Slave Morale

By: Joey Wu

Breaking News - Serial Killer James ‘Smiles’ Hiraeth Suspected for the Murder of a 7-year-old girl. Mother Beth Reiner stricken with grief, medical practitioners dispatched to relocate to local sanitarium

Forgiveness - Beth Reiner

The bright screen flickers before my eyes;
When did you become so popular?
My darling girl, flushed and angelic
aside a man whose name brings misery.

I knew, before the image appeared,
Before your name turned silent, before
they came asking questions to which I
had no answer, I knew it was you.

I prayed, today, before morning snatched you away;
Trotting to school with a bright smile,
Summer plans with friends: the beach, the mall
Grocery shopping when school ended.

They ask me why you went alone, if
Our last words would be “get eggs!”
And I smile at their cool indifference,
Your independence indefinable.

If you’re watching from above, I have
Decided to forgive your reaper;
No good comes from hatred, so please find
In your heart, forgiveness for me too.
From the diary of James Hiraeth, March 1998: I feel as if my time is coming to an end, everything has gone wrong, my mind is no longer mine, please, someone, save me save me save m-

Larceny - James Hiraeth

They say that all sins are the same, that
Murder and larceny are twins, that
God cares not for the magnitude but
for the sheer volume in calculation.

The doctors say I first robbed at birth,
I credit heartless Manhattan streets;
The streets that taught me to hide, to fight,
To ruthlessly grapple against life.

My father, a thief, was gone at birth;
My mother’s putrid, heavy resentment
carried into my world a bequeathing
so ardent that my coming shooed her away.

I stole at birth. I didn’t mean to.
But intent, mindsets don’t matter, do they?
In the end, all thieves are just the same,
One destination, thick with larceny.

Since when did thieving become cavalier?
Stealing change, time, happiness, other lives—
God, if you’re still keeping count, please give
me a number, my sum. I’ve lost track.
The diary of Piper Leonhart: Saturday -Want to hear something very rude? My friend promised to go shopping with me the first day of Summer break, and she forgets to show up! The nerve of this girl, I tell you… wait til I get my hands on her. I even dressed up and everything, but she didn’t even show up after two hours. I went to her house. Nobody was home. Maybe she’s on vacation and forgot to tell me.

Patience - Piper Leonhart

I don’t think she’s ever gotten sick.
‘Mental fortitude’, she described it,
As if her stubborn leadership was
a mere trait and nothing personal.

We used to be neighbors, her and I,
Afternoons soaking in mischief and
exploration, avoiding her mother’s quick
gaze, one that hunted invisible threats.

She told me that her house burned down once,
A few years back, before her father
Disappeared alongside her mother’s smiles;
She had nothing, but she still didn’t cry.

I don’t think she cries at all, my friend;
She does everything for her household,
so I implored once, “how can you stand
to work while your mother does nothing?”

A sweet, melancholy look shrouded her.
Her mother was gone; she was all alone.
She’s busy today, I suppose, so I
shall wait here for her, patiently, til she arrives.

File X246 Patient B Log: Wednesday, 8:41. We are detecting abnormal brain function from the patient. Brain tumor removal was successful, but surrounding areas received laceration damage. The amygdala may be compromised, and emotional responses are delayed if present at all. Details pending. Patient is conscious. I’m afraid he is no longer human.

Mendacious - Dr. Carl Spect

Stuttering is a speech impediment;
That’s all, a flicker of the mouth.
So why did my fingers stutter as
I sliced open his cancerous brain?

The nurses tell me it’s not my fault,
That mistakes are a part of learning,
That new doctors are bound to mess up,
That insurance funds will cover it.

They’re wrong. I saw something in those eyes,
A cynical, merciless rebirth,
An entity I spawned that no level
Of insurance could possibly repay.

Operation done: tumor removed,
But something else seems to be missing;
Patient seems jagged, vulpine, angular,
I wonder what’s behind that smile.

Empathy: he teared up when shown images
of brutality, but his heartless eyes and smile
show it’s a lie; like the one I tell myself when
I pretend the serial killer on the news is a stranger.

US Department of Homeland Security: Mr. Schoz, a former Nazi, has been leading a sedentary life of retirement for the past five years. Intel points to low aggressions rates and he may be removed from our monitoring list.

Respect - Frederiche Schoz

Fear is the first thing they teach you in camp.
Blind loyalty comes next, but fear’s first;
And then faith—not the faith you recall,
But the faith that lingers in regret.

Back then, I know it should’ve been me;
How could a Jew survive those attacks?
But my parents, my family, was too
Clever for their own good, much too cunning.

We sold them out. Ever single hidden Jew.
Exterminated them for our profit—
The fiscal realization of life;
I joined then as a soldier, no one knew.

But I did. A sheep bathed in the blood
of its comrades hiding amongst wolves;
I was deadliest of them all, for
I thought my life was worth more than theirs.

James was my neighbor, and I knew his
family well; there’s no doubt in my mind
that he is purely innocent.
He loved his family, loved his daughter.

The James I knew wouldn't hurt a soul,
But the man on the news claiming his
name is not the James I recognize;
Perhaps a facet I didn’t want to see.

Respect for privacy is a rare gem;
So I’ll refrain from judging familial
matters—after all, what type of man
is sick enough to kill his own daughter?

I don’t know what happened to James.
I don’t truly wish to know either.
I spent my life avoiding killers to
Find one staring right back in the mirror.

Contemporary Research on Carcinogens, page 452 section 5: “Tumors in the brain can disrupt brain function, affecting your personality and behavior. Stress induces signals that cause cells to develop into tumors, Yale researchers have discovered, and the most likely symptoms are...”

Invidia - ‘Smiles’ Hiraeth

I know he’s gone now. That side of me,
An alter-ego, as some would say;
I disagree—he was a nuisance
at best, a complication too often.

It’s amazing that our thoughts, our essence
is contained in a squiggly mess;
The unexpected growth that spawned his
presence, imprisoning me in my own mind.

Three long years, he grew inside of me,
until I started to lose myself
and his malevolent optimism
Stole my countenance, my name, my pride.

Not that I blamed him for larceny;
I’m a petty thief, not a hypocrite.
But I dared to expect a vicarious
Pleasure, hoping for a whit of joy.

James didn’t know of my existence,
Nor did he question the whereabouts
Of the body he inhabited;
Blissful, ignorant, much too trusting.

I loomed in the backdrop, inches away,
separated by the impermeable
prison of , of biology, as if
I was a forcefully expunged nightmare.

Invidious storms clouded my life;
A daughter, a caring wife, a life of
Prosperity, mine and yet not mine,
Someone living my life better than I.

I confronted him through the laughing
gas of his operation, stringing
fierce vituperation for his cruelty,
for demonstrating my impotence.

James is a kind person, but he never
saw friends murdered on the streets, did he?
Maybe that’s why he continued the
operation, knowing the consequences.

Don’t get me wrong. I just wanted my life
back; I’m not as heartless as I seem.
I promised to grant his final wish:
Please, smile for my daughter once more-

“Mommy! Wake up! Wake up! There’s a fire and dad is gone and the room is filled with black smoke and we have to leave—wake up, please, wake up while you still can-”

Courage - Beth Reiner

One, two, three, four five. Five weeks, they say;
That’s how long they’ve kept me in this depraved
hospital, coddling me like an infant,
the way I used to care for you, child.

They find it odd when I converse aloud,
but you always did manage to listen
and so I’ll ignore their uncouth glances;
How lonely would you be without me?

I’ve had the strangest dream for a while;
A fire surrounds us, and in our plight
my husband is nowhere to be found
but his lighter sits on the carpet.

Oh, look at me! Getting all speculative;
There’s something sinister about this,
about how realistic my dream is.
I keep pinching myself: where are you?

But I know you’ll come to save me,
for you made my life a sweet daydream;
The ticking of passing weeks drole by,
But I know you’re coming, soon, to wake me up.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species

Sloth - ‘Smiles’ Hiraeth

Today I discovered a new hobby:
Isn't that what life is meant to be?
A cruel, strange, tangle of luck and strength?

Actions always have consequences;
That’s why I’ve chosen to just observe.
No inaction is truly evil, no
responsibility is truly mine.

Maybe that’s why I stood and watched today
As the little boy wailed, kicked, and thrashed,
Sinking into a murky onyx pool.
No one else saw; truly, I love cleaning.

I’m doing some cleaning this weekend—
Bookshelves, kitchen, erasing memories;
Scrubbing until it’s glistening scarlet
And James’s conscious washes off mine.

I heard that James’s wife has lost her mind.
As guiltless as sloth blesses, I must clean;
Or he may linger, as I greatly fear,
For today, watching that boy, I cried.
Webster’s Dictionary: Hiraeth (Welsh pronunciation: [hɪraɨ̯θ, hiːrai̯θ]) is a Welsh word for longing or nostalgia, an earnest longing or desire, or a sense of regret. The feeling of longing for a home that no longer exists or never was. A deep and irrational bond felt with a time, era, place or person.

Deference - James Hiraeth

If my thoughts may ever reach you,
I’m sorry. Please don’t hurt those that I love.
I can see everything now, your pain,
your hatred, your envy, your memories.

I stole from you, a veteran thief,
an act that you could never forgive;
I’ve occupied your salience for so
long, so why do you still live for me.

Behind that cowardly, forced smile,
Will my penitence grant you salvation?
Or are you afraid of reverting back
now that happiness isn’t just oneiric?

I’m still here, watching, tethered to you,
helpless as I watch you carve my daughter
and lick her crimson tears from the blade,
casting her body into the sea.

But I’m happy, still, to have lived,
to be met with hugs and warm smiles,
to console my ever-crying daughter,
even if I had to steal time from you.

My dear Beth, if his devious ploy
succeeds, tell, our daughter I love her.
Tell her it’s ok to cry sometimes,
that a smile doesn’t make things happy.

Please, up above, dote upon me fondly;
Your imaginary haven, your sweet
nothing, your personal, close hiraeth.
I’m stuck here now, but Daddy’s coming home.

Introduction to Psychology: Shaped like an almond, the amygdala is responsible for multiple emotional responses, like love, fear, anger and sexual desire.

Iniquity - Beth Reiner

I’m beginning to suspect the horrible,
the notion I dare not utter flows through..
I got mail today, slipped under my door;
What was the little lump inside?

James did always say you had the smallest
fingers, dainty and delicate, poised
like a model. I adored them so much,
So why do I feel like throwing up?

One way or another, you found me.
Your cold little thumbprint in my palm,
Pressed against the streams running down my face;
Enough with the jokes. Please wake me up now.

I found a little letter inside—
It says you’re still alive, just waiting.
Don’t worry, darling, I’m coming for you.
Why is the handwriting so familiar?

Where are you? I escaped out onto
the balcony like you told me to…
A sharp burst, a flash of deep darkness.
Thank goodness you’re here! Good morning, my love.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:4-7

Divinity - ‘Smiles’

Learn about them, James. That is your mission.
I’ve seen too much, been tainted by the
horrid pollutant that is human hope,
brainwashed into forgetful deliverance.

Hadn’t I acted like humans do?
Hellbent on survival, flittingly
subservient to intransigent desires,
Machines driven by sin and fear.

I was sent here to unravel them,
To pinpoint the tropes of their essence;
When did my mission fade from memory?
When did ephemeral existence coagulate?

Though amnesia fogged up my actions,
on some level, didn’t they retain?
Didn’t I fake my mother’s death to
give her a new life free from domestic abuse?

Didn’t I donate the stolen cash to
the homeless shelters and charities?
And filthy, manipulative me,
didn’t I plant that tumor inside my head?
And when emotions clouded judgment,
Didn’t I fiddle with his fingers,
to sever my ethotic connection?
I shouldn’t feel. Why do I know I’m wrong?

The poor children I saved under the
gruesome cloak of murder—people
bound to listless lifetimes of torment.
Wasn’t euthenasia holy, worthwhile?

I may be an angel, but I wish I was
human, for then I wouldn’t know;
Future angst wouldn’t perturb me,
nor would fierce paroxysms of doubt.

All said, I’m just a useless observer;
The flower that is James that blossomed
from my dearth existence shackled me:
What point is there in fleeting joys?

And you lived on, in my little bubble,
an angel’s enigmatic passing fancy;
Lives far from survival and carnage,
selcouth in communal spider webs.

My miserable humanity was
illuminated by his presence;
At once I remembered my mission,
flushed by reality’s power to swarm.

When I told him my plan, to save his
tranquil haven into permanence,
he gave me a soft look that I never
could have expected: pity.

His eyes sparkled in a language I couldn’t
decipher—how could a single smile
carry that profound a level of depth,
of understanding, of wisdom?

Maybe I was wrong from the start.
To reject heaven and rejoice in
the simple pleasures of the present,
perhaps that’s what constitutes humanity.

Maybe it’s the feeling that those children
Should have lived out their painful lives;
Maybe the thought that perpetual
joy, everlasting smiles, are worthless.

He forgave me, you know, James did.
After all that I’ve done, he didn’t
condemn or curse, cry or smear opprobrium.
Maybe that’s humanity: forgiveness.

My research has finally concluded;
God, I’m ready to return home.
In pain, there is wisdom. In sadness, joy.
life’s meaningless is what gives it hope.

We were wrong, but we have time to learn;
A simple summation will not suffice
where intent and magnitude are everything.
How can a petty thief like me keep count?

A being like me that cares solely for
cleanliness may never value filth,
but maybe none of that matters at all;
Life isn’t a choice, nor purposeful, and that’s ok.

Please, take care of my body, James.
May you live with a blazing glory.
I’ll forever watch from above, your hiraeth—
home away from home, a haven of nostalgia.

“Mom! Wake up! I’m going to be late!”
“Relax, dear, mommy just had a horrible dream about a fire and… I can’t seem to remember the rest.”
“Again? See, this is why I tell you not to watch scary movies at night. You brought this on yourself.”
“Ok, ok. But no matter how bad the dream gets, you’ll be here to wake me up, right?”
“(sighs). I guess. Early in the morning, you get to see my adorable face.”
“A little too early, on some days. Is your father up yet?”
“I’ll spare him today. After all, it’s the first day of summer break!”

“Excited, aren’t you? Do you have any plans?”
“Yea. Piper and I are going shopping at the mall—I think she wants new shoes.”
“Well, don’t keep her waiting! If you stop by the grocery store, can you remember to get—”

“Eggs. Got it.”
“How did you know we were out of eggs?”
“Intuition, mental fortitude, and stunning brilliance. I… I guess I had a feeling.”
“A feeling, huh? Seems like we had the same dream.”

“Mom, you know that I don’t have dreams. And stop smiling at me like that—you look like dad!”
“It’s nice, isn’t it? Awakening from dreams into a fond remembrance of the present, twinkling in halcyon thought… and off she goes! Be safe out there! Come back in one piece!”
“Of course, mom! I’ll be back before you know it.”

High in the sky, briefly scattered by a caramel sun streaking across velvet pools of azure, cottony wisps dance alongside the little girl, peering protectively, familiarly. For just a second, they converge into a loose V of a smile before dissipating into the docile summer day.