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The studded club swung down and cratered the ground with a sound like a collapsing house. The Brinotaur’s muscles shuddered with the impact as it’s weapon hit the ground. To call it a club wasn’t entirely correct. It was more like a building with a handle. The creature was the biggest mass of flesh I’d seen down here in the under.

I had rolled to the side, pushed even further by the shockwave of the club’s impact. A wall of air like a giant hand swept me across the ground. I wouldn’t have survived a glancing blow and I’d be disintegrated by a direct hit. I needed to think of a way out of here fast.

It felt like I was in an arena but there didn’t appear to be an audience. The Brinotaur and I were in a circular room with a dirt floor about as big as an empty warehouse except the walls climbed up into darkness. A few support pillars lanced up into the blackness from the ground but I couldn’t see the ceiling. The Brinotaur seemed to know not to destroy them but I didn’t see how it could avoid it, being so large and clumsy.

I’d woken up here. I couldn’t tell if I’d been randomly selected from the other kidnapped humans or if this was punishment. The creatures here had an opaque system of governing that I couldn’t parse.

The Brinotaur, for instance. I’d heard of it but I hadn’t seen it yet. A mythical creature used as a boogeyman to our slave work force if we didn’t pull our quotas. My quotas were up and my quotas were fine. I’m not sure how I got here.

The Brinotaur tugged his weapon up and back onto his shoulder. It was an amphibious creature. A head like a bull but green and slimy with no hair. Gills fluttered under its ears. Mottled skin glistened, wrapped around his enormous muscles. It looked too big for the gravity here. Like merely breathing and rolling over would be a herculean feat but here it was, walking around disturbingly quick even if imprecise and hampered by its immense inertia. It must need a water source but there was none here in the room.

That’s when the ceiling exploded into light and the ocean came down from the sky.

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For Angela, the new lie that kept showing up in her life was that people would still love her even though she had changed. Her new body wouldn’t unsettle her friends, she’d been told.

She lay back on her charging couch, raising an arm and looking at the reflection play along it from her bedside table’s lamp. The warm lightened glinted off the ridges of the small cooling vents along her forearm, like harmonica holes dotting the lines of her muscles. Utterly silent. No servomotors whirring to betray her movement like in the older models.

The people that had sold her the new body had assured her that her old flesh-and-blood friends wouldn’t fear her shift to immortality. But they lied. Of course they did. They wanted her to buy.

It was Saturday. Angela usually had to triage her social calendar on Saturdays, perhaps foregoing an event to take pity on a friend she hadn’t seen a while. Sometimes she had to choose between two or three equally lascivious parties.

This was the first Saturday in ten years that was empty of invitations.

Her brain was angry but her body was remaining calm. That was a new sensation. It was something that had been talked about in the pamphlets she’d read. A silicate dissonance, it was called. Emotions firing in the meat of her mind but not controlling her pulse rate or blood pressure.

Her heart was a whirring egg now and her blood was synthetic so that was to be expected. Adrenaline had been replaced with response time enhancers and threat-assessment programs. She’d react quickly to physical threats but without the feelings of panic. No jolts of terror to spur the biology.

Her body was capable of everything her former shell was except for a few adjustments. She’d removed the need for toilets as option number one. She still needed to bleed off heat and switch out old fluids but that could be done discreetly and, if need be, monthly.

Recharging was a necessity but a loss of consciousness while doing so was not.

She thought she’d be a commodity to her social group. The first to dive into the waters of eternal life. She thought she’d be sought after sexually. Curious people would flock to converse with her.

But no. The primate mind was still too strong.

And it was a one way trip.

Angela sighed. An affectation left over from her old body. Perhaps she’d just have to wait until more of her friends crossed over. Or else she’d have to make new friends in what the switches before her had nicknamed the hereafter.

She promised herself to call up the transformation counsellor in the morning, sent mental commands for the lights to dim and the fire to turn on and decided to catch up on old movies.

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We’re not built to withstand the storm.
We change every time we survive a crisis.
We are shuffled to one side into a new person after every intensity.
Now that we know that:
(We lack a center
that every test changes us and doesn't cement our certainty
that every crucible merely rearranges our atoms
and doesn't refine us to a more concentrated particulate)
We avoid the situations.
We no longer seek the prow in a storm.
We suffer from survivor’s guilt on a genealogical scale.
A humanity-wide scale.
And it feels like the only antidote to the horror is ignorance.
The inability to affect real meaningful change causes the need for a form of permanent hibernation.
A chrysalis of affected indifference that will never butterfly.
An act.
And we lack the strength of character to choose otherwise.
Our tears are a drink for some.
Our failure is hated by most.
And we are getting weaker, both with age the knowledge that they're right to feel the way they do.
So we choose to become shadow.
To be in the current of the river.
To live beneath the notice of the pure of heart.
We have a lack of purity now.
We are not deeply polluted. We are not rotten.
But we are no longer pure.
Our insides are not dirty but we can no longer ride certainty to a goal.
Our focus always has a reason for plus or minus.
We have thrown ourselves against life's wall and it has appreciated it.
Like a laughing Viking.
We feel like we can no longer be instrumental.
We pass the torch by giving away our fire.

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Half of my life is conversations I was too afraid to have
Conversations I rehearse even though the moment to have them has long passed
Once in a while I get it right
I say what needs to be said
When it needs to be said

But sometimes
When I'm alone
I tell
The walls
That I love them
In clear ways that can't be misinterpreted
I am articulately angry at
Deserving people
Mute people
Shocked into silence by my eloquence and given insight by my clarity
A fantasy world
Of triumphs
Of clear communication
Of victories leading to victories
That make my real wins
My here-in-the-flesh successes
These conversations ghosts are powerful and sway reality
Much more than they should
And I can't decide if they are wise
Or stupid
Fuel for my engine
Or sugar in my gas tank

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There used to be a trail
Through the woods
A shortcut I took often as a child
A shortcut I reveled in
A shortcut I made long in my memory
Long with dawdling, running, swinging from branches, climbing.
Deviating off the grid in transit
A right turn off the street through some bushes and through into
Emerald trees jungling thickly with summer, translucent leaves dappling sunlight through a thousand feathering gateways, letting almost no light touch the ground
Multicolored patchwork autumn fireworks, stinking of death and rot but somehow more alive that ever.
Through quiet black fingers reaching up through winter's white ground, my footfalls muffled into silence
And spring's teases of young life exploring renewal

There used to be a trail here
And now it's gone
Now, at this spot, it's only forest by the road and there is no path
Overgrown with disuse
Or maybe I just can't
See it

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The swaying in and the swaying out. Family leaving like waves pulling back from a beach. This shore of ground-down boulders. Time making rock into softness. One small day. One small billion years. The universe is an accordion breathing fat and thin from each big bang to each heat death. The big question is "is it a cycle or a one-off"?

This universe, the one-hit wonder. A big-ticket item. Guaranteed this universe is someone's free ride to the big time. If this universe was a creation, was it for an elementary-school science fair or a nobel prize? Are we what's created in the wake of some unknowable craft? Maybe we're in the engine right now.

The big bang was caused by a piston shoving phsyics into a pocket until it ignited. Every stroke creates another one. Universes like cartoon gas clouds behind a car. You can track this car through the higher dimensions by the trail of dead universes.

We all need overlays. We all need filters. It's too bright to look at almost anything if you know enough. A cozy little standpoint helps. A cloister of prejudice. We're all living sorting hats, putting everything we see into a small number of houses.

Planning for the future is an art form. The sine wave and the particle. The sudden swerves and the trees in the way.

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"Your weakness is actually your strength", said the shimmering cloud of dust in front of me. It gusted and whorled but managed to maintain an shape of sorts. It was a cloudless, calm day here so I don't know what wind it was reacting to.

It was late autumn. I'd just finished work at the petrol plant and was taking a shortcut home through the grove. I was looking forward to seeing Wendy and my little Charles. I'd bought meat from the butcher on the way home for dinner. That was when the cloud appeared to me.

It talked to me in what I thought was English but I wasn't sure if I was hearing air vibrations or actual thoughts. The sparkling patch of air in front of me warped. I could see through it but what I saw behind it didn't make any sense to me. The trees through the twinkling cloud appeared to be in a different season.

"You can only exist in linear time with no awareness of the future." said the cloud. "This should not be possible for intelligent life. As far as any being knows, you are unique."
I stood, perplexed. I seemed to lack the ability for panic or fear. It kept talking.
"We all see time from the outside. Christmas lights on a string, a flat circle, choose your metaphor. But we are outside of it. We see all that happened. We can zoom in an experience anything but we lack the ability to change anything. Every moment of time is fixed." it warbled to me.

"But you. You humans. You should exist on train tracks but you don't. Because you can't see the future, you can change it. You have a choice. You can manipulate outcomes. We are at a loss as to how that's possible. For the moment, you are celebrities across all of time and space." it sang.

"I just wanted to meet one of you." it said, and jangled sideways into infinity.

I stood alone in the grove. I wasn't sure what had just happened.

I hurried home to my family for dinner but I was now obsessed with the choices I made with every footstep home.

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Coming home to your planet is always such a bittersweet experience.

Visiting simpler locales always leaves me feeling thankful for Karroway, my home planet. Simpler systems leave me in wonder at how the locals can even function. I had just gotten back from a recent addition to the galactic council. The inhabitants referred to it as Earth. I hate to call them primitive but they only had one mind state with a small percentage capable of two. The current minimum for intelligent life was at least five mind states but an exception was being made in their case because of their accomplishments. These one-state mammals had created basic silicate life, broadcast technology and even brushed with higher math. And not only did they suffer from one mind state, they had finite life spans! The definitions of membership and the galactic definition of life were being revisited. Earth was currently a pretty big tourist destination as a result.

That's why I went. I needed a distraction. Life on Karroway could be boring just with sheer noise. I turned three of my minds towards the porthole.

Karroway's four-planet heliod system came up bold and backlit by its three differently coloured suns. A red giant, a blue dwarf, and a yellow star sparkled brilliantly through the 8 ring systems interacting with each other. Our orbit-locked planets stood out beautifully. The gas-giant fuel center Leptus, the turquoise cloud-covered Reena, the temperate volcano paradise Cheng, and the startlingly Earth-like Rhoodus. Together the four of them orbited tightly around each other in traffic controlled ellipses and all four in turn orbited as one around the three suns. Each planet had a moon system of at least thirty moons, all inhabited. The rings collided through each other on the ecliptics, throwing sparkling dust out in constant rainbow fantails. Borealis sparkled along the gravitational bridgepoints between the four-bulbed shared magnetosphere. Unsuited travel between the four planets was possible as their atmosphere was also shared.

3 suns, four planets, 128 moons, and 8 rings. Overpopulated with complicated eclipses, dawns, and sunsets.

You can imagine my boredom at seeing Earth. No rings, one moon, one planet, and one star. Hard to believe complex life evolved on that rock at all. But my time there was relaxing.

It was contemplative. My multicolored body was of great interest to them. The fact that a good percentage of my biology inhabited the quantum was unbelievable to their scientists. There was a buzz of activity with every new alien that visited them. I was the first of my kind to be there, they said. My frilled tendrils blushed with the memory of how much I was fawned over.

I felt aggrandized and god-like, sure, but I was also humbled. These backwater rock-dwellers had accomplished so much. What had I done with all of my gifts? All of my insight, all of my dimensional awareness? All of my engineered biology? I had the ability to move single molecules with my tentacle tips and zoom in to watch it happen. I was immortal, having my choice of when to ascend. I had the capacity to speed or slow time, to access higher levels of energy life and talk to them.

For what? Idle fun. For all my complexity, all my afforded privelege and advancement, I was boring and lazy.

I felt invigorated.

When I got back to Karroway, I was going to write a book.

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With all the recent changes to the darkness that I've seen.
The edges that were sanded off, the dirty made pristine
The safety and awareness and the need to be serene
The growing sense of friendliness and shunning the obscene
The Brothers Grimm made not so bad, the fairy tales made fair
The social justice warriors enlightening the air
The value placed on human life returning bright and strong
The grey reduced, the right enlarged, the shrinking of the wrong
The outrage at authorities for murdering the poor
I think perhaps one holiday is losing it's allure
October's bachannalia. The costumed autumn fete.
Althought it's taken lots of hits it hasn't been killed yet.
And if it dies then that's okay 'cause it's the only one
That doesn't need to be alive to have it's season's fun
Because a zombie works just fine, a ghost works just as well
A vampire or a demon up vacationing from hell
It's my favorite holiday, the best one that I've seen
This year I think I'm dressing as the ghost of Halloween
The Halloween that's not allowed. The Halloween taboo.
The Halloween that moral, righteous, good people eschew
I'll dress up as a sexy, sexist, racist, ableist male
A twitter nazi holocaust denier. With a tail.
I'll wear some blackface and a head dress and a turban too.
I'll layer so much ignorance they won't know what to do
I'll work in sexy condiments and sexy flower bed
and sexy lamp and sexy tree and sexy severed head
Kimono, sari, big sombrero, khaftan, high heel shoes
I'll get thick glasses and some crutches to complete the ruse
Vocally my ignorance will match my outer gear
I'll drop the n-word casually for everyone to hear
And if you try to challenge me about my costume choice
You won't believe how loud I'll raise the volume of my voice
I'll talk about free speech and how our country is a free one
And how I hate the knee jerk left and wouldn't want to be one
I'll rail against political correctness run amuck
And loudly claim quite proudly that I do not give a fuck
You know what? Wait. Just wait. This is a really bad idea.
If this poem has offended you, it's culpa mea
I admit that even as a joke that this is dumb
That where we're going has to be improved from where we've come.
Perhaps the chunks we've protested against this time of year
Are actually good parts to lose. It's actually quite clear.
That Halloween should not be seen as opportunity
to be a racist, sexist ableist with impunity
I take it back. The holiday is not in need of saving.
Halloween could use some rules to help us in behaving.
The day is dead! Long live the day! Our Halloween lives on!
Just make sure to double check the costume that you don.
True monsters live beneath the masks of flesh we wear all year
We need a holiday that is a holiday from fear
So let's all try to make October safer than it's been.
So everyone can have a safe and happy Halloween.

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Looking at Mars is different now. Through the telescopes, you can see patches of green and purple where the algae is taking hold. New shapes are spreading. Year to year it changes. There's a patch at the moment that the kids are calling the green man, not unlike the man in the moon.

Some of the teens have had the inserts downloaded to their iEyes so that they can see Mars without telescopes. The macro and micro on the most recent patch is amazing. Cops can do fingerprint identification just by looking closely at crime scenes and cycling through the spectrums. Doctors can operate at a new level, fingers like tree trunks sewing up microscopic wounds.

But Mars. Twinkling up in the sky as a new atmosphere grows. It's a war up there. The algae is fighting each other to make sure the most dominant strain wins. The colours are fighting each other for supremacy.

They say in fifteen years that the first private construction modules will be ferried over and fifteen years after that, the commercial flights will begin. Homesteading on Mars will be a thing.
I can't wait.

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“The hope of a spider’s an alien thing.”
The spider thought, chewing on Daniel Moth’s wing
“For though as a spider I bear no ill will
I’ll snack upon Daniel ‘til I’ve had my fill.
I don’t have the tiniest inkling of wrong.
In fact as I eat him, I’m singing this song.
He begged of his friend, (his friend being me)
To set his most succulent abdomen free
His thorax was stuck and his antennae, too.
His legs quivered quick (and between me and you)
He told me of all the months he’d been my friend,
Apologized if he’d had cause to offend
Stammered and tried to guess what gone bad
At what had come over me, why I was mad
As both of my fangs plumped up thick and tumescent
With anticoagulant life-sign suppressant
The question repeated from his mouth was why?
Why would I eat him and make a friend die?
And as my fangs emptied and as he went still
And as I enwrapped him, as I ate my fill
And stored his drained carcass in web corner four
And returned to the center and waited for more
I wondered on hope and arachnid regret
(Or how, if existing, I’d not felt it yet)
My eyes blinked in unison, one through to eight
As I got quite sleepy whenever I ate
I wondered why my friends all stayed friends with me,
When I was an eight-legged death guarantee
I think it’s because I present as benign.
Because when I’m full I seem calm. I seem fine.
I joke. I accept. I see everyone’s side.
And it’s all authentic. It’s all bona fide.
But when I am hungry there’s nature’s dark switch
And no matter who’s around me when I itch
Gets pricked and then packaged with spidery silk
And drained and then stored with the rest of their ilk
And back to my middle-web nexus I crawl
(I do have my centrist beliefs after all)
I sit and I hope that I one day will feel
A little remorse so that I can feel real.
That maybe that after my killing a friend
My glacial indifference to it will end
That even though such a thing would sadden me
So much less would I feel so much uncertainty.
About all my friendships (and my friend’s demise
I’m always surprised that they’re always surprised)
Spiders eat insects and that is the end.
But spiders pre-eating can be a good friend."

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The curves of Saint Monday call up the interlocking pieces of forgetfulness that I call life.
The carpet salesman will always undermine us.
Second place can be a nuclear power plant in the right hands.
If it’s bank left and hard right then it needs to be full throttle on the straightaways.
My face is relaxed in the storm.
You don’t slap fight with the hand of god.
You don’t high five the one hand clapping.
There’s a blue square in my chest instead of a heart.
A smear of paint where my worry used to be.
I don’t see a doctor about my brain.
I see a botanist.
There is ivy in my meat.

I want to fedex myself a real life by speedy delivery but that’s a serious charge.
Shipping slash fiction to greedy eyes can’t reproduce the big finish.
We’re all wireless but the server went down 4000 years ago and we’re still searching for a connection.
Art, religion, and science were all created to take up the slack.
More like opposable dumbs, amirite?
Give me the utility belt that Adam West took to the afterlife.
I want to use shark repellent in hell.

I don’t have a steering wheel big enough to turn my life around and besides, it’s hard to steer an elevator.
I’m infested with tourniquets.
Rechargeable batteries are sewn into my skin.
I’m a scratch and sniff house fire.
I’m a barrel roll in a monkey factory trying to make it more fun.
You twist my hoof and I’ll shit money and old glue.
I can’t see the future but I think it sure packed a punch in a suitcase for me.
I bank on the unsafe deposit box.
You can call me night cactus.
You can call me barbed lyre.
You can call me short-short cutoffs drying on a surfboard near a bonfire.

I chewed up the rewind button.
I made a smoothie out of my regrets.
It’s only by losing baggage that you can see what you won’t miss.
This flight’s a roulette wheel and I bet on blue.
The rain soaks my mind into being half sponge and I awaken.
I eat grilled cheese by osmosis.
I’ve imprinted on society.
My privilege allows me the luxury of the slow lane.
If I’m a kite then no one’s holding me.

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The cat snakes were my favorite of all the gene splices.

I’m wearing one right now. Her name is Waffles. She’s coiled around my neck, turquoise fur with orange stripes, purring against my throat in a mutual exchange of warmth. An extremely fluffy Persian constrictor.

Cat snakes have been available domestically for years. Nothing poisonous for home use, of course. Warm-blooded with long legless bodies, their minds a wonderful combination of snake and cat. Utterly unreadable. Like a Cheshire playing poker. Moody, aloof and opaque.

My brunch friend Amanda has a meters-long albino pythelot draped around her shoulders, white with those black capital-C spots winding around its torso like stripes on a candy cane. A short-hair because she’s allergic. She calls it Twiggy. Its face is serenely dunked in a small bowl of dried mice on the table beside our food. This lunch spot caters to our class.

The cross between a meow and a hiss is wonderful and haunting. And those eyes. Two unreadable species put together to form eyes that are portals to another dimension of consciousness. Time does not exist in those eyes. Emotions are alien there.

Feral tomserpents dart through the alleys these days. Unspayed and unneutered Christmas gifts reproducing in the dumpsters. There are rumours of the massive cobra sphinxes used for security in the outlying corporate factories, rearing up in the moonlight in front of terrified trespassing spies. Fifteen-meter sabertooth tigercondas patrolling the fences of drug-lord fields, fat on junkies and mercenaries, hooked on opiates from digesting the hopped-up victims.

But domestic cat snakes were bred to be docile around people. Strong and fierce when it came to mousing, though. Vermin were a thing of the past in our gated community. Unfortunately, so were birds.

The entire body a tail that twitched when thinking about attack. More silent than a regular cat when crawling up stairs through carpet. Cat snakes were slow lightning. I loved my Waffles with all my heart.

I felt a ripple down the length of her. Embarrassed, I realized my little Waffles was about to cough up a hairball right here in public.

I excused myself from Amanda and our table and headed to the bathroom before Waffles’ undignified whorfing could begin in earnest. Amanda seemed none the wiser but Twiggy’s thin arrowhead face poked up from the mice bowl, one eye smirking at me.

In the morning I may take a trip to the pet store for an exchange. Come to think of it, the hairballs had always been an annoyance.

Maybe I was more of a fishdog person.

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It’s the engine of the world. A holocaust of denials clogging the locust filters. An overheating of the entire worldwide server. Shouldn’t have built a computer in a greenhouse. The calculations are too fast, they need too much power. The underground network needs to be made of ice to survive. We’re bred to be warm but it we get too hot, we’re toast.

We’re a train of harmonica lizards crawling up the spine of the most expensive hooker in the universe. We’re one accordion short of a political movement. We ran so far away. The dawn is like an explosion, whipcracking across the horizon like nuclear war. The light slaps down across our naked planet like a flipper on an ass and we wake up shocked, hairless monkeys that we are. There is no dignity in a self-caused genocide. It’s pooping your pants times a million.

Lilies crowd our lungs and red farms panic across our skin. We are fertilizer for the next shot at the title. Too successful, our tombstone will read. The exponential infinity mirror march of genes overflowing the petri dish we’re wrapped around. At least we still make good food. Our afterlife is a main course for the new mouths.

Perhaps they’ll be smaller. My money’s on the bugs. Living off the free meat, multiplying by the billions, evoluting up the ladder at a spring with those short life cycles. A little more radiation blasting through the sky sprinkler with no one around to tell them that they’re mutated. Let’s get the trial and error started. Let’s start those ribonucleic shots in the dark. Let’s watch the magic happen. The universe is indifferent to our failure or our success.

We need to leave. We need to spread. We need to paint the other rocks with our biological graffiti. We need to tag our way out, leapfrogging to the stars like hardy cancer. Insurance comes from diversity and a wide spread of buckshot. The more host bodies we cling to, the more resource deposits we parasite off of, the more secure our future. Survival will get us to the stars, not greed.

Let our gods lead us if they must. Let commerce, too, if that’s our jam. Let altruism have a seat at the table, too. But we must leave. The bucket is overflowing with sentient meat. We have to lower the levels.

We must leave. Or we will die.

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The horrendous flowerbed appeared in the silence of space. Fireweed stoccato explosions ripped across the hull of the ship in a dotted line of napalm shrubbery, blooming gushing portholes into the vacuum. It was a bouquet to the dead. Anti-matter seeds slapped the cold hull and kissed with the power of stars colliding. Fifteen hundred pirates spewed out into unforgiving cold in that first attack.

The rush of reason leaving him. He spun, intense with feral instinct, forgetting the gun on his bedside table and leapt from his bunk.

And violently met the ceiling.

The gravity core had been derailed. Now everyone he could see was dancing frenetic ballets in midair, trying to nightmare swim to a wall or a railing for purchase and direction. The teal of the alarm lights strobed through the corridor. Lightning washes blasting most biological eyes.

Blinding and useless, he thought. He closed his eyes and let his internals fire up. Schematics hopped up in flourescent pink across the back of his eyelids. He pulsed out across the spectrum. When the echo came back, he could see clearly where he needed to be.

The bridge.

The Pirate King Bigscreen was probably barking orders and trying to steer their freighter away from the onslaught. Caught post-celebration with their pants down. One half of the crew drunk and the other half sleeping it off. The problem with pirates is that they never waited to celebrate a victory because life was short. The fact that life for a pirate was short exactly because they never waited to celebrate a victory was lost on them.

Safe harbours make for better parties, or so his people had always said. He clamped his teeth together, clenched his eyes shut, and started clambering for the access tunnels while the ship writhed around him.

“Redfist! Where are you going?” someone yelled at his back. He turned, opening his eyes to get a glimpse at who was shouting at him. His interior vision was great for seeing through walls but recognizing a crew member by hot green skeleton and soupy orange heat signature was difficult unless he knew how many teeth each pirate had. The only thing he could tell from the x-rays was that the speaker had a larger-than-usual spear of cartilage sticking out from the middle of his face.

It was The Rat. His long nose stuck forward, a probing beak. His wet eyes quivered in the smoke above his weak mouth and absent chin. Aside from the bulge of his skull, it was like his head came out of his neck and decided to come to a point. It was said his nose could detect all manner of things but as far as Redfist had seen, it couldn’t detect perfume in a brothel.

“Headed to the bridge, Rat. Want to see how the King is handling this. You want to come?” he asked.

Another explosion pushed the whole world sideways. The wall leapt forward, kissing them both like the heel of a giant. After pinballing to a stop, Rat nodded, his nose conducting an invisible symphony.

Together they headed up the corridor past thinning air, lowering temperatures, fire, and thrashing figures. Soon enough, this part of the ship would be silent with air loss.

Avoid the morgue, his people also always said. Full of good advice, his people were.

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He’s walking into autumn.
He’s living an eclipse.
He’s half human and half sunset.
The light that burns half as bright burns twice as long.
Or so he hopes.
Playing dead so well he’s gone full method actor.
This is his impression of a clothesline.
Call him Canadian scarecrow.
Call him paused at seconds before impact.
Call him slow motion.
The tortoise and the hare were running two different races.
Slow and steady doesn't win.
It's just satisfied with less.
His version of failure is 8/10ths of the world's version of success.
It's hard not to look up to someone as tall as him.
The beard has all the answers, the age has all the wisdom.
He’s a 'used condom is half-full' kind of guy.
This is his impression of an empty bucket.
Watch him be parking lot.
Watch him be low tide.
The living embodiment of a discarded air guitar.
He has the gift of depression that never stops giving.
He can't breathe underwater but he can hold his breath for 45 years.
Let's flip a coin and disappear before it lands, he says.
Let's climb into Schroedinger's box and snuggle up with that cat, he says.
He embarrasses his mirror.
The universe is a predator that's picking on someone else these days.
Either that or he doesn’t feel the blows anymore.
He’s a pillow fight in a war zone.
He’s aging into irrelevance and maybe the most alarming thing about it is that he doesn’t mind.
No panic.
Just patient sinking.
Just love for friends.
Just quiet desperation.
Just tombstone lullabies for an old man.
Don't get him wrong.
He loves life and he’s not going anywhere.
It's just that he’s put down roots in the path of a forest fire.

skonen_blades: (Default)
The word swoops in on stork wings, causing terror in some and the deepest love in others.
The building blocks of a person’s life spelled out.
A heady soup. Waters best treaded lightly.
In the best worlds, the word is a synonym for God.
A word that sparks all the gratefulness possible in a person.
Tinged though it may be with lifelong frustration and resentment at the edges.
Bridges uncrossed, gulfs unbridgeable, and sailboats engulfed.
The ambigram of wow.
The missing tooth in some people’s mouths.
The reason for some people’s sharp corners.
Not everyone’s cut out to be a parent.
But when a mom gets it right, it’s a tower that reaches the stars.
A blasting javelin thrown into the future.
A release of another person or people into the vast times to come.
The word should be in the thesaurus under caring.
Under safety.
Under comfort.
Under undiluted, unconditional love.
You never stop being someone’s child.
And they never stop being someone’s parent.
Even if tragedy strikes or estrangement triumphs.
A good mother is a pillow for your heart to go to sleep on.
And a drive to keep you focused in the day.
Mothers try to get it right and often fail.
Like your friend’s did.
Like yours did.
And when it comes to a broken life, it’s hard to say that it was the thought that counts.
I believe that if one is a bad parent, then it doesn’t matter what else one does well.
I want to say all mothers have always been there for their children.
I want to say you’re at ease around yours.
But that’s for the greeting cards and the happy endings of sitcoms.
The truth is darker.
And lighter.
The most you can ask of a mother is that they did their best.
If their best was good enough,
Then you have reason to be grateful.

skonen_blades: (Default)
You can BE a good person with mistaken beliefs.
The fact you can change does not make you weak.
If YOU try to COMprehend other folks’ views
Accepting them doesn’t mean “they win, you lose”
Invisible privilege is real hard to see
I’ll tell you a tale of what happened to me
Of the ignorant person that I used to be
Of the changes I’ve gone through. And I MEAN recently.
I grew up poor in a small BC town
We didn’t have much that was non-white around
But I grew up odd and was bullied a lot
Often lamenting the life that I got
Believing that I was a downtrodden boy
A victim oppressed without that much joy
A person in touch with ev-er-y-one
A judgement-free liberal, enlightened son.
BUT AT THE SAME TIME I was steeped in my whiteness
My maleness, my ignorant, cisgendered rightness
But still I allowed my young mind to believe
The rhet’ric of privilege didn’t PERtain to me
I thought I was kind and, ironically
I raged at the people who dared disagree
But as the years passed and experience grew
I realized that THERE’S less of ME than of you
That being locked into this skull is a curse
That bias is natural. And what makes it worse.
Is it’s easy to never examine your mind.
Cause we’re all the good guy. We’re all fair and kind.
My point is I changed. I’m still changing now.
I ask myself why. I ask myself how.
I try to unpack and in-VES-tigate
I try to reflect more. I try to relate.
I feel like I’m woke but I know that I’m wrong.
I know that the path to awareness is long.
I know that I’ll never be fully awake.
No matter how hard of a path that I take.
There’s racists that don’t know they’re racists out there.
Misogynists thinking they’re fully aware
I saw some graffiti down in the east end
In spray paint it said “If you ain’t white, pretend.”
Shutting off empathy can make you feel strong.
Certainty can feel like power. That’s wrong.
Rigidity can feel like pure confidence.
But that doesn’t make any actual sense.
In closing, it’s hard to be called out on stuff.
No one likes being ‘accused’ and it’s rough.
But open your ears and your eyes and your mind.
No matter how woke. No matter how kind.
‘Cause while you can feel so enlightened you’re glowing
Stay humble. The process is always ongoing.
I was born on lost ground. There’s a lot to make up.
And miles to go before I wake up.

skonen_blades: (Default)
The flames that warped across her field of vision shuddered the frames of her cameras. Her pain sensors had been removed which was probably a blessing but Ravendawn felt like something was missing. Hard data about hull integrity minnowing through her mind was useful but the spur of pain could be helpful. This atmosphere was doing its best to ignite her into a firework as she tore through it. She retracted her stabilizer fins before they completely disintegrated. She was more bullet than craft now.

This planet’s pink skies pillowed away from her on all sides, forming a pepto-bismol trampoline she was doing her best to pierce. It was a lovely place. No locals according to the scans. On the charts it was called DK485/c-9 but she’d get to name it whatever she wanted if the scans held up; the perks of being a pioneer. She was thinking maybe Judy like her biomother’s favorite actor. Or Centuryhawk.

Ravendawn reduced her speed. Her name stenciled on the side of her body was still intact but starting to blister and bubble. If the atmosphere didn’t yield soon, she’d need new detailing on top of a new paint job. It would be expensive but if the scans checked out and she was primary, it’d be a miniscule expense in the face of her new riches.

In her belly, the machines slept, waiting for the spasm of release. They would form the mining giants and bio harvesters that would build themselves out of the raw materials of the planet’s crust and crawl away from the impact crater, moving factories striping the planet with megameter-wide troughs of scoured bedrock.

Ravendawn was a planet harvester. A former human’s mental imprint housed in a deep-space arrow. A scant 6% of biomatter remained intact in the nucleus of the ship. All of her senses were sensors. Her eyes were varied and legion. A ladybug death flower on a mission of wealth and destruction.

One of a thousands, pinballing around the the universe, claiming and abrading planets.

The process left a planet heavily scarred but with enough of a biosphere left that, several millennia and a handful of ship generations later, it would have fully healed. Ready for another contact.

Lucrative. The retirement homes for her kind were gated servers near guarded planet cores where she could indulge in any constructed fantasy she could imagine. This was her ninth planet. One more and she’d be able to lock in to retirement for a real-time century, nearly infinity inside the machine.

The soup of the atmosphere cooled around her as she slowed, her skin going from white hot to red to orange, the holes in the clouds behind her staring to slow their expanding irises of rupture.

Half of her vision turned hot teal and protocols slammed shut all throughout body. Alarms sounded. All forms of scan shunted forward to the target. Magnification ratcheted up and her emergency ascent thrusters braked her sharply to a stop. All of this was involuntary reflex from directives peppering her insides. She violently stopped. The slosh of momentum inside her made her nauseous, a humanity leftover.

Damn, she thought.

She zoomed in on forty-six spectrums.

There, beneath her, in bright blue fur, was a four-armed child the size of a cat drawing a picture on a rock. The child looked up at Ravendawn and looked back down, continuing the drawing.

It was a drawing of a fast dot tearing holes in the clouds. It was a drawing of Ravendawn coming down to roost.

No more evidence was needed. This planet would be marked off limits and Ravenclaw would resume her search of leads. Mostly the data was reliable but sometimes life could evolve in between the scan logs and the arrival with the distances traveled.

Ravendawn banked and swooped back up into the dark space with a few cameras pointed back to watch the creature that had denied her this planet’s treasures.

The blue child watched her go, frantically trying to capture the detail of the ship’s moments in the sky to show her tribe.

skonen_blades: (Default)
The forced groan of exhaust that squeaked through the rotted pipe coated his aching lungs. To be an air scrubber in the toxic atmosphere of Railtown was a death sentence without regular maintenance. After two more weeks of this, though 56Raul2080, he’d need a complete overhaul.

Visibility in the human spectrum down here was zero as rainbows of fog and smoke from the low-level factories poured out, some heavier and spiraling down like waterfalls and some rising. Most of it drifted like the bands of cloud on a gas giant, disturbing in swirls by constant passing traffic. Bullets through curtained sheets of gas. A demonstration of chaos.

The sensory equipment of 56Raul saw through the smoke. He saw the archipelagos of untethered islands floating in the smoke, the long spacetoucher buildings girdering up into the sky. They had no windows down this low. Nothing to see out of windows this low aside from smears of pastel death and besides, the corrosive gases would eat through the transparent materials or at least scour the outside until they were frosted over opaque.

56Raul’s metal frame bobbed through the air, his wide mouth scooping in huge gulps of gas. It was sorted and compressed into interior channels. Most of the chambers in his storage stomachs were extremely volatile. One spark or puncture and he’d most likely explode. It was hazardous work down here.

He was paid in valuable Acoin, though, a currency for the silicate. One of the few freedoms the artificial had was being able to participate in the online economy. 56Raul, being so huge and weighing so much, would never have fit through the doorways of a regular meatwalker store. But once he got back to his station bay, he could buy time in the sim farms or rent episodes of good shows or even order possessions. The hardware was the most useless. It all melted or sponged in the atmosphere down here eventually. No point in cosmetic paint jobs or add-ons either for the same reason.

The machines had an artform of bringing have toys and not-sentient machines down here and letting them melt in interesting ways. 56Raul was no exception. Currently he had an Eiffel Tower made of human toothbrushes slowly bending Dali-like down to the floor. 56Rauls had seen all of these references online and enjoyed making sculptures of things long-dead, things he’d never interfaced with his own cameras. It was a way of proving the ephemeral to himself.

In two hours, he’d be back in his bay. One of the hundreds of pod bays honeycombed into the thousands of his parent company’s scrubber garages, scattered through the fog like seeds in the meat of a melon. He’d order some screamgrind off the charts to lullaby him into standby, hook himself into the purge hoses to unload his stomachs into the different output conduits for processing, and see if his shipment of purple left-handed toothbrushes had arrived yet.

But for now, he coasted, radar blasting the opaque oceanworld of smoke outside of his shell, wary of traffic, eating and scrubbing the thick soup of death, feeling happy and alive and content.



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