Three Storiesby Ben Tripp
They seem quirky and wonderful. They write books or want to write books that, for instance, might endear you to those strangers sitting around & nearby in a local coffee shop. The title must be attractive, like the cover design. Someone recognizes the art used on the cover if it is maybe a reproduction of some old and well-known painting or photograph. A smiling, inquiring young stranger might ask, “Is that a good book?” And you will explain it is basically a novel about intentionality, being young, attractive and wonderful. This book could ruin your life. Quirky happenstance you can relate to, and relate to others if asked about it. It is certainly a possibility...something like fodder for your own relationships; say, like you could lend it to your emotionally confused friend or book-lover or a parent. It’s a story about growing up, falling in love, living in the city, thinking about the country, dealing with your family, trying to be a writer, getting lost, getting your heart broken, falling in love again, taking the subway, making coffee in the morning, listening to the radio, going to work, hating your job, wanting more, reading funny shit online, losing touch with people visiting the bookstore, getting “wasted”, thinking about going back to school, being broke, trying to find work, finding out about yourself, learning the truth, getting old, and dying. It makes you feel like you could’ve written it. The author probably felt the same way about another similar book they read before they wrote theirs. So where did it all start and how do I get in on it? A novel a lot like the one you have just put down, and finished somewhat reluctantly. You didn’t want it to end. You didn’t want the people in the coffee shops approaching you and asking you what you were reading.
No One Will Sleep With Me
No one will sleep with me. Everywhere I go throughout this city I notice how most people have someone to sleep with. I can’t help but feel jealous for those sleepy couples I see together on the trains, surely on their way home, they lean on one another. Or even couples biking together...everywhere, the church a block away from my apartment, my friends I see when I go out at night. Later on the internet they will all post pictures of themselves and the people they are sleeping with.
I, on the other hand, am perpetually awake. If I were to suddenly fall asleep, to let it just come over me, maybe someone would appear. That seems idiotic to think...though I take some solace in the fact that my being awake endows me with this time I have to accomplish things not limited to but including essays, translating my new favorite Pan-American authors, great elderflower rum, cooking extraordinary meals for myself, and going through some of my mail. However I would trade it all for sleep, especially with someone beside me, or near me, or I could know they’re nearby maybe just in the next room, quiet with their own activity, but also so that my own sleep will not be disturbed.
I. Huayna Capac
Long before Christianity, the nomadic Incan peoples first settled between two mighty rivers their capital “Cuzco” on that great continent spanning vertically north-south from pole to pole. The burgeoning Egyptian and Chinese empires lay to the east, and the warlike Aztecs just to the south. Inca’s second city, the industrious fur-trading center of Tiwanaku, was founded one thousand and seventy-five years later, just as Persia and Spain were also developing along Inca’s west/northwest borders.
The ready legions of Incan Quecha warriors (unrivaled in melee combat during this period) ensured there would be peace, safety and prosperity despite the frequent barbarian onslaughts. These foreign attacks at their worst once brought Tiwanaku to its knees in 1075 B.C. Though the city would be recaptured shortly thereafter.
Incan wisemen studied new methods of mining, the wheel, meditation, animal husbandry, hunting, fishing and archery at an astounding pace...bringing about sweeping technological advances that made neighbors envious. Frederick of faraway Germany actually converted to Buddhism, while Isabella of Spain adopted Hinduism.
Tiwanaku was an important industrial center of the Incan empire even as far back as 1000 B.C. due to the abundance of fur being traded in camps along the city’s outskirts. A roving cadre of French militants had originally recaptured the Incan City from the Barbarian state, but Huayna Capac needed it back so badly that he resorted to a declaration of war with Louis XIV in order to reclaim it for himself and his people. The French lands lay far to the north anyway. This was not their rightful territory, and of course Huayna Capac did not wish for Louis XIV to possess such a major stronghold so close to the Incan capital. All the same, Louis had done Huayna a favor by fighting off the Barbarians’ establishment.
After reinstating Incan rule over the city and its rich trade economy in 900 B.C., the two rulers did make peace. But Louis never forgave Huayna for what he viewed nonetheless as a kind of selfish behavior, and overall shameless disregard for diplomacy. The act would go down on record as one of the greatest transgressions ever committed against the French empire.
The French were on their way to becoming one of the most powerful clans of people in the world, and one to be reckoned with. The first real war the world had ever seen began in 490 A.D.
Montezuma’s Jaguar troops marched on Cuzco in an attempt to capture Incan lands and expand the Aztec territories past the arctic lands in the south. The Aztec people were restless, having been stuck in the southern arctic far too long between Persia and China. Old power-hungry Montezuma thought the only solution would be to push north with his military towards the fertile river valleys and coastal plenitudes of the Inca.
It was a foolish decision. Less than 100 years later, the Aztec city of Tlaxcala fell to the Incan counterattack. The year was 580 A.D. Then Texcoco fell similarly, and Tlatelolco—which skirted the borders of the distant Roman empire—causing emperor Caesar to take notice of Huayna’s efforts. Huayna Capac and the Incan civilization was not only fast becoming a locus of scientific advancement and trade, but now had a formidable military presence spreading across the continent.
Xochilco was another that fell. The Incan armies decided to pillage and raze this puny city built on the ice, shortly after conquering it. In the far northwest meanwhile, Louis XIV had declared war on Mansa Musa and the Malinese: a civilization Huayna Capac had never even heard of, let alone traded or conversed with. Huayna Capac made peace with Montezuma in 840 A.D. after Aztec troops managed to halt the Incan advance outside Teotihuacan, and the capital city of Tenochitilan. Louis XIV drafted a treaty with Mansa Musa twenty years later, and the world knew peace as never before. Leaders everywhere adopted serfdom, theocracy, civil service, vassalage and hereditary rule. The peace lasted for over five hundred years, until France and Mali again started a war. This time the until-that-point-little-known coastal nation of Japan took sides with Mansa Musa. The Malinese city of Awdaghost fell to the French in 1429 A.D. while Huayna Capac luxuriated in his city’s new Hanging Gardens, discovering divine rights.
The war to the northwest was confusing. Ambassadors from France narrowly convinced Huanya Capac to also declare war on Tokugawa in 1437. What remained of the Aztec empire now began to rally itself too, against the Malinese, in line with France. Then the two suddenly made peace. Huanya Capac discovered gunpowder and saw an opportunity to take more of the Aztec lands, as the French, Malinese and Japanese empires had all grown so big. Otherwise, Inca would be surrounded on all sides. Since they had better technology, Huayna Capac would do what Montezuma had originally wanted to do. The Inca would expand via conquest, of his weakest neighbors and age-old foe, the Aztecs.
It was pure atavism: or like déjà vu six hundred years later. Teotihuacan fell in 1484 A.D. Just as Huayna Capac always dreamed. Montezuma had learned some new tricks though and once again the Incan troops were halted before reaching the southernmost city, the crown jewel of the southern arctic: the Aztec capital of Tenochitlan.
At any rate, Montezuma was ruler now of a mere two-city empire. To the east yet another war had begun between Egypt and Rome. Rome started it and took Alexandria in 1544. War spread like a disease for the next two hundred years: Spain joined in against Egypt. Japan was now at war with Germany in the west. Huayna Capac tried to exempt himself and his people from it all, founding island cities near the barbarian continent’s jungle shores, forging new economies of fish, clam and crab. In 1597 A.D., the Incan Golden Age had officially begun with the construction of the Taj Majal and free market trading systems. The war between Rome and Egypt ended. China declared war on Japan. China had been asleep between Rome and Egypt until then.
1608 was the infamous year when out of nowhere, after having brooded over cultural differences and long-past transgressions, Louis XIV once and for all declared a full-on war against Huayna Capac and the Incan nation, in an effort to exploit the weaknesses of the Incan military along the northwest border. Louis had a defensive pact with Montezuma, who would gladly rise up against the Incans again however he could. Isabella in the immediate north had also fallen under Louis’ sway, and was at war because the Spanish were all Hindi. They saw Buddhism as a heathen religion.
It was three against one. No one would help Huayna Capac. He had to re-adopt slavery and install a police state. He halted all scientific research and other cultural production, and instituted a draft. A wall of French knights swept over the Incan countryside like a plague, pillaging farmlands and obliterating roads, destroying the fur traders’ camps and advancing on the great city of Machu Picchu. Over a dozen battalions of French knights, horse archers and swordsman had traveled half way across the continent to battle. How could Huayna Capac rally his standing armies in time, while maintaining a southern front to quell the Aztec invasion, as well as the two-pronged assault from the northwest?
Spain and Persia were Louis XIV’s gateway to Incan lands. Louis had no navy to speak of. Persia was neutral. How had Cyrus of Persia allowed for Louis’ troops to pass through? How could he have agreed to open borders? Persia wanted to remain neutral; they wouldn’t ally with Huanya Capac, and they wouldn’t cancel any deals with Louis. Huanya Capac’s only hope was to concentrate on a counter-offensive into Spain. Defend Machu Picchu from the French knights, and pray that the remaining garrison to the south would be sufficient against the Aztec threat.
It worked. Inca saw thirty years of the bloodiest fighting ever, along with the decimation of nearly half their crops and villages, but in 1621 A.D. Toledo in the north fell to the Incan empire. That same year the Aztec city of Calixtlahuaca fell in the south. Seville fell in 1633, Barcelona & Cordoba in 1636. The Incan pikeman stood fast in defense of Machu Picchu, withering the ranks of the French knights and other horsemen. They were especially good against these mounted units. Tenochtitlan fell in 1637 to the Inca’s advanced warfare, after a steady siege with catapults. With it, the last city, all the Aztec civilization had been finally assimilated.
The Spanish capital of Madrid fell in 1645. Now to continue any offense, without a navy Louis would have to send his troops through Japan and Germany, and then through Persia. All his initial forces had been destroyed in their attempts to take Machu Picchu.
Spain signed a peace treaty with Huayna Capac after retreating and moving their capital to the northern arctic island-city colonies. With the added resources from the captured Aztec cities, Huayna Capac mustered up a navy to patrol the coastal waters around Spain to ensure no French troops might still be ferried over to the old battlefronts that way. Huayna Capac began to rebuild the ransacked areas outside Machu Picchu and the Persian border, as there seemed to be no more French threat.
Free speech & serfdom were adopted once again and France turned its’ sights on Germany. There was more war in the east between Rome and Egypt, but Inca saw none of it. For the next one hundred years, scientists went back to work discovering steel, Communism and Democracy. Huayna Capac adopted emancipation as a civic. The island cities to the east beyond Egypt, near the unknown continent, all began to flourish.
At the turn of the 20th Century the Incan military embarked on their most ambitious journey yet with state-of-the-art tanks, infantry & artillery. They traveled to the unknown continent to invade those barbarian shores, that had been for so long both admired and feared by the island inhabitants.
It used to be that barbarian galleys ruled the seas there. There was no hope of establishing a foothold on the unknown continent. It took a long time for the first settlers to even start cities on the outermost islands without getting intercepted beforehand. But Huayna Capac improved the navy over time. The island Inca folk could see how big the barbarian island cities were, all along that coast stretching from pole to pole. Those pure barbarians with rifles and expansive infrastructure! They had been developing there undisturbed for almost a millennium, complete with agriculture, roads and everything. The cities of Gaul, Angle, Nubian, Carib, Gepid, Zhou, Ghuzz, Liturgian and Sycthia. The barbarian spawns wherever the light of civilization doesn’t reach.
Many other nations before, such as the Chinese, Spanish, French and the Malinese had all tried to settle on the unknown continent, but to no avail...always encumbered, and often eradicated by roaming barbarian vigilantes. A large, concentrated Chinese colony known as “Baoding” was captured and razed by the Barbarian State in 1905.
Incan tanks first secured the southernmost barbarian city of Liturgian. Sycthia fell in 1907. Now there was a united front (or flank) to head northward and capture more Barbarian State. The navy came with battleships and destroyers to lay siege to the coastal barbarian cities of Ghuzz and Carib. Ghuzz fell in 1923, but the barbarians took it back that same year. Sure, the Inca had tanks. But the barbarians had the numbers, and studious guerrilla tactics. Still, Ghuzz was Incan again by 1942. It was the island city of Zhou that was the real tough one. It fell in 1954, at the expense of many tanks and infantry.
Meanwhile, back on the mainland, the Apollo Program was underway. A proper space race began between Huayna Capac and their age-old military rival Louis XIV, and also Egypt. With a spaceship in the making, and an empire spanning two continents (not to mention all the islands) Huayna Capac’s power grew unquestionable. Yet there would be one more test.
China declared war on the Inca in 1990. They thought the Incan army would be too distracted on the other continent—fighting the barbarians—to do anything. Mao Zedong was wrong like Isabella and Montezuma had been before him. While the Inca were certainly not expecting it, Huayna Capac rallied; enacting slavery and the police state again to hurry the production of a newly formidable counter-offensive army.
Again, no one wanted to help out. Rome and Egypt would not join Huayna Capac in his defense. No matter. He didn’t need it.
The Chinese still had the one settlement on the unknown continent near where Huayna Capac had established his military front many years ago. Those Chinese armies managed to capture an Incan worker in the borderlands, but the Incan retaliation was swift. Huayna Capac diverted some spare troops to capture and raze Baoding. That was the first victory. The Chinese underestimated both the versatility and sheer extent of the Incan armies on both continents.
China wanted the new continent for themselves, but all of the Chinese settlements there were captured within ten years. On the mainland, Incan armies captured and razed Nanjing and Chonguing. After another ten years, the Chinese had lost Chengdu. Shanghai fell in 2002. An Incan governor was installed in Gangzhou along the Roman border. Both Beijing and Hangzhou fell in 2007.
All that remained were three tiny island Chinese settlements off of Spain. They were conquered in 2046 thanks to heavy bombardment by Incan battleships, and bombers from allied Madrid across the water. Huanya Capac could now focus on the barbarians, and win a time victory.
In 1990, Germany began a massive tactical nuclear strike against the Roman Empire; partially in solidarity with the ongoing Mongolian war effort against Rome, but moreover, in an attempt to stem Roman cultural influence on the great continent. 1975 saw Russia’s subjugation to Roman rule while Greece had already fallen to German armies in 1842. Its last outpost cities of Corinth and Thermopylae lay nestled deep within Mongolian territory along Rome’s northwest border.
With the annexed Russian lands, Rome now commanded the largest swath of the continent, spanning laterally from one ocean to the other. They were second only perhaps to Arabia in the southeast. The Arabians conquered Spain in 1972. They posed no threat. However, they did not maintain open borders agreements with Rome, nor foster trade pacts of any kind. The comparatively minuscule nation of Egypt, also ensconced further to the East along an isthmus, was cut-off because of Arabia, and thus remained neutral.
Germany had flourished for centuries on a continent of its own far off to the East. It conquered England during the Renaissance around 1560. Rome declared war on Germany in 1814 during both nations’ war against Greece, but soon made peace in 1830 after the capture and razing of the city of Sparta. Athens and Delphi were already under German control on the great continent’s western-most tip. Rome declared war on Mongolia in 1969, swiftly occupying the city of Bulgar the following year. 1981 saw the fall of Pharsalos in the midst of Mongolian guerrilla counterattack. In 1982, Rome captured Tiflis. The first “ICBM” intercontinental ballistic (nuclear) missile ever to be launched on earth struck the Mongolian capital of Karakorum in 1983; then another on New Sarai the following year. In 1989, reports spread also of ICBMs exploding over Ning-Hsia and Old Sarai. By this time, both Arabia and German had finished constructed strategic defensive initiatives, using satellite technology to safeguard their own countries from likely similar attacks.
Germany launched seven more nukes against Rome after declaring war in 1990: striking the capital city, along with the major centers of Antium, Neapolis, Cumae, Moscow, Novogorod and Pisae. Antium, a coastal city bordering Arabia, fared remarkably well despite the two consecutive nuclear blasts that obliterated all nearby farm fields, the railroads, pastures, mines and hamlets. That same year, despite German satellite defenses, Rome retaliated with a nuclear strike over London. This devastated the English fishing industry.
Germany had pledged full air & naval support for Mongolia by 1992. The balance of power had shifted radically...now Arabia stood at the top, with Rome diminished by nuclear winter; and likewise for Germany, to a certain degree, with the devastation over the long ago assimilated English town of London.
A fierce Roman counterattack in 1995 resulted in the recapture of the Mongolia border city of Tiflis. German air divisions in the city of Turfan just to the north fell back hard. Mongolian reinforcements were nowhere to be found. Mongolian air forces still tried work the length of the border, bombarding advancing forces, the Roman armor, as well as mines, farms, wind and various lumber mills.
Two more nukes struck Rome in 1997. Yaroslavl on the mid-Eastern border, and Rostov. Arpinium in 1999. Germany would exploit Rome’s vulnerability to nuclear attack for as long as possible.
The nuclear fallout greatly accelerated a global warming process, and the desiccation of once fertile lands the world-over.
BEN TRIPP will be reading his poetry alongside Drew Gardner's Poetics Orchestra this month on Oct. 17, 2015 at the Zinc Bar, as part of the Segue Reading Series. Perhaps you will see this bio in time to attend, or if not...your loss.