you bargained for.

I will admit, all I wanted to do in these years was get high and document, and in
a disparaging way, it felt like that was all I was living for. As I stood there with
eyes of the world upon me, I was being taunted. If God could stand before me,
I wonder what words he would offer. Sometimes things go bad for no reason, I
know. However, I think, in my own opinion, the very worst of all has to be
we voluntarily acquiesce to it. Then we have no one to blame but ourselves.

I knew happiness and sadness were emotions that could be manipulated, and
I also knew that, somehow, they were being transmitted on the same wire.

Instead of feeling sad, why couldn't I just feel happy?

It was then I decided to try using psychology on myself.
What did I have to lose?

So now, rather than focusing on the negative energy that was already consuming
I omitted all thoughts relating to death, disease, pain, suffering, and sorrow.

In other words, if it was bad, then it was wrong, and if it was wrong,
had to be destroyed, and so I made it disappear until there was nothing

bad nor evil in all of existence. Soon, the clouds of despair would pass.

I thought of the lyrics to “The Fireside Song” by Genesis and sang them aloud in my head.

“Once upon a time, there was confusion, disappointment, fear, and disillusion.

Now there's hope reborn with every morning. See the future clearly at its dawning.”

I must admit the first Bee Gees album cannot hold a candle to the first Genesis album.

                                                Genesis - Fireside song

Soon, everything was perfect again, in a place
where peace had been faithfully restored.

                                                                               Pg 67

I then gazed down upon the landscape of a florally sound sylvan.

Leaves that had grown underground were now funneling upward from the earth's
in strange conical shapes, while some were opening to reveal their unique
The root fiber of this strange and exotic organism could be seen when its
were parted ever so slightly. They ranged from minuscule to microscopic
expanded across the ground's surface as if they were gently crawling.

Pete decided it was time to open the bag of chips, and so we began eating.
As I got to the sixth or seventh chip, I found it difficult to keep putting my hand
inside the foil bag. To me, it felt like there was some weird kind of temperature
change going on in there. Like I was putting my hand inside a chest cavity during
surgery. So uncomfortable was this feeling that I had to shake the chips out.

“Don't let those thoughts get you,” said Peter, sounding a bit distressed.
“Beat them away with a stick if you
have to, but don't let them in.”

“I think it's a little late for that,” I said, feeling
guilty for being alive.

“I don't even want to imagine how depressing that must be,
especially on this stuff.”
“It's beyond madness,” I said, feeling worse than ever.

By the tenth chip, it felt like I was chewing on fiberglass, and I wondered how much
damage I had already done to the roof of my mouth, which was now on fire from the
As I unwillingly envisioned my tongue all ripped up from the razor-sharp shards
these over-salted potato chips, I thought to myself, “They're baaaaaack.”

I knew there was no damage. I also knew it was a mixed reaction
brought on by acute paranoia.
I was just upset that I couldn't
control it.
I wanted to think what I wanted to think, not what
the demon controlling my mind wanted me to think.

It was like trying to restrain a hungry bear from
devouring a blood-soaked doe on the roadway.

Since I couldn't swallow the remaining chips, which felt like a
mouthful of glassy sawdust, I had no other choice than to spit
that yellow glob into my hand and dispose of it inconspicuously.

You know there’s no bleeding, and you know there's no damage,
yet still, you fall victim to the delusion, and it takes hold of you,
ike being slowly escorted into a Turkish prison, you find there is
no hope in anything anymore.

As we approached the gentle area, I could see a thousand
yellow, brown and black mushrooms flourishing in the wild.

Some were red as if dipped in blood. As if to be ever tainted by the passing of time.
I walked over to a coin-sized mound of pure white mushrooms as thin as a hair
growing three inches high. There were big brown ones with dark yellow leopard
spots and jet-black sticky ones that were so grossly deformed they would strike
one as being vile as if just touching them might bring death.

                                                                               Pg 68

Only a disturbed individual would plunder this patch and bring grievance unto
the harmonious spectacle of life, growth, and prosperity that begins without
waking. For one to ravage such forms of natural beauty and leave it in turmoil
goes without saying, for this is truly God's own land, and we as a people should
treat it with the utmost respect. Because of this, we did not deviate from the path
but instead took refuge under a shady tree, where we sat for a while and rested.

In the center of all this ‘nature’ and insects moving about to better their lives
were the remains of an old tree fort
built in the early nineteen thirties by the
MacAlister boys.

As I looked up at it, I could almost see with my own two eyes, that distinctive timeline,
that separated matter.
It was an invisible shadow that bordered on the ponderance of time
and motion but was not relevant in theory to the actual progression of this movement.

The movement that has passed is no longer in the past, but the present.
Considering tomorrow never actually comes, it is always today, the equation
to realign itself, and that is why we can never go back, only speculate.

God made sure of that.

If the time was now twelve o'clock and the year: 1834, would there be any life-altering
significance? Outside in the streets and cities, surely. But in the woods, desert, and frozen
plains, I truly doubt it. A dog, however, might take a couple of short sniffs
and notice a
mild change in the atmosphere. It's possible, but they won't let you in on
their little secret.
That's privileged information from one hound to another.

I loved thinking about things that were beyond my own mind’s comprehension.

Things like going back in time and gathering what I need for the long journey

ahead. Not to go back and buy baseball cards and comic books to make a fortune
at a later date. I could do that now if I wanted to with the same results.

No, it isn't money I yearn for. It's fixing the shattered mess I left behind that
plagues me constantly. If I could only go back to the child I once was, with the
knowledge I have today, then perhaps I could change the past, thus altering
the future. Putting my affairs in order so we would never have to move, and
relishing every day as though there might never be another.
To pierce through
the orbit of time would only be to correct this world's mistake.

But the sad truth is, I can never go back.

This is my destiny, my curse.
To struggle onward.
To endure but never overcome.
To continue moving in one direction,
but to get absolutely nowhere but further behind.

Like finding yourself at the helm of a ship in a sinister dream.
And you watch as the vessel is drawn to the mouth of the maelstrom.
You arise in the morning, surprised your life wasn't upended.
But you know all too well what these bad dreams foretell,
and so, it makes you uneasy.

As I gazed up at a weather-beaten tree fort that was
so badly damaged, it appeared to be melting out of
all sides of the tree that had long since outgrew it;
I pondered the fate of those MacAlister boys.

                 The Flowerpot Men - Children of tomorrow

                                                                               Pg 69

Reviews for chapter 1

Harry Lichtenberg - I wish I were with you guys smoking that reefer!


                                               This review was posted on June/17/22

                                          Lameez' review

  Beta-Read Report for 'The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe - Chapter 12'

                                Beta Reader: Lameez Rushin (Lameezisreal)

Overall Impression

Loved, loved, loved it. Definitely makes me think about certain aspects
of my own life as well.

Chapter Notes

The imagery of the scenes match the theme so so well. It’s like each trail
leads them to further having an existential crisis. It’s like levels, the deeper
they go, the more they explore, the more they take, ultimately becomes
more that they question. I love the way the imagery works so well with it.

Character Notes

The perspective of the MC (Main Character) informs us of the levels that
he’s basically transcending. Through his eyes and thoughts, we see the
deeper he dives. All of this and a small part of me wishes to know if Peter
was having the same experience or the complete opposite. Which, in and
of itself, is a wonderful train of thought too.

Thoughts After Finishing The Chapter

I enjoyed the progression, the build-up and, as always, the vivid imagery of
the environment but also the internal thought process. The MC was having a
full-on existential crisis and I was right along side him, every step of the way.

Thank you so much and I’m excited to see your next chapter!



                                             This review was posted on July/14/22

                                          nehanegi1905 's review
         The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 12 -
Three trails of serenity

                                             Reader's Report by nehanegi1905

Hello Chas! I hope you’re doing good. Here’s my review for the twelfth chapter.

This chapter is now officially my favorite one. I really enjoyed the equation
between Peter and the lead. It’s just the little things about a friendship that
makes it extra special like teasing, nagging, and doing stupid stuff together.

I was actually eagerly waiting for this chapter.

One more amazing thing that I felt was the language. The language of this
chapter was so top notch. Maybe it was because of nature and the scenery
but everything that you described about that jungle felt extra special and
really left a mark on my mind.

Your work as I always say is quite special but you really set the bar way high
for the upcoming chapters with this one. I hope you the very best and would
love to know when you’ll be able to complete the next chapter.

Thank you so much once again


                                  This review was posted on Aug/23/22

                                             iqrabashir871 's review
The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 12 -
Three trails of serenity

                               Reader's Report by Iqra


                                     This review was posted on Sept/2/22

                                  kanchanninawe's review

     The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 12 - Three trails of serenity

                                      Reader's Report by

                                         This review was posted on Sept/4/22

                                                         alits29's review


                                       This review was posted on Sept/8/22

                                                   Hajranoor's review

The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 12 -
Three trails of serenity

                                            Reader's Report by Hajra



                                       This review was posted on Nov/5/22

                                                    Alysorrow's review
The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 12 - Three trails of serenity

Reader's Report by Aly Sorrow



                                            This review was posted on Nov/11/22

                                    Tayyaba17's review

The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 12 - Three trails of serenity

                                                 Reader's Report by Tayya






                                            This review was posted on Jan/20/23

                                 sidrahumar120's review

      The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 12 - Three trails of serenity

                                                 Reader's Report by Sidrah




                                           This review was posted on Feb/12/23






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                                                                    Reviewed by yashodha_95




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                                                 Reviewed by andreamircheska




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                                                         Reviewed by rupalrao




                          Saleha Zainab - Aug 10 - Chapter 12


In the chapter "Three Trails of Serenity," the trails serve as both physical pathways
through the woods and metaphorical journeys of introspection and escape for the
protagonists. There are three distinct trails explored within the chapter, each
symbolizing different aspects of the characters' experiences:

1.) The first trail represents a break from their everyday lives as they venture
into the deep woods. It leads them to a hidden area where they discover special
treasures, like a buried bottle of "Doctor Crow's red elixir," which becomes a
symbolic reward for their escape from the ordinary.

2.) The second trail takes them through a section of white birch trees, highlighting
the transient and delicate nature of life. The description of withered and weak trees
reflects the fleeting beauty and impermanence of existence. As they journey along
this trail, they contemplate the passage of time and the uncertainties of the future.                                  

3.) The third trail is characterized by lush plant life, particularly ferns and uniquely
patterned leaves. It evokes a sense of wonder and discovery, deepening their
connection with nature. Here, they engage in philosophical ponderings about
the nature of good and evil, as well as the broader purpose of life.                                                                          

These trails intertwine physical exploration with introspective reflections, creating a
captivating narrative that explores the beauty and complexities of the human experience.
Shortly, these are three different journeys, intertwined in characters pursuit of inner
harmony, traverse diverse landscapes of emotional and spiritual growth.

In this captivating chapter, the tale unfolds, chronicling the thrilling escapades of two
steadfast companions, the narrator and Peter, as they explore the woods and engage
in introspective thoughts while under the influence of marijuana. The narrative combines
elements of nature, personal reflections, historical references, and philosophical musings.

Let's break down the key aspects of this chapter:

 **Setting and Atmosphere:** The chapter takes place in a secluded woodland area,
which is described vividly and in detail. The atmosphere is tranquil and introspective,
with the characters exploring nature and their own thoughts.

**Characters:** The narrator and his companion Peter. Their camaraderie is evident through
their interactions, discussions, and shared experiences. (as it was mentioned in previous report
chapter 9)This chapter highlights their different personalities, narrator appears to have a
contemplative and philosophical nature, while Peter's character is more laid-back and humorous.

**Nature and Symbolism:** The descriptions of the woods, trees, and plant life contribute
to the overall ambiance of serenity. The use of detailed imagery, such as the white birch
trees and various plant species, adds depth to the scene. The natural elements also serve
as metaphors for the characters' personal experiences and thoughts like "Trapped inside a
black hole with no hope of ever escaping"( This metaphor encapsulates the characters'
feelings of hopelessness and entrapment within their own thoughts and emotions ).                                               

  **Marijuana Use:** Both characters get high by having marijuana, and also is a central element
of the chapter. It influences their thoughts, perceptions, and introspections. As they dive into the
world of marijuana, the story explores how it affects their minds and leads to deep thoughts about
life and existence. They start pondering big questions and having philosophical conversations.

It's an interesting journey that expands their thinking and makes them reflect on themselves.

**Historical and Cultural References:** The chapter includes references to historical events,
music, and cultural touchstones of the time. Mention of albums like "Animals" by Pink Floyd
and historical figures like Vlad the Impaler adds context to the characters' mindset and the
era in which the story is set.         

 **Philosophical Reflections:** The chapter delves into philosophical themes such as the
existence of God, mortality, the afterlife, and the nature of evil. The characters' thoughts
range from contemplating theological concepts to pondering human nature and morality.

**Narrative Structure and Writing Style:** The writing style is introspective and contemplative, often
using stream-of-consciousness to convey the characters' thoughts. This introspection provides
insight into their emotions, fears, and existential ponderings. The chapter is written in the first
person, allowing readers to experience the characters' inner monologues and emotional journeys.

**Themes:** Some of the overarching themes in this chapter include the search for meaning, the human

connection with nature, the effects of substance use on consciousness, and the complexities of existence.

**Mood and Tone:** The mood shifts between contemplative, nostalgic, and philosophical, reflecting
the characters' changing thoughts and emotions. The tone is reflective and at times somber, but also
infused with moments of humor and camaraderie.

**Reflection on Time:** The characters contemplate the passage of time and the inevitability
of change. They reflect on their memories and the uncertainties of the future.

In terms of critical analysis, this chapter seems to be exploring the intersection of nature,
human consciousness, and the human experience. The narrative uses the characters' journey
through the woods as a backdrop for their internal explorations of philosophical questions,
historical references, and personal emotions. The use of stream-of-consciousness writing
style provides insight into the characters' minds and thought processes.

It's worth considering how the chapter's various elements—such as setting, characters,
themes, and writing style—contribute to the overall narrative and the story's larger themes.




                                                           This review was posted on Aug/18/23
                                                      Reviewed by sampriktaada813


                                              This review was posted on Oct/15/23
                                            Reviewed by ritikagoyal587



                                                            This review was posted on Jan/25/24
                                                                          Reviewed by mariya





                                                              This review was posted on Jan/28/24
                                                                            Reviewed by namra



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                                                                        Reviewed by adeeba




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                                                            Reviewed by sababaloch292



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                                                                    Reviewed by aimanmengal3



                                                           This review was posted on Mar/23/24
                                                                       Reviewed by craftopia





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PG 61) Rusty car by Ryan Doray -

62) Vintage ad for Old Crow Kentucky bourbon whiskey
circa 1952 -

PG 62) Consumer protection
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PG 63) Chinese public health poster -

PG 63) Autumn
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PG 64) Woodstock poster
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