The first part of this story is a prologue or history to this. You might still understand this without reading the history, but it will definitely be clearer if you do. P.S. Nightron is pronounced night·ron.
The best architects in the land were called to design Stone Castle. On the outside, it appeared to be fitted with the best defenses. Turrets and fortifications lined its cold gray walls, and a patrol of soldiers armed with heavy spears paced the grounds.
Despite its strong appearance, the inside of the castle was vary extravagent. The halls and rooms were all lavishly decorated, and each piece of furniture was embossed with the Nightron Emblem. To impress guests, the dining rooms and guest beedrooms were particularly regal in design. A great arch rose above the main dining room, and 15 chandeliers stood suspended from the ceiling.
The greatest part of the dining room ,though, was the great table. Carved out of several massive pine trees, this mavel spanned almost the entire room. 200 guest chairs, plus the King's and Queens, all lined the sides.
Tehere were also 100 and two doors, because each 2 guests had their own waiter. Over all, there were about 350 servants in the castle.
The grandness continued in the bedrooms, where large boukets of fresh picked orange, pink, and white flowers adorned decorated almost every table, desk, and nightstand. A massive bed stood opposite a portrait of a past important member of the Nightron family. All of the doorknobs on the bedroom floor were gold plated and engraved with the Nightron seal.
In fact, King James stook in his bedroom that very moment. It was late in the evening, and he was changing from his royal robes to a pair of more suitable, more comfortable clothes for his dinner.
He chose a pair of thick, burgundy pants, and a long, dark red cloak. He reached for his belt, which had a silver plated buckle and an intricately knotted black leather strap. He lazily strolled over to his bathing quarters.
"Charles, may I ask for a tub of water?" he asked his servant. The short man brought the basin in, and the king fell into quiet introspection as he washed his face.
The front line was continually moving further and further into Nightron territory, and a food shortage was causing chaos to pervade the peasants. They simply didn't understand the resources needed to feed an army and a legion of starving peasants. Not only that, but the Vergo troops would burn any Nightron field that they came across. Yet they still blamed him, and so the vital taxes that funded the war were not collected.
The king splashed a last handful of water onto his short, white beard and straightened himself up. "I'm ready, El'Turu." he said to another servant, this one taller and stronger than the last.
"Yes, your highness," the burly man replied.
The tension in the kingdom was high, and the Queen, fearful of an assassin, had influenced the king to allow a bodyguard to be at his side at all times. El'Turu was the best that money could by; assisted in training by retired freelance assassins, the strong guard knew all of the tricks.
But the king was not fearful for his life. He was hungry.
"Hmm," he said to himself, his stomach grumbling. "I cant remember if he said Duck L'Orange or Roast Duck Pecan."
Odar, Assistant to the King, sat waiting in the den. There were two sofas in this cozy little room. Between them sat a silver platter on top of a short coffee table.
"The time has come," he thought, smiling deviously, "for King Nightron to leave the throne."
He stood up, the smile washed off of his face. The knife was ready, the spells were memorized, and the King was on his way. Nothing could save him now.
Yenshi the assassin stood rigid. A servant, dressed in red and carting a tray of food, had just passed by. As the distance between them grew longer, Yenshi let out a sigh of relief: Getting into Stone Castle was difficult, but staying undetected inside was next to impossible.
He poked his head out of his hiding place to check if anyone else decided to take a stroll around the bedroom floor.
Stealthily and quickly, he ducked out and down a nearby flight of stairs.
His skills paid off. He caught a glimpse of the King strolling down the hallway. Yenshi trailed them to a door, where the King entered. His burly bodygaurd remained outside.
"Patience, Yenshi." he whispered to himself. He would wait until the bodyguard was unaware, and then he would strike.
"Hello, my leige," said Odar with a bow and a gesture with his hand. "I trust you are hungry."
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I'm starving," the King said with gusto.
As the king walked by, he did not notice the slight hand gestures made by Odar. The first two spells, silence and lock, had been cast, Odar thought to himself.
The two men sat down on the sofas opposite each other.
"Shall I light the fire?" Odar implored.
"Yes," the King said, just now realizing the temperature. "It's quite chilly in here."
Odar casually raised his hand and gestured toward the fireplace, and the familiar bright orange flames sprang up.
"Better," the King said in satisfaction. "So where is this duck I've been dreaming about?"
"I'm afraid," said Odar sarcastically, as he raised from the sofa. "I'm afraid that you won't be eating any duck today."
Odar closed his eyes and began to murmmur incantations. His hand rose, and the cover of the silver platter on the table flew off, revealing a jagged knife. The King dove from his seat, but not in time. The knife, surrounded by a magical aura, lifted itself off the platter and dove itself into his chest.
King James screamed, but the silence spell prevented El'Turu from hearing him. He writhed on the ground, and Odar watched him with a devilish smile. James coughed up blood, and his eyes glazed over. He was dead.
What follows is the beginning of my short story. This is the first draft; only a chance to get my ideas down on paper/disk. The names are kind of cheesy, but I had to write it down before it left my head for good!
A small winding brook flows swiftly and softly from the Iron Foothills, its crystal clear water lapping onto smooth, aged rocks that lie peacefully on the bottom. The shallow brook cuts its path through Woodhaven forest, where red and orange leaves break their bonds and slowly glide onto the forest floor. Hill Brook also passes through the Plains of Moor, where its cool water floods the fields and gives life to thirsty plants. It, along with three other streams, empties into a large moat. In the center of the moat, with all its portcullises and banners, sits Stone Castle, home of Nightron royalty.
King James Nightron's reign had begun 45 years before; his father had died when he was only 13. In his 18th year as king, he met Lilian Vergo, whom he married. They produced a son whom they named Jonathon, after his mother's cousin. The child had the look of his mother: tall and thin with sharp features.
The marrige of the Nightrons and the Vergos ended a 100 year civil war. Times were good, and a truce was formed which lasted 20 years. But a old and bitter Vergo accused King James of assasinating a Vergo noble. The truce broke, armies were assembled, and both sides raced to establish borders. The civil war was one again active.
Sorry, gotta go. Chapter 2 later!
The Writer's Prayer
My Gentle God,
Guide me in this creative gift, that I may touch a soul.
Let me share beauty and horror, love and shame- the many faceted jewel of
human achievement and failing.
My Wrathful God,
Let me always remember the power of my words-
For mine is a weapon of destruction and healing; of mercy and intolerance.
My Loving God,
Guide my thoughts. For the beings I create are of me as I am of you.
Allow me to experience, on my own level, that part of me that is like you.
My Sheltering God,
Help me through my fears and insecurities, that I may find my voice.
Send the words locked in my mind to my heart, that I may savor the truth of them.
My Enduring God,
Remind me often that the creative tree rarely has only one root, and rarely spawns
only one seed.
As my art has been influenced by those who have come before, let me influence
those who are yet to come.
But above all else...
Help me learn to appreciate and enjoy that which you have given me.
Help me see it as the gift that it truly is. For this is who you have made me.
© Lisa Nickles 1997
Address below should be as it is here. Sorry.
I have just written this part of the book so please excuse any mispelling--stupid grammer--whatever..I'll be editing later.
It seemed like only moments before the freighter slowed from warp drive to normal space warp. Yet some distance away, and barely visible, Gastonia was the closet planet inside the fourth galaxy. David was checking over the radar monitors and Kandrik was busy plotting the remaining course to Gastonia.
"Collision course—EVASIVE!" David yelled. His monitor spoke out with a whine as a blip appeared on the screen dead ahead.
Kandrik pulled hard to the left with the throttle and their freighter jerked violently in the same direction. Once again the sounds of metal stress echoed through the craft—and a thud. A Gestonian freighter, also making an evasive maneuver, passed them within a few hundred meters.
"This radar system isn't worth much, David said. "It's range is to short."
Kandrik reached over in front of David, pushing a dull grey button on the console. David's monitor flickered then lit up with a long range
"What in the universe are you guys doing up there?" Heather yelled from the cargo hold. "I'd rather stay on my bed, as uncomfortable as it is, if you don't mind. The floor back here is hard and it's dirtier than that tavern we were in."
"I think we're in trouble again," David whispered to Kandrik. "Are you alright back there?"
"I would be if you two would learn how to fly!" Heather yelled back.
"We'll try and be more careful," Kandrik said.
"I hope so," Heather said. "I'm not going to have much of a body left the you guys handle this freighter."
David was laughing, but as quietly as he could. He was in enough trouble already without Heather hearing him laughing at her again. Kandrik just smiled and shook his head. "David, one of these days Heather is really going to get mad at you and belt you a good one," Kandrik said joking. "I hope I'm not around to see it when she does."
"Isn't that one of those fighters we've been having so much trouble with?" David asked changing the subject.
"Where?" Kandrik asked, sitting up in his seat to get a better view.
"It's gone now," David said. "I barely got a glimpse of it. It was actually too far away to tell."
"I missed it," Kandrik said giving David a disbelieving stare. David, keeping a straight face, turned to look at the monitors to calculate the time left to Gastonia. "Five minutes to that large space station orbiting The planet. We need to contact the space station to find out where we can put down."
Kandrik turned the volume control knob, actually the switch to change radio systems, and spoke into his head set. "Gestonian space station this is Botall freighter Kone-tess. Can you read me?" Kandrik radioed.
"This is the space station. What do you want here?" a voice answered.
"We're a trade vessel requesting a location to land on Gestonia. Can you direct us to your local trading port?" Kandrik asked.
"No trading vessels are allowed to the planets surface. All trading is done on the space station. This is for security purposes. What is your cargo?" the voice from the station asked.
"Bed linens from Botall," Kandrik said. Quieting the microphone he turned to David. "I hope they allow us to land. Without charts for this area we're going to have a tough time."
"I know," David said. "Even if they allow us to land, we still have to find someone who is willing to help us."
"Land at docking bay star-40. After you land, check in with security. Your craft will be inspected prior to your being allowed to conduct business here. Do you understand?"
"They're strict," David said.
"Understood, we're coming in," Kandrik replied.
The space station was the size of a small moon. There were five circular disks, two small ones decreasing in size on either side of the largest center disk. On the center of the top and bottom disks sat large spherical globes with antennas out-stretching three times the station's total length. The entire Space station was lit up by light filtering out of thousands of port holes and observation areas. Attached to the outer rims of the three innermost disks where an array of piping, communication dishes and landing ports.
Traffic was heaviest near the trader's landing ports. Freighters of all sizes and shapes were entering and exiting the ports on a consistent basis. Kandrik spotted Port star-40 and headed the freighter towards the huge doors. Before reaching the doors, something else of interest caught David's eye. "Look! See there. I wasn't imagining things back there," he said. "I saw one of those fighters fly into a landing port in the center disk.."
"Guess this place is no different than Verana's trade center," Kandrik said. "Just happens to be on a space station, that's all."
"Perhaps, but the only reason that those guys were on Astangra was to trade money for information," David said.
Their freighter suddenly shook as they approached the doors to the landing bay. "Tractor-beam?" Kandrik asked.
"Feels that way," David replied. "You'd better cut your trust engines. I don't want to go slamming into the bay doors. It would have been nice if they would've warned us."
"Maybe they assumed we knew what we were doing," Kandrik said as he pushed the throttle forward. "By the looks of those doors, we wouldn't be the first to crumple into them."
The bay doors opened as the tractor-beam pulled them closer. A sudden rush of smokey air gushed out of the opening along with bits of trash someone had left lying around. The pressure had been equalized with the surrounding space as they were pulled inside—the doors closing behind them. Kandrik set the freighter for hover mode, and none too soon, as the tractor-beam released its grip. "They don't play around here, do they?" he asked.
David monitored his instruments waiting for the pressure outside the ship to stabilize. "Obviously not. That's it, time to take a tour of this place."
"It was a bit rough, but a lot smoother than your take off," Heather said, meeting the boys at the door to the air lock. She pulled on the lever, opening the doors and then the lever to let down the ramp.
"Did you have a nice rest?" David asked.
"Once I was able to stay on my bunk I did," Heather replied. "It was nice and quiet...well...for the most part anyway."
"The ramp slammed to the deck and the trio exited the craft. At the bottom of the craft were two armed guards waiting impatiently. The guards, Gestonians, wore thin helmets with shields covering their eyes. A small transmitter antenna, one inch long, paralleled one side of their helmet. They wore light green uniforms with a wide belt and a sash draped over one shoulder. Each guard had a blaster to one side of their belt that looked more like a small cannon. Stuck into the front of their belts were the all to familiar razor knives. No doubt they knew how to use them. They wore knee high, white boots which seemed to David would be difficult to keep clean. David was impressed with their uniforms, but wasn't certain wether or not he like the boots. "Hi, my name is David and..."
"Lead us to your cargo hold so that we can inspect your cargo," one of the Gestonians demanded, not letting David finish his introductions. "We have no time for you idle chit chat. Let's get on with it, we have more freighters to inspect."
David led them to the cargo hold while Kandrik and Heather waited outside. Heather was not excited about the Gestonians manners. "They are an unfriendly pair, aren't they?" she asked Kandrik.
"That is their nature," Kandrik replied. "They like no one and the trust no one. I don't think they like each other the way the act."
"Well it's obvious they don't like us," Heather said. "I wonder what they have to be so nervous about."
"They probably don't know that either," Kandrik replied as he watched impatiently for his partner to appear on the ramp. "Ah, here they come." The guards came down the ramp first without saying a word and headed straight for an adjacent landing bay, disappearing through a doorway. "So, what's the word, David?"
"Not much to tell," David replied. "They took a quick look around, asked me to open one of the celinium crates—I did. Then they left. They act tough, but if someone wanted to smuggle in something illegal, it would be easy. They were in an awful big hurry."
"Did you find out where to go from here," Heather asked, "or do we have to guess our way around?"
"They told me that there's an area through the air lock and to the left. If we follow the signs that say Katachii, they would lead us to where we want to go."
"What the comet's tail is Katachii?" Heather asked.
"I'm not sure, but I think in means tavern in their language," David replied.
"Oh no!" Heather exclaimed. "I can imagine what their taverns are like. Can I wait here?"
"Your the one who has all the money," Kandrik replied. "Besides, I don't know if it would be safe to leave you alone here."
Heather thought back to the apparition and decided that she didn't want to be left alone anywhere for awhile. "Well, if I have to go, but you guys stick close to me. I don't want to end up having a date with a Gestonian." she said grinning.
"I would feel sorry for the Gestonian if you did," David said. "Besides, we're not here to seek courtship. We have work to do."
"Talking about me getting testy," Heather said.
"I think we better get going," Kandrik broke in. "We don't know where we'll end up going from here."
The trio went through the air lock and found themselves in a long hallway extending in both directions. On the wall across from the air lock was a sign with various words and symbols that they were unfamiliar with. Heather scanned over the sign and found the word Katachii with an arrow pointing left. "We go this way she said as she headed down the hall.
"Isn't that what I said in the first place?" David whispered to Kandrik.
Kandrik shrugged his shoulders and headed down the hall after Heather—David followed. The hallway was wide enough for a crawler to go through—a four passenger vehicle. It was arched at the top and lined with conduit and lighting fixtures scattered in an unsystematic order. Only half of the fixtures were operational making the hallway dimly lit.
Every few meters on the left there was a porthole looking out into the darkness and on the right, an occasional doorway with odd lettering overhead. After walking for a good five minutes the trio came to a passageway leading to the right, towards the center of the station, with a sign reading "Katachii" pointing in that direction. They continued to follow the passageway until the came to it's end.
They entered into a large, circular room filled with beings from several star systems from the third and the fourth galaxies. In the center was a circular bar lined with stools, half filled with Gestonians waiting to trade.
"Over there," David said nodding towards the far end of the room. "Blue skins. I wonder if the are sociable."
Heather was already choking on the repugnant stench of the air. "I don't know how anyone can breath in here," she said. Don't they know what smoke and dioxide filters are?"
"Probably to lazy to change them," Kandrik replied. "Maybe the Gestonians like it this way."
David kept watching the blue skinned people. They were seated in a semi-private location apparently not wanting to associate with anyone else. "Wait here," he said. "I'm going to go and try to talk to them."
"Be careful, David. "Heather said. "We don't know anything but hostility from them and we don't want to get in a brawl and get kicked out of here—or dead."
"You worry to much," David said. "I'll be right back." David walked toward the blue skinned people as a telepathic creature approached Heather and Kandrik.
"My name is Limoor Stewaird. The creature said. "I may be able to help you with the information you seek. I hope your friend over there doesn't get himself killed. Those are not friendly people who he's going to talk to. It would be wise to avoid contact with them altogether. I have seen more than one meet their doom approaching them like that. The security does not care what happens in here as long as hostilities do not leave this Katachii."
Kandrik and Heather stared at the telepath, amazed to the fact that he seemed to know a great deal about their intentions. Limoor was short with dark grey wrinkled skin and a wiry mustache that hung several inches below his fat chin. His ears were double pointed, large and rippled to catch the thought waves of those he could tune into. His pot belly protruded over his belt, hiding it's buckle from view and his legs were stubby, ending at the floor with small calloused feet having only four toes. The top of Limoor's hairless, wrinkled head reached just above Kandrik's belt line. He stretched out a small hand and long fingers, grabbing Kandrik's hand in a welcome hand shake and invited them to sit at his table.
"We'll accept your invitation," Heather said, "but we need to be in a position where we can keep on eye on David."
"You will be," Limoor said. "Come we will sit, drink and discuss your problem."
"Do we have a problem?" Kandrik asked. "We are hear to trade our bed linens. Are you interested in the?"
"No, I'm not, but you need my help," Limoor answered. "Of course, if you would rather search for you answers elsewhere, you're free to do so. I must warn you, however, if you ask the wrong person the wrong question you'll end up disintegrated before you realize what had happened. Here is my table, sit."
Kandrik and Heather took a position at the table so that they could watch David. He was already on his way back to join them as they sat down. Limoor ordered a round of drinks and invited David to join them.
"That was fast," Kandrik said. "What happened?"
"Nothing," David replied.
"Nothing?" Heather asked.
"Nothing," David repeated. "First, I asked them if they knew of anyone who wanted to trade for our linens. They...wait a moment. Who is this guy and why are we at his table?"
"It's alright, David—I think," Kandrik said. "His name is Limoor. Go on what were you saying?"
"Anyway, as I was saying, they just stared at me without saying a word. I then asked them if they would tell me where to get star charts of this galaxy so that we could find our way around the trade centers. Again, they stared without saying a word. I stood there for a moment feeling like some kind of an idiot. Finally, I came back to join you. That's all."
"You're lucky, young man," Limoor said. "I've seen that before. Usually, people who have approached them have been more persistent. After the third question, if you would have asked one, you would have been an addition to the mucky smell in here—you would have been disintegrated.
"Now you tell me!" David exclaimed. "How did you know they were going to do that?"
"I sat at a table next to there's, more than once," Limoor said. "One of them would've had their blaster already drawn as you approached. He would've fired it from under the table had you continued to disturb them."
"I see," David said. "So what's the story here? What is your interest in us?"
"Money!" Limoor exclaimed. "Information for money. Nothing more."
"I knew there had to be a catch somewhere," Kandrik said. "And what information do you think you have that would be so helpful to us?"
"Star charts, the nearest location of a Blatarra base, to mention a few things," Limoor replied. "The more you want, the more it will cost you. The more you pay, the more I will tell you. The part about the Blatarrans was a freebie."
"So that's what those blue skinned freaks of nature call themselves," David said. "That's the first decent piece of info we've heard in awhile. Okay, you have yourself a deal—within reason. How much do you want to tell us about them?"
"Depends on how many questions you ask," Limoor replied.
"Alright, we're getting along slowly here and we don't have that much time," Heather said. "One amount, one topic with whatever questions the topic entails. I'm sure that you are not the only one around this place that is at our disposal. So let's get on with it."
"Five-hundred credits to learn about the Blatarrans," Limoor said bluntly.
David thought that was to steep for spoken words. "Wait a moment..."
"We'll give you five-hundred credits ,but you must tell us about the Blatarra base you mentioned earlier," Heather said interrupting David.
"I knew you were going to say that and I was already prepared to accept," Limoor replied. "What is it that you want to know about them?"
"Five-hundred credits is nuts," David mumbled under his breath.
"Will you shut up David?" Heather said giving him an evil stare. "I want to get out of here as fast as we can."
"Where are they from and how far is the planet from here," Kandrik asked.
"The Blatarra base in only eight parsecs from here," Limoor explained. "Their home planet in not far from there. They have a trading center near their base, but I don't like it there. I've been to the trade center once and haven't been back since. Good place to die."
"How long ago has it been since you were on their planet?" David asked. "When you were there, were you able to go on the base?"
"Let's see...oh yes, it was six months ago and no I couldn't get on the base," Limoor replied. "They have very tight security. No one is allowed on the base. I hope you're not thinking of going there. The base is surrounded by the most elaborate laser fence system I've ever seen, but even it has a flaw. I did fly near the base as I came in for a landing and I can tell you this...I saw more fighters there than I have ever seen in any one place. There must have been hundreds and above the planet there is a moon sized ship. I've never seen a ship that big either. That's why I've never been back there—it scares me. I don't know what their up to, but what ever it is, you can believe it is nothing good."
"Do you know anything about their weapons capabilities?" Kandrik asked. "On their ships I mean."
"While I was at the trading center I could see their fighters fly over and practice firing at targets in their test range. I could tell by the sound that some of the weapons they were firing were shock blasters. The only other place I have ever heard such sounds is when I had gone to your galaxy to trade. I thought that maybe people from your galaxy was involved with the Blatarrans because of the same style of fighters and the same weapons."
"Let's put it this way," David said, "There are no decent, peace-loving people from our galaxy who are involved with them and we have our suspicions where they're getting their technology. They've been conducting hostile raids in our area and that is why we are here, to find out what is going on."
"I know," Limoor said. "I've known every since you walked in the door. That's why I've been so willing to talk to you. You see, I do not like those people and whatever it is they're up to, I want to help stop it."
"Why does it concern you so much what they do?" Heather asked.
"Because a couple of years ago they raided my home planet. We were a simple people and kept to ourselves except for the trading we've done. We had weapons, but only used them for self-defense and they weren't very sophisticated. Now there are only a few of us left living on a dead planet, destroyed by the Blatarrans. My whole family was annihilated in a few short hours."
"Why, I don't understand why they would destroy an entire civilization," Heather said. "What was so valuable to them that they would go to such an extreme?"
"Stranite," Limoor said. "We would not trade what little stranite we had so they came in and took it, destroying everything in the process. We only had one stranite mine and it produced barely enough stranite to use in our own weapons. It wasn't enough to be worth killing so many people for."
Apparently in was for them," Kandrik said. "How many of you are left."
"Six," Limoor replied, "myself and a family of five who refused to leave their home planet. They survived the attack by hiding in an underground cave system. I survived because I was in your galaxy trading for essential items."
"We are sorry, Limoor," Heather said. "Do you have the star charts we need."
"Yes, but that will cost you even more, Limoor said. "That's another topic."
"How much this time?" David spoke up. We only have so much to spend."
"Yes and I know how much that is. I think my requests have been reasonable considering. Remember, I am a telepath and I know what you're going to ask before you ask the question. I also know what you are thinking. If you weren't people with good intentions, I would not have approached you in the first place. There are so few good people who come in this establishment. To answer your question, the price I ask is on your vessel."
"Passage, to where?" Heather asked. "Where is your ship? Why..."
"Because my freighter was taken from the landing dock," Limoor replied. "I didn't have a defense shield which I could activate from outside the ship and someone took it and all it's cargo, food and medical supplies for the family on my planet. I would've given you the information for nothing, but I wanted the money for those folks, not for me."
Heather looked at David and Kandrik with the expression of a child as if to say please.
Kandrik didn't know what to think or say either way. "That decision is up to you David, your the boss." he said. "Whatever you decide is okay with me."
David looked at Heather, staring at him with a sweet expression on her face. "I guess so, what about those star charts, Limoor?" he asked.
"They are in my head," Limoor replied. "If you want the charts, you get me. I don't have any where else to go or anything else to do except to deliver the five-hundred credits to the family on my planet. They have their own freighter that they also managed to keep hidden from the Blatarrans. If they had that much money, they could leave the planet and find a new place to live. Besides I know the first eight star systems like I knew my own ship. I could be useful to your cause."
"You make it hard to say no, Limoor," David said. "We'll take you with us."
Heather got up from the table and walked over to a table a few feet away from their's while David and Limoor were discussing the star systems in the surrounding area and the location of Limoor's planet. Kandrik sat quietly taking in everything that was being said. He was thinking about Tiffany.
* * *
"Hi, my name is Tasha," said the porter. "If you will follow me, I will take you to your room."
"We would be obliged, Tasha," David said. "It has been a hard journey."
"That is what I've been told," Tasha said.
"Did you notice she said room, singular?" Lisa asked smiling.
"Probably just a simple mistake," David replied. As he spoke, he was watching their porter. Tasha was tall, fair skinned, and had long blond hair flowing down to the floor. She wore a shear white gown graciously covered with white lace. Lisa observed David watching Tasha intensely and gave him a strong nudge in the ribs with her elbow.
"Ouch, what was that for?" he asked.
"You know what that was for. You had better mind your manners."
"You're starting to act and sound like Heather."
"Come on, the porter is waiting for us." Lisa said.
The hallways were even more spectacular than the outside of the embassy. The floors were made of solid crystalline glass. The walls and ceiling were made of the same glass, but there were more precious stones embedded in them than they could count. In all the universe and in all of David's travels, he had never seen anything more beautiful, so well created. Because of the reflective qualities of the glass, very few light fixtures were need to illuminate the hallways.
Opening the door to their room, Tasha showed them in. Still in a hypnotic state, they followed her in. "I trust you will find these quarters suitable."
They looked around the room and David realized that there was only one bed. He turned to Lisa, noticing a funny grin on her face. "I think there must be some mistake," David said to Lisa. "There is only one bedroom with only bed." He turned towards Tasha and complained to her.
"I'm sorry, sir," Tasha said. "The Ambassador has been having special conventions, this is the only room available. He had this room reserved especially for you, making sure that you had a room when you arrived."
"Thank you," Lisa said. "This will do fine."
David did not think that this was a good idea. What would Heather think? "Yeah, but..."
"Maybe we can take advantage of the situation," Lisa said before David could say another word.
"Please, let us know when you are ready for your baths," Tasha said.
"Where are the baths?" asked David.
"They are down the hall," Tasha said . "When you are ready, we will come and show you to them."
"I am ready now," David said. "All I have to do is get my things together."
"Fine, I'll send Tonya up to you room to help you." Tasha said as she left the room.
"Send who—to do what?" David asked.
"Relax, it's the custom here to have the porters help with the baths." Lisa said.
"I don't think I understand," David said in a state of total confusion.
"Don't worry, you will comprehend soon enough. I would like to get my bath over soon. I am hungry and I can't wait for dinner."
"Me too! I feel as if I could eat a whole ranistar steak by myself."
"You must be hungry, I don't know anyone who can do that. Ranistar steaks weigh about three pounds. I would like to watch." Lisa said laughing.
"You're real funny."
"Now you are starting to sound like Heather." David said. Heaven help me, there are two of you. We better have a porter bring us some extra blankets, you can have the bed and I'll sleep on the couch."
"Suite yourself." There was a knock on the door and Lisa went to answer it.
"The porters are here with our robes and towels for our baths,"
"Great, let's get going," David said. They followed the porters down the hall to the bath quarters.
"This is Tonya," said Tasha. Tonya was a tall women, like Tasha, with long black hair, also flowing to the floor.
"Doesn't your hair take a long time to wash and brush out?" Lisa asked Tonya.
"Not any longer than in takes Tasha," Tonya said jokingly. David almost died laughing. It struck him funny that someone told a joke, putting one over on Lisa.
Arriving at the bath quarters, Tonya opened the door and showed them in. David went into the room, still dazzled about the decor. He saw a large oval bath sunken into the floor. The bath was steaming from the hot water and was covered with a thick layer of greenish-blue bubbles. I can't wait to get in, David said to himself. Lisa and the two porters followed him in and shut the door. David turned around with a surprised look on his face. Tonya and Tasha walked over to the benches near the bath and set down the towels and robes.
"Be quiet, don't embarrass me," Lisa said to David, jabbing him the ribs again. "Remember, we wouldn't want to insult them and the Ambassador, now get in the tub."
"Yeah, but..." David stood there rubbing his rib cage.
"Shhh! Get in, we don't want to stay here all day, do we?" Lisa pointed out. "I'm hungry."
"Okay, okay, just don't poke me in the ribs anymore, I'm getting bruised." David turn away from Lisa, took off his clothes and quickly slid into the bath. Tasha picked his clothes up from the floor, where David had left them, and put them on the bench, folding them into a neat pile. David looked up at Lisa, his face was blushed. Lisa began to take her clothes off, handing them to Tonya. David's face turned redder than ever, he covered his eyes until Lisa got into the water and was covered by the bubbles.
"I'm in," Lisa told him. "You can uncover your eyes now." Lisa sat in the water on the opposite side of the tub, smiling that funny little grin again.
"You were worried about me embarrassing you," David said after he had gotten his courage back up to speak.. "What about me, I don't think I could be more flustered."
"I can tell that by the color of your face," Lisa said. "Just try and remember diplomatic relations. Besides, I would think you would enjoy some luxury after our long flight here."
"I enjoy elegance, but..."
"Just a moment, David," Lisa said, interrupting him as usual. "Tonya, I believe David is ready for the wash cloths now."
"Right away," Tonya answered. Tonya stepped to the side of the bath with a wash cloth is her hand. David started to reach up for the cloth when Tonya dropped her gown to the floor, standing in front of him with bare naked. Tonya stepped down into the bath. This time, David did not turn away and cover his eyes. He was too dumbfounded at what Lisa called luxury. Tonya walked over next to David.
"Close your mouth, David, your going to get bubbles in it," Tonya laughed. This time it was Lisa's turn to laugh at David. She thought she was going to get a stomach ache, she was laughing so hard. "Turn around silly, so I can wash you back." Tonya finished saying. David was glad to turn around so they couldn't see how red his face was.
When David and Lisa had finished their bath's, they went back to their room to dress for dinner.
"I trust your bath was acceptable?" Tasha asked on the way to the room. "Is there anything else you need before dinner?"
Thoughts? Above, it said to write my thoughts here--okay!
If I write my thoughts here, I would probably be banished from the planet Earth--the whole galaxy--who knows. Anyway, I could probably relate a whole list of reasons why I started to write SCI-FI, but I imagine it would become boring fast--I'll skip that part for now. Thank God, huh!
So what's the point? The point is, and I know it has been heard a Zillion and one times, HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay...I admit it I'm new to writting--on my first book.
Do I know anything about manuscript formats to send to publishers? NO!
Am I an avid reader? NO!
Have I had an extensive background in writing? NO!
Have I had college courses in English grammer? Yes! How did that sneak in here? Ok, I recieved a 4.0 in C...English. So what? That was several years ago.
I'm getting old here! Have been injured on the job which gives me plenty of time to do somthing with this funny looking screen on my desk. By the way, the Doctor says it's permanent...fun. Right!
So what's point number two?
Again, HELP!!!!!!!!! If there is at least be one kind soul out there, somewhere, who would be willing to guide, direct, lead and etc. me to the wheres, whens, hows and whatevers of what I have gotten myself into, I would indeed be gratefull.
I am in the process of fabricating words into word perfect 7, that I hope will turn out as something intellegent. I guess that I am about half way through my noval, give or take a few thousand words. I've heard that until one has written at least 1 million words, what they usually write is trash. Guess I must be still writing trash!
Related: I love watching Star Wars and ANY such movie. Guess where my book takes place...How did you guess? Space!
I have surfed the net to find workgroups, etc. that might be able to help me and that I may have an interest, but there are so many out there--confusing.
Point number 3 and final...HELP!!!! (Please!)
Anyone interested in leading a greenhorn by the hand, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh...one more thing, Thanks...
Picture on the Wall
I knew when I opened my eyes in the hospital that Donna was dead. I didn't need to ask.
To my left my boyfriend and mother were whispering.
"Where's Sid?" I asked, mouth dry like cotton gauze.
"He's with the girls. Jessica and Hailey are in pediatrics. Do you want me to get
him?" asked my mom.
"I want to see him."
A few minutes longer, Sid walked into the room slowly, head lowered, eyes even
lower. He slid a chair beside my bed and held my hand.
"Hey, Pam." He tried to smile, but tears spilled over onto his cheeks, ran into his
"Sid," I whispered.
"You're mom told me you haven't asked about Donna yet."
"I don't need to." Sid started to weep. I stroked the back of his head with my
other hand. "What about the girls?"
"They're fine. Those car seats saved their lives. I think of all the times I strapped
Jessica into the seatbelt instead of taking the time to put her in the carseat. I figured, she's
three years old- she's big enough to go without. I didn't think it made a difference since
she wasn't a baby anymore. If it would've been me driving..."
"You would have taken the interstate into the city instead if the most dangerous
highway in the state like we did. You have to be strong for the girls."
"I know, I know. I'm so sorry that you got hurt, so glad that you're alive."
"So angry that Donna died instead?" He looked deep into my eyes and wept again.
This was no time for anything except honesty.
"Oh God, I'm sorry."
"Are the girls okay, really?"
"They get to go home tomorrow. The doctors want to keep them for observation,
but it looks like they'll be alright. I haven't told them...about Donna. I don't know how.
How do I tell my three year old and eighteen month old daughters that they'll never see
their mom again? Will they even understand?"
"I want to help you Sid," I said.
"No, I have to do this alone. They should hear this from their father."
"I mean later. After I'm healed. I want to help you raise the girls."
"When I agreed to be Jessica's Godmother, Donna also asked me to be her
guardian if anything were to happen to the two of you. She didn't trust her parents to
raise her the way you would have wanted her raised, and she thought your parents were
too old to take on that kind of responsibility. I never fully agreed to it- said I'd think
about it. Well, I have, and I do want to do this."
"You graduated three months ago from college so you could get a career and live
on your own. Now you want to tie yourself down to two children that aren't yours?"
"They're mine now."
Three months later I helped move Hailey into Jessica's room and moved myself
into her old room. Sid had already gotten rid of most of Donna's possessions that he
didn't want to keep for the girls for when they were adults. Jessica was no longer
pottytrained and kicked and screamed all the way to the car whenever they needed to go
somewhere. Hailey still had the gift of a child's short term memory and didn't appear
affected by the accident. She did go around the house calling out, "Mama," repeatedly,
though. Otherwise, she was quiet.
One evening I loaded the dishwasher while the girls watched Lion King. Sid
walked into the kitchen and began to help.
"You know, that day, when I finally got to the hospital and the doctors told me
about Donna they also told me something else. They told me that they had been
unsuccessful at saving the baby as well. I started to freak out, because I was sure that
they were talking about Hailey. But then, they asked me if I wanted to know was gender
the child was. I must have looked confused because then he asked if I'd even knew my
wife was pregnant. I nodded as if I'd known and forgotten somehow in all the
commotion. It was a boy. She was almost five months along."
"Oh God, Sid. I'm so sorry."
"Did you know?
"She hadn't come right out and told me, but she'd been alluding to some things that
was making me suspicious. That day in the car, when we were on our way to the mall,
she said she hoped she'd have a son someday for you because you really wanted a son."
"I read some of her journals. She wrote in it every day. She knew for three
months that she was pregnant. She was afraid to tell me because she knew I wanted to
wait awhile before we had any more children since the girls are so close in age."
"I'm sorry, Sid."
"Was I a horrible husband? I mean, she was actually afraid of telling me we were
having another baby. When was she going to tell me?"
"You were a good husband and father, Sid. She told me that so many times that I
used to tell her all the mushy stuff you did for each other was pathetic. She was worried,
and she should have told you sooner, but there's nothing you can do now. Accept it and
move on with your life. For the girls and for yourself. Try and find some happiness
"I lost a wife and a son at the same time. When I try and comprehend that, I am
still in awe at the concept. I still expect to smell her perfume on the folded towels."
"Give it time, it hasn't been that long."
"And the girls. They've changed so much. But you're great with them. Jessica's
back to wearing a diaper only at night again. Hailey's talking a lot more. Without you we
would have fallen completely apart."
"It's what Donna wanted. It's what I want."
"I don't want to sound like I'm pushing you to leave, because I'm glad you're here,
but I want you to know that whenever you want to leave, you're free to go. I can
understand you wanting to get on with your life, your career."
"This is my life now."
The months passed quickly and before I realized it, we were celebrating Jessica's
fourth birthday and after that the anniversary of the accident came and passed. One
evening, when Sid and the girls, Justin came over with flowers and, he said, a surprise.
"So what's the big surprise?" I asked.
"Just wait, will you? I got to get this right. Now, close you're eyes while I get
ready. Okay, now hold out your left hand, palm down. Great. Now, open your eyes."
When I open my eyes I saw Justin kneeling on one knee, a diamond ring between his
thumb first finger, extended toward me. His eyes sparkled like the diamond in the light.
"Pam, over a year ago I nearly lost you. That day I decided to do anything
possible to hold onto you. It's taken both of us awhile to get our lives in order so that I
feel comfortable asking you this question. I've got a job in Rochester now. You've got
this family on track now. I've already talked to Sid about it so I know you're free to go.
Pamela Jean Boyers- will you marry me?" Tears flowed down my cheeks on the carpet at
Justin's knee. I knelt down in front of him and we embraced.
Five years later
"So things are pretty serious between you and Janice? You've been dating for
quite awhile now," I teased, clearing the table of the breakfast dishes.
"I haven't been this happy since...since...," began Sid.
"Since before Donna died?"
"Yes. Tonight we're going out. Could you keep the girls up until we get home.
There's something I want to tell them. I suppose I should tell you now...,"
"Aunt Pam, can you French Braid my hair for school? I tried to do it the way you
taught me, but I don't have enough fingers," said Jessica, plopping into a kitchen chair,
holding out a hairbrush and rubberband.
"You have just as many fingers as I do! But I'll do it or you'll be late for school."
"Aunt Pam, I can't get my dress zipper up. It's in the back and I can't reach it,"
"You'll have to wait until I'm finished with Jessica's hair."
"But my back is cold!" Being the more emotional one of the two, she stomped her
foot and pouted. Jessica was almost ten, Hailey eight, and their femininity was beginning
to emerge. I braided hair, painted nails, and sprayed perfume on a regular basis. Jessica
looked more and more each morning she crawled out of bed like Donna. Sometimes I
would hear her laugh in the next room and my stomach would drop because it was
identical to Donna's. Even six years later I would run from one room to the next to see
who was really laughing. Hailey did not resemble Donna much at all, she was really more
like me. People mistook us for mother/daughter on a regular basis. I chalked it up to the
fact I'd raised her from a younger age and that it was natural for a child to pick up on the
gestures and looks as their primary caretaker.
"I'll zip it for you, Hailey," said Sid. The girls grabbed their school bags and
jackets and ran out to the car for Sid to take them to school. Before he got to the door,
Sid turned to me.
"Listen, there's something I should tell you about before tonight."
"Dad! Come on. We'll be late again!" yelled Jessica from the car.
"Well, I guess I'll leave it to be a surprise for you, too. See you tonight."
During the days, now that the girls were in school all day, I worked part time at
the local newspaper. Sid had guilted me into pursuing the job by way of feeling guilty
himself for me staying with them instead of getting a job in my field. I had studied to be a
writer for nearly five years and writing articles about small town festivals and city council
minutes was not something I had ever wanted to do nor did I enjoy it all that much now,
but it kept my writing skills loose. The editor at the paper had told me many times I
should apply at their affiliate in Rochester, but I'd always refused. I couldn't leave.
I put the girls to bed that night and did my usual Tuesday night chores: folding
laundry, loading the dishwasher and mopping the kitchen floor. Sid and Janice arrived
home in the middle of stacks of laundry spread out in the living room. They were giggling
and whispering to each other in the entryway.
"The girls are in bed already. They were tired from school so I didn't make them
stay up for you," I said.
"Well then, I guess you'll be the first to know. I would like to introduce you to
someone. Meet my fiancee- Janice Kerrington." My eyes dropped directly to the diamond
ring on her left hand. Then my stomach dropped to the floor. "Are you sure the girls are
asleep?" I nodded, unable to utter any words.
"Well, I'll just go home if the girls aren't awake. See you tomorrow, Sid? I want to
start planning this wedding as soon as possible." I turned my back as they giggled and
kissed even more. When I heard the door close, I spun around, angry.
"You're getting married?"
"I tried to tell you this morning but we were interrupted. I wanted us to tell you
all three together. You look angry, Pam. I thought you'd be happy for me."
"I was miserable for five years before I met Janice. I couldn't even look at another
woman without thinking of Donna. You encouraged me to move on."
"What about the girls?"
"What about them? They like Janice. She adores them. We'll be a family."
"Alright, then what about me?"
"You can finally be free to lead a normal life. You can finally be a real writer, not
one for a small town newspaper covering June Dairy Days."
"Normal life? This is what normal life is for me, Sid. Folding clean laundry every
Tuesday night. Raising these girls. Cooking meals. This is normal. What do you mean
"You're 29 years old. You're a college graduate. You're beautiful. Pursue all the
aspirations that I know you had before that horrible day six years ago when we lost
Donna. Donna died...not you."
"Do you realize what I gave up to be here? I don't even care that Justin is gone
because I couldn't bare to marry him and leave before the girls were old enough for me to
leave. I don't even care."
"That's what I mean. Reclaim everything you gave up. I can't express my
gratitude for all the years you spent here. You dedicated yourself to me and the girls. But
it's time for us to all move on."
"Do you expect me to just move out, get an apartment down the street and not
expect to see Jessica and Hailey? I am the only mother they remember. Donna is just a
picture on the wall that they call 'Mom' but have no memory of. Janice will never replace
me. If I leave then they'll be losing their mother for the second time."
"We'll explain it all to them. Besides, they'll be so busy with the move and meeting
new friends that it'll be the last thing on their minds."
"Janice is being transferred to Rochester shortly after the wedding. We'll move
with her of course."
"You're ripping this family apart, piecing together a new one, and on top of that
moving these children away from everything they know?"
"What do you want me to do, Pam? Would you rather I be unhappy for the rest of
"I thought we were happy."
"Don't misunderstand me- I am happy here. Did you really think that this is all
you'd do for the rest of your life? You never envisioned yourself married with children of
your own? Donna would have wanted you to have all that she had."
"How can you take these girls away from me?"
"Listen, we have plenty of time to get used to the idea. It's not going to happen
overnight. Let's just go to bed. We'll talk about this later. Good-night."
I couldn't believe what was happening, what was about to happen. There was no
sleeping for me. I shifted between sitting at the window watching the few midnight
drivers flash up and down the street and drifting into the girls' room and watching the
sleep. The following morning the breakfast table was tense- the girls noticed even though
they didn't know why. They quickly ate their toast and drank their juice, glancing between
Sid and I who were careful to exchange the usual morning chatter. After the three of
them were gone for the day, I flipped through the yellow pages of the phone book, found
the number of the lawyer with the biggest print in their ad, and made an appointment for
the early afternoon. Someone had canceled their appointment, the secretery told me, and I
was lucky to get such a speedy appointment since the appointment book hardly ever
allowed for anyone to see the lawyer before a month or two.
"You have an interesting situation, Miss Boyers. As I see it, your dilemna is that
you feel like a maternal figure for these children. You've given up a good portion of your
life to be with them because their mother, your best friend since childhood, died when they
were young. However, the father is going to remarry, move the family, and you have no
custodial rights to these children. You say there was never any legal documentation filed
giving to the rights of a legal guardian?"
"No, their father didn't die, he's capable of taking care of them, and we had an
agreement that didn't require legalities."
"Were you and the father ever involved romantically?"
"No! He was my best friend's husband. Her death didn't change our relationship
in that way. But, what difference would it make if there if had changed?"
"We could try the angle of common law marriage, if there had been romantic links
between the two of you. Otherwise, Miss Boyers, I don't feel as though you have a case
that will come to the conclusion your seeking, through the courts that is. You volunteered
to help. You were not kept there unwillingly. What you did proves you had dedication
and a large amount of self sacrifice, but it isn't enough for partial custody or court
mandated visitation rights. As you said before, the father is capable in every way of caring
for his daughters. His fiancee poses no threat toward their well being either. I don't
believe that there's a judge anywhere that would rule against him."
"So I gave up six years of my life for nothing?"
"What did you expect, Miss Boyers? When the two of you agreed to the
arrangement, did you think you would be rewarded somehow? A pin, a medal of honor?
You did it for the sake of the children, did you not? So they would have a happy life,
despite the tragedy that occurred so soon in their lives? There's your reward, Miss
Boyers. I suggest you talk with the father. There must be a reasonable compromise the
two of you can get to. He doesn't seem like an unreasonable person, from what you've
"Thank you for your advice." I hadn't really wanted to take Sid to court anyway.
I was desperate. I was frightened I would join the ranks of Donna, a picture in an album
or on the wall with a name the girls could recall if prompted to, but no memory to
accompany it. Except I would still be alive to witness it.
When I arrived home from the lawyer, Sid was waiting in the living room.
"I'm glad you're home. We need to talk some more about...this situation."
"I saw a lawyer today," I said strongly, trying to appear like I had a strong case
and he'd better back down or else.
""Are you going to sue me for custody or something? Like we're getting a divorce
"I can't. I didn't really want to anyway."
"We've got to come to a resolution about this. Jessica and Hailey can tell there's
something wrong. They've been asking questions."
"They're sensitive, aren't they?" I smiled.
"Yes. Because of you. I realize more and more the effect you've had on their
lives. You're a good mother."
"I think I've got a compromise. It's not the greatest, but it might work if we try.
When we move to Rochester, give us some time to get set up as a family. That doesn't
mean you can't call or write letters or visit occasionally. A few months. Meanwhile, you
can be looking for a job. A real writing job or whatever you want. Janice really wants to
be a mother for the girls. She doesn't have any children so it's going to take her awhile to
learn and it's going to take the three of us to get used to another person being the woman
of the house. If you're there a lot at the beginning, I can see problems arising. When you
move to Rochester, if you choose that is, you can see the girls whenever. But you've
always got to remember who's their mother now. Don't ever let them play us against each
other. Back us up on our decisions...and we'll back you up of course."
"I think I can accept that arrangement. It sounds really good."
"I thought a lot about Donna last night. Something I hadn't allowed myself to do
for a long time. What would she want? How would she handle something like this? Just
because I've moved on doesn't mean I still don't love her and think about her."
"I never thought that, Sid. We can make this work. For the girls?"
"For the girls."
I've been here long enough. Time to submit some honest work.
Tree of Faith
by Kasin Hunter
She flashed a cryptic smile as she flipped the kitchen light off with her elbow, juggling a glass tumbler, a half-emptied bottle of Vodka, and an open book. She padded bare-footed up to the young man reclining on her worn sofa. "Some minds, you don't go into without combat gear. Welcome to my trench."
"That doesn't scare me."
"No?" She seemed honestly surprised. "I have to say, you're brave for a visitor."
"A friend." He raised his tumbler in salute. She filled it to the brim.
"Must be the vodka."
He returned a small smile, but not what hid behind it.
She sighed. "Whatever." She turned, walking toward her
computer and disheveled desk. Beside the keyboard, she
bookmarked an already open volume with the bottle of vodka,
company for an uncorked bottle of red wine. "If you're not to
be dissuaded, I have no choice but to take you up to the battle
front with me. But because you call yourself my friend, I'll
warn you--I have, in the past, been accused of friendly fire."
"I've dodged bullets before." He settled in, letting a
mouthful of cool liquor slide down his throat. She continued,
quietly at first.
"My Field of Dreams turned into a roller coaster without
brakes when my father began raping me at six; then it appeared
to convert back to rolling hills of daisies when he died in
He'd never heard about her father. After five months of
knowing her, and this was the first time she--
"--oh, my God. The fields just exploded." Her eyes,
distant. He'd seen this before.
"Blame the '70's."
There it was--the root of her flashbacks. "Yes. Blame the
She blinked, focused on him, then on her wine. She swirled
the red liquid in the glass with slow circles of her hand. "My
mind's full of surprises, sometimes, even for myself . . . and
I'm the one carrying them around. A type of insanity, I
suppose." The wine slipped down her throat much too easily.
"Trying to stay away from reminiscing," she continued.
"After all, it didn't do Cutshaw any good, as Blatty knows, even
though the 'astronaut' was published as a ghost-writer (or at
least made surreptitious claims to such)." She pitched her hand
toward the glaring green computer monitor, now blank. "Being
published doesn't mean you're well received. Nobody much liked
his book I Remember Mama by Oedipus Rex."
She tapped the keyboard, the same characters over and over
--colon, left parenthesis; colon, left parenthesis . . . "So,
what's the point of putting 'from the hearts' down on paper?
Like growing from a seed to a tree, is the trying the thing?
Are we talking self-improvement here?"
He wasn't sure he followed, but-- "So, the Joneses got all
A's . . . and an afterlife?"
". . . don't go there. I'm depressed enough."
He sighed. How stupid of him to think that plain humor--
"Suppose it's simply all levels," she queried while filling
up her tumbler with more wine, "striated layers, one direction
or another . . . like the layers of the Chinese Golden Lotus
Flower, a beeperless soul clad in Buddhist's garb peeling away
each petal until he gets past all the aphids and reaches the
inner level of consciousness--ah! Enlightenment! Would that be
worth writing down?" He opened his mouth to speak but she
overrode him. "Or is it option number two, a time-climb, being
reincarnated, gradually elevating up through levels of time from
gnat to nitwit until the striver reaches the highest nirvana--
the foot of God. Foot--another Blatty flashback of the Ninth
Configuration. Perhaps the 70's are to blame. Perhaps the
In a pleading tone, "Kum ba ya, my Lord; come by here." As
a child he had enjoyed church.
"So, what d'ya think--He's not here?"
"No, I didn't m--"
She launched at him, her eyes burning. "Was He in the
Auschwitz chamber when Julie Jewish closed her eyes for the last
time, her lungs filled with diesel exhaust?"
"But . . . you're not Jewish."
She pulled back, dreamily saying, "Sleep well, sweet
princess. Were your Field of Dreams covered in funeral flowers
tended by Zyklon bees? Were there pellets lying on the yeasty
mulch of decomposing bodies, pellets from the dead rabbits--no--
dead lambs, like yourself? No, not your dream. This is an
My God. He pictured a sepia-colored Jewish waif, thin, in
rags. A thick smoke drifted in, covering her. She choked,
then-- "God is love."
She snapped to as if suddenly awakened to her previous
mood. "Love?! How can you possibly say that? Was He in the
windowless barracks where lice swarmed like ants and rats ran
big as cats, when bare-footed Paul Polish laid on the barbed
wire mattress waiting for 3:00 o'clock when a Nazi cock would
crowed, 'Wache auf!'"
A young man, shaven head, the sound of marching boots
coming closer. The sound of choppers whomp-whomped overhead.
The M-16 jammed. A snapping twig in the nearby jungle-- "Wait.
Wait a minute." He shook his head, scattering the distressing
images. "You obsess about cruelties. Too much, I think."
Oblivious to his comment, she pursued her point,
"Considering this, how could it possibly be the third option--
the Born Again Bargain, the Great Revelation relative to all
four points of the compass--and the chest? All together now,
let's cross our chests in time with Lawrence Welk efficiency--
and a one, and a two, on the downbeat: North, south, west, and
east. I am, I am, I am, I am." She crossed herself in fine
Catholic fashion. "Once again now for the Pope: You will, you
will, you will, you will--or we'll take away your passes to
Wednesday night Bingo."
"And as a result, the reward for such global commitment is
. . . "
"That I'm bestowed with instant reincarnation--I am--
Voila!--born again. The big Bang! A whole new life in the wink
of an all-loving, all-seeing eye, kinda like instant oatmeal--
just add Holy Water."
"Now there's a bargain Bang!" There was truth in this.
"Yes," she agreed, pensively. "I wonder if Paul Polish and
Julie Jewish heard The Bang before the Grim Reaper gathered his
1945 Harvest? I wonder if the Christians eaten in the arena
heard The Bang! while the lions tore their flesh, severed sinew,
crunched bones? Or had they risen to the Moslems' higher class?
Would they have opted for an air balloon rather than self-
sacrifice for their Final Solution?"
"I think, perhaps, their level of mortality was that of the
dust. I'll have to check my Dust Buster for clues."
He covered his eyes with his hand, blocking her out. How
could so much asperity lie beneath the surface of such a
beautiful face? He dropped his hand, but couldn't smile. She
returned to the keyboard, keying frantically as she talked.
"I've heard the word genius leveled at me (the point-blank
end of psychological blunderbuss thrust in my direction), as it
has been similarly applied to great minds, great masters. So,
my life becomes a great work of art? a still-life tableau?
She stopped typing and looked at him. "What's the synonym
for genius-labeling? Eight across--flattery." He watched her
lips move. "How can I live up to the expectations of others when
I can't figure out my own?" He shrugged, then drank more vodka.
"Jesus! Don't you have any answers?"
He suddenly pictured her laying naked, white, quiet,
accepting before him. The disparity of the image shocked him--
like suddenly looking at a negative instead of the real picture.
She must have sensed his unsettled mood. Her tone quieted
a little. "Groucho's whispering in my ear that the Secret Word
"Amnesty?" The alluring image of her faded. She was
forcing him back into their conversation, back into the
"No? Fine!" She leaped from her chair to capture his
wrist, splashing some of his vodka onto the couch. "Then prove
to me that with an immortal comes an everlasting life, bag and
baggage. Go on--prove it!"
Just as suddenly, she released his wrist and sat back into
her chair as if with resignation. "I hate fishing. I always
feel sorry for the fish. So, I'll quit bating you and make it
an easy one." She snatched up her wine tumbler. "Can you show
me that I'm mortal? Don't bother. I tried to prove it to
myself." A sip of wine. "In comes immolation. Im--mo--la--
There it is, he thought, the hidden monster behind the
door. He felt there was something more, something deeper here
than a casual, morbid interest in historic blood-letting or
religious denial. She was revealing something personal. He
leaned forward. "Interesting word."
Her face seemed paler than just moments before, drained of
blood--or, was it? frightened? "If cut, do I not bleed? Does
the blood show? To convince myself, I perform the four points
over my chest with the same soul as Tina Turner, Boom-shak-a-
boom--north, south, west, and east so I can, without guilt, seep
at night." Her eyes glistened wet.
Seep? Didn't she mean sleep? The vodka tasted sour on his
"I would seep at night often. Self-im--mo--la--tion
. . . and proof--participating in slow suicide in order to
determine that mortality is a true thing after all."
"Do you think it's easier?" My God. Could this be true?
He involuntarily glanced down at her wrists. Yes, there were scars, many scars. Pink puckers and cross-hatched lines--an
artist's palette of self-abuse. He hadn't noticed them before.
She slowly turned them out of his sight, as if to hide their
ugliness, hide the dozens of tiny raw truths they told.
She broke the silence and his thoughts, speaking in quiet
words as distant as her imaginings. "Quite often, it's better
to simply sit alone on the sofa after straight-up twelve,
listening to the walls breathe, eating a kind of Boger salad
salted, not by Himmler, but by my own tears, hearing The Bang!
of my soul soften to a slight whisper--a strangulated grunt."
He looked at his vodka as if for an answer. In truth . . . In
truth, it was just easier for the moment to not look at reality.
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Because I
shoved You aside. Still, can't the omnipotent make the grade in
a pinch? Can't help, can't raise to levels, can't dive to the
Careful. Be careful. Simply clarify. "Omni-non-present?"
"To nonexistent Hell with it then!" She threw her tumbler
across the room, breaking it, splattering red wine over the
wall, the ceiling. "The womb of the lotus is covered with bee
spit! I've tasted it. I know it's true!" She wagged her
finger at him. "You still haven't answered me. Is immortality
proved or disproved at death?"
"I've wondered about that, could count the number of times
on my fingers if I had the total phalangeal appendages of all
those in Pittsburgh. Like any good scientist, I tested it out.
Field tests, extensive field tests. Boom! Tina and I Shak-a-
lak-a Boomed, Shak-a-lak Boomed until I had tennis elbow.
"Seeking the realization of. The Pope would be proud."
"Didn't work. So, instead, I digested books." Her eyes
flicked to a closed, dusty edition on a far bookshelf. "The Old
Man and the Sea and found out what I already knew--fishing is a
bore. I digested Shakespeare, and I found it to be more
haunting than King. I digested the Bible and found highly
priced pearls in the dust of Jerusalem." She fixed her sad look
"They were crimson."
"I digested fairy tales, adult fairy tales. Humpty Dumpty
made a good omelet."
"Mother Goose was a sadist."
"Uh-huh. And Twinkle Twinkle 'Killer' Kane still shines in
the firmament over northern California. I met him in the
universe of my nightmares, sparkling dark."
"You digested books. You are what you eat."
Tired. Or maybe it was the liquor. Or maybe it was not
knowing where he was with her, or with this conversation. He
let a true feeling slip out.
"Has our talk turned tasteless?"
Perhaps forgivingly, she ignored him. "At night . . . in
my seeping, when the eyes of Mary are weeping, and the walls are
breathing more than me, I share dank airs with them; and, while
in my bed of warm, red seas, I make futile plans to discover
immortality--as is my choice. You see, I never made it to the
other shore--no Greek heritage flows in these veins." In a
quieter voice, she added, "Perhaps the ferryman knows my
drachmas are made of wood.
"I found only a small revelation besides the fact that
blood can be more easily removed from bed sheets in cold water.
I found out that Bangs! are not to be confused with Booms!
"In example. Boom! The protesters of the Viet Nam War who
marched around the mirrored pool in Washington D.C., holding up
their wooden plaques, Boom! their wooden crosses Boom! crucified
the spirits of the boys of Da Nang--ethereal corpses hanging off
the words "Baby Killers". Bang! Bang! Bang! . . . . Do you
agree that Booms sometimes are catalysts for Bangs?"
"Good." She took a big swig of wine from the bottle. "I
find myself needing to be fair and ask, did the protesters find
genocide preferable to military suicide? Do you have the right
to answer? Do I?"
He couldn't answer. Four years in Nam, and he still didn't
have the answers. He'd have the vodka as an excuse.
"Go ahead--just sit there while I fill up your glass with
more vodka. Better now?"
He extended his glass. "Yes. Much. Thank you."
Her face softened suddenly. A warmth came to her eyes, and
she leaned forward, he thought, perhaps, to kiss him. But she
didn't. "Sometimes I wonder about you. Sometimes I wonder if
you'll see an EXIT sign at the bottom of this bottle?"
If she only know how much he really cared. He let his
laughter out from behind his smile. It felt good.
"Laughter's contagious. So is the clap according to
Charlotte Bronte . . . and my father." Shadows hurried across
her expression as if carried by hectic winds. "Here . . . take
the damn bottle."
Reaching for the bottle, he asked with a twist of sarcasm,
"The safest sex isn't incestuous sex?"
"I know. I'm trying not to reminisce." She turned back to
He jammed the bottle between his legs.
"Anyway, I think it's better to sit in my dark room,
hunched over my keyboard, putting 'pearls of wisdom' on the page
and pearls of blood on the keys, numbing my fingers, empty
bottles of wine dominoed around my feet."
Thinking of her scarred wrists, he said, "I wondered what
the red stains were."
"Frequently, during such times, the smiling Spirit visits,
chasing Mengele away for awhile, and He tells jokes from a
millennium ago, (Did you hear the one about the Pharisee and the
Publican?); and for some reason . . . He says He loves me. I
just look at Him. But He doesn't mind. After all," a light
rose in her eyes, "He has all the time in the . . . "
". . . world?"
The bottle slowly lowered from her lips as her face lit up
with a hidden revelation. "Ah! See the seed? Bang! Now I'm
wondering if Jesus's parable of the mustard seed was prophetic.
I think I see that it may be more than free will, the Foot-given
ability to make choices; it may also be a matter of a greater
plan, a destiny--bookends holding reason together."
"Now that would be worth writing about." How beautiful she
can be, especially on the inside.
She nodded, a smile creeping over her lips. "Well . . .
okay, then. I'll have a drink. The seed may need some
watering. But skip the bull shit. I've had enough of that.
Never learned how to shovel it back due to my insecurities, a
mind full of Savings Not Loaned. Cutshaw, forgive me when I
say, thank God for hip-high waders.
"When the story gets personal . . ."
She drew a long slow one from the bottle. "You've either
succeeded or failed. I may succeed in growing my tree, but,
then again, I may not."
Testing the waters, he probed. "I've heard Texas Root Rot
"All kidding aside, I'd hate to fail with someone
Did she mean it? Yes. He thought she did. Placing his
tumbler on the floor he began to get up, but he found her hand
on his arm. "I have no one else to blame except myself." Then
his drink was placed back in his hand. "I invited you in." She
raised the wine bottle in a toast, waiting for his response. He
leaned in and tapped his glass against hers just before his lips
A cute poem with the current news in mind. It's all for fun, so enjoy!
Posted by Kasin Hunter (email@example.com) on Saturday, March 08, 1997 at 11:36
A Future Garden
by Kasin Hunter
Copyright 1997 (All rights reserved.)
The stranger who was passing by
Stopped to gaze with wonder
At Miss Emily's garden far and wide.
He was struck as if by thunder.
"My! What a gorgeous place you have!
This lot all filled with flowers.
How could you do it, my fair lass?
Didn't it take you hours?"
Miss Em., she smiled, and nodded, "Yes,
It took a hundred or more.
But this is what you get in return
Flowers from hill to backdoor."
"Tell me your secret, if you will.
The sunflowers, tall; the pansys and dahlias;
The daisies and daffodils--
How straight they stand, all in rows
Perfection they are, as God knows.
You must tell me! Tell me quick,
So I can do the same!
Don't leave out a word, a jot, or a stick
Of info. or I'll go insane!!"
Miss Emily smiled--a very sly smile
And said in all truth, straight out,
"Oh, nothing special, just science at work
Although, I did not my labors shirk,
But mostly, now, I just leave them alone
You see, all these flowers are simply cloned.
"A Question of Soul"
By: Zachary Houston Redhorse
"Knowledge without morality is the path which leads furthest from humanity and sends the wisest of men into the pit of madness." - Milhous Statinsky, MD Ph.D., 1998. From his publication, Organ Transplantation Through Genetic Replication.
Flowing through Repliclone Systems like the whisper of an angel, a gentle elderly woman's voice sang several common nursery rhymes to a dormant, emptied laboratory. The voice scarcely penetrated the shower of sounds that emanated from a curious collection of seven strangely shaped tubes labeled 'REPLIBED' in bold, red letters. The units, which resembled Plexiglas torpedoes more than beds, contained a viscous, lavender gelatin that filled approximately two-thirds of the tube. Repliclone System monitors, set above each bed, flashed screens of respiratory activity, development progress, and system temperature. The beds pulsed from the interior with a soft, unique light that cast distinctive pink silhouettes of human bodies.
The cluster of Replibeds surrounded the woman in a semi-circle; her attention focused specifically on a bed marked 'Kirkland'. Mary Steward sang her final two lines.
"The monkey thought 'twas all in fun, POP! Goes the Weasel!" she finished, giggling like a twelve year old girl. Mary leaned over and laid her body delicately on the tube to embrace it. "You're getting so big, you'll be all grown up before you know it."
Mary looked up from the bed and studied the monitor. The system temperature within the Replibed dropped each night she visited. Almost down to a normal temperature, she thought. The development progress flashed an encouraging ninety-eight percent, and respiratory levels maintained a calm 'Within Tolerance'.
"You know Honey, when I was hired to help these doctors clean their laboratory, I never realized how many new faces I could meet. Since they brought you kids down here, I make it a point to come and see you. You all mean so much to me that it hurts my heart to see you trapped inside those awful tubes. But, the doctors say you're getting better every day and that eases my soul a bit. I can't wait to see the day when you all jump out of those fancy hospital beds to see your families again. And I know they can't wait to see you, either."
She reached down to her bag, filled with toys and children's books, and pulled a thin, hard bound book from the bundle. She sat back in her chair as she opened the book.
"Guess what I brought, Honey," she said. "I brought your favorite book, Curious George!" Her excitement grew as she readied herself to read. "I know I read this to you every night, but you haven't complained about it yet."
Just as Mary started the first page, she noticed a slight movement in the corner of her eye. The Repliclone System monitors turned from green to red, flashing wildly as the respiratory activity climbed past tolerance. The laboratory burst with activity as the automated systems winked on one by one. Mary stood from her chair in confusion, placing a comforting hand on the tube. She looked back to the Replibed and noticed two ice blue eyes staring back at her in horror. Mary snatched her hand from the tube as if it blistered her and moved instinctively back from the bed.
"Honey?" Mary asked. "Do you need the doctor?"
The eyes never wavered, staring at her with the intensity of a predator. The subject opened his mouth, filled his lungs, and erupted a bone chilling scream. Mary panicked. She grabbed her bag and ran for the door, spilling the toys and books to the floor of the lab. The scream erupted again and again, it's intensity escalated each time he gasped for air. The magnitude of the scream split her eardrums, sending a wave of violent pain through her head. She stumbled over her bag and fell hard to the floor; her face slammed against the tile. She pushed herself quickly to her feet and rushed to the door.
"Doctor Campbell! Doctor Campbell, help me!" Mary's impotent screams were silenced as she burst through the laboratory doors.
* * *
"Mr. President?" Doctor Statinsky asked, engrossed with trepidation. "Mr. President. . . Oh, wonderful. You're awake. We'll have that clone ready in a few days, sir. As soon as it's ready, we'll send you in for immediate surgery and have those new kidneys inside you before you can whistle the first line of 'The Yellow Rose of Texas'. You have nothing to worry about, Mr. President," Statinsky explained, his face painted with dejection.
With as much strength as he could summon, Jim Kirkland forced his moribund shell up from the pillow. His own body, merely forty-two years of age, felt as if it had been detached from his neck and secured to the base of the bed. The elementary act of pulling himself from a laying position felt much the same as lifting the front end of his limousine. His head slammed to the pillow and his body writhed in agony. Jim's face, pale and lifeless, portrayed a cornered soul on the edge of mortality; as if death cracked his knuckles, preparing his grip. His once distinguished gray hair sat atop his head in a web of tangles; his youthful shape now bleak and withered.
Jim grabbed the rails and pushed; his body thrown backward as if he had been struck by an automobile. With as much dignity as possible, he repositioned his torso with slight adjustments and centered his weakened body on the bed. He lifted his head to face the doctors and said, "Well gentlemen, how does it look?"
Two slender physicians, poised together like perfect examples of complete physical opposites, tossed a short glance to one another. Dr. Milhous Statinsky was frequently described as a blue jean, hippie physician with his long, curly blond hair pulled back to a ponytail and his thick mustache in need of a trim. Dr. Raymond Cash, who at 5' 8'' stood six inches shorter than Statinsky, had accurately trimmed ebony hair and extremely thin-rimmed glasses. The two contrasting physicians, who had monitored the development of Jim's kidney failure, approached the President like two boys who just destroyed their mother's favorite vase.
"There is good news," Dr. Cash said as he stepped forward. "We've stabilized you for the moment. Your vitals are getting better by the minute and we have confidence that your condition will improve in a few days. However, I can't guarantee you that your body will be able to handle the stress it's been put through in the last few hours. There is a chance that you could begin a system by system failure in the upcoming days."
Dr. Statinsky moved to the foot of the bed and said, "In all likelihood, the clone will be ready before that occurs. We've checked with the Repliclone system downstairs, and they tell us that it will only be a couple of days before we can proceed with your surgery. Don't be too alarmed by my colleague's pessimism, sir. He just likes to tell the patient of every possible contention."
Dr. Cash glanced at Statinsky and rolled his eyes before returning his attention to Jim. Cash put his hand on Jim's shoulder to comfort him. "Don't worry, Jim, you're in the best possible facility with the best personnel in the country. We won't let you down."
"Thanks to both of you for your efforts," Jim said, his throaty voice strained with every word. "Your hard work and persistence with my condition has kept my family and me together far longer than we'd hoped. I have the utmost confidence that this transplant will proceed without any further complications." Jim closed his eyes, raised his hand and rubbed his forehead. "Now, if you'll excuse me gentlemen, I'd like to get a little rest."
Both men nodded their heads and walked out of the room. Waiting for the doctors on the other side of the door was the President's wife, his mother, three children, and a rather obese middle aged man dressed in a white lab coat two sizes too small. The doctors took time to reassure the family of Jim's condition, explaining to them that his body needs several hours of uninterrupted rest before they could allow visitation. The family embraced one-another, wiping the tears falling down their troubled faces.
Dr. Statinsky nudged Cash with his elbow and pointed to the extrinsic man who paced nervously in the hallway. Cash moved to the man quickly, slipping away from the grieving First Family.
"What's the news on the clone?" Cash asked.
Dr. Gregory Campbell, current supervisor of the Repliclone Project lab, straightened his undersized lab coat and adjusted his thick, black rimmed glasses. "I'm not sure you guys want the truth," he said, with sweat building on his forehead. "How long does the President have?"
Statinsky glared at Dr. Campbell. "He's got about two and a half, maybe three weeks. How long until the clone is ready?"
"Two and a half, maybe three weeks."
Dr. Cash gripped his temples. "I thought you said the clone would be ready in a few days. What's going on down there?"
Dr. Campbell leaned toward the two men, trying to stay calm. "Maybe you should come to the lab and see for yourselves. I don't think you'd believe me if I told you."
* * *
Repliclone Systems originally opened its doors as Genetech, a small research facility devoted specifically to genetic engineering. In early 1996, funded by a sizable grant from the National Institutes of Health, four new labs emerged from the Genetech regime, flying high under the new Repliclone flag. Within months of opening the doors, the new laboratories discovered a fundamental process that stunned the medical field. The scientists devised a method to remove the genetic material from a newly fertilized egg and replace it with the material from another host. In late telophase of cell mitosis, the geneticists removed the nucleus from the alpha cell (keeping the nuclear membrane intact) and adapted the beta cell to recognize the new nuclear membrane. By freezing the alpha nucleus before insertion, the geneticists could modify the beta cell's chemistry to match that of the alpha cell by adding specific proteins and enzymes that could function under the new conditions. The geneticists replaced the cell nucleus and monitored it for twenty-two hours (the normal time limit given for cells to replicate), hoping for some evidence of life. Just as the clock rang 11:00 o'clock p.m. on November 22, 1996, an eruption of human voices filled the Repliclone lab as the beta cell entered cellular mitosis and started to divide.
Further success came swiftly to the fledgling Repliclone company through a white lab rabbit named Toby. This rabbit, cloned on February 15,1997, was immediately thrust into history; not by anything miraculous he had accomplished, but by the birth of his twin brother almost two and a half years after him. Monitored for more than a month, the younger twin, Timmy, was finally placed in the same cage with his older, much larger brother and given a clean bill of health.
Thus began the quest for the pot of gold; creating the technology to clone a human subject quickly and successfully. With such technology, physicians could salvage healthy organs for transplants which would never cause a rejection in the new host's body.
One lab, devoted to maintaining the anonymity of celebrities, was constructed in the basement of the Dallas University Hospital by modifying several of the bomb shelters into one section. Dr. Raymond Cash, one of the original Genetech physicians, was the first to perform a cloned heart transplant in Dallas on a fifty-five year old actress named Martha Carpenter. In Mrs. Carpenter's words, taken several months after her transplant, "Dr. Cash's surgery was a miracle! He gave me a new life with that healthy young heart he grew, and I will never have to worry about taking medication for the rest of my life."
Martha Carpenter's clone never woke, Cash thought. He pulled a pen out of his lab coat and scribbled a few notes in Jim Kirkland's chart. The three doctors, Dr. Cash, Dr. Statinsky, and Dr. Campbell, stood in the observation booth at the Dallas Repliclone laboratory and monitored the new patient. As Cash closed the chart, he noticed an influx of people carrying bundles of food and what looked like a pot of hot coffee. Several of them offered the subject a bite but could get no response.
"Pathetic," Cash grumbled. "Have these people forgotten their jobs?" He leaned over the rail running along the window of the booth and pushed a small, white intercom button. "Send it up to room 214 and isolate it."
Catherine Hussner, a young geneticist working in the laboratory, turned from the patient and looked up to Cash. "But Doctor," she pleaded, "he wants to see his Meemaw. Can't we just put him in her room for now? They'll both be isolated and he just might be more responsive."
Cash turned to Statinsky, "What did she say? He wants to see his what?" Cash triggered the intercom. "Young lady, the purpose behind this subject's existence has not changed. It is the property of the Kirkland family as a replacement for the President's kidneys. Now, get it dressed and take it upstairs to whatever room you feel is necessary, but I want it isolated."
The subject leaned over to the geneticist and whispered something in her ear. She patted him on the back and scowled at Cash. "Yes sir. By the way, Doctor, he would like for you to call him Honey. He said that's what his Meemaw calls him." She wrapped a soothing arm around Honey and escorted him out of the lab.
"Unbelievable," Cash grunted. "This is simply unbelievable."
Dr. Campbell stepped forward, "How could this have happened? In the seven years I've been doing this, none of the clones have ever opened their eyes, much less walked out of the lab."
"I don't have a clue, Greg," Cash said as he rubbed his eyes in frustration. "Maybe its brain rerouted the pathways we severed while it was a fetus. The brain is still growing in the early stages of development and it is plausible that the neural pathways leading to consciousness could repair themselves."
"Or maybe it wasn't done," Statinsky offered. "I'm just a Nephrologist gentlemen, explain to me how you Repliclone guys disconnect the brain but keep the patient alive."
"It's really quite simple, Milhous," Campbell said. "In the early stages of fetal development, a probe mounted with a fiber optic camera and very small laser is inserted into the donor clone's skull. After insertion, we explore the area until we locate the thalamus. We use the small laser and sever the area just under the thalamus taking care not to completely sever the hypothalamus. You see, we need the hypothalamus for proper development, but we sever the thalamus so the patient will lose all sensory input."
"Essentially you turn them into vegetables, correct?" Statinsky asked.
"Correct," Campbell replied.
Statinsky paced the floor of the observation room and said, "So, in all probability what happened to this young man is that his thalamus was never severed. I mean, we are talking about human beings here. They do make mistakes."
"I really doubt that," Campbell said, trying to protect his reputation. "My people know their procedures and they follow them letter by letter. Such a mistake would have to slip through several channels before something of this magnitude could occur. Dr. Cash's first hypothesis would seem to be the correct one."
Statinsky turned to Campbell, "You can't dismiss my suggestion. There is a possibility that your people made a mistake and forgot to sever. . . "
Dr. Campbell interrupted, "Whatever the reason, Doctor, this clone is awake. The President's condition is getting worse by the minute, and now this. What are we going to do?"
"I tell you what we're going to do," Cash ordered. "We'll take a few days to see if the clone will survive the shock to its system and then we'll continue with the surgery."
"The hell we do, Cash," Statinsky said. "You don't seem to grasp the implications of what has occurred here. Never mind the question of whether these clones are aware while they're in stasis, this man is alive. If you believe this or not, that clone you dismiss as property is still a human being. He has a mind and emotions just like the rest of us. You heard how he called that custodian his Meemaw. He is just like any other child in an unknown environment. He's looking for some type of security, someone who can protect him."
"Don't be ridiculous, Milhous," Cash answered. "I admit, the clone does appear human. But the Pope himself decreed that these creations are engineered by man and are therefore not God-made. Thus, they do not have a soul and cannot be considered a higher form of life. Think of it as a very intelligent chimpanzee who is donating its kidneys so our President may live."
"Do you actually believe in God, Cash?" Statinsky asked.
"No, Milhous, I believe in the power of the human mind and the purity of science. I have saved hundreds of lives since the birth of this procedure," he said, noticeably irritated. "What about you? You seem to be condemning me with this sanctimonious sermon. What's your belief in God?"
Dr. Statinsky looked smugly to Campbell, who stood at a distance to the arguing physicians, and asked, "What about you, Campbell? You believe in God?"
Dr. Campbell shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't know. I never thought about it. I mean, it crossed my mind a couple of times but I never spent hours and hours thinking about it."
Statinsky shook his head and rested his hands on his hips. His involvement in this type of procedure had been minimal to this point. He read medical journals in which Repliclone Systems had performed the first heart transplant, the first liver transplant, and the first kidney transplant without the need for further medication. But to witness the lack of humility in the presence of the fundamental power of creation staggered him.
"Gentlemen," Statinsky said, "I must admit to you, in my naiveté I expected to become a humble link in a vast chain of one of the most significant medical procedures since the development of sterilized surgery. But now, all I see is that you people at Repliclone have created some sort of demented method of justified murder."
"This clone is just another animal, Milhous!" Cash yelled. "You don't murder an animal, you kill it."
Disgusted by his remark, Statinsky tossed the President's hospital charts against the wall. "If you'll excuse me, I'm going to talk to that frightened young man."
"You never answered the question, Milhous," Cash blurted.
Statinsky froze just as he opened the door. He sighed loudly, showing his frustration, and turned deliberately slow to face him. "Yes Raymond, I do believe in God." He walked out of the booth and slammed the door.
* * *
The simple ability to walk proved quite a challenge for Honey. He fumbled through the hallways of the Dallas University Hospital while studying the ease with which Ms. Hussner glided across the floor. He watched carefully how her foot pushed forward with authority but yielded humbly to the overbearing foot that followed. His motor skills were a bit new to him and his coordination lacked development. The solution, Ms. Hussner decided, was to place him in a wheelchair until physical therapy could mature his muscles.
"Ms. Hussner," Honey said, his speech muffled and slurred.
"You can call me Catherine, Honey," she replied.
"Where Meemaw?" Honey asked, his speech so badly developed it sounded more like "Wheahmeema?"
"We're going to her room now," Catherine said. She eased him through a few more corridors of the hospital and stopped at the large double doors of the elevator. The doors opened immediately when she pushed the call button. Catherine gently rolled the wheelchair into the elevator. She left Honey facing away from the door and pushed the button for the fifth floor. The doors closed smoothly and the elevator accelerated upward, creating a brief moment of inertia induced nausea.
Honey erupted violently from the chair. "What you do Cat-rin!! What you do?" he screamed, stumbling from one side to the other and swaying the elevator like the pendulum of a grandfather clock.
Catherine reached back and pushed the large, red emergency button as rapidly as possible. The elevator stopped suddenly and the emergency alarms squealed through the elevator corridor. The intense clamoring of the alarm pushed Honey into a crazed frenzy. The alarm, coupled with the unknown feeling in his belly, propelled his body into a fit of hysteria, piling terror upon terror. His voice shrieked as he fell to the floor, kicking and swinging his arms. Honey smashed the elevator walls with such intense power that his left foot crushed the wood paneling and drove a sizable dent in the sheet metal exterior.
Fearing his safety, Catherine thrust her elbow through the mirrored glass of the small, red emergency box which housed the manual override for the elevator door. She cleared the remaining shards of glass, put her foot on the wall for leverage, and pulled the lever as hard as her body would allow. The handle never moved, as if the lever was a prop in an amusement park not meant for actual use. She vaguely heard her voice over Honey's hysterics, bellowing in frustration as she heaved the uncompromising handle. Just as she felt the lever slip slightly, Honey planted a powerful kick to the middle of her back. The intensity of the pain pushed Catherine to her knees gasping for air.
Catherine rolled to her side, looked up and saw the door had opened marginally. Two large hands reached through the breach in the doors and pushed them ajar. Dr. Statinsky quickly yanked Catherine from the elevator before Honey caused a more serious injury to her body. He laid her gently on the floor and pulled a capped syringe from his jacket.
"I'm going to sedate him," Statinsky said.
"No, wait. Help me up and let me talk to him," Catherine said, as she pulled her body forward. "Honey! Please, Honey, stop screaming! Everything is going to be all right, trust me." She extended her hand to him but he slapped her sharply.
"Get away, Cat-rin! Get away!"
Statinsky snapped the cap of the syringe and threw it to the floor. He moved intently toward Honey, who still slammed his body from one side of the elevator to another, and stabbed the syringe forward. With the agility of a feline, Honey dodged the syringe and kicked it from Statinsky's hand. The syringe tumbled through the air and landed in the back of the elevator.
"So much for that idea," Statinsky muttered.
"Did you get him?" Catherine asked.
"No, and I think he broke my wrist."
Three hospital guards rounded the corner, "Has the situation changed?"
"Not yet," Statinsky said. "I think we'll have to wait until he calms down before we try anything . . ."
"Honey, what have you done?" Mary Steward walked quietly through the corridor and stepped into the elevator. "Why have you gone and gotten yourself all riled up like that? Take Meemaw's hand and we'll get you out of here."
Statinsky kneeled down to Catherine, who watched the elderly woman escort Honey from the elevator. "Where did he hit you?"
"Oh, I'll be okay. He just rammed his foot through my spine and knocked the breath out of me. It's nothing I can't get over. Here, help me up," she said, as she reached for his hand. A wave of intense pain streaked through her arm and she felt the warm tickle from fingers of blood oozing down the back of her arm.
"What is that?" Statinsky asked loudly. "You're bleeding!"
She pulled the arm closer to her face and saw the growing patch of crimson on her white lab coat. "I must have done it when I broke the glass." She wrapped her hand around the wound to slow the bleeding as Statinsky lifted her to her feet.
"Everyone head to the Emergency Room, including the two of you, Mrs. Steward. It seems we all need some treatment," Statinsky said, holding Catherine by her waist.
Catherine hobbled forward and asked, "How did you know where we were? And how did she get down here?"
"Well, I was talking to Mrs. Steward while I waited for the two of you to finally make it up to her room from downstairs. We were discussing her relationship with the clones from the Repliclone lab when the hospital security officers called her room. They told me of your situation and that your elevator had stopped on the third floor. Before I ran from the room to help you, I suggested to Mary that she should probably join me at the elevator."
"But you still didn't have the time to get that syringe. What was it, Haldol?" she asked.
Dr. Statinsky slowed his pace to separate them from the group. "Yes. I was hoping this would go a bit smoother than this, but it seems we're going to be delayed. I'm trying to get him out of here before Repliclone and Cash can get to him," Statinsky explained, his voice just above a whisper. "Dr. Cash is going through with the operation. He doesn't seem to think that young man is worthy of living. He compared him to a chimpanzee, for Christ's sake."
"You've got to be kidding!" Catherine yelled.
"I wish I was," he continued. "The only way I knew to get him out of here was to sedate him, smuggle him out on a gurney and put him in a hearse. I was discussing his future situation with Mary just before the call from security. She agreed to see to his safety while I covered our tracks back in the hospital. Now it seems we've got a tougher road ahead of us."
Catherine thought a moment and said, "I've got an idea. After the doctor gets my arm sutured, I'll take Honey and Mary to my house. We'll arrange for a taxi to take the two of them to the bus station. I'll order two tickets to my cabin in Wyoming, and maybe that will be far enough away for them to disappear. There is plenty of food there for at least a month."
"Maybe. Just realize we've lost the luxury of time," Statinsky said. "In two hours, Cash will be hunting for that clone ready to kill him. I'm sure he's also got the Secret Service at his disposal, so this is not going to be easy."
"You keep Cash busy for another hour and a half, and I'll have the two of them riding the next bus out of here. I promise," she said, wincing in pain.
Statinsky escorted Catherine through the double doors of the ER, and signaled to the attending physician. "She has a severe laceration on her upper right arm. The young man in exam room two needs to be assessed of any injuries as does the elderly woman with him. Also, schedule my wrist for some x-rays, it may be fractured."
Statinsky helped Catherine up to the bed and held pressure to her wound with some gauze. She placed her hand on his and held it tenderly. "Thanks, Dr. Statinsky. For everything you're doing for him." She paused, "Thanks."
"No problem. And next time, take the stairs."
* * *
Jim Kirkland opened his eyes to the gentle and sympathetic expression of his loving wife. Her soft, circular lips shifted from anxiety to affection the moment she saw his ice blue eyes slipping cautiously from behind the catatonic lids that covered them. She stroked her lengthy auburn hair away from the right side of her face, leaned forward, and gently pressed her lips to his cheek. A warm, compassionate tear fell from her face and rolled gingerly down his cheek.
Jim raised his hand and stroked her flowing hair. The comfort he once felt from her compassionate face was shadowed by his bleak condition. His current state not only destroyed him physically but also tortured him mentally. Just as his life reached its apex, he was forced to realize the swiftness and uncompromising nature of death; how it could slither through the darkness of a man's soul and steal it without request. In the back of his mind, Jim secretly cursed God for the anguish he and his family endured. God stole his once vigorous architecture and split the foundation to watch the structure wither with time. Jim could blame no other being for his condition.
But he had one final card to play. The power of science had given Jim the capacity to repair the damage God had caused and give him back his life. The life that he built stone by stone through hard work and the will to achieve. He would take back the life that produced a loving family, friends, and the Presidency of the United States. He would cut the hand of death and brandish it before the Almighty himself.
"How are you feeling today?" Jamie asked.
Jim adjusted the nasal cannula attached to his septum. "Well, if I could get rid of all of these tubes attached to my body I'd feel better. But under the circumstances, I guess its a necessary evil."
Doctor Cash moved from the edge of the room, stepped into Jim's view and said, "It's good to see you so alert, Jim. I've been a bit worried about your condition for the past few hours. Your vitals looked very good for a time, but now I'm afraid your system is on the verge of shutting down." He adjusted his glasses and tried to cover his doubt. "Believe it or not, there's more bad news."
Jamie turned her head sharply to Cash. "What do you mean more? Haven't we had enough bad news for one week?"
"I'm sorry, Jamie. I know this is hard on you. I've known Jim since our sophomore year at Harvard. I watched the two of you grow and build this wonderful family together. Don't think for a moment that this isn't tearing me apart. But you must know the situation."
"Go ahead, Ray. Get it over with," Jim said.
"It's about your clone. When I last checked, your clone was headed to a room on the fifth floor with a geneticist named Catherine Hussner. It woke last night at approximately 12:02 a.m. while an older employee was reading children's books to it."
Jamie shook her head and said, "I don't understand. Does that mean the clone won't be ready in time?"
"Absolutely not, Jamie," Cash said, trying to reassure both of them. "I've already made arrangements for the clone to be escorted to pre-surgery prep tomorrow morning at 4:00 o'clock. I don't think its system suffered any serious complications, so I'm going a
THE CUTTING EDGE
by Debra R. Borys
*A light rain had begun and the clouds that had threatened earlier crowded above me. I raised my face to the sky, letting the raindrops wash down on me. Lightning flashed in the distance, but even before the thunder could answer, I heard another sound. The laugh of a loon echoed across the lake.
I read the last words on the screen out loud and tapped the Energy Save key before looking up, ready for criticism.
"That's the best thing you've ever written," Andy said first. Andy, the toughest nut. I breathed a sigh of relief.
"Great," Helen agreed. "Beautifully written." Nods and words of encouragement from the others followed as they lowered the lids of their laptops or keyed into maintenance mode.
"I do have a few nit-picky things," Bev added. "On screen seven. . ." We all clicked back onto the network and scrolled to screen seven. ". . . eight-year-old should be hyphenated," Bev continued. "And a few screens away from that. . ." she scrolled as she spoke, "somewhere you have eyes. . . oh, here it is, screen fifteen--you have ‘their eyes met and held.' You know how I hate it when people have eyes that bounce or drop or roll. I can't help it. I'm a visual person. Besides, it's cliche."
"I noticed that, too." Penny's fingers traced the braille screen on her IBMac Visionpad. "And I was a little confused here where you said ‘It wound around . . .' What is it referring to? If you don't say vine, it could be referring to the tree. Other than that, the images came across very vividly."
"I found a few things, too," Joan said. "But I redlined them. They should be self explanatory."
"Thanks," I said to everyone as I pulled copies of their commented versions into the Fiction folder of my laser drive. "But--is this it? You're not going to rip into me like last time?"
Andy laughed. "You take instruction well apparently. I didn't even notice one dangling participle this time. You can pay us our ten percent apiece when the royalties come pouring in."
Everyone laughed and there was a spurt of talk, three different conversations going on at the same time.
"Should we break for lunch," Helen asked, always the good host, "or do you want to read one more?"
"I'm starving," Ray said. There were murmurs of agreement and we all began to stir, standing and stretching, slipping computers into cases or setting them on our chairs.
"Remember when we first started meeting?" Marcia asked. "We had to connect with those cumbersome cables. They were always in the way or tripping you if you had to get up to go to the bathroom."
Moving into the kitchen we all agreed that remote connect was the only way to go and wondered how humankind ever lived without it. As we all pulled compact lunches from pockets or purses, I noticed Ray had some of the new PBJ tablets.
"How do you like those?" I asked. "I've been thinking of buying some to take to work."
"They're delicious," he said, popping one into his mouth. He sucked a moment to savor the flavor, then chewed and swallowed. "Reminds me a lot of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches mother used to pack in my school lunches."
"They're actually better than today's real thing," Penny broke in. "They don't make peanut butter like they used to. If peanut butter were the only real option, I'd eat three compact meals a day instead. That reminds me of a joke I heard. . ."
We all groaned and protested. Penny was famous for her bad jokes. It was one of the reasons my monthly trips to Peoria for our Second Saturday Society meetings were so much fun. Our writers club had been gathering for over ten years and we had all grown very close, even though most of us didn't have any contact with each other outside of our twelve yearly meetings. Some of us commuted from quite a distance. Pat, who hadn't been able to make it to today's meeting, transported to Illinois from Oregon each month. The trip was well worth the three hours, she claimed.
Conversation continued to circulate as we digested our proto- tablets, sipped our drinks and passed around the fruit Helen always had waiting to supplement our mini-meals. Within fifteen minutes the fruit and the tryceriton in the tablets had appeased our appetites and our conversation became more focused.
"Have you read the new CD by Grisham?" Bev asked.
"They say his next one will come out on CD, Televiewer and WaveLength simultaneously," Andy said.
"Talking about WaveLength--" Bill, who had been relatively quiet until now, leaned forward and reached for another grape. "--I read an article on Web Star that predicts it will be the number one form of communication by the turn of the century, which, I don't have to tell you, is only five years away."
"Never," Bev said. "WaveLength has its place--the amount of information you can process at one time is fantastic--but it will never replace computer communications. At least I hope not, I can't imagine what reading would be like without a screen to relate to. The feel of the keys beneath my fingers--"
"--the click of the tracker as you scroll through the file," Andy took up her thread. "There's something about the resolution of the text as you read the screen that adds to the clarity of the story. Thought transfer can't possibly give you the same satisfaction."
"I'm not so sure," I started slowly. I had recently maxed out my credit account by plugging in to a WaveLength server and was finding it a fantastic rush. Anything you ever wanted to know, it seemed, was out there waiting for you to access it. Tuned in to WaveLength, all you had to do was think "murder mystery" and titles, authors and summaries were at your command to choose from. Think "radio" and every volume that had ever been written on the development, distribution and eventual demise of that communication phenomenon was listed in your head, a limitless menu you didn't even have to point a cursor at to select. Think "automobile" and history was no longer history, but present in your mind until you chose to reject, pause or store for future reference.
"I think it's possible," I continued, "that the only reason we feel nothing can replace computers is because that's the reality we grew up with, what we relate to. We love computers because our parents read us bedtime stories from them, because we've spent day after day, year after year learning from, communicating through and enjoying them. Our eyes are accustomed to viewing the screen, our ears tuned to the ultraphonic speakers, our fingers trained to click keys and scroll trackers."
Andy disagreed. "If computer communication dies, nothing can replace it. You're talking about the creation of a world with no hardware, no software, no words or pictures scrolling across the screen. The words of a story would be replaced only by their own sounds, not even their sounds as relates to the ear, but just the idea behind the sounds strung together. . . ." He stopped and struggled to put into words the concept of a future that contained no words as we had come to define them. "It would mean the death of the alphabet, for Christ's sake."
Penny supported him. "It's like saying transmitting the idea of a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings into your mind could replace the taste of the proto-tablets on your tongue."
"Well," I said, backed into a corner, but still feeling I had a point. "If you'd never tasted a proto-tab before and your nutritional and physiological needs were met somehow, then--"
Others joined in the discussion now. I had done the dirty deed, a writer defending the medium that threatened to take away the form to which we had all grown accustomed. I agreed with them in a way, it was inconceivable that I could find satisfaction without a computer to read from, to relate to--a touchable, readable, tangible reality. But just because my experience would be minimized by the absence of computers didn't mean that future generations would have a less fulfilling experience if that actually happened.
"But what if someone had no knowledge of what it was like to use a computer," I argued back, "--if all they'd ever known was information transmitted directly to the brain? The important part about the things I write isn't the pixels on the monitor that form letters. T--h--e--y, whatever. What I'm writing about is an idea, a message. As long as they understand my message then I've done my job."
"I guess I can see her point," Bill said. "Stories written by people like Homer and Dickens and Stephen King existed before the computer age and they're still an important part of the literary world."
But they were having none of that.
"It's impossible, just impossible, that computers could ever cease to be the main source of communication. . . ."
". . . There's more to reading a monitor than understanding a message. Swimming in a bare, windowless room is still swimming and good exercise, but it's not the same as swimming outdoors off the coast of Florida on a gorgeous, sunny day. . . ."
". . .Any time something ceases to exist, there's always a loss, unless it's something harmful, like the disgusting tobacco habits some of our ancestors engaged in. . . ."
An image flashed through my mind of my recent visit to the Communication exhibit at the Museum of Scientific Industry. The exhibit illustrated the evolution of communication from the days of oral histories and stone paintings through this century's various experiments and successes with thought transfer mediums. All forms of communication were represented: slabs taken from ancient caves, papyrus scrolls, pens and pencils, radios, televisions, books. The past existed still and had merit; it wasn't lost. People still painted pictures, told stories, viewed movies and listened to music. Printed material, in fact, was currently enjoying an upsurge of interest, with new "bookhouses" springing up all over where you could sit and read stories or articles from things like books and newspapers.
And yet, "I don't know," I said. "Maybe I'm wrong in a way. It's true that books, for instance, will never again become our main source of communication because there's so much lacking in the experience for us, but still we carry on the tradition almost as a sort of tribute to our past. Do we hold on to books and oral storytelling because we recognize there was something precious there that we must never lose?" I shook my head, my thoughts suddenly too confused. There was a truth there somewhere, truth with a capital T, I think, but it floated just beyond my grasp.
"Anyway," I said. "We better get back to reading or we're never going to get out of here in time for Helen to get ready for her company. Who else has stuff yet to read?"
Ray and Helen did, and Bev had a short piece, she said, only two paragraphs. "But at least I'm writing again finally," she joked. We cleared our places at the table, took turns in the bathroom and drifted back into the living room to prepare for the next critiquing session. My mind started whirring with ideas, like it always did after a stimulating day spent with these creative, thought-provoking friends of mine. As I sat in my chair again, I reached behind my ear and pressed the raised mark just under my earlobe.
*Notepad*, I thought. *Short story idea. Historical. Go back to the 1990's and write about a writers club discussing what it might be like if books were no longer the main source of reading. Opening paragraph something like. . .*
"A light rain had begun and the clouds that had threatened earlier. . ."
"THERE'LL BE NEW DREAMS..."
by Philip McLaren
...whereas the year long story of my character, Dundiwuy, is based on a real person. Fourteen years ago I had many reasons to visit the Australian Film Commission (AFC) in North Sydney. The Aboriginal Artist's Agency had offices in a renovated house very near the AFC so, just as often, I would drop in for coffee and chat with my friends there. One particular afternoon we were sitting in the back courtyard and laughing at the story of this young traditional fellow from the Northern Territory who went on a three week concert tour to New York and refused to come home. Alone and for almost a year, he went on to busk the subways of New York, London, Paris and Moscow; playing his didgeridoo, half naked and wearing ceremonial paint. Eventually he returned to his traditional life in the outback, shucking off the trappings offered by western societies. I realised then that his would make a wonderful story.
I tried to find out, twelve years later, who the man was - I wanted to interview him to get his story, first hand - but, incredibly, the people who I laughed with that day didn't remember who he might have been. So, I re-invented the man and his story, calling him Dundiwuy, varnishing the original story considerably for use here.
Yirrkala, Australia- 1983
I was born during an illness to my mother and she died giving birth to me. It wasn’t because I was such a big or difficult baby, she had been suffering for a long time from bad drinking water. She had twelve kids and I was one of three boys and a sister who survived. My near family are my father,Baluka; two brothers - Raymattja and Wandjuk; a sister, Moombrah; and me, I am called Dundiwuy (pronounced Dund-ee-woy). Our clan name or last name is Kamira. My mother was only twenty-eight when she died. That’s how it was, out home.
I was lucky to be born under a tree and beneath an overhanging rock, so when the tree dies my birth rock will still mark my birthplace.
My earliest memories are of my aunty who raised me. Although I called her aunty, she wasn’t really my aunty by European standards; our custom dictates we call our people of a similar age aunts, uncles or sister, brother - or cousin if they are far removed. We shared everything, even child raising. No one can be sure, with absolute certainty, who our parents were; of course all anyone can know are our mothers. It’s the same in European society but they are pretenders, they pretend about a great many things. They pretended no one lived here when they arrived two hundred years ago and everyone pretended to believe them. We all know they only did this because they wanted to steal it: our land. Now they’ve mucked around with the illegalities so much, complicating it beyond belief, that they reckon they own it anyway - this is in spite of recently admitting their lies to the whole world. You figure that one out?
Where I am from is near the mining town of Gove in the centre part of the top end of Australia; its real name in Nhulunbuy. My people are Yirrkala beach people. There are thirteen clans that make up the Yirrkala community and surrounding homelands.
My girlfriend's name is Warrinja. We have been friends since we were children but we are lovers now and sort of promised each other we would get married when we got older. Last week she left for Darwin on a three month business college course.
I work for the Yirrkala Business Association, it is an all-Aboriginal company involved in providing training and employment opportunities for the local Aboriginal community. We are into everything: road work, construction, building maintenance, revegetation work, general labour, plus arts and crafts. I was only one of thirty-five people who worked full time for that place. It’s only been going for a few years. That’s where I was when we got the call that the Sydney arts mob were coming up here to look for dancers and musicians for a performing arts group to tour overseas.
Their plane came in on time and it was my eldest brother Ray’s job to pick them up and drive them around while they were here. All the known dancers, singers and musicians came in for the auditions over the next couple of days. Everyone wanted to get into that tour group; it was good for our people, we like to show off our culture. We are lucky enough to still have a lot of it left. Not like some of the other mobs; they’ve lost their language, art and culture - those who survived the massacres.
The city arts people left after a week. They had seen nearly everyone in the district. They picked their troupe and my brother, Raymattja, got in as a dancer and didgeridoo player, (my people call the didgeridoo the Yidaki). He was very good. When he told his wife, Wuyawa, she hit the roof. She didn’t want him going on tour, especially not with seven beautiful young women. He was angry too - the Sydney people were paying a lot of money for performers - so he moved out of home and into my place while they both cooled off.
Ray’s five kids came to visit every day after school. They were noisy but I didn’t mind. We helped them with their homework as best we could: Ray only had four years of school. I didn’t go to school until I was nine years old but I finished High School and went on for two years of tertiary education at a small college in Darwin. It was difficult learning to read and write English; our own language served my people well for thousands of years - it is one of the oldest languages in the world still in use. We usually sent the kids home after a game of cricket or football.
It was getting that way that Ray liked being at my place. Three weeks went by and he showed no signs of going home and Wuyawa hadn’t visited at all. But he often saw her walking around the community grounds, shopping, at the school and near their home. They were as stubborn as each other. So, after five weeks I thought it time they got back together: I arranged a meeting at Wandjuk’s place further along the beach.
It was a fire and fish bake. The men went to the beach, watching the waves breaking on the sand with steel pronged spears at the ready. The women lit the fire on the sand and collected stones to put in the coals and ash along with a pile of yams. The older ones watched the fishermen; the young kids laughed and played within earshot, learning. Then I saw a big fish, in silhouette, surfing his way in the middle of a swelling green wave. I ran to the water’s edge, so did Ray and Wandjuk. I launched my spear first. As I saw it connect I said my thanks to the fish for taking his life, explaining it was for food. Raymattja and Wandjuk went running past me launching their spears simultaneously. Only one hit the target, of course thanks was again given.
All this activity caused the women to squeal and cheer as the men sprang to action. The children broke from their play and ran along the beach to see the catch. The fish had begun their usual evening, surf-feeding run. We speared what we needed; soon we had eight large fish and headed for the fire.
The stones had been in the coals for an hour and were ready for our fish bake. As the women wrapped our catch in large palm leaves, all the adults gathered around the fire; the children played, the youths sat near and joked with the hunters. The prepared fish were ceremoniously placed among the stones with the yams, flaming wood fire and coals - more stones were then raked back over the food. Thirty minutes later we ate.
Raymattja and Wuyawa sat opposite each other staring, looking for signs. Finally he saw something in her face that made him move to sit next to her and they smiled - it was all over. The fish bake had been successful in more ways than one; my brother, his wife and kids went home together and I got my small beach hut back to myself.
In the office by myself several weeks later, I accepted the tour contract on Raymattja’s behalf. I forged his signature then I sent it back to Sydney without delay. I thought it best to tell him about it later.
My time was totally taken up organising revegetation work groups. A small river runs to the coast via a lagoon basin down behind my hut at the beach; the plant life had been disappearing from the lagoon at an alarming rate. In photographs taken in 1923 the lagoon was a wonder of tropical plantlife, now we estimate we’ve lost half the original species. I am in the process of replanting those we know we’ve lost. It’s very rewarding, seeing the plants growing back.
From a distance I recognised my sister-in-law Wuyawa walking from the community store. I called to her.
She stopped and smiled.
‘It’s hot, quickly. What do you want?’
‘Tell Raymattja I signed his name on his touring contract and sent it back will you? He has to be ready to leave next week.’
I knew I had said and done the wrong thing by the look on her face.
She turned quickly and almost ran away from me.
‘Wuyawa!’ I called to her again but she would not stop.
Fourteen minutes later Raymattja banged on the door of my hut.
‘What have you done? Do want to break up my marriage? She thinks you and I had it all arranged.’
‘C-c-calm down, sit here,’ I spluttered, offering him a chair. ‘I thought I was doing you a favour.’
‘Well you weren’t.’
‘What do you want to do?’
‘Nothing! - I do not... want to do... a thing.’
I welcomed the quietness that overcame the hut. I stood and paced as Ray sat squirming.
The flight from Yirrkala a week later had fifteen of the touring party that were to go to the United States. It was met at Sydney airport by Aboriginal Arts Centre executives: Anthony Watson, Regina Gould and red-haired Peter Cummins. I had decided I would put off telling them I wasn’t Raymattja for as long as I could; until I absolutely had to. This was my first flight in an airplane.
"That is one of my functions." said the male voice, monotone in the extreme. She looked irritated at it's smugness and self centered ego, and glared at the monitor. "It's to damn hot!" she said again, stabbing a finger at the monitor. Looking exhausted, she passed a hand over her face and sighed,"Now." she said tiredly, "Change the internal temperature to seventy degrees farenheit." Folding her arms, she peirced the monitor with a gaze of ice. "Sorry Dave. I can't do that", the monotonish voice said again. "WHAT!" she screeched, drawing back a fist to slam on the useless computer. "Just kidding!" the computer said quickly, lights flashing wildly. "Then change the temperature!" The monitor illuminated her moonish face, and a schematic appeared on the screen. It rotated the circular craft, and zoomed in to a a small section, which displayed the thermal dampeners. "I have located a malfunction. The stars' gravity has damaged the Thermal Dampening system." The star that they were orbiting appeared on the screen. A simple white dwarf, nothing special. "So we can't start the siphon?" she said standing up and rubbing her eyes. "Negative. Without the Dampeners on-line, the plasma would overload in the coolant chamber." She nodded at the prospect, relieved that the computer had stopped it's antics. "I thought we conpensated for this by placing antigrav pods around the Dampeners." The monitor flashed to show the pods, which were charred and scorched. "What the hell?" she said, leaning foward again. "It appears that they were damaged by the stars heat." said the computer. "But that's impossible. The alloy on those things wouldn't melt if the sun itself exploded!" "Nevertheless, they have been damaged." the computer said. "Well, begin repairs, and start the siphon when they are complete. I'll be in the lounge." She walked through the doors and they closed with a clang. "Yes Maam." As repairs started, the ship rotated slowly in space, the white dwarf blazing next to it. A menacing object also rotated, but farther away. It didn't like the small round ship. Not at all.........
Questions, Comments? Please E-Mail me, as this is my first story I have put on the web. Suggestions welcome.
Since Phillip was willing to give it a whirl, I figured, Hey, why not. But now that I see how big this thing is I know you be archiving it before anyone gets a chance to see it.
"Gem 4 to Tug 7, come on," a voice crackled lightly.
"Is everything okay in there Tug 7?"
"That's a big roger, Gem 4," the voice replied.
I looked through the window and pursed my lips for a second as I thought things out. Why was their comlink almost gone? I could understand if they were a couple hundred thousand miles off planet, but these guys were right in front of me.
"So how was the trip?" I asked, quickly programning my computer to run a complete diagnostic on the carrier.
"A little rough, but no sustained damage," the voice crackled.
A red light flashed on my console, and I looked down, seeing it out of the corner of my eye. No damage, I thought to myself, and slowly shook my head at what I saw. Maybe it was time to call headquarters and tell them what I'd found.
My ship hit an ice flow and I jumped, the dull, thudding, echo sounding like the toll of a distant bell. I decided I had better contact Gem 7 and let them know I was going to need help. I didn't want to spook whoever -- or whatever -- was on board, and I didn't want them to know how spooked I was already.
Okay Jack, I'll help out here. This is a beginning for a story that would follow your "Hovering Gemstone in the Arctic" graphic.
THE FORGED DIAMOND EXCURSION.
The gem-like interstellar transporter hovered metres from the icy shore, the radio frequency it gave off caused my communicator to crackle recklessly as I went to retrieve it. I expected it would contain the usual seventy passengers when its characteristics were regenerated back at the reception docks. Families and friends waited anxiously inside the warmth of the terminal for their loved ones.
'TUG 4 to Gem 7, approaching your west facet, GEM 7. Do you read me?'
I used the usual call signs but static was my only reply.
'TUG 4 to Gem 7... do you read me?'
I changed my receiver to take in a wider frequency band.
'TUG 4 to Gem 7.'
As I manoeuvred my capsule around the gemstone carrier I looked for signs of damage. I still marvelled that these bloody things travelled at the speed of light. There appeared nothing wrong with the shimmering carrier. I bumped a few floating ice particles away from the area then pulled alongside.
'TUG 4 to Gem 7... do you read me? Hello in there, do you read me?'
At this point there was no need to call anyone at Shore Headquarters but I have to admit I was worried.
The Year of the Horses
by Debra R. Borys
It would be a perfect day to die.
Last Dancer knew it was so as the end of his watch drew near. He knew from the way the night sky turned to liquid obsidian waiting to welcome the dawn. He knew because the prophets had foretold it. Soon the circumference of the sun would touch the tip of Castlarean Mountain and One Who Waits would take Last Dancer's place to watch over the people on this, the last day of their lives.
The essence of dawn silvered the figure of Last Dancer as he sat cross-legged in the dirt, his face turned toward the mountains. He pictured the way it would be, tomorrow and for all the tomorrows. The mountains would stand: granite, gravel, layer upon layer of history. But no future, no life. Never again would human voice echo through the canyons. In solitude, the mountains would mourn their passing just as they had mourned the slow extinction of all the ground walkers, the sky dwellers, those that slide on bellies and even earth borers when they could no longer burrow within the compacted dust which once was soil.
Last Dancer knew of these things only through the stories of the prophets. He had learned them as a babe. They were his father's voice and his mother's lullabies. They sweetened the milk he drank from spiny senita stems and gave flavor to the fireweed root. For all of his life, Last Dancer had been preparing for this day.
As he had tried to prepare the others. He could hear them now: muted voices, the footfall of someone making their way to the midden trench, stirring among the meager leavings of past generations. In Last Dancer's youth, there might have been the cry of a child, but none had been born since the year of seven fires.
When the sunlight rounded the shoulders of the mountain peak, Last Dancer grew weary. The day before them weighed heavily on him. His eyes closed, but opened again quickly as the visions pressed at him. It is not time yet, he told them. You must wait.
The sun reached the peak and the shadow of a lone saguaro reached its arms for Last Dancer. He was strengthened by the embrace. He heard One Who Waits approach, felt her touch on his shoulder, then he breathed a prayer to the morning for the last time and arose. They greeted one another with a gripping of shoulders and looked into each others' eyes. The face of One Who Waits held a peace he had never seen before, not even on the faces of the other members of The Circle.
He jerked a quick nod to her and hurried away, eager now to embrace the visions. The others had already experienced the message during the ceremony the night before. But Last Dancer, as ramana Pi of The Circle, had been responsible for keeping watch, for keeping them all safe during the sacred ritual they had been preparing to perform for generations.
His tent was empty, his sleeping bag still rolled and tied with his pack leaning nearby. Squatting, the green slope of canvas brushing his hair, he tied closed the tent flap and traced, by habit, the symbols painted in white on the axis of the triangular door. First, two bends in a river, one that turned back on itself--U--and the other that wandered--S. The four paths that followed the river had so worn with time the white paint had crumbled from most of the fabric threads, but Last Dancer remembered their shapes--A, R, M, Y
He sat on the roll of sleeping bag and opened his pack with the same eagerness he had once picked cereus blossoms to feed the young ones, and the old. He grew impatient with his face cleansing, but was careful not to deviate from the pattern. Each streak of color was smeared away with oil in the opposite order it had been painted on his face. He spoke the rites of cleansing quickly, but missed not one syllable nor mispronounced even one sound. He must not break the web now, not after they had come so far. He could feel the ancients watching him, hear them say, go slowly, take care, it is not too late for the Wise One to change your course.
Finally, he was ready. With a pause as natural as it was dramatic, he reached within the pack and withdrew a battered tin carefully wrapped in a cloth brown with age. Last Dancer had never opened his box of dreams before, it had been forbidden, yet he knew what it held: a dried mànà leaf, a plant that had ceased to exist long before the memories of those left alive began.
"Sre lalan, Sre tonkan, Sre madro," he prayed as he pulled the box open with cracked, age-worn fingers. The lid resisted, its hinges nearly rendered useless from ages of slumber. The scraping of metal on metal rewarded his efforts with the sight of a small, perfect leaf, half as long as his thumb and wide as a fingernail. The veins that had once fed life through the growing plant still traced the now brown petal. Waiting to give new life to Last Dancer.
This was the last remaining mànà leaf in the land. Just as they were the last remaining peoples. When he swallowed the leaf, it would be as if he had swallowed all of humankind.
The mànà felt dry and brittle on his tongue. He closed his mouth and the leaf crushed into innumerable particles, each particle immediately beginning to tell its tale, to teach its lesson.
Last Dancer's eyes grew heavy. His body began to spin circles around his heart, faster, faster, faster. His ears filled with a high-pitched sound like yet unlike the cry of a human voice: Eyie-ie-ie-ie-ie. The spinning sensation stopped with a heavy thud in his heart and his lungs would not hold air no matter how deeply he breathed.
And then they came. The horses. He heard them first, their hooves pounding the dirt like a thousand drums, the whine of their neighing, the wind of their running. Then his tent disappeared and he saw a cloud of dust and, soon, the first of the band. They were magnificent: nostrils flaring with nobility, manes and tails whipping in the wind like a beautiful maiden's hair, their flanks and shoulders rippling with the surge of their muscles.
Last Dancer stood and stumbled forward with outspread arms of joy. This, then, was their destiny. They would be as the horses, proud and glorious and free. He could see the others now, standing around the morning fire. He beckoned them to come with him, but they held back, afraid or confused, full of awe, and so he stood alone to greet their destiny. To greet the end of time.
Eyie-ie-ie-ie-ie. There came that sound again, tearing through the morning as the horses reached him, the forerunners weaving around him so closely he could feel the heat from their bodies, smell the scent of their sweat. Their energy moved in him, through him, until their energy was his.
His name thundered loud above the drumming hooves. Mounted on a piebald stallion of magnificent proportions, a figure dressed in ribbons of light rode to where Last Dancer waited and reined the horse to a halt. Last Dancer fell to the ground, afraid to look up.
"Last Dancer, ramana Pi of the Circle." The Wise One's words demanded that he look up, though the bright light nearly blinded him. Horses continued to race past them but their passing now made only a muted, distant rumble. "Who are you to seek to comprehend my ways?" the Wise One asked. "You yearn to see through my eyes when I have no eyes, to read my mind when I have no skull to house a brain. The messages I send to you can only be heard through the finite form of your language. Seen with your limited vision. Only the tiniest trace of you can truly know me, and that speck is not you, but I.
"All is foolishness when you claim to know the ways of the Wise One. Seek not to understand. Seek to be."
With flashing heels, the piebald was spurred to a gallop. Last Dancer cried out with dismay and reached for the golden foot dangling in its stirrup, running beside the horse for a few stumbling steps before he fell, face down, in the trampled dirt. The thunder of the horses returned in a tunnel of sound, over him, around him, through him. Last Dancer called out once, his arm stretched before him, then succumbed to his destiny beneath the relentless hooves of the horses.
# # # # # # # # # #
One Who Waits closed the eyes of Last Dancer and said a prayer of parting. As she stood, she saw in the smooth, untrampled earth surrounding the crumpled body of her friend, one lone mark. The Mark of the Pony. "Death will not come today," she told the others. Most walked away relieved, glad that the prophets had been wrong. But some, the wise ones, knew better.
As I mentioned in the Notebook, I have a couple of graphics that I've recently created using a 3-D rendering package that I thought might be a catalyst for some writing here. Perhaps a chain story again on the order of the train. You can find the two pictures by clicking here If I get a chance this weekend I'll try to start something in the text form to go along with the graphics.
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