An Open Letter To The United States Congress About The Israeli Hamas War

Not since World War II has the world seen crimes against humanity like those committed daily by Hamas and Israel. The complicity of the United States, both morally and financially, violates the essence of the American values upon which this country was founded.

Individuals in the United States executive administration are violating the will of the people and the law with their complicity in Israel’s crimes against humanity. It is perhaps a futile effort to ask our congressional representatives to act as they are constantly engaged in adolescent, nonproductive antics. However, who else is responsible for policing and upholding the checks and balances of federal officials if not you? Who else safeguards our national moral values? People are dying because of unlawful US leadership actions.

The complicity of the United States, both morally and financially, violates the essence of the American values upon which this country was founded.

There is much damning evidence of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity on both sides as Israeli attacks wipe out entire families in Gaza in response to the satanical Hamas attack. Individuals are responsible, not “states” which are generalities. The US foreign policy supports this.

Israeli forces continue to intensify their cataclysmic assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, Amnesty International and others — including hundreds of hours of filmed footage — have documented unlawful Israeli attacks, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, refugee camps, and hospitals, which caused mass civilian casualties — many of them children — and must be investigated and prosecuted as war crimes and genocide. The United States federal administration has morally and financially supported and condoned these atrocities and blocked cease-fires through their State Department spokespersons.

Responsible commanders, leaders, and administrators on all sides must be identified and brought to justice.

War crimes and inhuman atrocities are caused by individuals, not states. It is the responsibility of those in charge of monitoring federal actions to demand justice and isolate these individuals from society for the greatest good and survival of all of us.

A lawsuit, filed on Wednesday with the ICC by human rights organizations Al-Haq, Al Mezan, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, called for “urgent attention to the continuous barrage of Israeli airstrikes on densely populated civilian areas within the Gaza Strip”, which have killed more than 10,500 Palestinians, almost half of them children.

The United States is complicit in these atrocities utilizing our tax dollars.

There has never been more documented evidence of crimes against humanity in human history. This is your mandate. This is your time to act. All people of goodwill support your help on our behalf to guide the United States to do the right thing.

Each life a light. A beacon. A conduit of truth.


The murky world of dark money and Wall Street collide in this complex mystery.


The crimson rowing shell sliced the Harlem River like a stiletto. Reflections of the city on its glassine surface were barely disturbed as he drew his knees up tight, racing forward, feathering the oars that hovered millimeters above the water, then cut into it again with a ferocious rhythm. The air was pristine and still as breath steamed out into the icy January morning. It had snowed in the night and the river ran black through the white over which people struggled against darkness.

In the distance were sirens and car horns and longings, the rumble and hum of traffic, the tangle of voices. He glided under bridges reaching over to the Manhattan side where commuters were just beginning to crowd up. A flock of wild cranes suddenly took off in a blue blaze of white water and headed south. Alabaster light peered through cracks in the clouds stroking the waves like paintbrushes of Pre-Raphaelite saints. Devlin focused through the chaos, fleeing against waves, straining every fiber to win because if he let up for a moment he would roll over in his round bottomed racing shell—like him designed to keep moving and never stop.

Rowing was his emblem;  a spiritual connection gliding past Swindlers Cove where the now vanished Sherman Creek had once met the river. “Sculler’s Row” they had called it, once home to the city’s legendary rowing clubs manned by the privileged sons of East Coast Brahmins: Atlanta, Nassau, Nonpareil, Wyanoke, First Bohemian, Harlem Rowing, Lone Star, Metropolitan, Dauntless and Union. Their boathouses had lined the shore and thousands of spectators celebrated the great regattas at clubhouses festooned with twinkling lights filled to overflowing with cheers and laughter. All that ended abruptly when a mysterious inferno swept the row in 1911 devouring the wooden structures and hundreds of handmade boats like matchsticks—the fact it was coincident with an aggressive planning commission push for “waterfront improvements” somehow went unnoticed. The last boathouse disappeared in 1978, ironically consumed by fire. Devlin sculled in solidarity with the dispossessed in the same blood level intensity he pursued freewheeling global capitalists who were giving new meaning to the words “wealth management.” He wanted to eat the rich.

It was the Zen of it, he and the boat, like a single moving part, striving for the illusion of motionlessness; no jerking of the shell as he powered the oars, no telltale spray from catching carbon fiber tips, nothing that would betray the truth of human frailty; still a barrier he had yet to work through on the job, in the office, surrounded by other attorneys dedicated to big game in the commanding heights. There he had serious issues. The problem was that in only seeing numbers and patterns the human dimension was forgotten; perhaps that’s why he entered public service as a Federal Securities and Exchange Commission Investigator and not the private sector. A necessary outlet for his rage. Because when the dust cleared, it was all about money and this was the only way he could seek retribution for everything he felt was unjust and out of balance.

On the shore, a black kid was running along Harlem River Drive the hood from his sweats covering his face. Strong and agile he bounded forward like some rutting, muscular gazelle defying all odds against survival, every eight or ten strides glancing over his shoulder across the glimmer in silent challenge exuding an unwavering certainty he could best the man gripping the oars. Devlin grimaced trying to ignore him, but put his back into it gaining speed and pushing his body until the pain radiating from his solar plexus felt sweet as he raced at the top of his form, gasping for breath, icy air stinging his lungs, feathering the oars without a ripple. He loved to tell them at the office how he beat the twenty-somethings on his morning ritual. Still the runner moved off as if pursued, but he wasn’t worried yet and kept up the pace working out strategies in his head, sure that the kid would grow tired after sprinting so hard, positive he could overtake him a little further along—if he could endure the agony just enough to demonstrate the triumph of superior tactics. But it wasn’t in the cards this frosty morning.

He heard the sound before anything; then came the sudden jolt. It broke into the zone where he had retreated blind to distractions—a thick, dense thud against the bow of the ultralight, carbon fiber racing shell. Now the whole boat rolled violently to the left clambering over the deadly semi submerged obstacle and by instinct he flattened one oar skimming the waves to brace himself while he turned the other wildly in the air to keep the narrow, rounded shell upright desperate not to fall in the freezing water. The one oar slammed the craft sideways throwing up a sheet of spray while he managed to dig the other in deep and stabilize cross current. Still rocking precariously, he took a calm, deep breath and at the same time a long stroke. He had to move to keep from rolling over. The boat wasn’t designed to stop.

It was then, when he came around alone in the middle of the river, that he saw it. A man’s body floating on its back staring up at him with lifeless blue eyes and now a gash across its chest from where the boat had hit it, a distinguished looking man. The fine suit he was wearing that drifted with the current like the arms of a willowy sea anemone must have cost two thousand dollars.

After he made the call it took the police forty minutes to reach him. In the still of the waiting there were tiny breaths of wind on the water as if selkies were deciding whether to keep the man or release him back into the world of the living. Death was ethereal; he retreated from the finality of it. All around the city boiled yet he sensed the eerie divide between earth and sky and circled the weightless body resolving to keep it from going under as a last gesture of humanity. By the time New York’s finest pulled up with their sullen faces in their blue and white launch he had imagined a hundred scenarios about who the well dressed man floating in the Harlem River was. He watched as they caught hold of him with a gaffer’s pole and hauled him up. The body flopped across the deck. Then Devlin Winthrop Wolfe shoved his ID at them.

“Didn’t see him before ya hit him?”

“That’s right.”

“How fast would you say?”

“Maybe 14-16 knots?”

“How do you know?”

“There was a runner. Over there—on the drive.”

“Running away?”

“No. Just a runner.”

“Anybody else out here?”

“No. No one…”


Suddenly, it’s not safe for anyone in Egypt, especially an American, especially one with mysterious powers.


The line that divided the past from the future was like wire pulled taut. Parrish liked to roam that path, it was his domain. Each time he left Cairo the substance to his life was wrenched from him leaving a hollow he could not fill until he returned. Like departing lovers, he mused: skirts tossed in late summer breezes. Hair flying. Faceless figures. Ephemeral images. Lost moments. Familiarity more than anything was to blame, for he was certain that his existence once had meaning outside the context of the sweltering Al-Qāhirah even though now it was only the city that infused him with promise and gave him reason where his own had failed.

“So you’ve got something…ehhh?” He pushed the cup of sweet dark coffee across the table toward the enigmatic Egyptian who sat opposite him in the outdoor cafe. The unwavering eyes of Ali Fakeih Aissa fell on Parrish. The man struggled to suppress an ungainly grin perhaps because of unhealthy teeth or just the subtle understanding that it was bad business. The resulting grimace made his weathered features screw up like an old shoe and gave Erskine Parrish MacKenzie comfort. “What is it, what is it you’ve got that was so damned important?”

Flames rose up inside as they often had threatening to consume the small dark man. That morning, just past the dusty buildings where men in flowing robes paid the equivalent of fifty cents to share a one room flat without water or electricity, Ali Fakeih Aissa had awakened to subterranean murmurs of the far off Nile. It brought messages from beyond the hills and he had listened. A deceiving coolness lingered. The fabric of voices had barely been stilled but for the one brief moment before night had pivoted into a transcendent dawn and all was abated in breathlessness, poised in an equilibrium of forces between one day and the next. Even the river’s mists hung suspended. It was precisely when his revelations had always come before and so he had sat in reverent expectation on his small cramped balcony, which doubled as a laundry, surrounded by the odor of sour linen listening—always listening. The city was breathing and he heard its breath rushing, its whispers almost understood, its soul and substance nearly touched—but nothing came to him. Nothing. Even though he focused all his energies gritting his teeth so hard they almost chipped. The silence was most profound just before first light.

But then, as if a phoenix arising from his sense of abandonment, the dawn exploded in a storm of voices that thundered from mosques and shook the great city to its foundations. Clarions of Allah were summoning the faithful as they had for fifteen fleeting centuries. He could easily count twenty minarets silhouetted against the pre-dawn light from where he sat—pillars of the faith.

“God is most great…” The muezzin’s call came in dream-speak. “I testify there is no God but God…”Smoke like voices moved through doorways and windows as desert wind. He poured into the half-light with the others having chosen long ago to hide his Coptic Christian origins to be absorbed by his beloved city. Later, as he prostrated himself in ritual, it occurred to him that the thousand-year-old Cairo—which perched as fragile dew at the edge of the Sahara, stretching from the Mars Atlantic well into Asia—had another name: Al-Qāhirah. It meant victorious.

Now he raced through the streets to meet the American from the embassy: his heels echoing determined tattoos, sweat bathed his nut-brown face. He had his revelation. It had come after all. And it was a great relief to him for on his side of the Nile few dreams were ever realized and the ground was too agonizingly near. Ali Fakeih needed a lift from victory. Today it would happen.

He had been born in a nameless village on the Muqattam hills, a barren plateau that rose above Cairo’s eastern perimeter. The dirt track that lead to it wound endlessly up the slow bluff and strained the legs and backs of those who hauled their priceless burdens into the nightmarish world of the Zabbaleen. He had been cursed from birth and could not purge himself of the memories and, though luck had given him escape as a child, he would never admit to his history. Still he violently cursed the wahiya, the street bosses, and vowed that until his own crossing into paradise he would seek vengeance on one exceptionally evil man for his father’s death. “It was a massacre!” He spat out venomously if ever the subject came up, which it rarely had except in angry dialogues within his own mind. He regarded the wahiya as snakes, vermin he would just as soon shoot as allow to pass by in the street undisturbed.

The Zabbaleen were rubbish barons. They alone had rights to the garbage of Cairo. Blood rights. Inalienable rights. Contested rights. Early in the twentieth century, Muslims swept in from the Western Sahara and had developed a profitable business collecting the city’s trash. Decades later when Coptic Christians arrived from the South the Muslims sold the Zabbaleen the privilege to their collection routes charging both the new arrivals and their old tenants simultaneously. The system endured. Still palls of smoke float eternally over villages of roofless huts in the Muqattam hills where there is no electricity or water or sanitation, nor schools or clinics and only one great old Coptic basilica to whose doorstep the rubble brews. Clouds—as clouds once hovered in an earlier age over areas where the rubbish was burned to heat Turkish baths.

Forty percent of the children die their first year, but not Ali Fakeih Aissa and it was his indelible curse to bear. Memories still scalded him of clambering up spiral staircases that clung precariously to the sides of ancient buildings and retrieving the garbage left there to the little cart waiting below. If there were servants, anything of value had already been removed leaving his family to eke out a living from the rest. It was chance that elected who would survive and who would not played out across the dirt floor of a hovel shared by family members, chickens, pigs and goats where the haul, a thousand tons a day, was sorted by hand. Soggy paper in one pile, which sold for seven dollars a ton; metal, computer parts, household items to be repaired or used and other things—anything without worth was burned as fuel. Over the years garbage swelled and cascaded down towards Cairo in an ineffable flow. It had always been that way. Whole communities had evolved on top of trash. Seven or eight steps had to be descended to reach the once street level entrances of some Cairo buildings as civilization’s waste accumulated. Anyone who has spent time living knows the fundamentals never change. Children and scrawny dogs danced amid the dark piles.

Everywhere else the night was effervescent with prospects for the future. Overhead a thin golden line was etched into the firmament as the first globally functioning commercial space station caught the rays of a sun slumbering behind the horizon. A hundred men lived inside all sweaty and suffering from the same hungers and moral weaknesses earthmen complain of. It was humanity’s needle piercing the unattainable. A man named Castogan had ultimately designed it in a fit of brilliance unmatched thus far. It was one of the high moments of life that was trumpeted across the globe in luminous press accolades. Ali Fakeih Aissa, however, had never heard the name and if he had, and if the small pin of light had been pointed out in the sky accompanied by the fact of men living there in space just as he did in the swelter of Cairo, it would have meant nothing to him. Nothing at all. He had been overcome with bitterness from his first breath and consequently expected nothing better.

Stories had circulated through the lower rungs of Cairo’s social hierarchy for generations that the Zabbaleen had become rich from mistakenly discarded treasures and hoarded their wealth out of sight of the wahiya in fear of reprisals. However, brutal tradition had taught them that if they failed to pay their rents or if they tried to collect from the tenants themselves or in any way attempted to better their condition they would be roughed up—men would bloody their faces and smash their carts scattering a days work to the street. How these rumors were started was a mystery. Father Ghazali, the young bearded Coptic priest who was the only civilizing element in all the villages of the Zabbaleen, attributed them to “weak brains.”

The rumor was exactly the reason Fakeih’s father became the accused. As a small child scampering through the trash—already deeply embittered and plotting his impossible flight from the wretchedness of the Muqattam hills—little Ali Fakeih Aissa did not pay close attention to the details. One day his father came home without a thumb. Dried blood covered his leg. That was the first time he heard the utterance Shari’ah. Only later did he learn that it was the word for the Islamic legal code employed in its entirety only by fundamentalists. His father had been branded a thief by a wahiya who, driven to it by jealousy of the Zabbaleen’s imagined wealth, denounced the man publicly and produced a small, insignificant item from his trash cart he claimed had been stolen. All things considered the minor Imam who determined the case showed mercy and considerable restraint by only severing his father’s thumb contemplating the fact that he had been driven to the act by desperation. Compassion, the Imam knew well, was the one thing that would assure him a place in paradise. Later he cursed himself for wavering in his rendering of the Shari’ah when Fakeih’s father was accused again and this time had him imprisoned to await judgment as an habitual thief. He knew well personal interpretation was the one thing that could destroy Islam.

Ali Fakeih Aissa had yet to be truly tested. The pivotal moment in his young life was to come later. It was, he decided afterward, by divine intervention that he had been guided to that exact spot in the city as a spiritual lesson. Suddenly a squall of people arose from the hot winds that swept up the dust from the streets and there were crowds. Shifting. Pushing. Wiping their gritty brown necks. Heated multitudes that towered over his small frame and were packed shoulder to shoulder. He squeezed through their legs propelled forward by an unquenchable curiosity. As he reached the center around which all were gathered he saw a huge Ethiopian man with glistening skin. A deep foreboding embraced him. The giant black man stood with his weight squarely distributed on both legs, his muscles were flexed and he exuded an animalistic power. From his clenched hands hung a three foot sword.

The Ethiopian would earn about two hundred piasters that day, more money than Fakeih had ever imagined. On a piece of cardboard before the man the boy was shocked to see his father trussed up and splayed out in a curiously awkward manner. It was as if he had expected to see him there in complete humiliation, as if the fates had hold of him and so he numbly took in the sight yet it was dreamlike and unreal. Then a flash. A glint from the sun. A whoosh. Then once again. Quicker than the eye. Quicker than a breath. Infinite. Inexorable. An act that could only be regretted in old age but never undone. It was the sort of act that changed the course of civilizations and catalyzed wars and great migrations. A soldier held up the severed hand and leg in the air brandishing them in sacred victory.

Although his father survived the sentence of double amputation, he died a week later from infection.

It was perhaps that traumatic moment which caused Ali Fakeih Aissa’s later conversion to Islam. For the day after his father’s death when by rights the trash route fell to him as the oldest, and indeed only male, he came into possession of the very item that was to be the key to his escape from misery and introduce him to a completely new existence. It was a change as complete as from black to white, in one instant he was a Zabbaleen and then he wasn’t. Simple. How else could he attribute this miracle except to the will of God. From then on the phrase In-sha Allah took on meaning where it had none before and he lavished it on everyone he met.

His hands had been sunk to the elbows in the muck he had collected that day long ago when he felt something hard, solid, rock like. Its surface was smooth and irregularly shaped yet even with his fingers he felt the design. He yanked it out but it was so soiled and caked with sediment what it was remained a mystery even under close inspection. With a strange excitement he ran to wash it in a nearby bucket and soon in his hand, glistening from the water as if newborn, lie a small figurine unlike anything he had ever seen before. A horse, yes a horse, but not a horse…something else, more ancient, a conduit perhaps through which his soul could travel into lives past. The fat perfectly arched neck crowned by a neatly cropped line of mane that culminated in a small graceful equine head. The body obese, legs impossibly short so that it could never run—out of its back rose a round fluted opening with a lip. No, he knew immediately this horse was never meant for the real world, it was spirit horse. A painted saddle decorated with leaping greyhounds and partridges and other symbols too, beautiful and mysterious, figures which he could not fathom although he tried taking long meditative moments to run his small fingers over the smooth, cool ceramic horse. It electrified him. The past reared and swirled about him in double spinning whirlpools until he became dizzy and euphoric with wonder. Here was something he had never dreamed of, never thought of, and now he held it in his hand. It was the first time in his life he had ever felt the true weight of something, the pressure and the substance all at once. It unleashed a strange and wonderful fire in him and he imagined that he might posses something of his own someday, something of value.

Years later he was still imagining. The fire had dimmed and only flickered at full storm when the deal smacked of exceptional opportunity. At such times his eyes were luminous and one could never imagine the degradation out of which the man had drug himself.

“What’ve you got?” Parrish could not contain his excitement and was drumming his foot and his right index finger in unison. He smiled inwardly, but his face betrayed nothing.

Fakeih reached down with leathery fingers and nimbly grasped the bone white cup bringing it to his lips where he savored the thick brew. He exhaled. The moment was his. “I can only say one thing…,” he sipped again from his coffee narrowing his eyes with a distant look, “I have had an offer from the Egyptian Museum already.”

“Christ…” Parrish mumbled and sat forward tapping his fingers on the tabletop more deliberately. “Have you?” He hated competition, especially when it came to things nearly out of reach anyway.

“This very morning.”

“I’m not a foundation,” he raised his hands and glanced sideways under hooded lids, “just your underpaid public servant. Why do you come to me with something I can’t afford?” Of course he knew why—it was stolen. All of it was stolen. Collections around the world were filled with stolen artifacts. Museums, mansions, ateliers of the rich. Perhaps this time the Department of Antiquities was under pressure and it was not worth the risk for the institution. Even the excess of PhDs couldn’t justify certain acts. All those driven men were the same as he was. The illicit quality made them want the treasures all the more, their pedigrees impelled them forward and tantalized with the spice of resistance. But ultimately it was the inner need drawing others as he knew he was lured toward the ancient by a sublime desire to unravel the outstanding questions of existence and redemption. Assyrian monuments standing still stark and grand upon breathless shimmering plains gave testimony. Who was not challenged to learn what these ancient men knew, what advantage might it bring? Each artifact a piece of the puzzle, fragments making their way through the black market. Parrish was suddenly anxious with longing. “I’d like to touch it,” he said, “just touch it.”

Ali Fakeih Aissa smiled more broadly than before recklessly betraying his hand and the bad teeth he had been so careful to hide. “I don’t have it.”

“You don’t have it?”

“What I mean is, it’s not with me.”

Parrish fondled the pocket full of money he had brought just in case wishing now that he had left it in the bank. “Then where is it?” The streets of Cairo were not a safe place to carry cash.

“In a house that we will go to.”

”Damn! A house? …close?”

“Yes.” Fakeih replied already up from the table without looking back knowing that the discontented American would follow unquestioningly. “Yes. It’s close.”


Two men will find redemption in a floating gold town far up the Amazon, if somebody doesn’t find them first.


Sudden beauty. The sky erupted crimson, aflame for as far as anyone could see. The great movement of day becoming night took place across a landscape filled with hushed and breathless whispers. The Mato Grosso was subdued by its humid kiss. Bahia surrendered. Amazonas rejoiced a thousand miles from the sea raging with life in verdant groves and in flying and running things that have managed to elude the touch of man for all these years. They alone were truly wild. Somewhere up the street a phantom drummer  pounded out hot batuques that ricocheted off walls and cascaded down in a mesmerizing brew. A dancing woman lured with her rolling hips silhouetted by flare from the lights–beads of perspiration dancing on her breasts. He looked right through her. Tarisco was full of nervous energy, he had places to go. Tonight he waited impatiently for money. The weight of the old .45 caliber Taurus automatic in the holster he had specially made that he stuck under his belt inside his trousers beneath his coat dragged at him. It was a tool he had become accustomed to, but tonight it irritated him. The saints were restless.

As nightfall saturated the land with deep indigo all the creatures found their places. Those that were hunted scurried through the jungles of Amazonas or across the boundless grasslands of the Mato Grosso in terror paying little attention to the rubber plantations that had rotted in the humid air and been crushed eight decades ago by the anxious growth of a hundred varieties of plants and trees that had only waited patiently for the men to pass. Even the magnificent houses of the fazendas, the estates, witnessed their own end strangled by vines as thick as a man’s waist, buckled by roots too vivacious to be kept underground, infested by crawling things more numerous than all the people of the earth. The hunters had yellow eyes. They were full of life. They danced on the million leaves, touched down across a hundred thousand branches and spoke fluently to all their kind in the language of animals that humans had thankfully forgotten. Life was in motion intertwined with the endless landscape and it kept all things changing in constant evolution. In other places men had become complacent, they had decimated all the predators, tamed the rivers until now they trickled through cement corridors no bigger than a doorway, cowered in air conditioned shelters pretending that nature was under control and would never rise again to challenge their lordship. But it only waits for them to pass, for them to fulfill their moment in evolution and move on into memory. Nature waited and watched. Above all was the feeling of being watched. In the cities and jungles of Brazil there were eyes everywhere.

Tarisco Sivuca leaned up against a plastered over brick wall that was so moist with humidity it was in danger of collapse at any time. He glanced sideways down the narrow glistening street and saw children in a ragged group at the end practicing their samba steps silhouetted by a street lamp. He had been there. The sounds of their voices chimed with recognition. His pale linen suit was a mass of wrinkles that had become pressed into it by sweat within an hour of putting it on. Underneath he wore a sparkling white sleeveless undershirt, nearly new, that contrasted with his nut-brown skin in the low light under which he stood. A sheen of perspiration was on his face.

His blue eyes could not be explained. Tarisco defied description. He thought of himself as indio prêto, a black Indian, but was most likely to be referred to as escuro–black with Caucasian features and especially so because of his eye color. None of it meant anything to him because as the saying went, “a poor white is black, but a wealthy black is white.” He was finding success where many had failed so it was said of him now that he “used to be black”.

He was completely at home in the slums of Rio called favelas, especially Rocinha where he had spent his elusive childhood with 200,000 others. Fleeting memories were all that remained of his youth and only images of climbing the hill above sheet metal and cardboard houses where he and his friends had the finest view in Rio De Janero hinted that he was ever young at all. From on high they could look down on the Corcovado and imagine themselves luxuriating on Copacabana beach, or Ipanema or even on the Avenida Rio Branco where colonial buildings still hovered as ghosts filled with the echoes of black slaves and the Portuguese. Gleaming automobiles paraded past. The hand of the night caressed his cheek languidly as he heard the sounds of the favelados that wafted down the hillside into the street where he stood waiting. He had watched the tin and paper become cinder block and red brick as the inhabitants slowly gained title to the land where they had lived since 1896 and marveled as city services began to appear just as he escaped. He always returned though, because there is no escaping where the heart is.

The bitter repression of a rural rebellion in the Nordeste eight years after the emancipation of the slaves in 1880 spawned the favelas of Rio. The army swollen with bluster and bravado, its ranks bolstered with blacks and mulattos, many former slaves, reigned terror in the Guerra da Canudos against its own people. It was an insidious test of loyalties, of slave against slave. When the bloodletting was exhausted soldiers returned to the civilized towns finding again, as soldiers often do descending like seed pods dispursed by far blowing winds, that there was no place for them in peace. They wandered from central Bahia to the capital to demand their pensions and when they were not forthcoming, camped near the army headquarters. On a nearby hillside grew the favela bush, which bore a cooking spice native to their Nordeste homes, and the camp became known as the Morro da Favela. They never left. Their spirits linger still. The soldiers passed from memory, but the favelados were born of desperation. Cariocan blacks and other ex-slaves appeared and blended in to the city of the dispossessed where industrial scrap, oil drums and anything that was useful fashioned shelters. Whether they imagined them temporary or not became lost in time, but as Tarisco stood in the humid warmth of the night there were over four hundred neighborhoods like Rocinha with names such as Hurry-up-hill, Sky Gardens and Hill of Hope. Favelados numbered over one million as migrants from all over Brazil created shadow worlds of their rural life with all the social intricacies and their religion–Macumba. To the Marajá, the bureaucratic fat cats, they were cheap hands and dancing feet. To themselves they were desperate, inexorably caught up in the struggle to survive.

He knew his roots, but held it within himself even as he grew older and the knowledge no longer had any importance and never told anyone. It was a matter of honor. This quality he had learned in the streets when he was too young to remember, (but every instance breathed with him), and therefore the incident always held some unreality that bordered on the transcendental. Tarisco was around six years old when he received his confirmation. At that time age had little meaning and things were measured in terms of will to survive or not, which he and the other free children he ran with all seemed to know instinctively.

They had stolen a piece of fruit from a seller’s stall on the boulevard. It was not that they were hungry, though that was more often the case, but that they had to constantly test the envelope so when push came to shove they would know exactly where they stood. It was a common occurrence for the shopkeepers and vendors who were plagued by homeless children with nothing to do other than scratch out a survival and nowhere to go other than the streets. Brazil was home to six million such children that it enclosed within its cocoon of wildness edged by out of control urban centers on the brink. They were pivetes, “little farts”, perhaps because it justified their abuse by making nothing of them. Tarisco was not so fast and struggle as he would his little legs just could not generate much speed. The grocer, who was standing nearby, calmly pulled out a short length of wooden doweling he kept at hand for just such occasions and swatted him across the back of the skull with a loud, hollow crack that caused passers-by to momentarily look up in realization somebody else was on earth. Tarisco tumbled over next to the cardboard boxes that stank of rotten papaya crushed near their bottoms and settled there unconscious with blood flowing down the back of his small head. After the first shock of the sound no one paid any further attention to him and he lay there as if refuse.

All the other children, who were older than he and more experienced in the etiquette of the streets, huddled across a small plaza and anxiously peered at their fallen comrade from around the corner and through the legs of people walking by indifferently.

“Ayee…He’s got blood on him!” One exclaimed.

“Shut up!” Cried the oldest in controlled fury.

Another quietly and somberly began praying to the Macumba spirits. “Eleg…ba…open the door for Ogún…”

“Shut up!”

“He’s dead,” came the whisper.

“The Orixás help those that help themselves.”

“He’s dead!”

“Shut up! He’d not dead!”

Their faces were of hardened adults cloned on scared and bruised young bodies and their mouths hung open in dismay showing brown and cracked teeth. The grocer, who had a bald spot on the back of his head, was not a large man, but none the less a man who had reached maturity and had acquired a comfortable layer of fat around his middle by the good fortune of his work that placed him in the proximity of food all the time. A formidable enemy. And so it was the great shock when he was suddenly overwhelmed by the pivetes, who in their frenzy brought him crashing down into the elaborate displays of mangos, onions, cassava, tomatoes, cherries, peppers, apricots, tangelos and eggplant that worked in their favor. Everything flew high into the air like a tossed salad as he wiggled against mashed fruit and struggled with the little farts two on each arm and each leg while the oldest, the strongest held him from behind around the neck. The others busy lifting up Tarisco and shunted him from the scene above their heads as if he were being evacuated from a field of battle.

The one boy remaining, the strongest one who held his forearm against the vendor’s windpipe so that both knew he, as small as he was, could crush it with one final push, bent close to the man’s ear and seethed. “Remember me!”

His fury was the spice that the mulatto boy dipped into when he needed extraordinary virtuosity. He did not believe in the Orixás or the saints of the church because he could not hold them in his hand and no matter how many times the Father had tried to explain the concept of faith to him, he could rely only on himself. In his right hand was a piece of broken bottle that he always kept in his pocket. He had found it at the beach one day. It was pale green and had three sides, two of which were sanded dull by years of ocean sand washing against it, but one side was still sharp with a vicious point. The scintillating sparkle from the sand had revealed it to him and that was the only faith he knew. The mulatto boy brought it up against the man’s cheek.

“Remember me.” He said as he cut a three-inch gash into the grocer’s flesh, and then ran off across the plaza as fast as he could.

“That pivete cut me!” The grocer yelled from out of the rubble of his meticulous displays clutching his cheek and screaming after him in disbelief. “You little son of a bitch!”

Beneath the hill of the Rocinha Favela he felt whole perhaps as in no other place on Earth. He was not a piveteany longer. The image in his mind was that of a tempestuous misfit who had trapped himself in a complex chrysalis seemingly impossible to escape from, yet because of that would be many times more beautiful emerged. It wasn’t as if he’d arrived, he wasn’t there yet, but undeniably he was on his way. It was something so tangible he could touch it and for the first time in his life he was buoyed by hope. Soon, if everything went well, he would be a Bicherio, a big boss, one of the chosen who ran the Jogo De Bicho, the fanatically popular numbers racket based on animals that ran rampant out of Rio and across all Brazil. He already had a network of runners, aviõezinhos, “little airplanes”… pivetes who would do anything for him because he had been confirmed and was one of them no matter how hard he tried to distance himself from them. He also sponsored a Samba school, a fact that added much to his prestige in the neighborhood and it was the one link he had to the legitimate world that lay outside the favela for when Carnival exploded there were television cameras everywhere and everyone knew which samba school was his. He was riding high on the back of life, except for one thing. Valdemiro Veloso.

Tarisco stood on the corner because of Veloso, he breathed because of Veloso and all of his profit and his position in life were because of Veloso. He financed a samba school, but Veloso owned whole favelas running in sewer pipes, water and electricity when the city would not. He was cursed with the luck that had brought him this far, but it was his own ambition that would create the crowning achievement of his life. Then he would have nothing to do with drugs again. That was Veloso’s domain and he had never wanted entry, yet in the favela it was his only ladder and he would rather have been dead than worked hand to mouth his whole life and at the end be as poor as at the beginning. He, too, had been somebody’s aviõezinho. It was always the great conflict between the rich and the impoverished that fought inside him, he longed for the space and time that money bought while at once appalled by it’s unjustness. The whole thing was epitomized by the sole ownership of the vast majority of wealth and resources in Brazil by a very small minority, mostly white, he even now after so many years could hardly bring himself to say it. Brazil was a white country, but he “used to be black”, so it didn’t matter. It was popular opinion that everyone had the opportunity to make good, that in the market economy all men could be kings, but he knew there was not enough to go around.

Although he gloated silently within himself when he considered his foresight in organizing the pivetes into a network of runners, for he could accomplish many times what any other Veloso operation was able to do. It gave him time, almost like being wealthy, in which he could talk to the spirits and sort out the more important things of life.

Tarisco was more apprehensive than usual as he waited impatiently for the moneybag because he had seen a bad omen on entering the favela. A vulture perched high up on the hill that seemed to be waiting too and he would have gone to the Mother of Saints to be rid of it, but did not have time. Veloso would meet him later. There was not a great sum involved, but it was significant and especially so in a favela. He had always trusted the pivetes who worked for him implicitly and consequently never had one of them steal from him–and they were paid well. Tonight he was apprehensive; the usual ease with which he carried himself through the streets of Rio was missing. The man nervously fingered the cool, blue steel of the gun stuck awkwardly in his trousers beneath the wrinkled coat.

Without turning he knew the boy was there because nobody could approach that he did not perceive and so he continued to watch the samba dancers in silhouette as if he were alone.

“They’re dead,” came a small, breathless voice.


An enigmatic genius discovers it. A woman obsessed with power exploits it. One man will risk everything to find the truth behind it.


“He’s come up with something,” the man sitting in the darkness said excitedly. His voice had a mature certainty that marked him as someone with a strong vested interest. His sweating hands gripped the cool arms of a buttery leather chair, “I don’t know what it is yet…but it’s something extraordinary.”

Lights hovered with a dim glow down a long hallway. Cool, dry air hissed through ducts nearly silent. It was filled with deep greens; forest lush leaving the impression of nature…burnished brass and copper fixtures, amber glows, fine wood veneer beneath footsteps echoing from some unseen stranger passing. It was only one hallway in the Network’s massive compound of structures that thrust up out of the city in sublime and muted brilliance. Inaccessible from the outside, its entrances and exits were guarded both electronically and by the only known predator vicious enough yet malleable and tractable enough to use for any purpose. Humans.

A woman spoke in a throaty voice halfway through the door, “What do you mean something?” She closed the door to the dim outside light and entered the plush, lightless room walking up to the glass looking intently at the huge control complex and the dark figure who presided over it.

They were in a room at the end of the hall beyond closed doors where huge, flat video screens bathed the darkness with flickering blue light and artificial, electronic colors. A frail, hunched figure sat at a vast computer console, hands flying over the switches and keys in a euphoric dance he alone was witness to. He recalled great masters of lost centuries who themselves had sat at grander consoles of huge pipe organs and swept their fragile, mortal hands across the ebony and ivory eliciting god like crescendos that lifted all those within hearing on wings for an ascension into heaven prepared or not. The thought infused him with energy. Tiny lights from the switches and dials and liquid crystal displays reflected in the man’s eyes as he knew he would soon affect people far more deeply.

Behind the glass in the darkened chamber beyond were other men. They were a different sort, another breed, more cunning, perhaps more adapted as if they were a species further on the evolutionary ladder who had not needed to pass through any perceivable strata on their sojourn to perfection but had arrived all at once in full possession of things that others sought in vain to hold. They had wealth and position and too many years of living well for good health.
“It’s happening… right now it’s happening!” A younger man replied with a masked hostility. “God, it’s so new… you’ll see, just wait. It’s like nothing you’ve ever known!”

“What the hell are you talking about?’ Peering through the glass Roxanne was beginning to get curious, very curious. Whoever was at the console was oblivious to her, and so she pressed closer until her breath fogged the ice-like surface. The monitors flickered with rapidly changing images designed to grab attention and hold it with short vignettes never giving a full view, but leaving the completion of the scene to the viewer. “If I could hear it maybe…” wondering if she was missing the point or if they were just entertaining another anal management idea. The images that fled across the monitors were, she admitted to herself, striking, the colors saturated and lush, the pictures, mostly people, computer generated she knew but none the less beautiful and vital, yet nothing extraordinary, truly extraordinary like what they all wished for and worked for in programming to take the network into the next psychovideo level. It was the unknown she was after, and even if it were to present itself she wondered if she would know it or like other discoveries would it take a genius to see? She could picture herself in their place though, those electronic phantoms who flitted across the screen that were the result of computerized manipulations of 3D, holographic video that, despite her full knowledge of their creation, had begun to take on lives of their own often minimizing and dominating her own existence. Characters in the void that lived and breathed in the mind. This was normal. Expected. Everyone watched. It was as if she could feel the winds that brushed across the images, the wisp of electronic hair that she tried to brush away from her own face, as if it were real, as if she were…suddenly a violent embrace upon the screen as two virtual people grasped each other in passion. Roxanne felt uncomfortable and looked back into the darkness at the men who she knew, though nearly forgotten, were also witness.

Then it happened. The pressure of fingers on her arm that made her look to see who was there, the feeling of a kiss on her neck, the sudden blueness of the sky and a weightlessness, a sheer, frantic exuberance. Her knees nearly buckled the wave of sensation was so strong. A thick, sickly sweet feeling of desire that overcame her senses and knotted her stomach. And there were whispers, words, though she forgot them immediately and they passed like conversation among friends without consequence. Then she was staring into the darkness where the men were seated. Someone called her name.

“Roxanne?” He said distantly. “Did you see it? Did you feel it?”

“I don’t know what I felt. Like I was hit by a car, I felt like I was…”

“…there, right? Transported…”

“More like I was experiencing it at the maximum, full blast. Everything was amplified. I’ve never had emotions that strong.”

“That’s it! I told you! Now you’ll believe me. Some god dammed discovery huh?”

The mysterious figure on the other side of the glass looked down at the computer touchscreen into a familiar landscape. The function and purpose of each of the keys, switches and dials before him registered with symbolic meaning He thought of it all like a city. His city. It was the place he inhabited most, more than any place outside the control room; his home, the street, the sky, more than his own thought universe and memories. In fact, like most inhabitants of the Earth the virtual city was his home, yet with him it was more intimate, more essential as he was one of its creators. Its functions supplanted his own functions as a living being and gave him breadth and space and meaning where he perceived he had none before. Lent its color to a monochrome, its music to the silence of his heartbeats.

Once before the computer had gone down, its digital images dissipated to the virtual ether while the photons and electrons slowly abandoned the printed circuits and optical fiber and cables bringing the entire system to complete blackness. For those few, brief minutes he ceased to exist. Darkness overtook him against his will, without any consent and simply erased his memory as finely as if it were the computer’s own held in electronic equilibrium only mimicking the tension of a living being. The parameds had to revive him with a shock to the heart. This was the reason he was perfect for the job. Images came and went at his command, sounds were brought up and sweetened, universes were created with his every breath and transmitted to millions. He had finally devised a fail-safe back up mechanism in case the main computer should go down again in the form of an independently powered, portable optical unit that automatically duplicated all files that raced through the central processor and would immediately switch on for his use within milliseconds of a blackout. This was a great comfort to him. He carried the portable unit with him everywhere and laid it beside him on the bed at night to console him for dreams that never came.

But of love, he knew nothing. It was a concept without meaning; not the bitterness of forsaken love, nor the cold remembrance of a love that was wrongly wasted, not the rage of betrayal nor the fond, fading, beautiful sadness of unrequited emotions. It was as a draft of smoke in a turbulent wind and perhaps only in a former lifetime might its embers be found coolly lying on burnt and salted ground.

“You felt it too?”
“Of course I felt it. You think I’m dead? Jesus!” Then the man grumbled as if apologizing for some imagined shortfall. “It’s not complete yet, he’s still working on it.“

“What the hell is it?”
The man rose from his chair and walked forward to the glass looking into the control room where the strange figure was still furiously at work in total ignorance of the events taking place just behind him. “Photonicss.” He said.

A voice from the couch, “We really don’t know yet. He’s discovered something though, a new light particle he says. Over at R&D they say that’s impossible. But still…”

“It can’t be explained.” The man at the glass spoke raising his fingers to the cold, smooth surface to touch the unnamed. “We wanted you to see this and perhaps toss a few ideas around as to how we might use it.”

“It’s incredible! It’s unbelievable!!” She replied.

“You can see a slight burst of light if you look away you know,” glancing at her with sly wonder from the corner of his eye, “that is if you’re not looking directly at the screen. It’s unusual, nearly outside the visual spectrum; it seems to have something to do with the new organic-iridium light emitting diodes, OILED carbon to you–only two millimeters thick, but the light radiation is intense. They were made in a complete vacuum so there is not even the slightest resistance inside and it seems to amplify the emissions somehow.”

“But only at certain wavelengths. We have control, that’s what’s so exciting.”

“Does anyone else know about this?” She asked keenly, suddenly, with full attention and a slightly malicious smile.

The man at the glass looked back at the older man in the chair, “No.” He replied, “no one at all outside this room. Except him…” They all looked at the apparition seated at the control panel, hands still passing across the keys, still absorbed. “…and he’s not talking to anyone.”

“I hope not, we could lose millions, or even market share!”

The woman folded her arms tightly across her breast and rubbed the cobalt blue wool of her sleeves absently feeling a quick burst of energy as she began to realize the potentials of the phenomenon just witnessed. She surged to the center of the darkened room, animated. “I’d like to run this on some focus groups, hit the demographic spectrum and see where it falls.” Her voice rich and dramatic punctuated by a lilt at the end of each major thought making the most innocent and capricious comment sound ominous in its final resolve. She appeared to know much more than she did with this illusion of certainty, and surely it was in part responsible for her promotion into management. “Have we got any cohesive product yet?”

“No. Just random visuals. Like I said, he’s discovered something, we don’t know what yet.”

“Writers…” the older man interjected, tinged with disdain and a certain carelessness that was obviously being relished for some private reason, “and art directors – we’ve got them working with a team of sFx Technos to see what they’ll come up with. We pulled some freelancers in from the outer networks just this morning so we should have concepts ready by the end of the week.” He looked into the darkness and the other three people in the room could feel his attention on them like a chill. “I love the arts you know.”

“What’s he doing out there?”
All eyes went to the video monitors as a peculiar sequence of lights, colors and images raced by causing all of them to imagine they had skipped through time in brief segments like a strobe light missing every other interval and made their hearts race in anticipation of the power to come. “Jeeezus god! Did you feel that? I can hardly believe it? Can you imagine that with content, drama?”

“We’ve got the hook.” The older man said.

“We’ve got the drug.” The woman interjected with lights flickering, glimmering and shining in her eyes, dancing on the edge of brilliance, flirting with oblivion, wondering where the limits were. “The perfect drug.”