It was a dark summer night during the big brown out of ‘05. The trains weren’t running and my girlfriend, Kerri, was stuck in the city. Even so, with no power to the traffic lights I was staying off the roads so I wouldn’t be going to see her tonight. Putting off the inevitable. On my way to Calahan’s to drown my sorrows, I noticed my neighbor’s lawn jockey was missing from its place among the parade of lawn deer, lawn ducks, and ceramic mushrooms that blighted an otherwise pleasant green-grassed, well-manicured-shrubbed, suburban front yard.
My relationship with Kerri was on borrowed time. Something about the old men at Calahan’s and the bartender who looked like she could have been something once, comforted me as I struggled with the question what does one do with the good times once a relationship is gone.
I drank myself into quite a stupor and sometime after midnight I figured it was time to shamble home before I risked not waking up tomorrow.
I walked home, no closer to any answers. Still lost in thought, I wondered why my keys didn’t work in my door. I looked at the lawn and realized I must have turned down the wrong block.
It was full of lawn jockeys, their lanterns shining with the glow of thousands of fireflies.
I stood there thinking, damn some kids really did a good one. And then I saw the jockeys were moving; escorting kids to and from the corner where the bus stops; trailing men in suits with brief cases to their cars. Everywhere scenes of suburban life were being played out like ghostly-recorded images and the lawn jockeys followed, illuminating them with their yellow-green, too-bright lantern light.
And for it a second it all made sense, I understood the place of these purposeless lawn ornaments in the universe. Then I reminded myself of the hour and the impossibility of it all and told myself that it couldn’t be.
“No, you had it right the first time,” said a blue and white jockey standing next to me. “This makes perfect sense. You’ve traveled far to see us my friend.”
As he spoke I had a vague recollection of passing out. Was that my body face down on the steps there behind the little cast iron man?
“So where do you want to go?” he said.
“To see Kerri, I guess,” I said without thinking. It came out naturally.
The clunk of horseshoes on asphalt filled the night. The jockey smiled and now that I heard the echoing sound I realized the rest of the commotion was strangely noiseless.
“Your question,” the jockey said. “Good times. They are a noble pursuit in and of themselves. They are never destroyed, even when you and she are no more.”
A pair of tall strong horses, the same yellow-green as the lantern light galloped down the block and stopped in front of the house.
I remembered tripping. Stumbling. Falling on the brick stairs. My head smashing on the concrete.
“So, I’m not going to make it work tomorrow after all, am I?” I asked.
The jockey’s fixed expression seemed somber as he stiffly shook his head from side to side. Then he climbed on one of the horses.
“Come on,” he said. “Kerri awaits. I shall race you there.”
Until Death 052710
“Listen,” she says. “The way the nighttime air sings through the trees. Nature is brilliant. I love this world, I love this life, and I love you.”
Top down on the stolen Corvette you’re driving at a nick over a hundred fifty, all you can hear is the roar of the exhaust and the rush of wind. Her hair whips around and around and the smile on her face is angelic and mischievous at the same time.
You can believe that she really does love you, even with the trail of destruction left behind her, the smell of boiled blood and seared ozone, the laser pistol pressed to your side.
She digs the weapon into your ribs and says, “Go faster.”
“How far are we going?” you ask.
“As far as we can,” she says. “We’ll know when we’re there.”
Cities on fire, her eyes ablaze with the power of life and death, and you alone between her and man’s total obliteration. She never expected to meet someone like you, she says. She was supposed to kill everyone. Men fall short of her expectations. _Always._ Maybe, she says, you will be different.
“Our love will guide us,” she says. You believe her. It’s not that she cannot lie, rather that she doesn’t need to. The gun in your side, the weapons in orbit, her smile. To you they are one and the same, all devastatingly precise. Her power over you is absolute.
You decide you have to try, even if it kills you.
“Yes,” you say. “Yes, I love you. I will go with you.”
Her eyes soften, for just a moment. She’s thinking, processing, judging.
“I believe you,” she says.
Many things blur together. Time and space expand, contract, swirl. She takes your hands off the wheel. She climbs on your lap. She kisses you. She takes control. She pushes the accelerator to the floor. She pulls the trigger.
The nighttime air sings through the trees. It sings of love and death. It sings loudly.
Who knows what happens after that?
a love that
swills the black
milk of twist
the SF Poet Anan Muss had transom-entangled to his lover. Responding to its fifteen seconds of fame, critics responded: “What lovesick, cornball hack hasn’t thought-twittered something to that effect?”
The difference here being that Anan’s object of affection was none other than the lovely Dionysia, recently loosed from a marriage contract to King Ash–he who decimated planetary kingdoms remotely with a tap of his pinky fingernail-chip. As one of Dionysia’s comrade lovers of the arts, Anan once had the displeasure of meeting King Ash–obesely lounging on a mountain of oversized cushions amidst a cacophony of incense. King Ash sneered at Anan as the power-jaded king sneered at all of Dionysia’s thinly disguised “art-loving” friends to mask their night-emission desires.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Anan Muss never intentionally found a loophole in their marriage contract. In fact, being rather outmoded in sex transactions, he sought ways to patch the contract for Dionysia. Nonetheless, when Dionysia uncovered Ash’s harem secreted into a pit beneath the mountain of cushions, his first target was none other than Anan Muss. One tap of his royal pinky: Slitters zipped across the rolling desert on autobikes, arc-blades slapping their mighty thighs.
Trip-lights warned Anan of the intruders, which gave him time to scramble-translate himself to Jac-sun V, a sparsely populated planet full of jutting buttes, tumbleweeds, and sand–a land where few of the sane would choose to stay. Anan wrote Dionysia to come live with him in the wilds–a world where their swelling love could engorge the empty spaces. After sufficient time to show that she and she alone was in control, Dionysia wrote back, “You’ve got to be shitting,” and chose a sycophant, the intrepid Captain Skylark, who gave her extravagant if impoverishing gifts, but who had the physique of one who had valiantly survived a famine and now lived to eat at USA Steak Buffets.
To this day, Anan translates copies of himself back to the home planet–in the vain hope that she might find her way to love him–only to watch his copy get diced by a slitter’s arc-blade on pirated vid-feed.
Anan refuses to write sad SF love sonnets since truth and justice triumphed in the end. No one likes to spoil a happy climax.
When his time as a student ended, they arrived at last at the night for the ceremony of the book of sand. They left at nightfall, making their way through the empty markets, past the street of leatherworkers, the street of brass-makers, out through the low, white-stucco houses of the suburbs, out into scrubland and further into desert.
In the blue hour before dawn, his teacher said they’d arrived, and had him set down the canteens and bag of bread. He sat at the foot of a dune and recited the incantations they’d practiced for weeks, and the blue hour stretched out past when the sun should have risen.
Moths came, as his teacher said they would, and skimmed over the face of the dune. In the shadows cast by the low, bright moon, the lines etched by the tips of their wings looked like words. He read there everything the moths had seen throughout the nighttime city.
He tried to remember everything so that he could turn it to his advantage — everything anyone in the city had hoped darkness would hide. The wind erased the words as he read them and more moths came with more stories.
As the hours stretched on, the cramps in the small of his back subsided. He continued reading — something in the incantation prevented him from stopping. His teacher forced water and an occasional bit of bread into his mouth. His schemes turned to compassion; he saw the struggles, behind the secrets, the troubles that unraveled in their wake. He stopped looking for ways to gain and looked for ways to help.
Still he read–it felt like days had passed, even though the blue-saturated sky hadn’t changed. His teacher dabbed the boy’s sand-crusted eyes with a wet cloth, but they still gritted as they moved back and forth over the words. The threads of story drew together. His schemes seemed more and more ridiculous against the enormity of its grand interweaving structure. In the life of the city, he was one more moth, observing, circling this or that moment of brightness before remembering the stars he meant to steer by. For all his knowledge, it couldn’t touch anything without ruining the whole design.
Humbled, he struggled up as dawn finally turned the sand back to mere sand and the moths fluttered off to sleep the day.