Lost in the mist, she came to my rescue.

Follow me.

It was the voice of a being

far above angels, and deep as the grave.

To where?

I followed, not knowing, but willing.

To love. To life.

The mist thickened around us.

But I’m lost. Do we go to my destination?

She turned to look at me with silver eyes.

We go, my love, to where you need to be.

I followed, not blindly, but knowingly.

I wish to leave. I’m frightened.

The mist hid her from view.

Follow, and I will comfort you.

I followed blindly.

Give me your hand.

I took her hand, and she led me…


Do you love me?

I followed.

How can I?

She stopped.

You simply decide.

She kissed me.

I’m lost.


Justice = Just Us

So as a cop, you don’t even have to engage the tween with the TOY gun in the department store. No criminal record, no threat to you, himself, or anyone in the store, but he never even got a ‘drop your weapon.’

Just pull up, and bang.

When we’re innocent, cops plant evidence.  Alabama ‘police’ did it for 10 years. Where’s the outrage from #ALLLIVESMATTER?

Make up your mind:

Don’t want us ‘thuggin,’ but won’t hire us.
Don’t want us on welfare, but don’t want us educated.
Don’t want us holding political office, but it’s okay if it’s a ball or a microphone we sing and rap into, as long as we’re not decrying supremacist / oligarchal bullshit disguised as ‘policy.’

Then redline the districts to remove black representatives, and put them in districts where prisoners can’t vote.

Then talk about ‘reverse discrimination’ when it used to be called ‘hiring on merit’ before.

Worried about terrorism? Guess it takes one to know one.

Time to segregate, on our own terms, for our own reasons, to rebuild ourselves, our youth, and our communities. Stop celebrating Kwanzaa for a week when we’re not living out the principles 24/7/365.

We weren’t brought over here to live, but to work, and as long as we’re not turning a profit for anyone else, we can ‘go back to Africa.’

But let’s get back to Black Wall Street instead. Let’s build schools where our youth will excel and begin to invade the halls of power: science, law (and its enforcement),  finance, technology, and trade, in the same numbers we seek to invade the NFL and NBA.

We’ll be talking about a different country then; help is not coming from the outside, and for damn sure reparations are not coming for slavery. You’re paid less for the work you actually do, as opposed to the work you didn’t, where no one was paid at all.

Stop rapping about money and hoes and guns and drugs, and pull your pants up so you can stand up and man up. You do know by now that showing your ass means anyone can screw you, and screw you over?

If you ‘love your hood,’ stop poisoning its people with drugs imported from countries that don’t like you either, and shooting your brothers, and impregnating your sisters with babies you can’t take care of from behind bars. You leave them vulnerable, like Tamir was vulnerable.

Stop riding around in expensive cars through neighborhoods that look no better than bombed out Syria, talking about ‘I got mine’ before the cops add it to the Criminal Forfeiture fund to pay for their bodycams, which they’ll turn off the next time they aim for your heart.

Poverty is a mindset; it just manifests as an economic factor.

Wake up. Strap up (your mind first, your home second).

The revolution has started, and it’s not only televised, it’s being broadcast all over the world.

Resolve in your spirit, now, to answer this question:

How long are you willing to remain a target?

Overmorrow (5)



The door opened, and the soft red light of the hearth fire glowed invitingly.

“Come in, Mitre Harkin, before the scent of the Hunters fades, and the animals grow overbold.”

I stepped inside, and the being that greeted me was somewhere between fae and monster.

It was female in form, tall, angular, a smooth, with platinum hair fanning across its shoulders like a silvered cowl, and I took a step back.

“Do I frighten you in my true guise?”

Before I could answer, it began to change: the shape grew more feminine, the flesh took on color, tone and shade, and the silver hair turned the same shade of red as the fire, as did the eyes.

It never turned its gaze from me, and I could feel the magic tingling under my skin.

“Is this more pleasing?”

Not able to trust my voice, I nodded.

“Relax, Mitre Harkin; you’re among friends here.”

“And how did you know my name.”

The Summoner smiled. “A little bird told me.”

She pointed to a cage with an open door, where the pearlescent white bird sat, now more interested in its seeds than in my face.

“Well then,” I said, “I’m going to guess that if you know my name, you know why I’m here.”

“I do, and it’s important we don’t delay.”

She led me to a small table with a small lantern, and lit it.

“Sit, Mitre.”

I sat, and she took the seat across from me, and began to change again, into an exact replica of Xantara.

“This is the girl you seek across worlds?”

“Yes.” Questions were burning on my tongue, but time was of the essence, and I had to tell myself that despite my curiosity, I didn’t really want to know.

“Very well.” The Summoner didn’t change back to her true form, and sensed my discomfort.

“If this is who I am summoning, this is how I must remain,” she explained. “There are rules governing these things too, Harkin. We are not allowed to do as we please.”

I cleared my throat. “Good to know.”

She smiled without amusement. “Give me your hands, and call to mind what you know of her.”

I obeyed, and she closed her eyes for a long moment before she spoke again.

“Ah, you are fond of her, but not in love.”

“She trusts me; I would not violate it, and she is of another time, and young.”

“You are a man of fortitude, for she is a surpassing beauty.”

“My message…?”

She smiled again, with amusement.

“Indulge an old crone, Mitre Harkin; I don’t get many visitors these days.”

I said nothing so that she could get on with it.

Another long moment, then more words.

“The demon gravely frightened you.”

I swallowed, then replied, “Yes.”

“It wants to use you as bait, to kill the Protector.”

I said through gritted teeth: “Yes, that is the message I want to tell her; she is returning tomorrow, and I don’t know what time. I have to warn her.”

“Very well.”

Since my ride out of the temple gates, it seems my senses were heightened: colors were more vibrant, the air had scents riding its currents, and it seemed as though I could see distances as if they were near.

The sounds of birdsong were never sweeter, and the tangy musk of the horse I rode was sharp in my nostrils, but not unpleasant.

During the walk through Dark Wood, the night seemed to want to blend me into it, and I wasn’t afraid, even though I was with the Hunters. It might also have been Vilus conveying her own fearlessness through her small hand into me, but that didn’t feel entirely true.

Now, I was aware of a sweet, slightly cherry scent from the hearth, the even breathing of the Summoner, the crackling, hissing dance of the red flames and the small branches, and the redolent scent of patient age and fleeting time laced with pine and spices the Summoner used in her art.

My own breathing evened out, and the rigors of the day seemed to peel themselves from my spirit.

I wasn’t aware that I’d closed my own eyes until she spoke again, in Xantara’s voice.

“Mitre Harkin?”

My eyes opened, and I gasped: the Summoner’s eyes were milky white, with nothing else inside them. A jolt of fear that Xantara was struck blind flitted through my mind.


“I can’t see you, Mitre, but I can hear you. What have you done?”

It was Xantara’s voice.

“I…I got a Summoner to call upon you; something’s happened, and you need to know.”

“Oh…What is it?”

“I got a visit from a demon; it first sent a messenger, that only manifested part of itself; it snatched away my covers, and then there was laughter, loud and deep, beneath the floor when I set out to warn you.

“They’re going to use me to get you, Xantara. You mustn’t come back today. They’ll strike at you through me.”

“Oh, Mitre! That you’ve used such unwholesome means to warn me…”

“It’s nothing, my child. I had to do this.”

The Summoner looked away from me, as if someone else was in the room.

“What? Oh, it’s nothing Antarus, I was just practicing a spell over distance.”

“Antarus? Xantara, who are –“

“Oh, I’m sorry Mitre Harkin. I didn’t tell you? I found another Protector!”

She reddened. “Or rather, he found me. He’s one of the male sect who escaped the slaughter of the last war. His name is Antarus; he’s been with me awhile, and,” she reddened again…”we’re betrothed.”

I knew it wasn’t physically possible for my heart to sink, but it felt that way.

I admit that I was careless, that I panicked, and I blurted out the truth as I knew it.

“He’s going to kill you, Xantara.”


“Yes, he’s in league with the demons. You must leave, now.”

“I don’t understand…”

“I’ll explain everything. Meet me in the Dark Wood, at the Summoner’s. I’ve friends to guide you.”

“Mitre Harkin, I do trust you, but…”

“Then trust me now, dear one. Flee for your life.”

The Summoner began to change again, the shoulders broadened, the hair grew light and curly, and the eyes went from white to blue.

“Ah, Mitre Harkin. Foolish of you to speak to her so, when you knew I was here.”

“Antarus! Don’t you dare harm her!”

“Or what, Mitre? You’ll perform a ritual for a god of stone to hit me with a rock?”

He started laughing.

“No, you lowborn dog, I will do it myself.”

He stopped laughing.

“Xantara is ours, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’ve blocked her senses, so she doesn’t know about our conversation; I’ll even let her come back to you, just to prove that we can take her from you, whenever and…however…we want.”

His tone changed from threatening to casual, as if we were talking over a cup of wine.

“You’ve been a friend to her, Harkin. She blathers on about you all the time, and how wise and kind and good you are, so I pretended to be those things too, and now,” the Summoner’s arm went out in the air, as if around someone’s shoulders,  “she belongs to me”

“Why would you turn against your own kind to aid in the destruction of man?”

“Why do you think, Mitre?” The Summoner’s arm settled back on the table, her hands clenched not quite into fists, but close enough.

“They promised you something. You idiot child, they’ve lied to you. They do nothing but lie; they are incapable of doing anything else!”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Harkin. Don’t you see?

“They’ve already done it.”


“I’m immortal.”

“Then you sold your soul for a trifle. If you come for Xantara, I will fight you, Antarus, with everything I know.”

The Summoner sat back, and smiled the way Antarus would; smarmy and cocky, confidence corrupting into arrogance.

“Good, then, Mitre Harkin. It shouldn’t take long.”

The Summoner began to change back to Xantara.

“Mitre Harkin? Are you still there?”

I was sick of heart, and gut, and mind, but I couldn’t let her stay there.
“Yes, Xantara, I’m still here.”

“What was it you wanted to tell me?”

“Nothing, my dear. I’ve taken enough of the Summoner’s time. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“I look forward to seeing you again, Mitre Harkin. I enjoy our time together.”

“As do I, dear one. See you soon.”

The Summoner smiled as Xantara, and the smile faded as she began to change back into her original form, all milky substance, a spirit coated in liquid flesh.

Her expression, much as it could be, was stern.

“Your fondness for her made you reckless, Mitre.”

“I know.”

“The war will come sooner than later, then.”

“I suppose. What will you do?”

“What I’ve always done in troubled times; rely on the Dark Wood to keep intruders at bay.

“That will be ten gold pieces, please.”

I dug it out, but had to ask. “Why does something like you need gold?”

She took the pieces, and held them in her hands, gazing at them with a small smile on her lipless mouth, then looked up at me with those milky eyes.

“It’s pretty.”

Black smoke began to roil in inky tendrils up the chimney.

She inclined her head toward the door.
“Mitre Harkin, I wish you well.”



Overmorrow (4)


The sun was well down, and I wasn’t quite there.

I’d had to stop and rest, and eat, and water the horse, and push on.  Fortunately, he was an even tempered animal, and stout enough. I would have to remember to compensate the two stable boys that remained. They too, had no family, having been orphaned during the years of drought, turning up at the gate in baskets, squalling for all they were worth.

I was able to procure a wetnurse, who stayed on to mother them into fine young men, who mourned her passing bitterly, and were left with only the clerics and no prospects of brides.

Still, they’d be young enough to move on and make lives for themselves when this was over.

A breeze wafted over me, and I could smell the dank loam of the foul woods, laced through with more than a trace of carrion and stale blood.

My stomach flipped, and the horse refused to go any further, no matter my spurs.

I would have to walk into the Dark Wood on foot, approaching gods-knew-what across an open field.

I now what they meant of the fine line between bravery and stupidity.

Likely, I’d not see the animal again; whatever was out here would feast well, and how I got back, if I got out, was up to me.

Crepuscular colors inked the grass, and the edge of the forest was a wide, black, horizontal line that looked disturbingly like the maw of a great beast lurking in camouflage.

Xantara must know they’re after me. I have to tell her before she arrives.

I slipped the reins from the horse’s nose and took off the saddle, and put them at the trunk of a twisted tree.

“Farewell, good steed. I’m only sorry I can’t protect you, too. If you can, live.”

I loaded the crossbow, for all the good it would do in the dark, and left him behind in the gathering dark.

He snorted once, then I heard him run off.

The horse is smarter than you, Harkin.



Approaching the tree line, I felt the weight of many eyes watching me.

Low growls and hissings tried to warn me away, and furtive movements that rustled the lower branches.

I’d come too far to turn back now though, and was grateful for the moonrise, though it was only a half moon. The first of the evening stars shone brightly, speckling the blackening sky with diamond brilliance.

Out of habit, I prayed to the woods gods I served, then announced to all concerned that I was coming in there whether they liked it or not, and began walking.

Nothing broke from the shadows, though the warnings got louder at first.

I persisted, and the noise receded, along with the eyes I could see, and they fell back from the edge of the tree line.

At that, I stopped. It was a coordinated move, as if that’s what they all did to lure in prey.

When I stopped, something charged at me.

I had seconds, and surprising myself, the bow was in my hand, and my finger was about to squeeze the trigger, when I realized that what was running at me was a child, yelling and waving its weaponless arms in the air, calling to me.

“MITRE! Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, Mitre!”

It was a boy of about ten, and behind him, a girl of around the same.

I somehow managed not to skewer him with the arrow, but I didn’t lower the bow either.

“Stop there!”

They stopped.

“Who are you?”

They didn’t answer me, but asked me a question.

“Why did you come here?”

“I came to see…a Summoner.”

“No,” the boy said, “You don’t want to do that, Mitre.”

“I do, and I’ll pay you well to lead me.”

The little girl grinned at the word ‘pay,’ and tugged the boy’s sleeve.

“We need gold,” she said.

“You hush, Vilus. He doesn’t need to know that.”

“He didn’t need to know my name either, but you told him…Jirus.”

He slapped her so fast we both were amazed.

I thought she was going to cry, but she actually snarled as she jumped on him, and they rolled on the ground trading punches; I didn’t have much to do with things now, so I started walking toward the forest again.

That got their attention, and they broke apart and ran towards me, spitting at each other and giving dirty looks as they did so.

They stopped in front of me, breathless.

“I’ll make it plain for you: it’s night, I don’t know the way, I need protection, and you need gold. If you lead me into a trap, you get nothing, if I make it, I give you some gold, and you go on your way.

“I need a Summoner, tonight, so the sooner we get there, the sooner you can go back to your home and sleep, or fight, or kill each other. I don’t really care, but take me to a Summoner. Now!”

They jumped a bit, but I dared soften my look, though I wanted to; I would have lost the edge it had given me, and I’d get no respect afterwards.

“Let’s go.”

They walked in front of me.

“What’s your name, Mitre?” Vilus asked.

“How did you know I was a Mitre?”

“We’ve heard the stories,” Jirus said.

“It was bad when they came.” Vilus said.

“You’re talking about the Mitres?”

Vilus giggled. “Yes, Mitre. You still haven’t told me your name.”

“It’s Harkin.”

“That’s a crazy name,” she said.

Jirus stopped, and gave her an exasperated look, then he moved in close to me, tossing his hair from his eyes.

“The Mitres were the only ones that dared befriend us, but then they betrayed us. Anyway, you were about to be killed, but the animals saw us, and they didn’t come out.”

“Because it was us. We’re hunters. They’re afraid of us.” Vilus said with not a little pride.

Jirus started walking again, with Vilus by his side and me in his wake.

“We didn’t want to see you get eaten, so we saved you.” Vilus said.

“Thank you. Thank you both.”

“You’re welcome,” Jirus said. “The Summoner may not want to see you though, and we can’t make her.”

“Let me worry about that part. I’m glad you saved me.”

“Why do you need a Summoner?” Vilus asked.

“A friend of mine is in trouble, and I have to send her a message before she comes to visit tomorrow.”

“Is she your girrrlfriend?” she asked in singsong, and giggled. She seemed an abnormally giddy child to be in such a mire of darkness.

My innocence again?

“No, she’s just a friend.”

“If you saaayy so.” She smiled at me.

I chuckled, and Jirus looked at her and rolled his eyes, and then the moon was caught in the treetops, and the darkness was practically utter.

“Take my hand,” Vilus said, and slipped hers into mine.

A faint glow, pale blue, filled their eyes, and I felt a small thrill of fear.

Jirus must have known.

“Don’t worry, mitre. It’s how we see in the dark. We’ve a distance though, so save your words, and whatever you do, don’t let go of Vilus’ hand. If the connection is broken, we won’t be able to see you, but the animals still can. Understand?”

“I do.”

    I’m not ashamed to say I was just shy of crushing the bones of a child’s hand, but Vilus didn’t complain, and after awhile, I relaxed.

The night forest was beautiful, resonant with birdsong and rustlings, fireflies of different colors, night flowers that were surprisingly, pleasantly fragranced, and curious, pale, blind creatures came to examine if what was in their path was a mate, or food, or danger.

Thankfully, they decided the three of us were danger, and receded as fast as they appeared.

Vilus, watching one, took her eyes off the path and stumbled, and I clutched at her hand.


“I’m sorry, Vilus; I didn’t want you to fall.”

I rubbed it, so she wouldn’t reflexively pull away.

“Are you all right?”

“I guess,” she said, her voice sullen. I could tell she didn’t want to hold my hand anymore, but she was bound by Jirus’ words, so she couldn’t let go.

The moon flicked at the ground in dappled patches, but they were few and far between.

“Jirus?” I said.

“Not much further, Mitre; it’s just over that rise.”

A pearlescent white bird landed on a low branch in front of us, the colors swirling, as if someone put cream into a dark liquid.

“Never saw one like that before,” said Jirus.

The bird was looking right at me, and its staring made Vilus look up at me too, but she said nothing.

“Let’s go,” I said. “The night is wasting.”

Jirus trudged ahead of us, and Vilus, no longer my friend, in the way kids form friendships, sighed at having to hold my hand some more.

“I’ll make it up to you for hurting your hand, Vilus.”

“It’s all right, Mitre. I just want you to help your friend now. Besides, you can’t; you don’t live here, remember?” She smiled up at me again. Silly Mitre.

I had no answer for that, and in a few minutes, we topped the rise, and the pearlescent bird, the demon who was tracking me, flew over us and disappeared into a valley that, if possible, was even darker.

“You can let her hand go now.”

I did, and she shook it, getting the circulation back, and rubbed her left arm, which had been extended for some time as we walked.

She was tougher than she seemed at first. Like Xantara,

    “We’ll rest here awhile,” Jirus said, “but I’m getting hungry, which means Vilus is probably starving. We’ll walk with you a bit further, but we’ll point you where you need to go, and then we have to hunt.”

“All right.”




They pointed me to rundown cottage that had smoke coming from the chimney.

“The Summoner lives there, but we’re going back.”

“You’ve done more than enough, Jirus.” I gave them each two pieces of gold, and their eyes lit up.

“We can guide you out, too,” Vilus offered, then smiled, “but then you have to hold Jirus’s hand.”

“How will I reach you?”

“We’ll know,” Jirus said. “The smoke will turn black. We’ll wait here for you when it does, Mitre Harkin.”

“Thank you.”

“I hope you’re in time.”

I turned and began walking toward the cottage.

“Me too,” I called, over my shoulder.

When I turned around after a few steps, they were gone, and the sense of danger began to creep back in, though in truth, I had never been out of it.


Inner Cage

Inner cage  Outer rage

Kill the people Turn the page

Bleeding in an alleyway

Watching darkness hunt the day


We’re the only monsters here

Gods of violence, blood and fear

Rule blue heaven overhead

Die not with me when I’m dead


I am dead to faith and hope

Love is but a hanging rope

I’ll not dangle; Best beware

I will roast your heart so fair


Toss you like a broken knife

Dare you still to be my wife


Break inside the inner cage

Sail the sea of outward rage

Take me safely back to land

with your roughened, gentle hand


When your love has calmed the beast

Claim his heart your wedding feast

Ever fast and ever true

In the inner cage





© Alfred W. Smith Jr.  2015


Still Time

Lifeless kings on broken thrones

Marrowless their hollow bones

In their fraying robes they rest

Swords and scepters on their breast

Ruling justly, Going mad

Kingdom happy, Kingdom sad

Wisdom, Counsel, Curses, Love

Ceasing from the world above

In the crypt the young man walks

And the silenced voice now talks

Do not seek to rule the land

Use no fair or iron hand


Power breeds a deadly fear

Give in to it and you’re here


Take your lute and travel far

To some distant summer star


In your youthful glory soak

Time enough for Death’s cold cloak


Bed and brawl through many lands

Soon the hour glass spills the sands


Sand grains stop the blood, you’ll see

Death no longer mystery


Learn and laugh and love your fill

Live before your 

Time stands


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