Prefiguration

Alex speaks a dream: “The land is beneath me and I hang, unsuspended, in the air. I look down upon the green tops of the trees, the nodding, shaggy heads of the cedars.” Idzukar nods, runs his fingers soothingly through his hair, one massive thigh firm under his neck. “I met there the voices of the air, the chattering djinn, that know many things and have no wisdom.”

“I too have known men like this,” murmurs Idzukar in a voice like a hushed avalanche, “and women, too.”

“They asked me where I was bound, and I said home; that is, North and West.”

“Auspicious destinations all.”

“And they asked me, what is the point of this gift of flight if you just trace the accustomed  routes? Be free, man, (they said) you are no longer just of earth.”

“As you said,” murmurs Idzukar, “much knowledge, but little wisdom.” His face, awful in its size, is gentled by the firelight and the stars.

Glass House

“Dry one,” Alex says to his wife.

“Ayuh.”

He twists his hands on the golf club and shuffles bare feet on the carpet. Outside is another perfect Martian day. “Cold, too.”

“Ayuh.”

The whole south wall is a window, like the north one, like the east and west walls, like the ceiling. They need the heat, the light. “Folks comin’ up. Looks like Martins and her like.”

“Aw hell,” his wife says, and goes back into the dark room. “You take care of ’em for me.”

“Ayuh.” He takes the club with him to the lock. “Something I can do for you, Martins?”

Martins is small and sandblasted, and she’s got two others with her, all with the red Sigma sprayed onto their helmets.

“Can do, Hammil,” she says. “Yes, you can. Notice you ain’t got the Delta on your place, like you ought. Could put that up for me, I’d appreciate it.”

“Nope,” he says. “Fraid I can’t.”

Martins leans in, the dome of her helmet a luminous blank in the pale summer sun. “Your children will be mongrels, Hammil, like their mother, like their father. Do us all a favor and put up the Delta.”

“Hell with you,” he tells her, and goes back inside.

Filling a Niche

He’d put in the hours, somehow (had he? he couldn’t remember), and so they were making Alexander Hammil the god of protection from very small earthquakes.

“There must be some mistake,” he told the whirling cloud of impenetrable blackness that was processing his application. “I don’t even think I applied.”

“No mistake,” it said. It had the voice of a two year old he’d known very slightly six years ago. “You’ve been nominated by the necessary thirteen souls. Everyone was very complimentary.”

“This still can’t be right.”

“You’ll do fine. Now, it may take up to 72 hours before your godhood fully manifests, but in the meantime I’ve set you up with the standard invulnerability package, so that’s nice. If you have any questions, just call the number inscribed in the stygian depths of your soul, and we’ll assist you any way we can. Congratulations, and welcome to the pantheon!”

“Wait—” he started, but it was already gone. The building shook and his girlfriend, still asleep, turned and nuzzled into his chest.

Canocephalus

Little wars breed little protests. Alexander Hammil is standing on the barricades, shouting down the motorcade, and it has been weeks since he has seen another protester, months since the last meeting. The war continues, he knows, by the smoke in the sky and boxes painted black shipped out of the city in driverless trucks, but the people passing in the street below are as silent and directionless as so many plastic bags.

“He seems like a nice enough guy,” he mutters to the latest stone he has prised out of the wall. “Like, you met him in a bar, you’d think, yeah, okay. Sure. Just a pleasant drunk propping up a barstool.” He hucks the chunk at the long armored limo with the little flags as it rolls solemnly past and ducks down; the service pops a few rounds his way, far too high to hit him even if he were standing. He hears them laughing, a mocking, friendly twist of breath receding into autumn. “It’s just his politics that are awful.”

“Go home, man!” The first human voice he’s heard in ages! Alex pops up over the edge, paws desperately through the crowds with his eyes, but all collars are up and all heads are down. He sucks deeply at the air, straining after one last taste of sound, and grinds white-knuckled into the barricade again.

Haunts

Alexander Hammil is walking home, his spine bent like a hoop, when the station wagon pulls up next to him on the long curve away from the drive-in. The driver leans over and shoves the door open. “Get in,” he says.

“What?” says Alexander Hammil. “Who are you?”

“Just a guy.” He’s balding, with a red beard that fades to brown as it touches his chest. “You want a ride or not?”

“I, uh, sure.” What the hell. He wedges the backpack down in the footwell and begins the long process of straightening out. “Thanks, I guess?” The driver just grunts, doesn’t make eye contact. There’s another man, asleep in the back seat. Old and round and bald, like an egg with an unruly moustache. “Who’s that?”

“Just a guy.”

“Hey, so, I live just up–”

“I know where you live, don’t worry about it.”

He plays the old game, projecting himself out onto the shoulder, bounding from ditch to ditch, running as fast as the car. The long driveway down to the house is long, long: they drive down it for hours in silence.