Plugs

She’s dust and gone, but this remains: a smooth fine pot painted in her own fluid hand. Each little figure paces the circular path around the pot with her arms full, this one with minute wheat ears, each tiny grain outlined, that one with a lamb perfect to the last curl. And they sing, the words rising up from their mouths in little streams of letters we cannot translate though they look so familiar, an alphabet just round the corner from us.
They sing just on the edge of hearing. I thought I was going mad when I heard it, until I saw some children at the Museum listening, pressing their ears against the glass until the guard came and told them off.
I think she knew she would be dust. I mean, we all know it, but I think she really knew, and she knew a way around it, a way to put her voice in the clay more lasting than her perfect lines. But why? I believe that to anyone who listens, the answer is plain: she only wanted, long after her own mouth was stopped, to be heard just for a moment.

“Your wolves have no names,” Cybele remarked.

“That’s true,” agreed Artemis. “They all know each other, you see; it’s not important to them.”

“So how do you call any of them when you want them?” asked Cybele.

“I never feel the need,” replied Artemis, coldly this time.

“Let’s race,” Cybele suggested.

“No, let’s not,” said Artemis. “You know how that sort of thing just gets to be a myth.”

“Oh, come on,” said Cybele.

“All right then,” Artemis sighed, and swung her quiver over her shoulder.

“Go!” cried Cybele.

They shot off like moonbeams, and the wolves (named and unnamed) followed them, down mountainsides cheering with wildflowers and rockslides, through the sudden quiet of pine forests, down to the roar of the sea.

Artemis stopped at the water, but Cybele kept running, and when she saw the other goddess standing on the shore, she called, “Don’t be an idiot!  Are you a moon goddess or what?”

Artemis remembered how lightly the moon walks on the waves.  She looked at Cybele’s slender dancing feet, and then down at her own, high arched and silver-ringed.  (All goddesses have perfect feet, even if they are perfect for different things.)

Artemis took a deep breath and stepped out across the water.  In a moment she began to run, and in another she had caught up with laughing Cybele.  They ran all day, and came back at sunset with a tuna to grill on the beach, together with crabs and oysters they pulled from the pools.  The wolves, not caring for fish, got themselves rabbits in the rocks.

“I think I won the first half of the race, out onto the water,” said Cybele.

“But I beat you to the tuna,” said Artemis. “Thank you for teaching me to walk on water,” she added.

“No problem. Hope you don’t mind if it becomes a myth,” Cybele replied.

“I won’t tell if you won’t,” said Artemis.

“Agreed!” laughed Cybele.  “Pass the aïoli, please.”

Lem stepped off the elevator and realized he didn’t have any change. He slapped his pockets, looking for something smaller than a 10. Margie would kill him if he blew $10 on an elevator ride. She didn’t believe in propitiating the gods anyway. “They wouldn’t have given us this technology if they didn’t want us to use it,” she always said. This attitude was why he hadn’t been promoted beyond second-grade, he was sure, but try telling her that!

Someone nudged his arm. It was Jenelle, the new IT specialist whose office was still being painted. Someone had forgotten to propitiate the God of something or other and the painters had refused to work until it was taken care of. Jenelle was holding a nickel.

“Oh thanks,” Lem said. He dropped it in the brass dish, muttering “Thank you for this lift.”

“How is your office coming?”

She frowned. “I’m still camped in the coffee room.”

“Share my office,” he said. That evening on his way home, Lem put $10 in a streetside kiosk dedicated to Libidos, patron of deceivers.

Margie was not affectionate, even downright cold. He thought about working late.

Lem helped Jenelle carry the old wooden desk into his office. He moved his desk over so hers could fit in front of the window too. He emptied one drawer in his file cabinet for her. At first he was afraid to look her in the eye or speak to her any more than necessary. He was afraid she’d know what he was thinking. As the days went by, her attire began to seem skimpier and more transparent. All he could think about was her flesh under her blouse and skirt. In his fantasies, she wore nothing underneath.

One day they both stayed late. The rest of the office was deserted. He closed the door, leaned on her desk. He looked her in the eye. “I think you know what I’m thinking,” he said.
“I’ll draw the curtains,” she replied, and did.

“This was a high-dollar job,” the inspector said. “The blood has been completely drained. Not the work of your standard succubus. He moved the extra desk into his office about three weeks ago?”

The office manager shrugged. “No one else wanted it. More room in the lounge.”

The inspector rubbed his chin. “Any change in his behavior? Apart from the desk.”

The office manager shook his head. “Nothing beyond staying late alone four nights out of five.”

The office manager reached out to catch the inspector’s sleeve as he turned to leave. “Who?”

“It’s usually the wife. That’s where my money is.”

End

The time traveler pulled up a chair, placed her holorecorder on the table and pressed a button just in time for her ghost to appear.

Across the table, her ghost was apparently sitting on air.

“We need to talk,” said the ghost, “about some things you need to do. And not do.”

The time traveler nodded. “Go ahead,” she said.

The ghost laid out times, dates, places, people to watch out for, objects to be sure not to misplace or to avoid if they were falling from a great height.

The time traveler nodded, checking that the recorder’s green LED still glowed. She could have sworn that, under the otherworldly blur, the ghost was looking older already. That had to be a good thing.

The ghost must have talked ten minutes before she paused. “Actually,” she said, “I made it all up. I’m not your ghost exactly.”

“What?” said the time traveler. “Then who are you?”

“I’m the ghost of your clone.”

“I have a clone?”

“You will,” said the ghost, “The Rosenkrantz institute has a secret cloning project. That’s what all the samples were for. They had nothing to do with your fitness for time travel.”

The traveler held her head. The organization that had invented the time machine and recruited her to use it apparently had a deeper, perhaps more sinister agenda. “What should I do?”

“I have no idea,” said the ghost. “To be completely honest, the clone wasn’t exactly your clone, but a clone of your twin sister.”

“I don’t have a twin sister.”

“Not in this universe, you don’t…”

“Wait a minute!” The time traveler jumped up, bumping the table.

The ghost shuddered in the air; perhaps that’s what ghosts did when they were surprised.

“You’re the ghost of the clone of my twin sister from another dimension?”

“Exactly!” said the ghost. “Well, no. I made that up too.”

“Then who are you?”

“You.”

“Me?”

“You have a multiple personality disorder, and recorded this whole mad spiel as a joke on my most boring self.”

“That can’t be,” said the time traveler. “I got the recorder right before I left, in factory packaging.”

The ghost pointed to the depressed button on the recorder’s top–“PLAY” not “RECORD.”

“But how? I haven’t had time. And how would you… I… know what I was going to say?”

The ghost/hologram grinned, “Isn’t time travel great?”

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