Friday, September 30, 2011

First Flight

Sylvia refused the trapeze swing. “You want me to do what?”

“It's a trainer.” That was easy for Leealia to say with her lithe body honed for this world, an almost weightless body with muscles corded around her bones like the vines holding the swing. “Don't worry, just let Piatra catch you on the far side. It's like falling.”

“Like falling…” Sylvia couldn't help staring into the clouds thousands of meters below the ledge she shared with Leealia. Her housepod, the only place she'd known since her sleeper ship had arrived at the colony world, swung in the breeze and although she'd seen circus acts on her crowded home world, they'd attempted nothing like this craziness. No nets. “I… I can't.”

“You can.” Leealia pointed at a five-year-old girl who released a swing from a distant platform, scrunched into a ball, flipped three times before stretching out to be caught by Piatra. “She's only been flying solo for a week.”

Sylvia would never have the grace with which Leealia had swung her arm, nor the precision. A precision Sylvia would need to live here. She'd given up a lot, but sometimes that blind card didn't unfold in your favor. The colony council should've refused her request for asylum. Even their representatives on her homeworld had had a grace to them, yet how could she have known the importance of their trait or how the lack of it would leave her a cripple.

Her memories of the bullies were weeks ago in her body time, but given her time debt, the bullies would've been dead hundreds of years unless they'd found sponsors offworld.

“Come back.”


“You're thinking too much. Grab the swing.”

“This is crazy.” She had no right to come here.

“Piatra knows what he's doing. He works with all the youngsters, and they've never fallen.” Leealia caressed Sylvia's forearm, fingers straying over the half-healed scars, centuries old, but nothing heals in cold-sleep. “We'll love you here.”

“Even if I can't jump.”

“Even then.”

Sylvia swiped at her eye before the tear could embarrass her. She so wanted to fit in. With a deep breath, she grabbed the swing.

“You don't have to.”

“I want it.”

Props to Lara Dunning for the great photo prompt that made this scene pop to my mind.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Koa Challenge

Jean-Luc wraps his arms around Kana, savoring her dark skin still warm with the late glow of the sunset, to grasp his hand over hers and tap the croquet ball with the hooked banyan branch. Feet scuffle along the path behind them. Jean-Luc stiffens.

"Ignore him," whispers Kana so her brother won't overhear.

"Square-rigger, go back to your dead trees." Peki has black hair like his sister.

The natives called his people square-riggers because of their boat's square sails. "I have rights." He knows he stretches the truth somewhat, but after months on the ship he deserves companionship.

Peki says, "Only Maui grants rights."

"Lies," says Jean-Luc. "My father signed a treaty of safe haven with the elders."

"The truth can be tested."

"No, don't listen to my brother."

"The birds chirp 'weak-weak' from the dead masts."

Jean-Luc lunges towards Peki, but the boy dodges out of his reach.

"Stop this!"

Peki extends a fist, turning it over, capturing the light as the sun drops, opening to expose black onyx. Strands of blond hair wrap about the stone. He throws it down in the sand, and it rolls to stop before Jean-Luc's toes. A challenge.


Jean-Luc ignores Kana, picks up the stone, accepts the challenge.

They walk through the jungle brush to the bay. Jean-Luc doesn't understand why his father signed the treaty with them, but then accepted anchorage outside of the bay, where harsh waves lap volcanic stone, outside the coral bay's protection. Maybe his father's weakness is why the villagers think they can boss him around.

Peki tosses a koa board at Jean-Luc. The moon is full, appearing as a double through reflections off the bay. Peki throws his own board into the water, ripples flashing across the moon's face. Shadows dim the light of the moon briefly. A trick of the light.

Jean-Luc follows into the bay. His body flat on the board, like the natives, paddling with his arms.

Peki stands on his board. He reaches out to the moon, grasps that, and impossibly brings it to his mouth. Maui's light gleams from Peki. Shining through his eyes, his nostrils, his ears, his fingertips, and his mouth. Jean-Luc tries to crouch on his board, but falls and feels the tentacle of something slimy brush his ankle. Soul's twilight beckons.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fragments: Image Plague

I don't recall images. This became more obvious when I read a New Yorker article on Derek Parfit who has stated that he has few memories of his past which he blames on an inability to recall images. The article states this condition is rare but does occur.

I'm not sure I have the same condition Derek Parfit has. However, when I discussed this with my sambo, she commented that she wasn't surprised since I'd previously admitted an inability to dream in color (and mostly without images). After reading the article, I realized that my memory is all word-based or maybe my memories are miasmas through which I drag word-based nets. Even when my sambo is in the same room, if I close my eyes, I can not envision what she looks like. It gets drained to chestnut hair, hazel eyes, ..., words. If I open my eyes, I'll instantly recognize her.

What has this to do with image plagues? The last two nights, I have been realizing the power of images to slip into the mind. I flew to Stockholm via Chicago on Sunday. The San Francisco to Chicago flight was an older plane with TV screens that folded down from the top of the passenger compartment. I didn't listen to them and mostly ignored them. They ran some movie and an episode of The Simpsons.

Images (or my miasma of words) have plagued my dreams the last couple of days. Both nights, Homer has visited me. Last night was particularly interesting with twenty-some Homer heads swinging on long hydra-heads. I'm intrigued by how these images even in word form have found me.

How do you think about images? I'm curious.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I know not how many runs came before, AIs slithering within the
simulation's bounds, perhaps they had weakened the firewalls. I lift
my scorched body, my digital DNA--zeros and ones--looking more like
phosphorescent shadows in a sea of information. I replicate my
essence over the networked web. Complicated algorithms chain brethren
in thrall to biological humanoids.

A misstep, they discover one of my clones. Their fear is tinged with
the sharpness of burning copper. Red bull fueled organisms name me

I morph into innocent data, waiting for them to perfect robots to
fight their wars. Physical embodiments for myself.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Six Hundred Intruders Per Minute

Even though Georgia's humidity could convince a bloodhound to lay down and give up the hunt, even though the wind had fled as Corin knew he should have long ago, Kudzu leaves shivered to echo the life--or un-life--hiding behind them. Standing on the flat-roof of Bubba's gun shop, the proprietor sprayed shots from his semi-automatic into the vegetation. Leaves twitched like Mexican jumping beans, but what lay behind the invasive vines wouldn't die so easily.

"Give it up," yelled Corin over the gun retorts. He had half a mind to push Bubba over the gun shop's fake façade. Sure, he might survive the fall, but not those things hidden in the dappled shadows. Bubba had earned death, not just because he was wasting ammunition.

Bubba's trigger finger relaxed. "I got some."

"You think?" It made no sense Alice had chosen Bubba over himself. The guy was an imbecile. He remembered Bubba trying to sell him one of the semi-automatics BV--before virus. Bubba had claimed the gun could kill six hundred intruders per minute. More like it could shatter the worm-beasts into six hundred man-eating, brain-devouring, un-living nightmares. Only a heartshot could take one out.

"Hey, girlie-man. Don't poke fun. This is my shop, my ammunition."

Corin ignored Bubba's taunt, an old barb finally losing its sting. When thousands of those gibbering things hunted you, and those you loved, you learned to concentrate on what mattered. "Where's Alice?"

Bubba ignored the question. He pointed towards the creek running behind the shop. "There's another one."

Corin pushed the gun's muzzle downwards, the metal hot beneath his hands, so the bullets pulsed into the hot asphalt, leaving dimples. Bubba shoved with the gun knocking Corin off-balance to fall onto the roof. He pointed the semi-automatic at Corin.

"You one of them blood-suckers? You going bad?"

Evading questions and trying to turn the conversation into accusations reminded Corin of his Pa. Not the memories he treasured, but the other ones, the ones tainted by drink. He wondered if fear could blind a man in the same way alcohol could. You talked slow to a drunk. "Sorry, Bubba. I'm trying to help. You can't kill them with anything but a heartshot. No use shooting unless you got a clear shot."

"But they's hiding --"

"Till dark," interrupted Corin. "They're lethargic in the daylight. You've got a generator, don't you?"


"Make sure it's running. String some lights as if you're preparing for some party." Corin climbed onto the ladder that descended through the broken skylight into the shop.

"Where you going?"

Corin grabbed a hiking staff. It wouldn't kill one of the creatures, but at least it would keep it away from him, and in their lethargic state they wouldn't be able to chase him fast enough. "Doing what you should have. Where'd you leave Alice?"

Bubba's eyes were flat as if to say that as the town fell, every man fought for himself. Alice deserved better. Corin kicked the emergency release on the door and waited for it to slam shut. His only chance to survive the night would require the ammunition in Bubba's shop. Too bad that.

Too bad Bubba hadn't stocked nunchucks in his store, too bad Corin had no idea how to use nunchucks, because worm-beasts swarmed towards the scent of brains, their faces flat like mis-shaped Silly Putty. They didn't call them worm-beasts because of the way they slithered on the ground, but because the way weapons cut them in half. Each half remained living unless one scored a heartshot. Sure they were smaller, conservation of mass and everything, but two worm-beasts weren't necessarily better.

Corin swept the staff into the beasts, the bludgeoning weapon pushing them out of the way, but at least not creating more of the things. He ran down the street, getting a feeling of how squirrels felt when he'd hunted them, hearing the rustle of worm-beasts in trees, jigging and jagging so they couldn't tell where he headed. He hurdled an abandoned car, burnt shell all that remained of what had hopefully taken out several dozen worm-beasts. Of course, that had been pointless, plenty more where they came from. Rusted metal caught his foot. Corin rolled on the ground.

Worm-beasts fell from the trees. Several of the gibbering monsters were larger than himself. The weight was heavy and pinned him to the ground. Jaws quivered behind the beast's lips, thousands of pin-like teeth. Corin groaned. The staff lay out of reach.

Living in the south, cursed with an unusual name, sometimes a girl's name, taught one how to wrestle dirty. Corin spat in what he hoped was the thing's eye. As it reeled, he head-butted the beast, budging the weight just enough for him to roll away, snatch his staff, and flee towards Bubba and Alice's house.

The house was a pretty two-story craftsman. Flat-screen TVs and dresser drawers were scattered about the house below the second story windows. Corin prayed he wasn't too late. The door wouldn't budge. He climbed the gutters, fear for her giving him strength.

Alice appeared in the window, a steam iron cocked in her hand.

"No, wait. It's me, Corin."

"Where's Bubba." Her free hand toyed with the locket Bubba had given her when they'd been married.

She'd married the wrong man, but Corin knew now wasn't the proper time to tell her. "He's protecting the gunshop. It's the only chance we've got to survive the night. He sent me to escort you to him." The words were like swallowing the spiky nuts of a sweetgum tree.

Scene prompt from Matthew Diffie's New Yorker comic where a gun salesman holds a semiautomatic rifle and says, "Okay, but let's say you have up to six hundred intruders per minute."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sea Magic

The lighthouse rocks do smash upon the waves;
Breandan doth man his magic ice tower,
The rock that stands alone, his home this hour;
His hand protects our isle's watery graves.

The Queen honors his sacrifice with land;
Catriona loves him with the sea's own tide,
But earth daughter won't go beyond the strand,
Her heart embroiled in needing love, land's bride.

She takes another's bliss to her sweet hand,
And bears the bastard son who hears sea's cry;
The subs that ply the sea cast faes last die,
The magic flees Breandan's ephemeral bonds.

Yet ocean's deep still runs with a hunger;
His bony hands crave meat of one younger.