Through Me Tell The Story

Seven long generations since Landing and she sleeps through the alarm, wakes to find herself alone and abandoned in the ruins of Parnassus, no warm line of her brother/sisters pressed against her sides, no cool voice in the bones of her ear, just a sky swept clean of clouds and a half-finished road churned to mud. They went east.

She’s seven long strides in their wake before she thinks to ask herself: why? Why follow them? Why stay? Why was she left? She asks Pythia, and in return only the empty air and the drone of the swarm to the west. Shivers in the cold, hugs herself for warmth, arms a poor substitute for her brother/sisters. What now?

They will follow the road, that much she remembers, the swarm that turns noon to night; even with all the warning Pythia can give there are still dozens that fall when the swarm descends. To chase after is death; alone she can only die soonest. She grabs a webpack from the armory, and her longboots, both waiting for her (planned? or forgotten? either or both? she can’t think it straight) and worms her way into the trees to the south.

Seven long days of blackberries and starvation later Cleo (meaning, history: she remembers) climbs a tree black with spiders. The swarm is a low smudge to the north and west: past her. To the south, a long finger of smoke, where no smoke can be. She boggles at it, and wonders again: forgotten, or planned?

Take This Cup From Me

Jillian¬†was at the top of the Tower when she found out about Comacho’s death. It was a clear night, she remembers that, and cold: the air bit into her gloves when she went out on the roof to smoke a joint. The stars were high, high and alien, and crowded into the bowl of the sky. Sheila¬†was sensitive to smoke, so she had to smoke outside. Which was fine; it kept her in time with the seasons.

She pictured him, conjured the image forth into the lungful of smoke, power pushing through her; a short dark kid with a crew cut who used to pretend he was a velociraptor in the halls. She didn’t know him well, but they’d hang out sometimes watching the breakdancers during lunch. Been shot in the head outside of a house party, just randomly, some stupid fight or other, she didn’t know.

She went to his grave, next time she went back, left a knot on his stone. Marble for memory, cedar for waste. This, she knew, even then, nothing more than raw superstition. The dead are the dead; all her Art is reserved for the guilty surviving.

Polybius

Polybius blinks owlishly against the sudden flood of light into his cell. “Yes? Who’s there?” His voice is cracked and reedy: a mistuned oboe.

“Shut him up, quick quick,” someone growls, and rough hands grab him, stuff a soapy rag into his mouth and an oniony bag over his head. He struggles, but he’s never been valued for the strength of his arms. They carry him out into the halls, and even through soap and onions he can smell blood and offal. He starts to heave and they slap him, pummel him until he subsides in agony.

He panics when they get outside. Where are his brothers? Where are their tender cruelties? His skin starts to burn at the unaccustomed glare of the moon and he weeps. “He’s an ugly damn worm, isn’t he?” one of his abductors says. There’s a sound he knows well: fist meeting flesh over bone. They travel again in silence.

Hours or minutes later they’re inside again and he’s forced into a chair. The bag is ripped from his head and his eyes weep uncontrollably with the light. The sisters surrounding him are slender, beardless, and short, but he recognizes the room, twin to his own. “Ours now,” says one sister, and hands him a pen. “Write!”