To say that the frozen silence contracted itself into a yet higher globe of ice were to under-rate the exquisite tension and to shroud it in words. The atmosphere had become a physical sensation. As when, before a masterpiece, the acid throat contracts, and words are millstones, so when the supernaturally outlandish happens and a masterpiece is launched through the medium of human gesture, then all human volition is withered at the source and the heart of action stops beating. Such a moment was this. Irma, a stalagmite of crimson stone, knew, for all the riot of her veins that a page had turned over. At chapter forty? O no! At chapter one, for she had never lived before save in a pulseless preface. How long did they remain thus? How many times had the earth moved round the sun? How many times had the great blue whales of the northern waters risen to spurt their fountains at the sky? How many reed-bucks had fallen to the claws of how many leopards, while that sublime unit of two-figure statuary remained motionless? It is fruitless to ask. The clocks of the world stood still or should have done.
When it comes to generating writing material, teenagers are gold. Their world is a narcissistic, anarchic, paranoid hell of anxieties and stresses about how they look; how popular they are or aren't; and how fast or slowly, big or small their private parts are growing. As an observer, it's fantastic. Hilarious, at times. Poignant and heartbreaking. It is all the stuff of great human drama because, before your eyes, you get to witness character transformation. Boy grows into man. Girl grows into woman. Writers strain to make this shit up. But - and here's the catch - we dare not discuss any of this if we want our kids to trust us or ever talk to us again. And that's because, lifts and pocket money aside, teenagers crave privacy - the need for which hatches both swiftly and silently while we're sorting out the laundry. It's as if they suddenly wake up one day creeped out by the thought of all those years we wiped their butts and helped them put on their undies and they go into lock- down. They smoke us out, put up walls, close their doors, shut down their stories, and waft, earphoned, through our homes in a shroud of hormones and appetite. Their lives - in which, until recently, we participated with Too Much Information and gross oversharing - suddenly become 'none of our business.
Evil is not just a theory of paradox, but an actual entity that exists only for itself. From its ether of manifestation that is garlanded in perpetual darkness, it not only influences and seeks the ruination and destruction of everything that resides in our universe, but rushes to embrace its own oblivion as well. To accomplish this, however, it must hide within the shroud of lies and deceit it spins to manipulate the weak-minded as well as those who choose to ally themselves with it for their own personal gain. For evil must rely on the self-serving interests of the arrogant, the lustful, the power-hungry, the hateful, and the greedy to feed and proliferate. This then becomes the condition of evil's existence: the baneful ideologies of those who wantonly chose to ignore the needs and rights of others, inducing oppression, fear, pain, and even death throughout the cosmos. And by these means, evil seeks to supplant the balance of the universe with its perverse nature. And once all that was good has been extinguished by corruption or annihilation, evil will then turn upon and consume what remains: particularly its immoral servants who have assisted its purpose so well ... along with itself. And within that terrible instant of unimaginable exploding quantum fury, it will burn brighter than a trillion galaxies to herald its moment of ultimate triumph. But a moment is all that it shall be. And a micro-second later when the last amber burns and flickers out to the demise of dissolving ash, evil will leave its legacy of a totally devoid universe as its everlasting monument to eternal death.
He saw two stars collapse against one another and a nova form; it flared up and then, as he watched, it began to die out. He saw it turn from a furiously blazing ring into a dim core of dead iron and then he saw it cool into darkness. More stars cooled with it; he saw the force of entropy, the method of the Destroyer of Forms, retract the stars into dull reddish coals and then into dust-like silence. A shroud of thermal energy hung uniformly over the world, over this strange and little world for which he had no love or use. It's dying, he realized. The universe. The thermal haze spread on and on until it became only a disturbance, nothing more; the sky glowed weakly with it and then flickered. Even the uniform thermal disbursement was expiring. How strange and goddamn awful, he thought. He got to his feet, moved a step toward the door. And there, on his feet, he died. They found him an hour later. Seth Morley stood with his wife at the far end of the knot of people jammed into the small room and said to himself, "to keep him from helping with the prayer". "The same force that shut down the transmitter, " Ignatz Thugg said. "They knew; they knew if he phrased the prayer it would go through. Even without the relay." He looked gray and frightened. All of them did, Seth Morley noticed. Their faces, in the light of the room, had a leaden, stone-like cast. Like, he thought, thousand-year-old idols. Time, he thought, is shutting down around us. It is as if the future is gone, for all of us.
Philip K. Dick
Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color; and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows- a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues - every stately or lovely emblazoning - the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge - pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?
Following the Soviet invasion, the Communists, to their credit, passed decrees making girls' education compulsory and abolishing certain oppressive tribal customs-such as the bride-price, a payment to the bride's family in return for her hand in marriage. However, by massacring thousands of tribal elders, they paved the way for the 'commanders' to step in as the new elite. Aided by American and Saudi patronage, extremism flourished. What had once been a social practice confined to areas deep in the hinterlands now became a political practice, which, according to ideologues, applied to the entire country. The modest gains of urban women were erased. 'The first time a woman enters her husband's house, " Heela 'told me about life in the countryside, 'she wears white'-her wedding dress-'and the first time she leaves, she wears white'-the color of the Muslim funeral shroud. The rules of this arrangement were intricate and precise, and, it seemed to Heela, unchanged from time immemorial. In Uruzgan, a woman did not step outside her compound. In an emergency, she required the company of a male blood relative to leave, and then only with her father's or husband's permission. Even the sound of her voice carried a hint of subversion, so she was kept out of hearing range of unrelated males. When the man of the house was not present, boys were dispatched to greet visitors. Unrelated males also did not inquire directly about a female member of the house. Asking 'How is your wife?' qualified as somewhere between uncomfortably impolite and downright boorish. The markers of a woman's life-births, anniversaries, funerals, prayers, feasts-existed entirely within the four walls of her home. Gossip, hopscotching from living room to living room, was carried by husbands or sons.
About his madmen Mr. Lecky was no more certain. He knew less than the little to be learned of the causes or even of the results of madness. Yet for practical purposes one can imagine all that is necessary. As long as maniacs walk like men, you must come close to them to penetrate so excellent a disguise. Once close, you have joined the true werewolf. Pick for your companion a manic-depressive, afflicted by any of the various degrees of mania - chronic, acute, delirious. Usually more man than wolf, he will be instructive. His disorder lies in the very process of his thinking, rather than in the content of his thought. He cannot wait a minute for the satisfaction of his fleeting desires or the fulfillment of his innumerable schemes. Nor can he, for two minutes, be certain of his intention or constant in any plan or agreement. Presently you may hear his failing made manifest in the crazy concatenation of his thinking aloud, which psychiatrists call "flight of ideas." Exhausted suddenly by this riotous expense of speech and spirit, he may subside in an apathy dangerous and morose, which you will be well advised not to disturb. Let the man you meet be, instead, a paretic. He has taken a secret departure from your world. He dwells amidst choicest, most dispendious superlatives. In his arm he has the strength to lift ten elephants. He is already two hundred years old. He is more than nine feet high; his chest is of iron, his right leg is silver, his incomparable head is one whole ruby. Husband of a thousand wives, he has begotten on them ten thousand children. Nothing is mean about him; his urine is white wine; his faeces are always soft gold. However, despite his splendor and his extraordinary attainments, he cannot successfully pronounce the words: electricity, Methodist Episcopal, organization, third cavalry brigade. Avoid them. Infuriated by your demonstration of any accomplishment not his, he may suddenly kill you. Now choose for your friend a paranoiac, and beware of the wolf! His back is to the wall, his implacable enemies are crowding on him. He gets no rest. He finds no starting hole to hide him. Ten times oftener than the Apostle, he has been, through the violence of the unswerving malice which pursues him, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of his own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Now that, face to face with him, you simulate innocence and come within his reach, what pity can you expect? You showed him none; he will certainly not show you any. Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, 0 Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all the perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen. Mr. Lecky's maniacs lay in wait to slash a man's head half off, to perform some erotic atrocity of disembowelment on a woman. Here, they fed thoughtlessly on human flesh; there, wishing to play with him, they plucked the mangled Tybalt from his shroud. The beastly cunning of their approach, the fantastic capriciousness of their intention could not be very well met or provided for. In his makeshift fort everywhere encircled by darkness, Mr. Lecky did not care to meditate further on the subject.
James Gould Cozzens
Antonia Valleau cast the first shovelful of dirt onto her husband's fur-shrouded body, lying in the grave she'd dug in their garden plot, the only place where the soil wasn't still rock hard. I won't be breakin' down. For the sake of my children, I must be strong. Pain squeezed her chest like a steel trap. She had to force herself to take a deep breath, inhaling the scent of loam and pine. I must be doing this. She drove the shovel into the soil heaped next to the grave, hefted the laden blade, and dumped the earth over Jean-Claude, trying to block out the thumping sound the soil made as it covered him. Even as Antonia scooped and tossed, her muscles aching from the effort, her heart stayed numb, and her mind kept playing out the last sight of her husband. The memory haunting her, she paused to catch her breath and wipe the sweat off her brow, her face hot from exertion in spite of the cool spring air. Antonia touched the tips of her dirty fingers to her lips. She could still feel the pressure of Jean-Claude's mouth on hers as he'd kissed her before striding out the door for a day of hunting. She'd held up baby Jacques, and Jean-Claude had tapped his son's nose. Jacques had let out a belly laugh that made his father respond in kind. Her heart had filled with so much love and pride in her family that she'd chuckled, too. Stepping outside, she'd watched Jean-Claude ruffle the dark hair of their six-year-old, Henri. Then he strode off, whistling, with his rifle carried over his shoulder. She'd thought it would be a good day-a normal day. She assumed her husband would return to their mountain home in the afternoon before dusk as he always did, unless he had a longer hunt planned. As Antonia filled the grave, she denied she was burying her husband. Jean-Claude be gone a checkin' the trap line, she told herself, flipping the dirt onto his shroud. She moved through the nightmare with leaden limbs, a knotted stomach, burning dry eyes, and a throat that felt as though a log had lodged there. While Antonia shoveled, she kept glancing at her little house, where, inside, Henri watched over the sleeping baby. From the garden, she couldn't see the doorway. She worried about her son-what the glimpse of his father's bloody body had done to the boy. Mon Dieu, she couldn't stop to comfort him. Not yet. Henri had promised to stay inside with the baby, but she didn't know how long she had before Jacques woke up. Once she finished burying Jean-Claude, Antonia would have to put her sons on a mule and trek to where she'd found her husband's body clutched in the great arms of the dead grizzly. She wasn't about to let his last kill lie there for the animals and the elements to claim. Her family needed that meat and the fur. She heard a sleepy wail that meant Jacques had awakened. Just a few more shovelfuls. Antonia forced herself to hurry, despite how her arms, shoulders, and back screamed in pain. When she finished the last shovelful of earth, exhausted, Antonia sank to her knees, facing the cabin, her back to the grave, placing herself between her sons and where their father lay. She should go to them, but she was too depleted to move.