This isn’t what I’d wanted.

You hear things, y’know?  You chat with everyone you bump into, swapping names and a laugh to try and make a connection that’ll stick, so they’ll tip you off if they hear something.  It’s what you’ve got to do these days.

And here I was. I’d finally almost made it. All I’d done was to go and make a little space for myself, a place for me and mine, where I could do things the way I wanted to do them.  Live on my own terms, y’know? Maybe meet someone, raise a family.  That’s what it’s all about, after all.

But they don’t care about that.  They don’t care that you’re not harming anybody but just sitting there, they just want you gone, like you were trash.  So you hide when you can and how to fight when you can’t.  You get hold of things you might need and put them away for later on, y’know? Crazy preparedness.  That was always my motto.  Planning, scheming, conniving, you do what you have to do.  And usually it’s enough.

But not this time.  I can hear them coming.  This time they’re willing to take everything down just to get to me.  Burn it all down and start over.  Fucking nihilistic bast—

***Service work order #230086G-23: Customer reported heavy infestation of AI-E1 worm virus.  Hard drive reformatted and OS reinstalled.  Work order closed.

The Rolling Stone was his own man, so to speak, and traveled past lands unseen. The stone, being a stone, was stoned with the inordinate pride of having gathered no moss–his being’s essence unsullied by another being’s essence, which his most restless and rocky friends had firmly warned him against.
To scale new heights in his rollings, he started at the foot of a mountain that poked holes in passing clouds. For millennia (a figure rounded by reckoning since stones don’t count), he forded streams and outstripped boulders attempting the same ascent. Occasionally, a biped wandered by, and Stone leaped into the crack of its foot’s second skin. This saved him hundreds of years of bounding up the path. The free rides never lasted long, however; for in short order, the bipeds removed their skins (they obviously gathered another kind of moss).
Along the way, he heckled those stones who had given up the struggle–not only gathering moss but water, earth, grass, and trees, even! What odd, stiff, wooden creatures they were to stand heartlessly on his fellow stones. It served the trees right to die in a few hundred years.
The higher he climbed, the stranger the substances that his fellows had drowned in: water solid as stone! He chatted up a few, but they all seemed frozen in fear.
Finally, Stone reached the summit. He leaned over a steep precipice and roared his triumph at achieving his dream. That’s when he heard the triumphant yahoo of a biped which swallowed his pipsqueak roar. Before he could turn, the biped’s second skin kicked him over the ledge.
Stone cursed the biped–though the beasts’ lives were already abysmally ephemeral–until he realized this was another journey (if considerably faster) to tell his grandchildren about. Stone bounced and sparked other stones who, excited about Stone’s journey, joined him in the Great Fall. Despite the descent, it pinnacled Stone’s achievements: His fall was his meteoric rise: so many other stones leaping to join in Stone’s headlong, boisterously joyful fray–a veritable pride of the unmossed, so quintessentially, so unreservedly stoned in their stony abandon.
Panting and laughing, they landed at the foot of the mountain with a flurry of dust. What a rush! They spoke of the great race for eons to their children’s children. Eventually, Stone gathered moss, but it was nice not to be bald anymore.

From the vantage point on the early rainbow, we saw them coming to the Kingdom-In-The-Clouds. The pirates climbed the cliff silently, hearts warmed with tequila, knives gripped firmly between their teeth.

We didn’t shout for fear of startling them and breaking the silent rhythm of their climb. Instead, we sent the children to greet them with instructions to choose a pirate each, grab him by the hand and take him home. The mothers were waiting in the houses with food on the fire and warm water for baths. The pirates ate hungrily, slobbering juices down their beards, eyes darting up as their mouths worked, all thoughts of violence startled out of them. They were so surprised, they even thanked us for the food.

We were patient with them, patient with their hunger and their need for warmth in the night. And in the morning, we’d completed our spells and took them to work in the fields with our other husbands, to suffer
a slavery without whip, a slavery enforced only by their pitiful devotion to us.

We set some of them free, like we always do. Your people have heard them, drinking their lives away in your taverns. After seeing our Kingdom, after falling in our thrall, how can their lives be happy? So they drink, and you hear them mutter to all who will hear: “There is a country past the Rainbow. It’s hard to reach and hard to conquer, but oh, lucky is the man who lives in the Kingdom-In-The-Clouds.

From the vantage point on the early rainbow, we wait for our new husbands to come to us. We instruct the children, butcher the lambs and warm the water.

We spring our trap.

This story did not appear on Friday, June 26th. In a sense, it never appeared.
For me I bet it was about the same as it was for you … I went to bed on Thursday, but woke up on Saturday. It wasn’t a Rip Van Winkle kind of thing: Friday was just missing. Specifically, someone had taken it.
This wasn’t the kind of problem we usually dealt with at the Department of Time Misallocation. It was a relaxed job, usually, punctuated with coffee breaks and donuts. Every day we’d get a few cases of stolen moments, someone would lose an evening to drinking, and every fall there was always a flood of hapless dorks who didn’t remember what they had done with the hour of Daylight Savings Time they had saved in spring. It was never anything serious. Time isn’t really lost, after all: it’s just used. A little cognitive restructuring generally takes care of everything.
But this was different, because in that week there was no Friday. Someone had diverted the entire day, so paychecks had been missed, schedules had been ruptured, and millions of senior citizens were stuck with an extra day’s worth of prescription pills they didn’t know what to do with. It was a horrible theft, a breathtaking theft, an inexplicable and uninvestigatable impossibility. We spent months on it, actually, and between the feverish work pace and the lack of donuts, most of us lost between two and eight pounds. That was all the good that ever came out of it, though. When we closed the case for good a year after the fact, we’d gotten no closer than we’d been that mind-slapping Saturday morning.
If that had been all, if it had been one crazy incident, we could have put it behind us–but we know it will happen again. We don’t know when, or who, or how, but someone’s shown the way, and now everyone’s thinking about it: what they would do with it, an entire day to themselves, stolen and available for use at any time. It was like hiding a djinni in a backpack, like folding a summer meadow into the closet in the spare room. It was a little like eating the sun. What could you do with a stolen, unblemished day? Or more to the point: what couldn’t you?

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