Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Loving Friend

I cannot read the words behind your eyes,
Nor can I hear the music in your mind.
I little understand your plaintive sighs,
And fail to comprehend what clues I find.
You smile and with uncertainty I grin,
Then panic drives me crazy when you frown.
With your merest suggestion, I’m all in,
And criticism turns my world dark brown.
Though tired, I’m ready anytime to play,
And I will keep you safe both day and night.
I’m sad each time you rise and go away,
And Oh! So happy when you’re in my sight!
I know you’ll understand this without fail,
Because you’ll see that I’m wagging my tail!

Mick McKellar
December 2017

If Dante could write a poem…


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Missing Moments

Their shadows barely touch me,
As each golden day flies past.
Though I reach to slow them down,
My old hands just aren’t that fast,
And I miss them…

I treasure ev’ry second,
So I seek to slow their flight.
I try to fill each moment,
But it doesn’t work out right,
And I miss them…

     Missing moments with the people I love,
     Used to be a normal part of each day;
     Now I treasure each and every one,
     I can’t let a single one get away.

The ticking of my watch is
The constant wash of the tide,
But I can’t swim in the surf,
I’m just along for the ride,
And I’m missing…

     Missing moments with the people I love:
     I try never to let one get away,
     For I treasure each and every one,
     And each one more precious than I can say.

And I miss you…

Mick McKellar
December 2017

Today -- December 26, 2017 -- is the 2500th day since my blood and marrow stem cell transplant on February 21, 2011. It’s a milestone, and a time to reflect on how I am spending the wonderful gift of all these days.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Lovely Lights

Lovely lights of Christmas,
Touch my heart at night,
When their gleaming prisms,
Capture soft starlight.

Windows filled with color,
Sealed against the cold,
Sing a silent carol,
Precious, deep, and old:

Welcoming each stranger,
Relative, and friend,
In for warmth and kindness,
Freely to extend.

Lovely lights remind me,
Green, gold, and cerise,
Of the gifts of Christmas:
Joyous love and peace.

Mick McKellar
December 2017

Merry Christmas! May you receive the gifts of love and peace.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Angel in the Snow

I dreamt of a night, robed silver and sable,
A masterwork of the Great Dreamcaster;
And leapt to the sky, a son of fable,
As Christmas joy made my heart beat faster.
I pierced the silence with a mighty cry.
I stretched forth my hand, felt my spirits lift.
It’s then I remembered that I can’t fly,
And fell like a stone into a snowdrift.
The fresh snow was soft and it broke my fall,
So I lay there just staring at the sky.
My pajamas don’t insulate at all,
And soon I would be neither warm nor dry.
I made a snow angel, or at least tried,
And fast as I could, I ran back inside.

Mick McKellar
December 2017

I love my dreams, but reality sometimes figures into the results.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Touch of Winter Air

Exotic air falls cool into my chest,
A torrent sweeping deep beneath my heart;
Swift chilling passages with icy zest,
And stilling sudden gasps before they start.
Although I love the thrill of bracing air,
My face may welcome just a touch of frost;
My heart prefers a warmer berth down there,
And not a wintry bed it must defrost.
As I consider, momentarily,
A thought of venturing further outside,
A rasping cough reminds me instantly,
It’s time for me to run inside and hide.
And back into the house I must repair --
To rally from a touch of winter air.

Mick McKellar
November 2017

Every year, I have to learn the same lesson -- my lungs and cold air don’t get along well.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Price of Silence

Sunlight dapples darkling streams,
As days morph into nights,
And we mourn our missing dreams --
The loss of basic rights.

Silently we watch them go,
We utter not a cry.
We do not resist the flow,
We do not say: “Goodbye.”

We do not believe our eyes;
We think our ears heard wrong.
When we hear the blatant lies,
We meekly go along.

We watch people full of fear
And hate believe the lie;
Watch as freedoms we hold dear
Are snatched away to die.

We watch as democracy,
The oligarchs will steal;
Patently refuse to see,
The silent coup is real.

We watch a clown dance about;
We laugh at ev’rything,
Till the richest use their clout,
To make that clown our king.

Those who don’t need further wealth,
To satisfy their greed,
Find that money can’t give health.
You can’t eat it in need.

When they die, as we all must,
The legacy they’ll leave:
Piles of poison, trash, and rust;
As silent millions grieve.

This awful scenario;
This dreadful image stands,
If we simply let it go.
If we sit on our hands.

Mick McKellar
November 2017

History tells me that I should be concerned.


Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Sing of Creation

Find your joy in the work of the makers,
The creators of wonder and beauty.
Whose genesis is life for the takers;
Whose lives harbor little but duty.
Find your peace in the thundering sunlight,
Of the warm, wondrous glow of the dawning.
Soft, dispelling the darkness of midnight,
With the bright, urgent promise of morning.
Find your hope in the song of the living,
Their sweet harmonies touching your spirit,
With bright melodies sung about giving,
Sing so loudly the whole world will hear it!
Let hope sing the music of elation.
Let peace bring the magic of creation.

Mick McKellar
November 2017

It’s time to sing for the makers.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Night Pane

Glanced at a nighttime window pane,
Expecting only black.
I looked, and startled, looked again:
Someone was looking back!

He looked so rumpled and distressed,
A shifty midnight toad;
He must have stumbled, badly dressed,
Up from the open road.

His clothes looked like he dressed for bed,
All shapeless, loose, and marred;
But went out for a walk instead,
And crept into my yard.

His face was haggard, wrinkled, pale,
His eyes were open wide;
As if he had escaped from jail,
And should have stayed inside.

His hair twas thin as wispy mist,
His teeth were mostly gone.
His ears looked as if someone missed
Their mark, when gluing on.

His cheeks had plenty of stubble,
As if he had not shaved.
He looked as though he'd be trouble,
In fact, he looked depraved!

In but a single, quick heartbeat,
I judged him savagely.
Then recognized the old deadbeat:
A reflection of me.

Mick McKellar
September 2017

As I get older, and mirrors
Become less and less kind,
Snap judgments become fewer
As I am not inclined...


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Whimsies and Wonders

I want to dream about whimsies and wonders,
And children playing in the sun.
I want to laugh about pets and family,
And things they’ve said and sung and done.
I want to cry happy tears for all to see,
And dance and sing and just be me!

I want to wake at dawn and know I’m happy,
And jump from bed to start my day.
I want to race down to hug ev’rybody
And smile a great smile all the way.
I want my door to lead to a world at peace,
With joy and love from sea to sea!

I want to live in a country, where freedom
Lets you be you and me be me!

Mick McKellar
August 2017

I was just about asleep last night, when a poetry fit hit. I was thinking about what I want to be happy -- so I could dream about it. Funny how that happens…


Friday, August 25, 2017

Rude Awakening

I saw the puddle shimmering faintly,
Blocking the sidewalk where I'd planned to tread.
As I walked through, I plunged down instantly,
And felt the water close above my head.
When mightily, I struggled up for air,
I felt strong hands take hold of both my feet,
And pull me into darkness and despair,
To guarantee the end I knew I'd meet.
Then distantly, I heard alarm bells ring -
They seemed to say it's time to leave this place.
I thought I saw a giant furry thing,
Deploy a bright red sponge to slap my face!
The family dog was standing on my head,
I pushed away, and fell out of my bed.

Mick McKellar
August 2017

I'm not certain that reality bites, but it can slobber.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Shattered Rays

I’d dreamt of the skip-dance of souls in flight,
At speed of thought, exuberance flying.
Too energetic to pause, or alight;
Perpetual light ballet undying.
Once, my inner fire, burning blinding bright,
Tried to leave my body, stone-cold behind;
But I captured, in a spasm of fright,
The brilliant breath of my passionate mind.
Shattered rays leaked through my fingers held tight:
Tense digits drawn taught lest my spirit flee.
I huddled down low, to surround the light,
Fearful I might lose the essence of me.
I barely held on through dread and God’s will...
My spirit glows brightly within me still.

Mick McKellar
August 2017

Not all near-death experiences are similar. What if your soul simply wanted to leave, and somehow you managed to capture and keep it safely within you? At once, the image is amazing and scary and heartbreaking.


Thursday, August 03, 2017

The World I See

When first I felt that I might die,
Then changed my view of all I see.
I held my breath and tried to cry,
But sadness just eluded me.

I saw my world as must a child;
I quailed at its electric touch.
The peace and joy of running wild,
Called to my heart so very much.

I'd never set my spirit free,
To roam abroad among my kin
And kith, who shared this Earth with me --
Yet never felt the planet spin!

My world, so bright with life it glowed,
Made each short day a wondrous sight;
And kindness shone, as it bestowed
A brilliance to defeat the night.

And love, the liquid light supreme,
That ought to inundate the Earth,
Still flowed, but in a tiny stream,
And many suffered from its dearth.

With clarity, I then perceived
That none there with me felt the change;
And none would ever have believed,
Or shared my sudden vision strange.

I've kept my counsel until now,
Unto myself and never shared,
Or dared describe it all somehow,
To those so closed and unprepared.

Though muted, I still see the light,
Still feel the warmth, still share the peace.
I dream about it ev'ry night,
And pray that it will never cease.

Mick McKellar
August 2017

When you think you might be leaving this world, it looks, sounds, and feels very different to you. There is no time for hate and fear, no time to spread darkness, when you are celebrating life.


Dark Icons, Holy Relics

They're preconceived, they're precious, and held dear.
By holding fast, I limit what I share.
I bury them, to hide them in my fear
Of losing what I treasure, what I bear.
Unlike most precious stones and golden rings,
That I acquire by purchase or by gift,
I helped create my trove of sacred things,
And keep them to myself in silent thrift.
Sometimes they draw, and sometimes they repel,
Their dark allure is murder to resist.
I fear I can't convince my mind to dwell,
Outside the pale of my most sacred list.
The myths and prejudices deep in there,
Are arrant holy relics in my care.

Mick McKellar
August 2017

How often we talk of prejudices and preferences as though they are easily removed, adjusted, and reinstalled at will. Many are so well hidden we cannot see them, and so well integrated we rarely, barely resist their allure, their brutal force. Little wonder that when challenged, our first thought is to defend them to the last. True now, as it was in May 2003.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Action Figures

We take baby steps when strides are needed -
Caution is a virtue, but not always.
Cries for help and action go unheeded,
As leaders ponder their next steps for days.
Recklessness is seldom to be lauded,
Yet being careful can be overdone.
Assertiveness ought to be applauded
When it's seen, by each and everyone.
Pardon this overt recommendation,
That comes without a modicum of tact:
It's often a gross miscalculation,
To sit and think when it is time to act.
Pray that we don't suffer paralysis,
From nearly unending analysis.

Mick McKellar
July 2017

I'm the last person to suggest leaping without looking, and I truly despise those who live by the credo: "Ready, Fire, Aim" but fail to study what "Ready" means. Of course, one should look before leaping and think before acting. However, there are those who debate because they cannot act, or seek to prolong debate as political theater. I want a careful driver, but I have no wish to die of old age in the parking lot because my driver will not move.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Middle of the Night

What advantages there reside
Betwixt the hours of dark and dawn,
When sleepy soul has naught to hide?
The erudite can only yawn,
And seek clear vision to retain;
As soundless screams of passion fire
Echo across a lake of pain;
To awaken sleeping desire,
And stoke bright flames, that intellect
With its fast frozen heart of ice,
Seeks from myself to me protect--
And yet seems never to suffice.
From deep, an aching tenor springs
A heartsong filled with all it yearns
To life, and weeping as it sings,
Full reaps the reason that it earns.
Yet, still the fire burns in my core,
Banked warm against life's bitter frost.
Then write l must, and write some more,
To feed the fires and pay the cost.
So, in the early morning hours,
When most are fast in slumber's thrall,
l seek to circumvent those powers,
l strain that slice of death to stall,
By alchemy of food and drink.
But age and nature have conspired,
In league with common sense, l think,
To always make sure l get tired...

Mick McKellar
July 2017

I actually awoke in the middle of the night, to write about waking in the middle of the night, to write about waking in the middle of the night to write. I think. It was August 2003 when wrote down the idea, but could not stay awake to finish the thought.


Why Worry?

I know there will be sunshine after rain,
For dark gray clouds can only hide the blue.
A time of peace will always follow pain,
And solace for the soul must come to you.
The fire of dawn must follow dark of night,
Surely as the Earth rolls toward the morning,
Through the long darkness filled with sparks of light,
Until the glow of day gives its warning .
And even Winter's snow must melt away,
Within the solemn promise kept each Spring
Of life reborn, from fields of brown and gray.
In mad profusion, life bursts forth to sing
Its song, and tell its tale in a hurry...
If peace follows pain, why should I worry?

Mick McKellar
July 2017

If darkness leads to light, if pain precedes peace, and if death leads to rebirth; all can be endured. The darkest night leads to dawn, clear and bright, the heaviest rain cleans the air to let in the light. If all will be alright, why should I worry? The idea sprouted in June 2003, but the flower bloomed in the last six and a half years.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

End of the Long Race

An icy smile lingers over long
On a public mask much overused...
The mad flood of sadness, barely restrained,
Has slipped the straining bonds
And stains the light of each day.

Fingers are but fists, uncurled,
That grasp with desperation
For small golden coins,
The treasure of pleasure and joy -
Locked just beyond finger tips -
Glowing with unreachable peace.

Empty eyes seek past solitude to touch
The softly graceful regard of a friend,
But slide beyond to grey shadow -
The clammy muffler that smothers passion,
Denying the call
To the tiny flame
That pushes at the midnight growing inside.

A restless mind that knows no rest,
Rages in cages of velvet steel,
To stop the crawling hoards of tiny feet -
Walking invisible, unreachable,
Unfortunate epidermal paths.

Spent and shivering, cramping legs march on,
To nowhere at all, dancing to heart music unheard -
Tapping a tune on a path to desolation,
Leading only deeper inside, on a one way plunge
Into a labyrinthine abyssal.

Voices hover beyond hearing, a wall of noise,
Mountains of sound shadows casting darkness
Over all the mind surveys.
A froth of mirthless laughter bursts forth,
From bloodless lips that have never known
The warmth of true humor,
The wine of sweet song,
The wonder of a loving kiss...

Slowly, the dark tunnel pulls the mind
Down to mountain roots of cold fire pain.
The crushing weight,
Of massed self-hate,
Grinds the last whimper of warmth
From a mind gone too far along
The path to the winter and the death of the soul.

With a gasp and a last flicker of regret,
Ends the Long Race.

Mick McKellar
July 2017

This was written in September 2003, in the middle of the night, upon awakening from a horrendous dream. Just exactly why I dreamed about how a person could die from depression alone, I don't know or don't remember. I think this may well be the darkest poem I ever wrote. I have not rewritten it or edited very much. I no longer fear the specter of death as I did in September 2003.


Devil's Food

With each soft bite, you taste like death to me;
You fill my empty heart with poison sweet.
My heart cries for you with each sluggish beat,
As loud your saccharine song sings to me.
Each night, I pray that you will go away;
That for you, I will never again pine.
I'd always wake up fresh and feeling fine --
But you're waiting for me, every day.
You know I am a weak and hungry man,
And take advantage of my appetite.
You know I dream about you day and night,
And spend with you each moment that I can!
You are a self-fulfilling prediction,
That I'll likely die of your addiction.

Mick McKellar
July 2017

My relationship with sweets has always been "love/hate." I love to eat them and I hate what they do to me. From my 2003 cache of poem ideas comes this lament.


Friday, July 21, 2017

My Body Leaks

Warm rivulets run wet in bands,
Down back and arms, on brow and hands.
Though moving air is often cool,
Stagnant and hot must be our rule.
It seems as if an inner fire,
Unceasingly makes me perspire;
While twenty angels just dropped by,
And with their wings, they fan you dry.

Can you tell me, please why is it,
When you must move, exert a bit,
Though I can tell that you are tired,
There is no proof that you perspired?
And why, while I sit in my chair,
Stripped down to only underwear,
With cold iced tea here in my hand,
And air conditioned, ceiling fanned,
Though as relaxed as I can get --
Just watching TV makes me sweat?

Mick McKellar
July 2017

When I made notes for this poem in August 2003, long before my journey with leukemia, hot weather made me sweat and left me uncomfortable and irritable.  It frustrated me that my wife always seemed to be chilled, covering up in 80 degree weather. This is no longer true, but the sentiments in the poem echo across the years...


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer Hours

Although my mind is drifting in the sun,
My body's hidden down here, in a cave.
It seems a wonder that my work gets done,
Or that I have some peace of mind to save.
I'm floating in the sunny summer air,
And watching someone sleeping on the lawn.
I'm happy that she doesn't know I'm there,
But sad that she won't know it when I'm gone.
My photons softly flutter in the breeze -
Soon, I am riding on the solar gale.
That is, until I drift into the trees
And end up beached there, like a photon whale!
Although the cold and dark is what I dread,
I let my mind go back inside my head.

Mick McKellar
June 2017

I wrote the bones of this poem in 2003, and found it in a dusty corner of an old computer back up file. Oddly enough, I remember writing this after taking a break from my office in a basement computer center. I went up to just sit in the sun for a few minutes and saw a young lady, head propped on her backpack, sleeping on the lawn. I closed my eyes and drifted for a few minutes, letting a gentle breeze carry me away.


Thursday, July 13, 2017


Here lies a writer named Mick.
A man so incredibly thick,
He threw a big fuss,
Did not see the bus.
He's dead...because he wasn't quick!

Mick McKellar
July 2017

Perhaps more appropriate in the U.P. — "Drive quick, ice slick, can't stick...bye Mick." — What I dream about when I worry if my life's purpose is simply to be an object lesson to others.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017


My story grows frayed and worn,
abused by tellings both ragged and rough;
performances long, or not long enough.
It's hard to force a story
not to grow with the telling,
not to polish the rough spots,
or putty the gaps and scratches.

What the ego relishes,
memory embellishes.

There is something endearing
about tales of troubles endured,
and welcoming, about coming home.

But that was long ago.

Today I celebrate 2333 days of life.
Though others note years gone past,
and some count months and seasons,
I measure by day.
I live moment to moment, counting seconds
as I marvel at my flickering flame,
and dream in the stillness of the wind.

Mick McKellar
July 2017

July 12, 2017 is 2333 days since my transplant. I liked the number, so I stopped and let the wonder of days settle on my spirit.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tilapia Dreams

I had this strange and wonderful dream last night and this morning, and somehow can remember it as though I were watching a movie.  The story is incomplete and doesn't translate well to poetry, so here is the story so far. Perhaps, I will dream an ending...or maybe just make one up!

 Tuesday, October 2, 2017 dawned like most Autumn days in the Keweenaw—cold, grey, and windy. I didn’t want to crawl out from under the covers, but my cellphone was making a racket and it doesn’t ring often—especially at 6:30 AM.
“Hullo,” I coughed into the phone.
“Mr. McKellar?” asked a cheery, vaguely foreign sounding voice, “Mr. Elvin McKellar?”
Close enough. “Yeah.”
“C o n g r a t u l a t i o n s!” she shrieked, in a voice custom designed to pierce the veil of early morning turbidity. “You and your wife, Muriel have won a week’s stay at the Grand Hotel in Tilapia, Colorado.
Muriel? Close enough. Time for some intelligence: “Who are you? I don’t remember entering any contests, especially contests involving tilapia.” A sudden pun pounded into my thoughts, and I added: “This sounds fishy to me.”
“My name is Sharon, and I represent Whale Sweat Products. You were entered when you visited our website a couple of months ago.”
An errant click? What the hell is Whale Sweat? She didn’t laugh at my pun! I growled: “This is some kind of scam, right? I never heard of you, much less entered your contest. What do you want from me?”
“This is a courtesy call, Mr. McKellar.” Sharon breezed on, “A certified letter will arrive in a few days with all specifics. Do you have any questions?”
“Do you have an hour?” I barked.
“The letter will explain everything, Mr. McKellar!” she laughed, and almost in a whisper she added, “Read it carefully. Bye, now!” The last two words were loud and strong, followed by a click and silence.
Stunned, I sat on the edge of my bed and stared at the caller ID: Whale Sweat. The number was masked. I filed the experience under: Unexplained Weirdness and immediately forgot about it. Until a week later, when the letter arrived.
I told Marian about my phone call and she asked if I was dreaming. I said I wasn’t, but wished I had been. We laughed. A week later on another Tuesday, a shiny, Cerulean blue envelope arrived, and required my signature for delivery. The return address said, Whale Sweat Products, Inc., Tilapia, CO 81613.
We looked at each other and I pulled the tab that said, “Pull Me!” Things got fuzzy for a few seconds, and I remember feeling tired, so I slept.
“Better finish that, we’re landing!” Said a voice over the roar of wind and engine noise.
I woke up holding a cup of instant coffee to my lips, in a plastic cup. I was strapped into a tiny seat in a deHavilland DHC-2 Beaver, and staring at a wall of rock flashing by. I gulped the tepid, bitter liquid, and called out: “All gone.” I stared at the pilot. I knew his name was Al, but I didn’t know how I knew.
Outside the window, a frozen sea of ice and snow crashed into sea cliffs that soared above our plane. On the surface of the white sea, huge white creatures were moving gracefully through the snow, on the snow, and even under the snow. They were chased by people on power sleds. Some looked like snowmobiles and others resembled swamp boats with the big fans on them. They had nets to entangle the white creatures.
The people on the snowmobiles would poke long needle-like probes into the creatures and seemed to be drawing out something...blood? What the hell was going on here, and where were we?
“Tilapia station ahead, touchdown in!” The pilot shouted as lurching and bumping shook the plane. We landed on skis! “Welcome to Tilapia, folks!” He said as he taxied to a hangar-like structure, built on the edge of a cliff. He spun the plane around, facing away from the hangar and shut down the engine. A small tractor grabbed the plane from the rear and pulled us inside, facing toward the doorway. “So, I can taxi out in an emergency.” Al said, “Extracting whale sweat is a dangerous business, and emergencies are common. Everyone out!”
Reflexively, I looked at Marian before I moved. She was smiling and nodding for me to move, so she could get out. I was feeling unwell, but only slightly.
“You OK with this?” I asked. Her response was a grin and a push. Her eyes, though, seemed a bit unfocused, as if she were seeing something else, something she really wanted to see. I climbed out of the plane and helped her down to the floor of the hanger.
Another couple was with us. Charlie stood about 6’2’’ with a slight hunch, skinny, grey eyes, and dusty brown hair. His face looked like it was uncomfortable with his vacant grin. On his arm was Cory, tiny by comparison to Charlie, with short, dark hair, and vacant, dark eyes. She had perfect teeth in a massive smile.
“We made it!” She squeaked, in a voice that should have been irritating as fingernails on slate. She and Charlie followed the pilot. We followed them. Uncertain what to do, I smiled. Weirdly, it felt like the right thing to do -- at least for now.
Check-in was at a beat-up, old garage desk in a corner of the hangar. We showed the ID cards clipped to our parkas, and the short, dumpy, curmudgeon of a desk clerk, also named Al, pointed to a door marked: Accommodations for Guests.
Through the door was another hangar space with a couple of old double beds against opposite walls, near doorways to the women’s loo on the left and the men’s loo on the right. A card on a stand showed our names with arrows, McKellar to the right and Conway to the left. Free-standing dividers separated the two “rooms.”
Cory said: “Lovely!”
Charlie said: “Wow!”
Marian said: “Nice.”
I said nothing, and was catching on to the fact that I was seeing something other than what they were seeing. Until I figured out what was going on, however, I thought it best to smile and play along. The place was not any dirtier than any garage I’d ever seen and I have slept in more primitive campsites. I even smiled when I washed up in the rather dingy 1950’s green tile bathroom. The huge, industrial space heater near the distant ceiling blasted comfortably warm air on us, so I calmed down and patiently waited to see what would transpire next.
Our tour guide arrived in about an hour. His name, of course, was Al. He directed us to their “Sight-Seeing Vehicle” which appeared to be my old Dodge Caravan, now even rustier than before. Charlie said something about nice looking SUV’s. As they piled in, Al pulled me aside.
“I know you can see what is actually going on, because some of us arranged for you to get pure water in your hydration bottles, so your head should be clear by now. We’re taking an awful chance, but this has to stop before any more guinea pigs get hurt or killed. I’m going to say I twisted my ankle, so you are going to drive. OK?”
He limped to the passenger door, and I climbed behind the wheel. “I talked Al into letting me drive!” I announced. “Where to?” I asked Al.
“Past the tennis courts (heavy equipment parking) and to the right. We will drive through the front gate and down the scenic route to the town below. We waved at the security guard as we passed (his name tag read: Al) and we bounced on down a rugged, rutted mountain road. All the while, Al described what the others were seeing and how the ancient, twisting, corduroy road was part of the local charm. I listened as best I could while fighting with the wheel and dodging debris and potholes. Al suggested everyone put headphones on to listen to a pre-recorded tour, except for me -- he had to give me directions and I had to hear both him and traffic noise to drive safely.
When everyone else was isolated, Al spoke to me: “Your envelope from us contained a sedative and your first dose of Whale Sweat. Whale Sweat makes you extremely susceptible to suggestion. On your trip here, the others were exposed to programming to help them see exactly what we wanted them to see. A group of us altered your programming to let you slowly wake to reality. You see, we need your help. Some of us want the world to know just what Whale Sweat is and what is going on here.
“Why? And why me?” I whispered.
“In short,” he said, “Chemotherapy and pain. You have already been through hell and nearly poisoned to death as a treatment for your leukemia.”
“The effects of large doses of Whale Sweat are well documented, and the effects wear off in a few days. Problems start as the sweat leaves your cells. Until it is gone, which can take up to two months, the user experiences wave upon wave of extreme pain, at the cellular level. It is excruciating! I would never go through it again!” The pain and horror in his voice made me cringe away from him.
“You’ve been through withdrawal?”
“See my ID?” I nodded. “Al isn’t a nickname. It’s an abbreviation: AI means Already Initiated. Only those who have survived it once are allowed to work here, because the risk of accidental exposure is too great. If you survive once, you can survive again. However, the memory of that journey into darkness makes one doubly careful not to risk exposure again. There are a lot of mothers working here. Because of the trauma of childbirth, they can block and control much of the pain. You also have endured pain at the cellular level and will likely survive. This made you a likely guinea pig candidate.”
“There are plenty like me. Why me, particularly?” I was getting frightened.
“I read your social media postings about your accident at age 18 months. The boiling of your hands and feet was the clue. You learned to compartmentalize and control pain was a toddler. You rather unwisely bragged about it online. And now you have proved our choice fully.”
I winced, and demanded, “What are you talking about?”
“If you remember, I said that when you opened the envelope, you both were dosed with a sedative AND Whale Sweat?”
“I was dosed? And I’ve had none since?
AI nodded.
At that point, I realized what was bothering me. At some level, I was feeling unwell, but as usual, I simply disconnected from the pain. Somewhere, deep inside, agony was going on, but on a conscious level, I simply felt a little unwell.
“Call me AI!” I said.
“My true-name is Jed-AI.” He said, “And we need your help.”

And I woke up this morning.