Tuesday, June 18, 2013

the room for poetry

she drove the car off the cliff, something she had always wanted to do, but -until this moment -never had the chance. as the car sailed over the edge, the list of all the things she was missing ran through her mind: trash bags, water filters, tissues. 

was this the sum of an entire life?

every time she was in the grocery store, the thought would run through her mind:  how pointlessly quotidian this all is. there would be 50 varieties of something; none of them good. 

she had the same thought at the airport, or in the train station, or wherever she was surrounded by a milling mass of ugly people, all dressed differently but looking the same: so much ugliness.

she'd been dinged for this once; told she was mean. people nowadays -they were so soft. everyone wanted to think that they were special, or pretty, or smart -but they weren't. she really was, so she knew better, but she mostly kept these thoughts to herself, especially where children and pets were concerned. people could really lose their minds when certain truths about their progeny were pointed out to them.

when she came home, she asked him what he wanted for dinner, but he was already cooking and neither of them were hungry. he vanished into another room rather than sit at the table across from her. she didn't particularly care. 

there was a shelf very high up and hard to reach in his mind where he kept certain things. she knew it was there, but never looked; she knew what he kept there. the times when she would rummage about in his mind looking for something, she would always come back hurt and feeling a little bit less -and yet more confident too.

it was always better to know.

she couldn't build the tower without it, and she was always building. it was really for herself; she just wanted him in it, where she could hear the echoes of his words against the glass walls, and the whole world could watch, and yet never really know what was in it.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Time is Rolling Backwards - The Climb

I looked at my watch and observed the time. It was the only thing that made sense. Every tick and every pause -the fractions in between -were the only certainty we had.

I tried to tug on the sheets and awaken the monster inside you. You pulled them over my head and we went deeper. Beneath the dimmed light of Egyptian cotton, life became clearer and the path forward was easily marked. We didn't know where on the planet we were, but we knew where we began and where we ended. The only path was to go deeper down the climb.

The clock stopped.

As our motions began to speed up, the sense of anticipation was awakened. Beyond this though, reality began to skew, stretch, and blur. The world did not exist.

As we held the hands of time, they began to pull us back. The threads, so tightly wound before, were unravelled and began to reveal every detail otherwise lost. It was the crushing summation of an imperfect existence. There were holes where fulfilment belonged, frays as placeholders for relationships, and knots of missed opportunity.

As the pleasure merged with the pain, it revealed The Climb -a path so steep and so unstable, that the end was neither well-defined nor visible. At the end though, the promise of time well spent.

The enigma was that the harder you climb, the slower time goes; yet the more slothful you climb, the faster time ticks by.

I finished, emerged from the sheets, and was left with this riddle in my head...

This thing all things devours:

People, love, birds, and towers;

Forgets the famous, ruins towns,

And beats islands down.



- Anonymous 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

the climb is all there is

“Do you know what the realm is? [A] story we agree to tell each other over and over until we forget that it’s a lie.... Chaos isn’t a pit. It’s a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, never get to try again. The fall breaks them,” he continues. “And some, given a chance to climb, they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”


Game of Thrones 3, Ep. 6: "The Climb"

*

your body is a mountain I want to climb.

majestic, with great bearing, and regal.

there is something irresistible in something so dangerous.

and yours is a mountain I must climb.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

meditations in the age of meaninglessness

her girlfriend dragged her along behind her, using less force than charm, really, and it didn't take all that much either; it never did. mostly, she found her curiously fascinating and wildly transgressive, though, if you'd asked her, she certainly would not have been able to verbalize her feelings.

she was, after all, only seven.

nothing about her life was normal, though she didn't really know it. she had the aching sense something was wrong, but, mostly, when she wasn't consumed with telling her sister stories to make her sleep, she was obsessed about the messed up state of the universe.

she'd lay on her back in the long grass, especially late at night after dark if they were "camping out," and she'd lie so still she could feel the rotation of the earth beneath her while the stars drifted silently above, the sky so dark and close it felt like a heavy velvet blanket, and she'd panic about the pointlessness and enormity of it all. she remembered that scene from "Little Man Tate," where the small boy freaked out his mother by freaking out over the universe, and she just... understood.

"yeah, little man." and the boy in the movie was a genius. was she a genius too?

every time she fell into her thoughts, she would fall in so deeply that being pulled out of them always felt to her like waking up suddenly. 

her girlfriend tugged her arm.

she blinked a few times, and saw that she was in a playground -the only playground in town. then she looked objectively at the girl who was tugging on her sleeve, encouraging her to follow.

she was unremarkable, really -dirty yellow hair chopped off bluntly in that way that Midwestern parents always seem to do to children, a splash of freckles across her plain white face, cut-off shorts, and a general unkempt unruliness.

of course, her true draw lay in her complete and utter disregard for rules or boundaries, no matter who or what laid in her way.

she watched her scramble up to the top of the long slide, the one that had two odd humps that made her stomach feel wondrously sick each time she went flying over one of them.

she had smoked with the girl, flashed alarmed car drivers with the girl, screaming at them "T-I-T!!" without any real comprehension what she was spelling, suffered through lice with the girl, walked into the local bar and demanded a drink (water) with the girl, bullied other children with the girl, and even gotten revenge with the girl -all in a very detached, "I guess this is happening now" kind of way.

it would not be until years later that she fully understood that this girl had not been her friend. she had never told her about her secret child, the yoke around her neck she had been born with that was hers and hers alone to take care of. she had never told her about the sexual abuse, or the beatings, or spoke with her about the drugs, alcohol, and general blasé misogyny of the Midwest. she had never talked with her about racism, and what it meant to be the only person of color not only in the town and in school, but also in the home. she had never revealed to the girl her very secret penchant for hoarding food and shoplifting insignificant things such as gum.

well, they were only seven.

she shrugged, and quickly climbed up to the top of the slide behind the girl, wondering the whole time if this was a false memory, like so many of her other memories; wondering if it was true that it wouldn't be the stolen and destroyed bike that would end them, but actually this time -today, in fact -when the girl insisted they defecate together under a playground picnic table, for no reason in particular like so many of her other ideas, except to just... do it.

she closed her eyes, realizing though she could not remember, that she probably had done it, and the only thing that had really separated them was the mistaken notion that they were truly friends, because children of abuse can never truly have friends -there are too many bruises to hide; too many secrets to be spilled.

they had moved to the country shortly after the incident with the dead child in the ditch; because out in the country, the only ones to hear her cry and her sister scream were the cows.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

When I Met You...

When I met you

I just wanted you

Bounce the clouds away

All days fade to grey

You're the one I want

You're the one I want


All things that you say

Nothing went my way

Moments that we had

Sometimes just feel bad, (but)

You're the one I want

You're the one I want


(adagio)

I thought you were kind

I thought you were mine, (but)

You took me apart

You ripped up my heart, (but)

(/adagio)

You're the one I want

You're the one I want


Now I still love you

Nothing can I do, (but)

Here you come my way

It's a brand new day, (because)

You're the one I want

You're the one I want

Sunday, March 3, 2013

for the love of kimchi

Wandering the aisles of the grocery store, a place he typically hated, he felt his eyes burn with tears and his heart swell.

There was a full aisle devoted to kimchi, something it was almost impossible to find easily and of high quality on the Mainland.

Seeing all of those kimchi jars, all lined up and quietly asking to be chosen, he knew he was home.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Excerpted from "The Diary of a T-Rex Gone Mad"

Bob hadn't moved from the edge of the bed for about an hour, where he'd been sitting since he'd arrived home from work.  Ethel had puttered around in the kitchen over dinner, at first not mindful of his absence, but as the food began to grow cold on the dining room table, she put her hands on her hips and noticed his being missing for the first time.

"Bob...!" she called, drawing out the middle vowel of his first name.

He didn't answer, although he heard her.  Her voice seemed to come to him as if through a fog, as though caught in the mists rolling down from the volcano that covered everything, including sound.  He was still staring down at his feet when she finally came into the bedroom.

"Bob!" she said sharply.  She made the middle vowel of his name so short it was reduced to almost a spit.

He jerked slightly at the interruption and finally looked up at her.  "Ethel," he sighed.

"Dinner's ready," she immediately responded, one foot already out the bedroom door.

"Ethel," he repeated, a little bit harder, stopping her in her tracks.

Ethel turned back around, waiting and expectant.  Bob often had moments such as these, so she was used to them, and not really expecting all that much from this latest bout of his ennui.  She crossed her arms and looked down at the carpet, thinking, fleetingly, that it needed badly to be cleaned and that she ought to take care of that soon.

"Ethel," he sighed again, "when did we become such a laughingstock?"

"Laughingstock?"

"A joke, Ethel," Bob snapped weakly, "we have become a joke to everyone."

Ethel wondered who had offended Bob this week.  He was always imagining injuries and insults to his person and character that she simply did not see, and dinner was going cold.

"Everyone?"

"The world, Ethel!" Bob retorted, finally worked up into something approaching real emotion.  Ethel vaguely hoped it might snap him out of his funk; anger from him was better than him sitting on the edge of the bed staring at his feet.

"The world, Bob?" Ethel sighed, "The whole world is against us, Bob?"

"We were the kings of the jungle, Ethel!  Our people roamed the plains and everyone scattered before us -they respected us, Ethel!  There were no jokes!  No laughing at us behind our backs!  We had primacy, Ethel, do you understand?" Bob was gesticulating wildly at this point, and really worked up, "And now we're reduced to... to..."

"Dinner's cold," Ethel spoke flatly, turning to leave the room.

"Ethel..." Bob whined.  He knew he was losing her, but how could he explain to her how much the jokes belittled and demeaned him?  Aaron, that hairless human, had waved Bob into his office earlier that day, before lunch, and insisted Bob look at something on his computer.  Bob had felt nervous -Aaron had an unappealing taste for the off-color jokes, but they were co-workers, so Bob felt he had no choice -and thus he had stepped into Aaron's office feeling extra sweaty under his arms even before Aaron had spun his computer monitor around so that Bob could see a website called:

T-REX FAILS

Bob did his best to crack a smile, but what he really wanted to do was bite Aaron's head off.  The only thing that stopped Bob was the knowledge that he would likely be fired immediately...

...and that humans weren't really all that tasty.

"Funny, huh?" Aaron said with a quick glance up at Bob.  Without waiting for an answer, Aaron turned back to his computer screen and continued scrolling down through the cartoons, laughing out loud at the ones that he found particularly hilarious.  He was practically crying with laughter.

All Bob could think about was biting off Aaron's head, and the incredible satisfaction he would derive from wrapping his mighty jaws around Aaron's soft human melon head and then crushing the tiny skull until the pebble brain burst inside his mighty T-Rex mouth.

Instead, he sipped his coffee and nodded a few times, silently counting out the moments that were ticking by in his head until he could make his excuse that he was busy and escape back to the safety of his office...

...where he sat and did nothing for the rest of the day -he didn't even eat his lunch.

At least, not at first, but then the hunger overcame him and he peeked inside his lunchbox to see what Ethel had packed for him to eat.  Inside was a tuna salad sandwich (on wheat bread) and fat-free yogurt.  If he could have cried, tears would have slowly slid down his scaly cheeks as he chewed on the lunch his wife had lovingly made fat-free and healthy for him, because -that very morning -she'd taken too much to heart his complaint about his belly having overtaken his feet and his inability to put on a pair of argyle socks.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I'm a robot

I'm in love with a robot.

I knew he was a robot when I met him.

How could I resist him?

His circuitry was wired as if just for me.

"Don't tell me that you love me."

So he didn't.

I'm in love with a robot.

I love his perfect frame.

The way he gleams in the sun.

It's almost blinding.

How much I love this robot.

I ask him to touch me.

And he does.

Right there.

And there.

And there.

I'm in love with a robot.

His brains are infinite in capacity.

He can tell me anything I tell him to.

I'm in love with a robot.

I look in the mirror.

And I know that it's true.

I love me.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

An Invitation to SUDDEN DESTRUCTION


Prologue


The ship landed on its side.  The beach where it landed was barren-looking, which was a bit of a strange observation for a stretch of sand, as in, how much life was sand supposed to support anyway?, but, yes, a barren stretch of sandy land stretched out before him, but... he'd landed in stranger places before, and this was surely no different.  He adjusted the bowler (hat) on his head, straightened the lapels on his jacket, you know, just in case he met anyone, he wanted to be sure to make a good first impression, and he set out on his way.  There was no doubt much to see in this new and foreign land, and, even though he had all the time in the universe, he wanted to start straightaway.

Going up... straight... 202,000 feet!

The journey for him had begun almost before he could remember.  For as long as he'd been traveling... wait... for as long as he'd been alive, he'd been traveling.  Sometimes, in the wee long stretches between destinations, he'd flip through his journal and remind himself of all the places he'd been -and then think about all the places he might go.  It all honestly seemed like a bit of a dream -an extended fugue state -from which he hoped he might never awake.  He always wondered -briefly -what life was like for the quotidian that he met, but then, with a shudder, he'd perish the thought.  He liked the way that he lived, and didn't so much like thinking of any other way.

He flipped closed the journal, put his hand under his chin, and contemplated the rushing scene outside the window.  Everything seemed always in such a hurry, but he knew that was a trick of his travel speed, and he liked the way life slowed down to its real pace whenever he landed -and he also liked being able to leave whenever he felt like his time at any one place was done.  Certainly, he'd left all kinds of good (and bad) things behind at each destination, but he knew there'd always be more around the corner, at the new and next destination.  There was no point in dwelling on the past, except to remember any place that he'd been, and to remind himself where he was going -which was forward, and never back to the same place.

In his heart, he knew that his current lifestyle was unsustainable, but, thus far, there'd been nothing to stop his forward progress, so, therefore, there was just no reason to stop.  He looked up as the steward passed by, at first shook his head "no," but then changed his mind and held up his glass.  They'd just broken the 202,000 foot barrier.  No reason to be completely sober now.  He'd never get over the wonder of being weightless in space, and having a drink or two only amped the wondrous feeling.  He felt as though he was heaven.  Maybe he actually was.

Housing for hurricanes

She contemplated the house for a long time, unable to make up her mind.  She knew it'd be a disappointment in the end, but, in the meantime, she needed a place, and the storms were coming.  Being out in the open during the rain season was always a mistake -one she'd almost made more than once -but now she was older, and wiser.  It was time to stop being so reckless.  Maybe it was a more boring way to be, but her body could only handle so much foolishness.  It was time to be serious about life, reluctant as she might be about it.  She never ceased to be amazed at the design ineptitude that had been built into all life -the awareness of how precious it (life) was never really came around until, well, nearly the end.

Of course, she still had many more years to come, (allegedly), but, on paper, maybe not, so she was house-hunting, just like her age-mates, even though she'd much have preferred to be doing something -anything -else.  She kicked one of the pylons, heard an imaginary echo, and shook her head "no."  The regent with her sighed, resigned to the reality that there'd be many more houses to go before this particular client made up her mind.  To the regent, this singleminded refusal to simply "accept" escaped her, but it was not for the regent to wonder.  This, (with a roll of her eyes), was her client, and if the client wanted to look at 1,000,001 domiciles before she made up her mind, then they would likely look at 2,000,213 domiciles before she made up her mind.

She just hoped the client made up her mind before the rains began.  No one really could remember when they'd started, but disastrous they had been, destroying pretty much everything in their path, even them, which must have been a shock for the first generations, but was now taken as pretty much accepted and almost a standard way of life for everyone -except that the rains didn't come on any kind of schedule.  History recorded that generations in the past had passed between rains, but that wasn't the case anymore.  Now they came with a high rate of unpredictable frequency, the kind of regularity that made you check the sky every time before you stepped outside.

To preserve Us

His time in the prison cell, (well, he took it to be a prison cell, although the whole thing was really quite civilized, with tea and something that seemed to pass for them for food, which he accepted without rudeness or comment other than a sincere "thank you" whenever it came), was actually not all that bad.  There was a light, and they'd allowed him to keep his journal.  In his vast experience, there'd been times when it'd been confiscated and, except for his stellar memory and OCD for recording things, entire stretches of his personal history might very well have been lost.  At any rate, his "jailers," (as he thought of them), came by twice a day -at sunup and at sundown -to bring "food" and something to drink, (he always opted for what seemed to be the tea), and then they often stayed for conversation.

It seemed, actually, that they were more curious about him than afraid, and perhaps even a bit bemused by him.  Who was this strange creature in a bowler hat and full suit?  They didn't seem threatened by him, but he'd been wrong in that assessment in the past in other places, so he knew not to put too much stock into his initial impression; from experience, he was wary.  Being put into prison seemed a solid first sign of trouble, but, then again, he'd been free to roam in other lands before nearly meeting his end plenty of times.  This little sojourn in prison might very well pass as a vacation or a holiday for these people.  Only time -and his life, or death -would tell.

Po, (at least, as he understood his name to be), came around the most often.  His curiosity (about him) was intense and palpable, and he always peppered the man in the bowler hat with myriad questions, wanting to know about this or about that.  Also, he was as free with his answers in return, and the traveler had just as many questions about the rituals of his "jailers."  For example, he'd never seen anyone eat, and he wondered 1) what did they eat, and 2) when, and 3) why did they never eat in front of him?  Of course, if he was truly their prisoner, it'd be no surprise their refusal to break bread with him, but, then again, in his long experience, there was no standard for anything, so it never hurt to ask.

"When do you eat?"

"When we are hungry."

"When is that?"

[No answer was forthcoming, but the man in the bowler hat had the impression that Po really didn't know the answer.  The long pause and thoughtful expression on Po's face left the traveler with little doubt, but, again, it still hadn't hurt to ask.  Well, maybe it would, but the minute the man had stepped onto the ship to nowhere, that risk had already been taken.  Anything that happened after was academic, and the man in the bowler hat fully relished the experience -and the opportunity.  Sometimes, he thought about the life he'd left behind, and, he had to admit, at times he did miss it, but what he'd exchanged a life of security for was.... well... so much more worth it.  For every uncertainty, for every doubt, he was rewarded in ways he knew he'd never be able to describe to the people he'd left behind at home.  For a moment, as he remembered, he felt a pang, but he knew it wasn't for anyone specific.  If there was anyone "special," he knew he hadn't met them yet.  It wasn't as though he believed in fate, but he did believe that if he was supposed to meet someone, it was obviously someone on the road up ahead, rather than on the path behind him.  Still, on occasion, there was that pang, and he wasn't quite certain where it came from.  Perhaps just the way of life -the utter certainty of knowing that when he woke up, he would put on this outfit, and he would go to this place, and he would do these things, and he would meet this person, and, together, they would perpetuate this cycle all over again for a new generation.  Clearly, if that life had appealed to him, he wouldn't now be sitting in a prison in a land he couldn't begin to describe, except that he could, and he wrote it all down in his journal.  Perhaps a small part of him kept moving because he knew the person he was to meet was up ahead, but, in all honesty, he didn't believe that.  And, again, to be perfectly honest, that did make him feel a little sad, but not all the time.  His way of life now was just too rewarding, and he'd have plenty of time -or not -to think about it all while on his deathbed.  As with anything else, to be perfectly real, he didn't know if he'd even have a deathbed.  He was just glad that these people had something that he recognized as "tea."]

"Would you like more tea?"

Po was always unfailingly solicitous and the traveler held his cup up in agreement -yes, he would like more tea.  After all, it was delicious.

"Why am I in prison?"

"What is 'prison'?"

Another inquisitive dead end.  The traveler was not unfamiliar with these difficulties, of course.  It was just that, for the first time in his travels, he'd never met jailers who were so polite.  Again, he wasn't entirely certain that where he was was prison.

He tried a different tack.

"How come I have not been allowed to go outside?"

Po appeared to be thoughtful, and the traveler wondered if a response was coming or if Po would just offer him more tea, but, after a long while, Po seemed to come to a decision and he spoke:

"Because of the rain."

The man in the bowler hat knitted his eyebrows and furrowed his forehead in mild confusion.  Knowing it would be allowed, (because he'd been able to do so many times before), he flipped open his journal, readied his pen, and asked:

"Tell me about the rain, please."  (The bowler hat man was always polite (too).)

He expected Po to not answer, but, instead, Po leaned forward, poured the man in the bowler hat some more tea, (even though he was full and did not want any more, the traveler did not protest), and then leaned back.  With a deep breath, Po launched into a depressingly sad and familiar tale for the traveler, where the only surprise for him was ever in the details.

Thinks For Itself!

(This is the story that Po told the traveler.)

Many years ago, more years ago than we can remember, but it is written down, so it must be true, there were no rains.  Or, there was no rain, to be more accurate.  But then, one day, there was.  What caused the rain?  According to our true history, it was none but ourselves.

History records that we had everything that we could have ever wanted, or needed -and more -and yet, somehow, it was not enough.  It was in this time that someone frivolously invented the rain, in the time that we cannot remember, and then, as we moved forward in our history, it began to be that everyone abused the rain and started to use it against anyone and everyone in a vain attempt to acquire what was not rightfully theirs, but all the rain did was destroy.  This wanton destruction was based upon the logic that if one could not have it, then no one else could either.

(The man in the bowler hat nodded.  Yes, this was a logic that was not unfamiliar to him.  Even though he hadn't heard this story before, he knew that he had.)

After several generations, the flaw in this logic was realized, but it was far too late to stop the rain -and then everyone, hardened by the need to survive, preferred to become even more selfish, rather than to come together to try to rewrite their history.

(The traveler shook his head, and Po acknowledged the implied disappointment with a brief, shame-filled nod for the great crime his people had committed.  Yes, he was of a much later generation, but -still -he was of them, and, for him, there was no shaking the dubious cultural inheritance they'd left him.)

(Po continued.)

I do not understand what you mean by "prison," but I think you must mean the ability to not go outside?

(Po did not wait for an answer, though the man in the bowler hat could not have given one anyway, because, at that precise moment, he'd chosen to take a sip of his tea. &nbspPlus, the traveler was momentarily taken aback by the seemingly abrupt change in topic.)

This place, (Po indicated the cage inside which they were), is not a "prison," as you say, (the traveler restrained a protest, a skill his many travels had taught him), but it is my house.

(The man in the bowler hat looked up from his tea and opened his mouth to apologize for any offense, but Po had anticipated this, and he held up his hand to stop the traveler from speaking.  Po understood about language differences and miscommunication.  He was not an entirely insensitive creature.)

(Po continued.)

You are safe here, and in here you must remain.  In fact, you are quite lucky we found you when we did.  You most certainly would have died in the rain if we had not.

(The man in the bowler hat raised his eyebrows, but did not immediately speak.  The tea was delicious -as was, for a nice change, the food that had been set before him.  It seemed, he thought, that they'd been busy successfully adjusting their recipe ratios, and they were finally moving closer to a form of nutrition that he, the traveler, was more familiar with.)

But, what is the rain?

(Po closed his eyes, paused a long moment, and then opened his eyes.)

The rain kills.

(The man in the bowler hat pursed his lips.  This was not the answer he had been looking for, but Po did not understand.  He had answered the question.  What more was there to know?  The rain killed.  It destroyed everything.  Any details about it were not pertinent, though he did understand the phenomenon of curiosity, and so he tried to be patient with the traveler.)

(The man in the bowler hat persisted.)

But, what is the rain?  Perhaps I do not understand the term, but in my land, rain is-

(Po held his hand up.  In mirror to the man, he pursed his lips too.  He didn't know how to explain or describe something that just... was ...a part of everyday existence.  Since this seemed to be important to his guest, however, he did want to try, even though he knew there would not be enough overlap in the words between them to truly explain the rain.  He didn't want it to become known that he'd been a bad host to his guest.  The shame of it would stick with him forever, and if she heard about it...  He closed his eyes.  He tried to stop the thought, but it crossed his mind anyway, like a razor cut:  She might never speak with him again.  He didn't understand the occasional pangs as he understood that his traveler-guest suffered, but he knew he'd suffer if ever that came to pass, and he would not let that happen.  She had been instrumental in bringing him to life.  He knew that he would live if she moved on -a logic demanded it -but that might actually be worse than if she'd left him for dead in the first place.  If that had happened, then at least he'd never have had her blessing, and he could have died in peace, un-tormented by her intense love for him -a love he could not begin to reciprocate even though he felt it in his core, a virus direct from her for which there was no cure.)

(The man in the bowler hat knew that Po was contemplating his response carefully, so he took the moment to savor the tea and the food before him.  It truly was delicious.)

(Po sat back, sucked the air in through his nostrils, and then looked outside through the narrow slot windows of his home.  With a gentle expel of air, he began to explain.)

on guard...

Rain is death.

(Po sighed softy, with a gentleness that was more intense and frightening than if he had been yelling.  Po had that way about him, the traveler had come to understand.)

The next time it rains, I will take you to a place where it may be safe for you to see for yourself.

(Sudden thunder rattled the house to the very foundations beneath their feet.)

(The traveler's teacup rattled on its plate, but the other sounds that accompanied the thunderbolt were much deeper, and more disturbing -as though the house itself were being split apart by a very great force -and that's when the traveler fully comprehended why the walls of the cell were as barren as a prison.  Life here was too uncertain for frivolous decoration.)

LaCrosse

Suddenly, Po lurched forward on his feet, yanked the man in the bowler hat up by his forearm and dragged him outside of the small cell where the traveler had been sequestered since his arrival-day on the beach.  Pulled along behind Po, who flew up at a punishing pace, together they ran up a long spiral staircase, clearly inside a tower, all the way up to the top.  As they ran, the building the traveler had mistook for a prison shook as though it were a willow in the midst of a hurricane.  The stomach of the man in the bowler hat lurched with tea and food, and, a few times, he was afraid he might vomit, but he managed to hold onto his food -with a great effort and a lot of uncomfortable swallowing between gasps for breaths while they ran up the stairs.

Once at the top, the man in the bowler hat saw that they were indeed inside a small tower -much like a turret -and that they probably weren't safe, but there they were anyway, and the traveler suddenly realized that Po had dragged him up the stairs to show him that which he had been unable to express to him with words:

Here was the rain the traveler had been so curious about, and it was as terrifying as anything he'd ever been able to imagine or had ever seen in all his travels.  It was like lightning, but it wasn't lightning.  His mind searched for an apt description, and all he could think of were giant lasers, but none such as he was familiar with -not in all his vast experience.  The laser-bolts seemed to reach down out of the black, roiling sky, like large, angry fists attached to even longer, angry arms, punching and destroying everything in their path -literally everything.

Where once there had been a stunningly beautiful stretch of sandy beach, now there was only black and fire.  The incredible stand of iridescent trees -trees that he could not begin to describe; trees that had been incandescent in their glory -were gone, abruptly replaced with a long and wide row of belching red fire.  The angry orange flames seemed to be licking and kissing the black sky -the black and the orange were like sinister lovers desperate to be close.

The stomach of the traveler tightened, and he was sure he would throw up as the small tower they were inside lurched in such a manner as no ship he'd ever been in, and he knew it'd be safer for them to be low on the ground -or underground, preferably.  The man in the bowler hat suspected that Po had a bunker safely tucked away deep within the earth, but Po had brought him, risking his life and his, to show him the thing that he could not begin to say, and the traveler felt grateful and mad and sad and frustrated -all at the same time -more with himself for being so curious, but this was the risk he took every time he stepped onto his ship and he accepted it.  The guilt he felt now was for dragging Po into his intense curiosity, but he was aware on some level that this was the choice Po had made, and the man in the bowler hat could only be held so responsible for it.

And the storm was awesome in its destruction, and mighty.

Invitation to Sudden Destruction

The traveler marveled over his incongruous memory of how lush and vibrant everything had been when he had first arrived -the trees, the land, the animals -everything had been beautiful.  And now the entire earth was nothing but a scar of blackened, scorched land.  At least, that's what he reasonably assumed.  The smell of life being burnt alive was still in his nostrils.  His eyes stung with tears, and he knew it wasn't entirely from the smoke.  No matter where he went in his travels, he held onto a respect for life -whatever form that life was.  Complete and utter destruction was a sad waste to him.

They sat in silence in the bunker.  Po had brought him some of the liquids and solids that he liked so much, but the traveler did not know how much or how long they'd be there, so he tasted only sparingly.  And, besides, it was not as good as his final above-ground meal had been.

Po had left him alone for a long while after pushing him down into the bunker.  The traveler couldn't hear anything, but he knew it must have been important for Po to remain above-ground in the midst of that terrifying storm.  The man in the bowler hat paused for a moment.  Everything was relative.  Perhaps the storm wasn't that horrible and only seemed so to him, as he was new to this place and this experience.  The traveler sat in thoughtful silence while he waited for Po to return.  Po had been an unfailingly good host.  There was no way he would have dragged him up to the turret only for them both to die.

"Why did you remain upstairs?"

Po leveled what seemed to be a blank gaze at him, but the traveler knew Po was pondering his response.  Po was always so thoughtful and considerate in everything; nothing he ever uttered was ever not considered.

"I needed to send a message."

The man in the bowler hat nodded.  He wanted to ask more, but he politely abstained.  He suspected it was personal, whatever that communication was, and if Po wanted to tell him, then he would tell him.

But, in the ensuing silence, the longest since they'd spent any time together, the traveler began to feel uncomfortable, so, uncharacteristically, he asked anyway:

"What was the message?"

"It was an invitation to mutual destruction."

The eyes of the traveler widened in surprise.  Yes, there had been other surprises in his many travels, but something in the way Po responded -quickly, and without hesitation -to a question the traveler would not have ordinarily asked, perhaps surprised the man in the bowler hat more than the actual content of the response itself.  A death wish was in and of itself no surprise at all.

No further explanation regarding the mysteriously urgent death message was forthcoming from Po, and the traveler did not feel compelled to ask.  They simply sat together in silence, riding out the storm like two new companions on a long road with no known end.

Global Guardian

The man in the bowler hat didn't know how much time had passed.  But when he woke up, even in the dark of the bunker, he knew everything was different.  For one thing, Po was no longer there.  The traveler wondered -briefly -if Po's invitation toward destruction had been reciprocated, but the traveler somehow knew that, even if it had been accepted, Po would have waited to implement until after he, his honored guest, had been well cared and accounted for.

But, that left the question:  Where was Po?

This question would not be answered for several months, but time passed differently for the traveler in the bunker, and his supply of liquids and solids improved so much he didn't even wonder.  If anything caused him to pause at all, it was the fact that it was always food and drink that he enjoyed, as opposed to Po, who, in all the time the man in the bowler hat stayed with him, had never passed anything from his hands to his lips.

X-15

She had refined the last of the samples prior to the last storm and now, after all the time that had passed since the storm, she was rewarded with the literal fruits of her labors.

Po lay at her feet, his tablet in his hands, absently composing something -a drawing or a song, she didn't know -while she just as absently ran her hands through his hair and enjoyed on the air the scent of insects and fresh green grass.

She didn't really appreciate nature in the way that Po did, but she could replicate it better than anyone else.  She took a deep, satisfied breath, causing him to look up at her; he was rewarded with a wide, genuine smile.

He knew it was real because it lit up her eyes -it was the smile she reserved only for him.  He felt warm inside knowing this, that she only smiled that way for him, and showed her what he'd composed on his tablet -it was a row of characters that told a story she recognized.

She gently swatted his hand away, to let him know she wanted him to do something new, but she softened the rebuff by leaning over his lips with the promise of a kiss on her mouth.

With the sunlight warm on their bare skin, they whiled away the afternoon, and it was only after their second swim of the day that she reluctantly asked:

"What about the traveler?"

He plucked a sand flower from her hair and pressed it to his lips, his beautiful eyes closed, and she knew he would not answer her.  It was his typical way, but his no-answer was in itself the answer.  He had stopped time for them.  The knowledge made her cry a little inside, from a happiness mixed with sadness.  The magic in him was enormous, and that he would do anything for her at all was both frightening and reassuring.

Rather than saying anything more, she opened the picnic basket and offered him a taste.

Intercept!

Anything less... She perished the thought, and closed her eyes, and didn't think about anything else until they both were stirred later, gently awakened by the soft, distant hum of insects at play in the dewy air.

Night had fallen, and it was beautiful.

"hide-and-seek"

"I want to spend the rest of my life in your arms."

"What about the rest of my life?"

"We'll die together."

He pressed her beneath him, her eyes open wide and looking up at him, full of trust.  If he strangled her right now, they'd never have to be apart again.  She blinked, and the sudden thought vanished.  He would never lay a hand on her.  Even if she was ever caught out by the rain, and every inch of her flesh was on fire, he wouldn't be able to do it.  Instead, he would just hold her close, in a hug literally to death, so that he could die too, right there in her arms.

Suddenly, a faun darted out from between the trees.  Po looked up -startled.  Fauna only came out from the safety of the trees when the danger was imminent.

They both jumped up from their nest in the grass, naked but uncaring.

"Shoot-And-Scoot"

"Rain...!"

"...coming more often than before!"

The bottom of her lip fluttered when she was afraid but determined not to show it.

"There must be a safe place nearby."

"Yes," was all he said.

He was afraid too.

Teamed for defense

With a quick switch, they were dressed and fully armed, though little it would protect them.  Rushing across the rough terrain, he suddenly yelled to her:

"We've never been here before."

"Yes, we have," she yelled back.

The sky above them was rapidly darkening.

"No," he yelled again, "I mean, we've never been caught in the rain together before."

She almost stumbled, but he had a firm grip on her wrist, and steadied her at the lip of the crevasse that had abruptly opened up beneath them.  The breach in the earth revealed a rabbit warren, and together they slid down until they hit the soft dirt at the bottom.  The creature in the warren was not pleased to meet them, but Po shot it between the eyes, quickly skinned it, set up a fire, and prepared to make house with her for as long as the storm lasted.

Putting The Minuteman To Bed

In the soft light of the dying fire, she watched him as he slept.  His chest rose and fell with each breath in a reliable, rhythmic way.  You could set a metronome to it, and she wondered if that's what made him such a good musician, as well as such a good shot.  She examined his gun.  There was nothing extraordinary about it; hers was about the same.

She set the gun down, and moved closer to him, until she was close enough to feel the intense heat of his body without touching him.  There was something unnatural about the way he always felt so utterly warm, but she'd never say anything to him while he was awake.  Now that he was asleep though, she felt safe in asking him all the things she'd never have dared otherwise.

She started with the first place that she cared about -his heart.  Delicately, wary of waking him, she gently nudged him until he rolled over onto his back, exposing his chest completely to her.  He was so trusting -did she dare do this?  Why couldn't she just trust him without asking?

But, she was a scientist and the asking was in her blood.  As much as she loved him, how could she not do this?  This is who she was:  She was the creator of X-15 and the essential component of Global Guardian, and she knew that -in large part -was one of the many reasons he was so drawn to her.

With a check of his pulse to verify his deep sleep, she flicked the razor in her hand, lathed it with fluid, and then sliced deep into his chest.

She had wanted to see his heart the very first day, and long before she had loved him the first time.  With a careful breath, she cut the cords around it, wiped off its blood, and then held it in her hands, feeling the beat of it between her fingers, as well as its heat.

Her eyes widened -the heart was purely mechanical.  This was a surprise.  Carefully, she wrapped the bloody heart in a bit of fur and then set it beside the fire, to keep it warm.  With another flick of the razor, she carefully cut into his scalp, anxious to see what else was inside.

Lights blinked back up at her, causing tears to spring to her eyes.  She bit her lower lip, trying not to cry; she knew she couldn't take long.  As silent tears rolled down her cheeks, she carefully seamed his forehead -knowing he would never know if she fixed him properly -and also replaced his heart.

He never woke up.

If not for the rain, she would have gone for a long walk.  The rabbit warren had many tunnels, but they had blocked them to prevent unexpected visitors, so she had nowhere to go with her tears and her sadness; it all just stayed trapped inside her.

She was still sitting up on her heels, rocking back and forth in front of the low fire, when he woke up.  He blinked at her.  He knew something was different and he knew that she was sad; because of her, he felt sad too.

"What's wrong?"

Instead of speaking, the tears she had been holding back all night sprung from her eyes like a flood, and she finally cried.

He sat up, wanting to be polite and not press, but also wanting to fix her as she had fixed him, so he pressed:

"Amodka."

This, the sound of her name, only brought on a fresh torrent of tears, which surprised him, because -usually -the rare deployment of her actual name, especially by him, caused her to helplessly smile.

Her name was secret, and special, and powerful.

Though it wasn't in his character, Po got up, went to her side, and folded her into his arms.  She buried her face in his chest, but did not speak.

Finally, she stopped crying, pushed him away, and stood up.  Hurt, he didn't move from his spot by the fire, so he could only watch as she moved to pick something up off the ground, and then suddenly plunge it into her chest.

He didn't register the action until the blood was already pouring from her heart.  His eyes wide with delayed shock, Po jumped up, yanked the razor from her hand, pushed her to the ground, and stuffed the gaping wound she had made with the dead rabbit fur.

It took her just as long to realize that he was gently whispering her name, over and over again.

Can Our Air Power Prevent a War?

The man in the bowler hat surveyed the land as it slowly vanished beneath him.  It was only from this perspective, up in his ship, that he fully realized the wonder of what he had experienced.  Only his journal proved it to him, but he had sojourned there for nearly a year.

Actually, he wasn't being entirely honest with himself.  His waistline was a little thicker, his beard a littler grayer, and his eyes a bit more alert, in the ways of the elder and the wise -all proofs to him that he'd been there longer than he remembered, for the body always spoke the truths that the mind was more willing to deny.

Though it had only seemed a week or so in the prison that wasn't a prison, and a day or so in the bunker that was really a bunker, the time had passed for even him, the time traveler.  And in all that time, he had met two of the most amazing people -if they could even be called that, the last two who could live forever -that he had ever known in all his travels across the universe and across the entire span of time, which was more vast than he would ever begin to describe.

inspired by:  http://www.retronaut.com/2011//11/rocket-ads-1947-1874

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

the house of secrets

The moon that hung over the city in the night sky was thick and heavy and red, as though clotted with the secrets of every inhabitant on earth.  She observed it, swirling with its oranges and reds, with a sense of excitement and awe -and just a tinge of fear.  It was two months since Halloween; there was no reason for the moon to be so suggestive of autumn reaping and death.

She tried to take a photo, but the moon, in its typical state, was shy and refusing.  None of her photos would turn out.

Later that night, she opened the first door.  He was playing a music she'd never heard before, and yet it sounded like something she had known for years.  Although he played it over and over, she couldn't place the words.  Indifferent, he pressed the bindi set between her eyes.

She was in a different room when she opened her eyes again.  The boy had in his hands a tray covered with a dome, which he promptly removed.  Underneath the dome was a letter, but the boy snatched the tray back before she could reach for it, and slammed the dome back down atop the tray.

When she woke up, she was in the bathtub, with a towel over her face.  Her flip-phone was buzzing stridently in her hand, which confused her, because she didn't have a flip-phone.  She had a smartphone; she'd had one for years.  Disoriented and slightly unsettled, she pulled the towel from her face and lifted the phone so that she could see it.  There were indeed messages, but she didn't know how to check them, because she didn't know how to use the phone.

The child -the boy -was in the hallway.  She felt embarrassed, until she realized she was fully dressed.  By the time she climbed the stairs to go up to the tower, the boy had vanished, but she'd almost forgotten him.  The 360-degree night views of the place she didn't want to be in the tower were breathtaking, like the thick, red moon she would see three nights later.

She wanted to take a photo, but the flip-phone was still in her hand -and still buzzing -and she still didn't know how to use it.

The boy beckoned to her from around a dark corner to join the party, which she suddenly realized was in her honor, but she was transfixed by the people on the stairs.  It was a couple, and they were looking down upon her as she was looking up at them.  They seemed vaguely familiar, as though they should have been people she'd known for years, but she couldn't place them.  It took her a moment to realize that these were the people moving into her loft.

This whole thing upset her more than she realized.  Absently, she brushed a bit of fuzz from her sleeve, but it wasn't fuzz at all.  Instead, it was a tiny bug.  As she watched with disbelief and more than a little fear, the bug transformed rapidly from a caterpillar into a butterfly -which was momentarily wonderful -but then the butterfly became a monster, its large wings rapidly buzzing and flapping, razor sharp and threatening to cut her.

Anxiously, she waved her arms, trying to keep the butterfly-monster-bird far from her face, but before it could fly out the open window, which beckoned with a bright, yellow light, several thunderous shots in the night jolted her awake.