Monday, September 24, 2012

Tunnel

TunnelThe wall reflects this cold light, draws a glowing shawl around my periphery, and fools my brain into believing the black pit in front of me is something I can control by measuring my advance.

But I am the one controlled. For as warm as these curves might feel to my eyes, it is the darkness that draws me on; ever forward, ever deeper, ever farther from life and love and security.

I chose to be here. You'll never know why; even when They do eventually find my body, dredged in whatever form by Their ubiquitous little cleaner bots, no human back topside will hear of it. Not that you would understand anyway, my son.

We've had that conversation before.

Hope is upward, not downward, you would say. And I would reply again that in this world that is not ours, upward is a false hope; defiance is the only thing worth fighting for. Even if it is, as you say, futile.

Because I believe there are some things more important than succeeding or surviving: Dignity. Sovereignty. Living without shame. But we've had that conversation before.

And so downward through the tunnels I go, alone. Eventually They will discover me, and the lights will go out. But who knows? I might even find my way to the underside before that happens, and catch a glimpse of the clouds as they drift over our beloved homeland, miles below this invasive monstrosity.

I might even get a chance to fly.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Envoys

Envoys. Photo by Gaines Post, 2012.The band of killers crested a hill and had a view of the Harbor behind and the snowy mountains ahead. The wind blew down the little alpine valley, carrying with it a scent of manure. Olion raised his gauntleted hand, and without a word his men stopped behind him. Vaardvir the Boot sidled up and leaned close.

Olion pointed at a shady rock outcropping half a dal ahead. The Boot followed his gaze and nodded.

A tiny pair of figures was there; children probably, tending a fold of shemgar near the lake's edge. Now the bleating sounds of the animals could be heard intermittently on the wind.

"We're close," Olion whispered, scanning the valley for smokesign. The Boot tilted his head and signaled the men. They touched their fists to their chests silently and followed him and Olion, charging along the icy shore on black-veined legs with inhuman speed.

They swept upon the two little boys like a wave. The older of the two shouted something and tried to grab the younger one in a frantic effort to escape, but the Boot tackled them and pinned them to the ground, one in each arm. Soon the others had rounded up several of the shemgar and were already beginning to butcher them.

Olion stood over the children. They were perhaps ten and twelve in age and appeared to be brothers. He cleared his throat.

"We are envoys from Vogroth Castle," he lied. "We require these animals for our sustenance. Tell me, boys, what is the name of your village?"

The older one met Olion's black eyes defiantly and tried to shrug off the hands that held him down. A smart one, Olion thought. He frowned, but the boy did not lower his gaze.

Vaardvir the Boot tightened his grip, pushing the wind out of the boy until he winced and stopped struggling. But Olion waved him off. Letting go, the Boot stood slowly and loomed over the boy and his little brother as they wheezed for breath.

"Pyelmubrr'on," the older child said finally. "Our village is Pyelmubrr'on."

"And your name?"

The child hesitated. "Danloro."

Olion leaned over him. "Well, Danloro, I can see that you are quite brave. But do not forget your manners, young man, or those shemgar will not be the only ones to lose their pulses this afternoon." Olion nodded meaningfully at the boy's little brother.

Danloro sat up and brushed himself off. "Yes, darr'a," he said.

"Myotdarr'a," Vaardvir the Boot growled.

"Yes, Myotdarr'a," the boy repeated in a tone rich with irony.

"Dan," his little brother whimpered next to him.

"It'll be okay," the older boy whispered.

"Quiet," the Boot menaced.

Olion stood and glanced at his lieutenant. "We will take these two with us. But first we eat."

The Boot tilted his head in acquiescence and turned to organize the men.

Squatting next to Danloro and his brother, Olion placed his weapon on the cold mountain grass and said, "Now then, boys, my men are hungry.  What do you know of starting a fire?"




Monday, September 10, 2012

Headhunter

Headhunter (from an image made public by NASA -- thank you very much!)"Where this, what that; when, when, when, and a whole bunch of how. But not once did they ask why." Marrel flicked the greying bangs clear of his eyes and stared at the table.

"Perhaps the why of it is not important to them," the Interrogator said.

"Well, it should be. Nothing ever happens without a why. Not even nothing," replied Marrel. 

The Interrogator studied the scientist's face. "And if they'd known the reason behind your actions, do you believe it would have changed the outcome?"

Resting his chin on his palm, Marrel glanced at the younger man's lips. They appeared slightly oily, as if from lunch or a late breakfast. He shook his head and stared back down at the table. "That's not what I'm saying. How many times do I have to tell you? I am not after a different verdict. It is what it is; whatever happens to me is completely irrelevant at this point."

"And at what point was it, or at what point will it again become, relevant?"

"What?" For the first time, Marrel looked up into the Interrogator's eyes. They returned his gaze unyielding, like granite. Marrel resisted the urge to look away. "I don't follow."

"Then let me rephrase the question, Dr. Grigsby." The Interrogator leaned forward a centimeter or two. "Did you double yourself before you destroyed the Sun? Or after? Either way, we will find the other you; it's only a matter of time. At this point."

Marrel felt sick. But he knew lying would only delay the inevitable. "Before."

The Interrogator nodded very slowly, apparently unsurprised. "I have one more question, Dr. Grigsby."

Marrel tilted his head and smirked. "You're going to ask which one of me came up with the actual plan, and you're probably also wondering when the last time I communicated with myself was."

The Interrogator shook his head. "No. My question for you is simple: Have you ever considered a career in the Queen's Guard?"



Monday, September 03, 2012

Spine

Spine -- Drawing by Patricia Post. Copyright 2012.Frank Macomber stared at his wife Alison as she fed the baby. He wanted her to look up but knew she wouldn't. He cleared his throat again. "Dr. Sandowski said the benefits would outweigh the cost. In the long run."

The baby gurgled and his mother cooed in response. The smile on Alison's lips was lovely, as long as you didn't mind that it wasn't directed at you.

"Especially considering all the extra treatments you'll have to go through if we stay here on Earth," Macomber said. "Not to mention all the possible complications from each one."

His wife's attention remained focused on the baby, as always. His tiny fingers tried to close around a few delicate strands of hair that draped past her face and across his forehead like a golden crown.

Macomber wanted to yell. He wanted to stand and throw something; to pick up the kitchen table with one hand and put it through the wall. The green digits on the microwave blinked to 7:27. A piece of hair got caught around the baby's finger, and he and his mother giggled together.

"I have to go to work," Macomber said. "Will you please think about it? They want an answer."

Alison finally looked up. Her usually sparkling brown eyes were flat and distant. "I'm not moving to the moon, Frank. If you're too scared to say 'no' to your boss, then you go right ahead and take the transfer. But don't you dare use my brittle bones as an excuse."

Macomber shook his head and the blood rose hot through his neck and cheeks. "That's not it. Just look at your father, sweetie; if we stay down here in Earth gravity for as long he did, your spine is just going to continue deteriorating ten times as f—"

"Yes, and as I've told you before, I'm fine with that. I'd rather end up bed-ridden than leave everything I know for some godawful ball of rock in the sky where we'd have to live underground all the time like rats. This is our home, Frank. I am not moving. This is who I am; it's genetics. And if you can't handle that, then maybe you should think about it, and give me an answer."

The baby was crying now. Alison looked back down and began to rock him, her consolations soft and gentle, as if the argument had never happened.



Spine2 -- Drawing by Patricia Post. Copyright 2012.During his lunch break, Macomber sat with a sandwich at his customary table against the big bay windows in the company cafeteria. People walked past in twos or threes, but nobody waved or stopped to say hello.

Alison had been wrong. What scared him was not saying "no" to his boss. No; that wasn't it at all.

He put the half-eaten sandwich down and stretched with his hands behind his head, pushing his shoulder blades back as far as they would go. As he twisted his stress-taut neck first left, then right, Macomber imagined he could feel each of his vertebrae straining against each other like a parade of young bull elk, antler-locked and fighting against impotence.

Life would be so much better for Alison on the moon, he told himself. The doctor said the minimal gravity up there would be easier on her spine; she wouldn't have to worry about the hundreds of fractures that would certainly come if they remained on Earth.

Nor would she need to stress over who would feed her, dress her, clean her body when she was no longer able to walk, or about Macomber having to learn how to be a father all by himself when she was gone.

It would be better.