Thursday, December 16, 2010

"In This Light So Dim" by James K. Bowers

Dedicated to the memory of the men of the Kursk - August 12, 2000.

The light here is very dim and the cold makes it difficult to write. The air is stale and smells of salt and smoke and blood and urine, but mostly of fear. We try hard to conserve our electricity and air. Since I am not an officer, I can only guess that we lie on the bottom of the sea somewhere in arctic waters. It has been an eternity in the near darkness and it has grown cold over the hours. Icy water is slowly leaking into section nine where we have been forced to take refuge and if help does not arrive soon, our rescuers will find nothing but death here. I believe we have no hope of escape and little hope of rescue, but still I pray I am mistaken.

Knowing the truth of our situation weighs heavily on us all. Twenty-three of us are likely all that remain of the officers and crew. There are many faces remembered from my last meal that I cannot count among the survivors. The silence of their absence gnaws at us for we could do nothing to save them. And the moans and whimpers grate on our nerves. There is very little we can do to comfort the wounded. Some have gone forever silent since we were trapped here and no longer must endure the pain... the cold... the fear. For them I grieve, but I find it necessary to focus on the living. It is from them that I must draw what little hope I can. And this is, indeed, a most difficult task.

Some have resigned themselves to death and sit unresponsive, as if already dead. Only their steady breathing marks them as living beings as they stare blankly from their solitude. Perhaps this is a good thing, for enough have already buckled under to panic. The boat’s doctor has no sedatives to spare for them... some were beaten to unconsciousness as they screamed in terror. Better this savage silence than shrieks of fear. Hysteria cannot be tolerated. We must remain calm or we are lost.

Others have chosen to ignore our plight. Only two meters away a cook, a sonar operator, and two aft torpedomen are engaged in a card game. How they are able to play cards, huddled together as we are for warmth, is a mystery to me. Their hushed wagers make their way to my ears and I am amazed as the cook bets part of next month’s pay. Perhaps he has a good hand, or perhaps he is bluffing. Perhaps none of them can see what cards they hold and play only to defy reality. Given the opportunity, what would he now buy with his winnings?

Still others dream of escape for, at this depth, they have no hope. The pressure of the sea would crush their lungs. If somehow they could survive the pressure and reach the surface, they would succumb to the bends to die a horrible and painful death. Even if able to avoid both of these hazards, they would soon die of hypothermia in these frigid waters. So, it seems, none of us can reach the surface without aid.

No, it is much better to sit quietly and write. It is much better to dream of summer days with you, Ekatarina... a small boat on the lake... hopes for our future carried on your sweet voice as I row... a future that perhaps shall never be. But in this light so dim I can close my eyes and see your face. Your smile becomes my warmth. The memory of you brings me comfort and gives me a reason to fill my lungs yet again with this heavy air. If I do not return, my love, know that my last thoughts were of you.

©2000 James K Bowers

I Was There

Poetry by Steve Doyle. Photography by Susan Doyle.

I Was There

(Links to a page at

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Susie Q... by James K. Bowers

(Note: Originally posted in my blog at on April 4, 2007) 

So, I'm at a tiny local café, the sort that has tin signs decorating the walls — "It's high time for Hires Root Beer" - "Cherry Pie a la mode made with Dairy Rich Ice Cream!" - "Harrison's Heart-o'-Orange Soda – 5 Cents"— which makes it all frighteningly obvious that I've slipped into the Nerdville dimension of The Twilight Zone.

I'm half finished with the "Country Skillet", an evil combination of foods that, at one time, was considered a good breakfast.  With little doubt, it is helping me to an early appointment with an undertaker, but I don't mind because even if it isn't good for me, it's still good.  If I can't enjoy whatever years I may have left, why on God's green earth would I want to prolong them?  I finish the skillet, ignoring the damage all that fried stuff is doing to my body.

What I can't manage to ignore is the loud and abrasively hick voice coming from the far end of the breakfast counter at which I'm seated while I savor the last sips of a delightful cup of coffee.  Five paces away a customer is paying for his breakfast, undoubtedly one as unhealthy and enjoyable as my own, and striking up a conversation with "Sue" like he was a gigolo at a nightclub.


We all know her name even if we don't know her.  A plastic nametag has betrayed her to the enemy.

Much to the horror and distress of his companion, Nerdville's middle-aged Don Juan says to his friend, "You know Suzie, doncha, Bill?" then launches himself into a nerve-debilitating rendition of... yes, you guessed it… Credence Clearwater Revival's "Suzie Q":

Oh, Suzie Q, Oh, Suzie Q, Lady I love you, Suzie Q...

Thankfully, we were only subjected to this brief chorus.  Perhaps he couldn't remember the words to the verses, because he couldn't even get that small clip of the lyrics right.  His audition would have been enough to cause Randy Jackson to say, "Yo, dawg, I don't know, man, it was a little pitchy for me"; Paula Abdul to begin with, "Well, the good news is…"; and send Simon Cowell into a wordless grand mal seizure.

I didn't say anything, and returned to my coffee, which had somehow gotten bitter.  Sue was polite, probably from a Novocain-like numbness accrued from years of similar attempts, but I could still sense the mild heat of her agitation from where I sat—something akin to Spider-man's spider-sense warning him of potential danger.

It was then that I felt an odd and eerie sensation creep up my spine.  The murmurings of all the others in the café didn't skip a beat.  It was as if I had succeeded in infiltrating this alien stronghold and I was but moments from being exposed as a spy in the Nerdville Breeding Pit.

Sorry, CCR, I may never be able to listen to that song again with the same sense of glorious nostalgia.

Why is it that some people just do not have that mechanism that tells them that they have crossed over from "playfully fun-loving" to "patently obnoxious"?  Or have I, over all these years, simply failed to understand the true aphrodisiac effects of the Breakfast Diner Serenade?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Requiem, by Saana Tykkä

by Saana Tykkä


The traveler has seen
 The same dunes before;
He carries them along
With desert-blinded eyes
And furrowed skin,
Avoids looking around.
As the bells fall in silence,
The sand covers
The pathway behind.


The fingers
Of agonizing
 Caress his beloved one,
The moon, occasionally
They strangle too.
 The dark ground is concealed
With the steps of devotee.


Woman walks the stairs:
In her hands wears
A web,
     Like a prayer to bear 
The veiled light’s
Blued fingers.
She hears the shroud
“Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine”,
And the candles’ flame
Burns the rest away.

Sequentia (Dies Irae)

The wind talks strange language
Carrying a shield of North,
Its gear and garbage
To bloom.
Yesterdays, sliced on papers
Wage war against others,
Never forgetting
That soldiers who fall on their knees
Hold pierced ribs of the land
In their cupped hands
Lies salted water
Falling from the sky,
That same
Never-ending sea.


A sinless shirt of fall
Is tied by its sleeve.
Binding to the line
Cuts deep, next time only
When released
Clothespins make a laugh
As the innocents’ cloth
Is offered for the breeze:
The heavens' blithe burden
Is never same
For others to bear.


Over the brick buildings hovers
The scent of the spireas:
A mud-covered cosmos breathes.
The moment’s fallen draws
Streams of silence,
A buried tomorrow
Waits hidden
Inside the child.

From  one shore to another
Cypresses carry fog of men
And those, who shatter as small stones,
Beneath the footfalls call
"A remembrance".

Agnus Dei

In the hands of departing
A cup of reconcilement:
In its firm hold
Is kept the dawn.

Woods’ frosted inhale
Waiting for heaven, talks
Before the snow,
We know,
The blooming ones of dreams,
Whom the lips of twilight kiss,
Tomorrows are gone.
 A pathway’s time
Leaves a deep memory
In the blessed’s ground,
Only the deaths shall dance
Over the meadows anymore.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Source, by Matthew Williams, in its entirety

Well, its official!  After many years of tinkering and incessantly adding to it, my submission for Project 14: Dark Futures, has grown into a full length story.  I am in the process of making it available here for viewing since it's a tHP baby and I would love comments, reviews, or just plain criticisms from anyone affiliated with the Herscher Project.  It is my hope that this might become a published work someday, hopefully part of a series of works that deal with speculative sci-fi.  I already have some other ideas in the works, but I must get this one finished before I can even begin to think about them!
Thanks in advance to anyone who reads it and don't hesitate to leave comments.  I promise to offer my own services as reviewer and critic as well, wherever it is desired.