Heat Dome

Stagnant air, still as an oven. Sick and dizzy, Russ pauses in the fields, glares up into a sky cloudless and white with heat, pauses to take a long drink at her canteen, water as warm as blood. It has been months, will be months, summer like a lid on a pot, and they bake. Tip’s been after her to pack it in and take the wobbly out to Holofernes or someplace cooler but hell she broke this ground, built the house, she ain’t gonna leave it because it got hot.


The ground cracks and blows away, and no amount of skill will keep it when the wind blows through. They have done everything, loved the land like a sister, taken nothing from it that it didn’t gladly give, put nothing into it that wasn’t already there, took no more than they needed, honored it like any great-grandmother, but: sometimes things just die. She knows this, knows to accept it when it happens.

Still it stings.

She barely makes it home again, stumbles up the steps into the shade, into a house like an open throat, every door and window wide and panting after any trickle of a breeze. Tip is huddled against the icebox, washed out and miserable.

Russ sighs, deep down sighs. “Grab your things,” she tells Tip, wet-eyed, already mourning, already planning their return.

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?

Born in Flames, Cauled in Blood

Normally Tits doesn’t give a hot fuck what happens in the parks, on account of it’s usually empty words and full cocks, but lately something’s set her city aroil like a nest full of hornets. The poets and the socialists are armed to the teeth and there’s a new one dead every day for a month before she figures she has to step in.

“Look,” she tells the sad-mouthed boy facedown in a fountain, “what the hell goes on here? What’s got you kickin’ up, my breaker of words?” Gurgles, mostly, so she hauls him up by his hair and lets him get one lungful in, two, before she slaps his mouth hard on his teeth. “Talk to me, sweet summer’s child.”

“War,” he grins through a copper jawful of blood. “War and fire and new beginnings. Thursday is coming, and he’ll drag you down, all of you down, to the mud and the snakes and a ruby-bright stone.” Useless chatter, so she pushes him back under water and leaves him there till life comes foaming out of his nose.

War, huh. She’s an old hand at war, the bloody spirit of the times, a walking apocalypse already. Let cities and nations fall: she’ll be riding the cycle with a sword in her mouth.