thehollowpartofme

Contact Mark Eagleton at
shakespearneeverdidthis@gmail.com or look me up on Facebook where I post about Satanism, Black Metal, Horror Cinema and assorted other weirdness.

thathollowpartofme:

Some nights after his meeting with the other ‘Fathers With Murdered Children’ he would drive home in a cocoon.  His body wound tight.  There was no release there.  No answers.  Just grief.

Other Fathers crying.  Other Fathers holding their faces in their hands.  Other fathers who couldn’t feel anything else.

Their moans came from deep down, some otherworldly sound that reached out, grabbing at nothing.

They all mourned for the same thing – some past point in their life where they could change the moment where they had failed.  That moment when they had let their child go outside to play or hadn’t told their daughter they had a bad feeling about the man they loved.

There were always those moments, countless, where they had failed.  Always the moment when they should have said no.

And they howled and talked and gasped and snot and tears ran free and there was nothing they could do.

It was an eternity.  The feeling of permanence was everywhere.  You couldn’t get away from it.

This was an everlasting thing.

And he knew it like nothing else.

He saw the sixty year old man whose daughter was strangled twenty seven years ago and he knew there would never be an end to it.

The way it engulfed you.  Took over everything.  The way it seemed to just pop into your head like something you had forgotten to do – my child was murdered.

A light snuffed out.  A great black spot in the world that would never regain color.

He was one of these Fathers, but he would never be one of them.

He never spoke, couldn’t do it.  Never said the words that made up his story.  Sat there unmoving, a child with his hands on his knees.  Fists.  White knuckles.

Half way home he would pull over and scream.  Cars rushing by him.  His forehead pushed into the steering wheel.

He remembered how there had once been a time of perfection in his life.  A time when everything had fallen into place.

He’d been right in the middle of it.  In the center.  Perfection.  The first and only time.

It would never be his again.

Sometimes, he didn’t know what he was mourning – the loss of his son or that feeling.  The feeling of rightness.  The feeling that this is why you are alive.  The real meaning behind it all.

His son.  His son in the back of a strange car.  His son crying.  His son begging.  Saying no, no, no.  His son in a dark room, sweating men all around him.  Heavy breathing.  His son, dead, wrapped in a bloody blanket.  The boot of a car.  A shallow grave.

A nightmare.

A room with no exits.

That was it.  An end to the story.

You wake up one day and they tell you they found some bones in a pine forest somewhere.  Chewed on by animals.

The rest is silence.  Nothing.  A place where you don’t hear anything but the grinding of your teeth.

And your wife screaming.

You will never forget it.  The way her lungs seemed never to run out of air.

The soundtrack to the rest of your life.

An echo in your ears that never went away – the sound of your wife screaming.

You standing there.  Not able to go to her.  And her not wanting you to.

Some nights he would take that first step into the house and know, he could feel it, that something bad was heading his way.  She’d be standing in the kitchen, under the bright light, a glass of wine dangling in her small hand.

Lips stained purple.  An almost smile.

Broken glass.  Wine dripping down his face onto his white shirt.

He didn’t have to say anything.  His appearance was enough.  The way he looked. Or something.  The way he moved.

Waiting for him.  Brooding.  Her eyes glossed over.

Afterwards he sat out on the front lawn, the grass cool and moist underneath his ass.  He looked up at the sky and threw questions at no one.   Sometimes he laughed or wept or did both at the same time.  He lay back in the grass and imagined a flying saucer hovering above him, a stunning light all around, swallowing, lifting up and carrying him away.

A beautiful dream.  Octopus arms probing him.

Take me anywhere, he thought, do anything.

For years he begged her to love him and then she did, but now she hated him more than anything and he wondered if the things you fought hardest for were the worst things.  Things you shouldn’t have in the first place.  Only thought you needed.

When you got them they gleamed strong for a little while and then went dull and gray when they were still warm in your hands.  It was all too quick.  All of a sudden you were here.  The front lawn – a haven.  A secret room.

He didn’t blame her.  There had always been a little something disappointing about him.  Something he was born with.  Skilled at letting people down.  A disappointment artist.  In his DNA.  Even if it was unclear what he was doing wrong or how he failed.

But it was there.  Always.  The way they looked at him.  His father’s confusion – how did I create this?  The sense that, maybe, he had somehow tricked a person into loving him.  Or else, they had no choice but to love him because he belonged to them in some way.

She never followed him outside.  Maybe he wasn’t worth chasing.

Wanted to be rid of him.  Couldn’t stand him in the same building.

In the morning she would find him in the spare room.

What’re doing in here, she’d ask.

I’m sorry, she’d say.

I didn’t mean it.

Her in the doorway.  His back to her.

I love you, she’d tell him.

And, his heart, it was hers.  It wasn’t even that he forgave her.  He didn’t have to.  When she crawled into the spare bed with him and curled against him, her body up against his, he counted the seconds.  If he breathed as slow as possible it might last forever.  This.

There was a warmth there. An unexplainable thing.  A wet, curling thing that repulsed him and drew him deeper.  Lungs full of water.  Little bubbles of air escaping his nostrils.  Her fingers, needles.

In the kitchen, blood, where she’d stepped on broken glass.  Drying now.

When he was alone, he would get down on all fours and lap it up with his tongue.  A gift.

The closeness was unbearable.

She goes out in the mornings and doesn’t come back until late in the afternoon.  I don’t know where she goes.  I tried following her once but I lost her while waiting for an opportunity to cross the street.  Scooters sped all around me, horns beeping, and I couldn’t keep my eyes on her without the possibility of being struck down.

What do you do, I ask her.

Look at things, she says, shrugs her shoulders, not interested.

Do you meet people?

Sometimes.

What people?

She shrugs again, just people.

I want to ask more but I know it will go on like this for as long as I ask.  There will be no answers, not really.  She looks at people.  She had Pho for lunch.  She drank ice-tea in a park and ate a nice pastry.

Sometimes she buys things.  Dresses.  A jade Buddha she keeps by the phone that never rings.  A small conical hat made for a small child.  She places the hat by the TV.  It stays there for days and then one morning, when I wake, it is gone.

I want to ask her what happened to it but I don’t.  I remain silent.

There is a slow disintegration taking place.  She is disappearing.  Vanishing.

At night she closes her eyes and falls asleep immediately.  A deep unconscious state.  Stiff as a board.

My hands hover her, unable to touch.

I want to tell her things.  I want to tell her secrets I have never shared with anyone.  I want to whisper esoteric magic into her deaf ears.  Spells of protection.  Spells of truth telling.

But the truth never passes her lips.

When she is in the shower I make myself coffee and wait for her to say something.  But she never says anything and by the time I have the coffee cup in my hand I am alone in the hotel room and it was as though she was never there.

I take breaths so deep they echo through the room as though it were a cavern.

This is not everything, I tell myself, this is not all there is.

But nothing answers me and I am alone and I wish I were not alone.

It’s okay, I say, to no one, as though she was there with me.

But it’s always an empty room and there is always the feeling that someone is watching me and that I’m doing something wrong.  I sip my coffee and feel as though I am failing at something, failing her, and there is never a way to correct myself.

This is it, I think, this is it.

Some nights after his meeting with the other ‘Fathers With Murdered Children’ he would drive home in a cocoon.  His body wound tight.  There was no release there.  No answers.  Just grief.

Other Fathers crying.  Other Fathers holding their faces in their hands.  Other fathers who couldn’t feel anything else.

Their moans came from deep down, some otherworldly sound that reached out, grabbing at nothing.

They all mourned for the same thing – some past point in their life where they could change the moment where they had failed.  That moment when they had let their child go outside to play or hadn’t told their daughter they had a bad feeling about the man they loved.

There were always those moments, countless, where they had failed.  Always the moment when they should have said no.

And they howled and talked and gasped and snot and tears ran free and there was nothing they could do.

It was an eternity.  The feeling of permanence was everywhere.  You couldn’t get away from it.

This was an everlasting thing.

And he knew it like nothing else.

He saw the sixty year old man whose daughter was strangled twenty seven years ago and he knew there would never be an end to it.

The way it engulfed you.  Took over everything.  The way it seemed to just pop into your head like something you had forgotten to do – my child was murdered.

A light snuffed out.  A great black spot in the world that would never regain color.

He was one of these Fathers, but he would never be one of them.

He never spoke, couldn’t do it.  Never said the words that made up his story.  Sat there unmoving, a child with his hands on his knees.  Fists.  White knuckles.

Half way home he would pull over and scream.  Cars rushing by him.  His forehead pushed into the steering wheel.

He remembered how there had once been a time of perfection in his life.  A time when everything had fallen into place.

He’d been right in the middle of it.  In the center.  Perfection.  The first and only time.

It would never be his again.

Sometimes, he didn’t know what he was mourning – the loss of his son or that feeling.  The feeling of rightness.  The feeling that this is why you are alive.  The real meaning behind it all.

His son.  His son in the back of a strange car.  His son crying.  His son begging.  Saying no, no, no.  His son in a dark room, sweating men all around him.  Heavy breathing.  His son, dead, wrapped in a bloody blanket.  The boot of a car.  A shallow grave.

A nightmare.

A room with no exits.

That was it.  An end to the story.

You wake up one day and they tell you they found some bones in a pine forest somewhere.  Chewed on by animals.

The rest is silence.  Nothing.  A place where you don’t hear anything but the grinding of your teeth.

And your wife screaming.

You will never forget it.  The way her lungs seemed never to run out of air.

The soundtrack to the rest of your life.

An echo in your ears that never went away – the sound of your wife screaming.

You standing there.  Not able to go to her.  And her not wanting you to.

When the dead boy first appeared he knew his son was not coming back.  The pain he’d been carrying around for the last five months would now be replaced by something more permanent.  A feeling that would never go away.

He first saw the boy in the closet, face to the wall.  A splash of blonde hair in the darkness.  He knew the boy was dead.  Some kind of instinct told him the boy was not alive.  That he was a ghost or spirit or something.

He closed his eyes and counted to five.  When he opened them the boy was gone and he was alone.  He knew he son was gone from the earth.  Spirit departed its earthly trappings.

A week later they found part of his son in a national park.  The body gnawed on by wild animals.  The head removed.  The head somewhere else.  The head tossed aside or buried elsewhere or kept as a token.

Who could know for certain?

He knew this was coming, had been expecting it, but still it him a knockout blow.  A punch to the kidneys that buckled him at the knees.

God, he thought, God.

But there was only silence.

He felt the presence of the dead boy, somewhere behind him, and his wife crying in another room.

In another version of this story he would hang himself out of despair.  But in this version he only drinks himself into the blackest space he can find.

It’s there that he finds that he is most afraid.

As the darkness swallows him he can feel himself sinking into it, as though the bed were suddenly liquid.  He feels it on his skin, cold and thick.  When it fills his mouth it tastes like worn metal.

Floating in that muck he feels something touching him.  Long fingered hands.  In his ears, a barely heard whisper.  A nightmare voice, the message garbled.  A dry tongue against his ear.

Suspended in the darkness he is powerless to move and, below him, he can feel the physical form of his body.  He worries he is drifting away.  That he won’t be able to return.  That he will float like this forever.  Lost.

When he wakes there is always a bad taste in his mouth, always the knowledge that his son was cut up and buried in a shallow grave.  The knowledge that animals ate his son’s flesh and that someone removed his son’s head and hid it away.

Each time he opens his eyes for the first time the dead boy is there, face against the wall.  It is always the middle of the night.  His wife is always crying in some other room.  There is always the feeling that there is some way he can change all this.

How, he asks the dead boy, but the dead boy never speaks, never turns to look at him.  The dead boy is always silent.

He has come to suspect that the dead boy has come to punish him.  A constant reminder of his failings as a father.

Sometimes, he wonders who the dead boy is.  Where he came from.  Who he was before all this.  If he was once like his son, a boy with wild imagination, quick to smile.  If, like his son, the dead boy went out to play one day and never came home.  If his father raced up and down the surrounding streets at twilight, his heart quickly filling with a terrifying despair, if his father felt suddenly overcome with a fever, if cold sweat coated his skin in a slick layer.

Often he wonders if his son appears to this other father, if he haunts him in this quiet way, and if this father feels that he has lost everything that is good in his life.  A hole opening up beneath him and his feet perched on the edge and all it will take is a soft breeze to send him toppling downwards into all that nothingness.

But the truth is this is the last place I want to be.  I do not want to be parked outside my parents house in the dark thinking about how my brother had his face caved in with a cinder block.  How his nose crushed and flattened against his face and his teeth splintered and broke and got caught up in all the blood and ended up in his stomach and caught in his throat.  How one of his eye sockets crumbled and the eyeball was forced out onto his cheek, where it hung until another blow crushed it there.

Parked outside the house where we grew up.  Where we ate breakfast and watched cartoons before school.  Where we kicked the football back and forth across the green grass we took turns mowing on the weekends.  Where we argued and fought and threw punches and then forgave each other.

This is not the place for these images to fill my head.  But there is no losing them.

I will have them forever.  They are just things that belong to me now.

And in this way the place that was your home becomes something else entirely.  It’s no longer the place where you grew up with your older brother.  It’s the place where your brother was murdered.  His blood is mixed with the earth here.

He’s part of this place.

His body sunk in the water for days before it broke free of the rug and floated up towards the sky and broke the surface.  Fish and bugs ate holes in his skin.  Maybe when you’re watering the lawn or drinking water from the tap, maybe there’s a bit of him in there.

I don’t know.  It’s something to think about.

He can’t leave.  Not ever.  This is the one place he will always be bound to.  A spirit trapped for eternity in a place it never left.

Inside my parents house there are lights glowing from behind drawn curtains.  Inside my mother and father are standing at the kitchen bench, facing one another, and they are smoking cigarettes and drinking wine from a cardboard box.  Soon, they will be drunk and my mother will be crying, if she isn’t already.

My father will stand there and watch her cry.  Maybe he will tell her that Dan is in a better place now, one without worries or fears or pain.  Or maybe he will tell her that Dan, being the kind of person he was, is in hell now and forever.  It all depends on how drunk he is.

And the thing is, I’m here.  I’m sitting outside the home I haven’t seen in ten years.  I haven’t spoken to my parents in that long either.  Not a word.

I know the right thing would be to go inside and heal old wounds.  Restore something long broken.  But I don’t know that I’m ready for it or if now is the time.

As I ease the car into drive and begin my slow escape I think I see something from the corner of my eye.  For a second there I’m sure one of the curtains was a pulled aside and the small face of my mother appeared behind the glass, her features concealed by shadow.  But I do not turn to look, to make sure she is really there.  I press my foot harder on the accelerator and everything simply disappears.  Gone in an instant.

***

That night I get drunk in a hotel room with a view of the ocean and I think about my past in a way I haven’t in long time.

That’s one of the things death does to you, I guess.  When someone close to you dies it’s almost like an audit on your life.  An accounting of where you are going wrong.  Adjustments that need to be made.

When I was twenty I joined the army and never looked back.  I was fleeing in the most drastic way possible.

And it was easy.  If you are young and physically fit and willing to sign your life away for a number of years you can become something else.  You can become something you weren’t before.  Something better, stronger.  A living tool.

Before long you find yourself in place you never imagined being.  Bullets flying through the air towards you.  Your ears ringing with explosions.  The blood of someone you love like a brother covering you from head toe.  And you have to wonder if you were ever really escaping anything, if you were running towards something worse.  A nightmare of the worst kind.

I’d been trying to prove something.  To my parents.  To anyone who’d called me faggot in high school.  Maybe to myself.

In the end I didn’t prove anything to anyone, I don’t think.  Eight years in the military and I came out the other end carrying the kind of shit I should have been smart enough to avoid in the first place.  Stuff I’d seen in a bunch of fucking movies as a kid.

You end up vomiting your guts up behind a bar somewhere where you’re thinking about stuff you’d rather forget and there’s this voice screaming in your head.  You should have known better, is what it says.

It’s the stuff you’ve heard a million times before. Nightmares. Guilt. Paranoia. Anxiety.Night sweats. Binging on drugs and booze. Suicidal thoughts. You’ve read about it in the paper.  You’ve seen it on TV.

There’s no point in rehashing it here.

There is a cold wind blowing in off the ocean and up here on the tenth floor and in the morning I will wake up hungover and drive to my brothers funeral.  I will look into the eyes of my brother’s friends and maybe I will find what I’m looking for there.

When my phone rings and I see that is my boyfriend, Peter, I don’t answer.  I know what he will say.  I know that he will want to talk about why I insisted on coming down here alone and maybe about why he discovered my gun missing from the top of the closest where it usually rests.  He will want to know what I am doing, what is going on in my head, why I would take a gun to a funeral.

And the truth is there are no answers to these things.  There are only the words I might use to appease him, to take his fear away.  But there are no answers to any of the things he will ask.  There are only the lies I will tell him and the pain he will feel after.

There are some things you do without knowing why or with the pretense of not knowing.  Maybe you feel compelled to take three works off work and hide a handgun under your spare tire when you hear you brother was murdered.  Maybe you feel driven towards something as yet unseen.  A conclusion of sorts.

After beating him they took turns dropping a cinder block on his head.  This was meant to finish him off, I suppose, but when they rolled him up in someones old rug and pushed his body into the dam he was still alive.

Death by drowning.  Though the the brain injuries would have killed him anyway.

Probably, he didn’t even know what was happening in the end.

This last part was told to me by a police officer as though it was meant to mean something.  As though maybe my brother being oblivious to his drowning was something I should be grateful for.  But, in the end, all of this it just adds up to the same thing.

Some men took my brother, older than me by four years, to a quiet place by a dam and murdered him amongst the pine needles there.  No matter which way you look at it, the result is the same.

There is nothing to be grateful for there.  No relief to be found in the facts.

The facts are plain and merciless and they leave no room for doubt.  There was fear and pain and blood.  There was one man in the midst of a few.  Only one possible outcome.

It’s a hard thing to think about.  Difficult to wrap your head around.  But you can’t hide from it or dress it up as anything else.  It just keeps on coming.  Just keeps on rising to the surface of your brain and even though you weren’t there you can see it all.

An observer to something you never wanted to see.  But that’s how it works.  Acts like that, they reach out to you and grip you in a way you never knew was possible.  Locked in there now forever.  A unending snuff film looping in your skull.

His eyes looking up past their faces, up towards the pines and the scraps of sky visible through the branches.  And then the inevitable cement block, the one they brought with them, hovering over everything.  Blocking out the last beautiful thing.

Low Down Death Right Easy

Brothers.  Younger brothers.  Older ones.  If you’ve got one then this novel is going leave you with a few gaping wounds you’re going to be carrying around for a while.  They’re not going to heal quickly.

Or at least that’s how I felt when I closed this one.

What we’ve got here is the story of two sets of brothers in West Texas.  Their lives are going to become tangled up in a net of drugs and murder and the question you’re left with is - what can you do to protect someone who can’t be protected from themselves?

You know that things aren’t going to end well.  You can feel it.  It’s in the writing.  In the the pared to the bone prose that swallows you up and sets you down somewhere dark.  Kind of like the lives these characters inhabit.

You know things aren’t going to end well, but you want them to.  You want good things to happen to them.  For their futures to be different futures.  For their decisions to be different decisions.

But for the people in this book there’s no escaping those dark clouds that have been lurking on the horizon since the day they were born.  It’s like they’ve been waiting for it their whole lives.  And now it’s here and they’re not surprised.

It was always going to happen.

That’s how some lives are. A lot of lives.  They don’t end well and they were never going to end well.  And sometimes you can try to make it different, you can do your best to change the course of someone you love, but people aren’t boats.  And even if they were the sea sure as shit ain’t calm.

This is what it’s like to watch someone you love fuck up.  This is what it’s like to not be able to do anything about it.  You’re just there in the aftermath, wondering if you did enough.  But it’s never really enough, is it?

This is a book I’ll be reading again.  One of those books like Dennis Johnson’s Angels I’ll return to every couple of years just so I can reopen the wounds it gave me the first time.  Some wounds are essential.

This Road Leads Nowhere

This road has nothing but death at the end of it.

He must have known.  Gravel crunching beneath tires.  Dust in the air.  Windows down, blowing grit in his eyes.  He must have felt it.  Death at the end of the line.  A simple fact.  No denying it.

It would have weighed on him, that truth.  Maybe.  Or maybe he felt weightless, knowing what was coming, a peculiar kind of relief.  Everything coming to an end.  No more waiting.

No more searching it out in bottles of booze and pills.  No more that bewildered anger he carried with him everywhere.  That rage that boiled up in bars and fizzled out in the back of a paddy waggon with the other busted up drunks on their way to no place.

Maybe he he rested his head back and looked out the rear window up at the stars through the tall pines and he tried not to think about what was coming.  Tried to think good thoughts.  The good clean thoughts of his youth.

Maybe he thought of him and I.  Us playing Conan with plastic swords.  Playing Rambo with plastic combat knives.  That little shiver of excitement when the blade ran across your throat and for a second you felt you knew what it was like to die.

Good thoughts.  Things that came before this.  Before the madness swallowed everything.

His first time with a girl.  The first time his heart swelled up with love.  Some moment of dangerous abandon when he forgot everything, the whole world disappearing, and it was just that moment.  Nothing else.

Those quiet moments on the balcony, two brothers drunk on beer, all talked out.

Maybe those were the thoughts that found him in the backseat of that car, wedged between two men silent with thoughts of their own.

Moments like that have to have a feeling all of their own.  An electricity that can only exist right there and then.  Nowhere else.

The smell of something burning.  Windows down to let the air out.  Release the pressure.  But nothing works.  It doesn’t go anywhere, that feeling, it just hangs there close to the flesh.

They don’t know it yet, but it will take years to get that feeling off their skin.

***

Lots of people dream of never coming home.  Of escaping whatever it is they want to escape.  Never looking back.  Just winding up someplace else, anywhere, and just letting everything go.  The past.  An entire history.

You don’t want it to fade, you want it to wink out in an instant.

Close your eyes in a new place and wake up someone else.  A person you never were before.  Everyone must dream that once or twice in their lives.  And even if they don’t take it seriously they must, for a moment at least, experience that rush of comfort such thoughts bring.

To wake up a blank slate must be the most beautiful feelingin the world.

Or at least that’s how it seemed to me when I left home ten years ago with the truest intentions of never returning.  I was twenty years old and that ten hour drive was probably one of the highlights of my life.  It was almost as though I could feel the past pulling away from me in great chunks.

It was the most joyous pain in the world.

You can’t relive an experience like that.  Once it’s gone, there’s no going back and finding it again.  It’s just one of those one time things that you can waste a lifetime trying to find again.

But it doesn’t exist anymore.  That was it.

Coming back to that place you swore you’d never set foot in again is a different sort of feeling altogether.  Driving the streets of your youth you realize that you were always headed back here, that no matter how much you believed otherwise, you were on a long, winding road that led right here.  To this spot.

Something was always going to pull you back.  And even if you didn’t see it coming it was always there, waiting for you.  No matter how hard you try you can’t stop a place from existing.  It goes on without you.

And when you are pulled up outside the house where you grew up and you are bent over in the front of your car sobbing, you will feel that this place, your hometown is alive, the night a rush with its breathing.

 

Back then there was an ease to it.  There was just the simple, clean pleasure of it.  It flowed from some natural place.  Maybe I could never pinpoint it, but it was there and it made me happy.

It’s a nice feeling when you have something, that one thing that makes you feel whole, an entire person.  When you’re young, especially then, it gives you a strength you wouldn’t have otherwise.  A sense that maybe you can get through what might have otherwise defeated you.

As a teenager this is helpful.  In those hopeless moments there is always something to turn to.  A release valve.  A place to retreat, take cover, find answers.

Because the answers were always there if you looked for them.

Sometimes it comes back to me, that lost feeling, it comes floating back at unexpected times.  A memory or something more than that.  The memory of something gone forever.  A place you can never return to or a feeling you can never recapture.

It’s just gone.  But you remember it sometimes and its memory fills you with this great expanse of sorrow.  Because, if you could, you’d go back there and you’d stay forever.  You would never leave because it was the one time you felt safe.

You knew you belonged there.

It does not disappear suddenly.  It does not happen overnight.  You do no wake up one morning and find that it has gone.

It happens without your knowledge.  A slow drip.  You don’t even feel it happen.

But there will come a moment when you are sitting there and you will realize that it’s gone.  That some fundamental part of you has dried up.  There is nothing left.  The place it used to be is an empty room.  That thing you considered the most important part of who you are has withered and you didn’t defend it or fight for it or anything.

You weren’t even there to watch it die.  News of its death came so late it’s hard to even mourn its passing.

All that matters, really, is that it’s gone.  You don’t have it anymore.  What you do have is a new perspective on things.  A fresh understanding that this thing you call a life is never going to change.  Those dreams you used to have, they’re ashes now.  They’re shreds of paper at the bottom of a trashcan somewhere.

All this, it’s nothing.  It’s a ghost, man.

It’s someone tired and worn to a nub reaching for shadows and coming up with empty hands.  It’s the shell of something ancient, long gone from the world, dead for centuries.