Hephaestus

Small and sharp the teeth sinking into the flesh of the hand, red the blood that runs, bright the eye above the ball of the thumb, pink the tongue that laves, fast the heart beneath the delicate arch of the ribs, hard the palm against the floor.

A hunger, a hunger, an ulcer, acid gnawing deep into muscle, an egg released beyond the forest, any port will do, a liver, a kidney, swollen and ready, legs coiled to kick, eyes swollen and closed, drink deep, drink deep, drink deep.

Older, much older, death an unlined face in the mirror, cedar trees green, moss heavy lawn, a blade caught in the grass, the grass, motor still running, oil and wine, hillsides and trees, water and sky.

An empty street in a busy town, red sky at midnight, smoke in the lungs, promises, promises.

Glauce

We would never have been friends.

Different worlds, different expectations, how should we have crossed that gap? History and tradition are wider than any winedark sea.

Still: we might not have been enemies. What was he to me, or I to him, beyond the convenience of a moment’s politicking? A marriage against a civil war, no more, and such things are as honored in the breach as in the observance; swear us safe and powerful and i would as liefer lived my own life as live hers.

I cannot find it in me to fault her, even now. Did she not do as much or worse for his weal? Was it not his place to weigh costs and futures? He claimed a throne; what were we but kingdoms?

We would never have been friends, but we might have been more than sisters. Now, past burning, I can see her rage, value her fury: were things different, I might have done the same. But nothing is more damning than what need not have been. Sister mine, Medea, these men have turned us one against the other; your only sin was their success!

Briars

They have no childhoods, because they were made, not born, but a certain amount of socialization being deemed useful for their later life they are raised in creches with other automata, rooms noisy with the mindless chatter of seven times seventy copper-wired semi-deployed workers. Noise is an indulgence, one they will be trained away from, later; what do they need to talk about?

Their factories are silent and swift; the machines are kept quiet for the pleasure of the lone human overseer. Morning and night they are fed the same thin flavorless paste; all the nutrients necessary to maintain smooth operating, though at the cost of a certain unavoidable about of noxious offgassing.

Every so often one of them slips into the bowels of the machines, and the floor bursts into clangor. They do not mourn, because they are interchangeable; another one will issue from the creche soon enough and the work will continue. They clean the machinery of the bright fluid and move on.

Now, though: the overseer, heavy with sleep, has slipped from his high perch and fallen to the floor. He shatters, and the factory slows, stops. They gather around the spreading pool of his blood, the same clangorous red as theirs.

The factory bursts into noise, swells, grows louder, louder, a dam broken through at last.

went for mail picked apples

Fifty years and more we were together, John and me, through good luck and bad, summer rain and winter drought, brought together by the promise of easy gold. We never found gold, though the bug got into John’s soul, sure enough, and even now he’d be panning in the stream if he were here to do it, but we found each other and that were riches enough.

I cooked, he cleaned; he sewed, I tended garden. This sweet land, these mountains, the home we made in the hills after the Miwoks had been driven out and the Chileans had quit or set out for Seattle and points north! Near enough the road for guests, and a spare bed or three for those needing one—I neither needed the company nor minded it, but John was a social feller and liked to see new faces every so often.

We made it to our Jubilee, Tennessee and Old Pard, and a happier marriage two old miners never had. I don’t begrudge the Time that has stolen him away, but I’m not inclined to wait patiently in this empty house for someone that isn’t coming, and neither am I inclined to make him wait.

We spent a lifetime together and more; why should we not spend eternity too?

Felis Domesticus

You hadn’t been much to look at in life, and undeath hasn’t done much to change that. Respectable-looking, that was your lane. You’d had a cat when you were alive, but you’d gradually picked up more in the decades since. It was nice, being surrounded by life; you kept the same crepuscular schedule.

You don’t see people very often, so the cats are good company.  When you get hungry, you pick up some guy at a bar and bring him home and, well. Do what you need to. Once in a very long while you’ll get a visit from the cops, if the bartender could bother to remember your face. You were the last person, that sort of thing.

Yes, you always say. You’ve been lonely, and you’d thought that maybe this time— but you haven’t heard from him since. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, you say. None of them ever come back again.

Half a dozen pairs of eyes shine in the dark.

It’s hard, I know, the cops say. You just have to keep trying. You’ll find someone.

Thank you, you say. I hope so. I hope you find him soon. I hope he’s okay.