Plugs

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Read Daniel Braum’s story Mystic Tryst at Farrgo’s Wainscot #8.

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Archive for August, 2010

Winterking:Summerking

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

A little before midnight, I followed the path through the little woods and out onto the frozen hillside, chanting lines from one of William Blake’s more mystical and interminable books. Because you asked me to. I tied the satchel to the listing wire fence by the ravine, the little bag with herbs, snips of wire, a lock of your hair. Because you asked me to. I stamped the snow into the pattern from the page of crop circle book you’d ripped out and tried to burn. Because you told me not to.

I worked around three times before it appeared, shimmering simultaneously up from the ground and down from the sky.

It had glass-delicate features of Arthur Rackham elf and the eyes of an X-Files alien.

“Minion of Los?” I said.

It didn’t move. I bowed anyway. You’d meant me to pay the last of your debt, not strike my own bargain.

“Snellsmore,” it said, “Okehampton.”

Belatedly, I started the recorder, and repeated the first two names in my head.

It droned on: “Ruislip, Haddon, Heaton, Mondrem.”

It spoke, as the far ones do, in places. England, maybe Canada. With each, I felt the twinges you’d described, down my spine, deep in my gut, behind my knees–each pinch foreshadowing a pain that would grow with the years.

The minion began to revolve with slow grandeur, its droning rapid: “WestrayOrmskirkNethertonLongthorpeBodminStonebarrowScilly.”

It shimmered apart, left and right, like light flaring on glass, and was gone.

I shivered that whole winter, no matter how many blankets I piled on, how high I turned the heat. But you’d taught me how to get through: double sweaters, soup close to boiling every meal, all the herbal supplements on the lists you’d left. (Had you known the warnings would only make your stories more irresistible?)

As the days outgrew the nights, I traced and retraced the lines on the map, the constellation of places the elf/alien/imaginary/too real thing had named. I bought tickets; consulted almanacs, starcharts, and train tables; sublet the apartment; left.

I’d travel, while the leaves greened and gain the Crown of Los, the gift of creativity that had sung in all your symphonies. The same gift as you, although maybe a more visual art for me. But the same price, same decline, same pains. But that was OK–they’d be as much a link to you as the ten-year summer of triumph.

The End, Five Months Later

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Every few weeks I checked the mail, because we didn’t use the shortwave, and who knows? There might be something some day.

And this time, there was something: a bible-sized envelope stuffed with pictures. George was in the garage, working on the backup generator, so I took them into the kitchen, poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat down to look them over.

They were just of people, with no explanations or labels except the date printed on each one. They were all recent pictures: everyone in them was still alive.

People in a walk-in freezer among hanging corpses of cows and pigs. People watching a movie. Half a dozen people having a dance in a ballroom the size of an airplane hangar. Someone waving from the cockpit of a twin-engine plane. People playing monopoly. People kissing. Children on a playground. A whole series of shots of people playing at a water park that apparently someone had started back up for the occasion.

Of the few tens of thousands of people left in the world, as far as I could tell, most wanted to join others and rebuild. George and I had kept to ourselves for years and years, and we liked our lonely house out at the end of a lonely road with our well water and George’s lonely job fixing cell phone towers. We hadn’t had neighbors or cable or an Internet connection before the End, so we didn’t miss them when they were gone: we just expanded my garden into a tiny vegetable farm, erected a small barn so we could start keeping goats, filled the basement with chest freezers, and hooked up two big generators that we powered from a gasoline delivery trucks we kept down the road at the turnaround, so we wouldn’t have to look at it every day.

George came in from the garage, looking grim and satisfied, and went straight to the refrigerator for a glass of lemonade. He noticed the photos as he was pouring.

“What’re those?” he said.

“People.”

“What do they want with us?”

I shrugged and pushed the photos toward him. “Everything, I guess. What do you think?”

He looked the top few photos over carefully, then flipped through the rest to see if they were the same kind of thing. Then he tossed the whole pile into the “to burn” garbage can. “We already have everything we need,” he said, and headed back out to the garage.

I went over to look at the tiny, flat faces shining on the glossy photo paper atop the “to burn” pile. For a long moment I scanned their faces, looking for reasons, for why this all happened, for any reason we had to all come together now that it was over, even if we didn’t want to.

I didn’t pick the pictures back up. Instead I turned and went back out into the corn patch to weed. Half an hour later, I think I’d forgotten about the pictures completely.

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