Aurora started off an ordinary kid, made out of complex strands of DNA and often bored in class.  She passed chain letters during fifth-grade math.  In fact she hated math up until seventh grade, when she worked out that she needed it in all the science classes she loved so much.  So, cautiously, and prepared to flee at the slightest sign of x, she began to make the matter of numbers and the numbers of matter her own.

This is probably why she graduated summa cum laude. In a quiet moment after the loud honors and before the family lunch, she stood looking back across the grassy quad she had crossed so many times on the way to class.  While she tried to get the pebble in her shoe to tip ahead of her toes so she wouldn’t have to take the damn thing off and shake it, she noticed the grass rippling and flattening.

“Perfect timing,” said an Englishman beside her.  She hadn’t noticed him coming up.  She didn’t answer, instead watching the elegant keyhole pattern laying itself out on the lawn.

“Crop circles,” he said.  “I think they just do it to get my attention, nowadays.  It’s what I study, you see.”

He handed her his card: Gerard Manley, Crop Circle Institute, Cambridge.

She forgot all about the pebble and only remembered lunch just in time.

She thought about that first crop circle often while examining rearranged Triticum aestivum and artistically interrupted snowdrifts all over the world.  The circles began to follow her as well.  Not until she returned to a theory involving her old archenemy x, however, did she make a serious breakthrough.  She made her peace with the elusive variable and it lead her to a mathematical analysis of the patterns, laying bare at last their wonderful language.  For they did speak, in an alien poetry that she could finally read as easily as DNA:

May your oceans always be jewels

May your air always be sweet

May your species someday leap from planet to planet

like light leaps from eye to eye

If you can read this, forward it to two interplanetary species in three millennia for good luck!

…Which made her laugh, at the nature of living things, which were never content with the genetic chain letter they sent into the universe each and every moment; they needed to pass notes as well.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t see your legs. Your arms are fine and you can pick stuff up, hold it in front of you. You pull a pistol from parts unknown and adjust your grip, get familiar with the gun’s sights. Your gloved hands look a little disfigured, but you’ll get used to that.

You don’t know where you are, except on the roof. You can see the city all around you to where it disappears in the mist. It all looks the same.

You drop through a broken skylight to the warehouse floor below. You grunt when you hit the ground and your vision goes red, a bit blurry. But you’re not badly hurt, just dazed. What a distance to fall and you didn’t even drop your gun.

You hear unfamiliar music playing from the warehouse speakers, and it makes you feel somewhat safer.

You walk around, inspecting shipping containers, wooden crates, forklifts. On a whim, you aim your pistol at one of the crates and pull the trigger. Though you’ve never fired a gun in your life, your aim is dead on, and the crate shatters, parts flying. Something flashing catches your attention. You walk to to the spot and look down, find a shotgun, some shells, and a box of ammo, luckily the same caliber as your pistol. You pick up the shotgun, jack the action once to make sure it’s loaded. Where the hell did your pistol go? You decide not to think about it.

You see a medic walk into your field of view. You swear he wasn’t here before. “You don’t look so good,” you hear him say. “Take this medkit.”

You do, and your vision clears immediately followed by a suspicious “100″ that appears in the upper left of your vision. You turn to ask what the hell is *in* that medicine to make you see numbers, but the medic is gone. Oh well, you get the feeling you’ll see him again if you really need him.

You continue checking the place out, amazed by the amount of supplies for the taking, including a shit-ton of ammunition. You grab as much as you can carry, which is way more than you thought humanly possible. A persistent whine in the back of your head mentions something about the laws of physics, but you ignore that.

You hear the music suddenly get louder and more urgent, so you must be running short of time before trouble shows up. There are a lot of crates, and you decide the best way to get what you need quickly is to break them.

Now grab that flashing crowbar hanging on the wall and get to work.

Charley was on the verge of winning his 100th game of pig pong. It was a grueling sport, but he had made it his own by dint of countless hours of practice. He had sacrificed ice cream socials, Friday night dances, trips to the movie theatre, everything. All had been subsumed by his one life-consuming goal. And it had all been worth it. Now, with pig pong declared the newest Olympic Sport, he was perfectly positioned for a gold medal next year at the Pyongyang games. All the name calling, clod throwing, scum bunnies from Central High School would finally get their paybacks. Yes, they’d be sorry.

But now, it was time to focus. Randi had just backhanded a big hairy sow low across the center of the net. Squealing, the pig bounced in the near-right quadrant and spun towards the outside corner. *Wack* (“Eeeeeeeeeee”) Charley returned the hog, dropping it just on Randi’s side of the net in his patented pigspin return. No point. It was his serve.

“If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the smokehouse!” Charley laughed.

“Honey, I ain’t even rolled up my sleeves.”

Charley scowled, dropped the porker smartly for a good bounce, and slammed it towards the white line just below Randi’s navel. Yes, it took a big woman to play pig pong successfully, but there wasn’t an ounce of fat on her 6’1″ frame. She returned the swine to Charley’s left corner. Return. Right corner. Return. Left corner. Return. He began to sweat. This was a long volley for pig pong. Usually either the table or the suid gave out by now. Good thing they weren’t playing a boar. Right. Return. Left. Return. Right. Return. Sweat poured down Charley’s face. Randi was indeed a worthy opponent. He might just ask her out after the game. Left. Return. Right. Return. Left. Return. Right corner–and away. No point. Randi’s serve.

And so the game wore on, neither combatant yielding. Finally, the score was 20:18, Randi’s serve, game point. This was where he would do it. He would take the serve away one last time and crush her. She slammed the oinker down on the table and fired it straight for the right corner. Charley lunged and whacked the pig on the ham. He lurched back to position just in time to see the curly tail disappear over the other end of the table. He had lost. LOST! She must have cheated. Moved the table, something! He would NEVER ask her out now.

“Good game,” she said, grinning, “want to go for a root beer?”

*No farm animals were harmed in the writing of this story.

The end

Old Lady Think can flip dark to light and light to dark like a pancake. She lives out beyond the Milky Way, which the Dineh think is made up of the footprints of the dead. (They’re right on this one, but they’re not in this story.)

She’s got a bunch of names, more names than Allah, and—no offense, new gods—she’s far older. Used to sit around in the caves with us, looking pretty overweight and extremely pleased with herself. Now she appears in many forms, sometimes as a mysterious 2 a.m. call on your cell phone, or a bagel you did not order.

Such a bagel appeared on Nora McPherson’s plate during her lunch hour in the East Village. She’d stopped in to ignore some dancers she used to know before she moved uptown and went to work for Wall Street. (Nothing wrong with Wall Street, mind you, if you think about all the dancers it funds.)

Ms. McPherson took a bite anyway, after the cranky waitress wouldn’t take it back, neither of them suspecting that the waitress held the pose of the ancient High Priestess of Tiamat as she did this. By the end of lunch Ms. McPherson was drafting her two weeks notice; by the end of dinner she was drunkenly apologizing over the phone to a friend from Juilliard, and at 9 a.m. the next morning she had an audition.

Back behind the Milky Way, Old Lady Think just smiled. Making mountains is fun, but sometimes, it’s the little things, like sending visionary bagels to the monkey children.

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