A picture (a blue sky, a green hill) was found among her belongings.
She was the first of the first generation to die. The generation who knew Earth as home, not as story. The picture became the goal and they began to build the hill.
There was a poetic rightness to it, a commemoration, a remembering together. Their remains, turned to soil, building a patch of nature in the heart of the GreatShip’s endless metal and glass. For those who followed after, everything, always, was recycled.
The hill was their past and future, until they reached their destination, and then there was a planet with green hills by the million. There was talk of transporting the hill down to the surface, to a park in the middle of the first settlement. By now, however, the hill was its own ecosystem, a living thing that wouldn’t survive uprooting and transport.
So they went down without it, and it became a stop on the historical tours. Then history took a turn — disease, strife, struggle against a not-yet-domesticated alien world. A forgetting followed by a slow return. Societies re-formed, cities rebuilt, sciences reverse-engineered from artifacts.
When they were ready, they went up, into the sky, to the Star that Never Moves. They found an entire ship, larger than their largest city, empty and apparently devoted to sustaining a mound of soil covered in grass that didn’t look nearly blue enough.


A. Portland, Oregon

1. Grand adventure is calling!
2. Slide your ass out of bed.
3. Drink a Stumptown or three.
4. Clear IPAs from your head.
5. Gas up the Subie wagon!
6. Put on your old Birks!
7. You’re in Oregon camo.
8. (In the city that works.)
9. Avoid roads with bored cops.
10. (You don’t want to go down.)
11. Stash the weed! Crank some indie!
12. Head straight south out of town.

637 miles later (about 10 hours, 2 minutes):

B. San Francisco, California

1. Cross your choice of big bridges.
2. Pick one – pay the damn toll!
3. Go up and go down.
4. Don’t stop at stop signs – just roll!
5. Go up and go down.
6. Get lost and then again!
7. Do E with a homeless dude.
8. He’ll become your best friend!
9. Good luck finding parking.
10. (Though it helps some to pray.)
11. Kick the homeless dude out.
12. And head south to L.A.

381 miles later (about 6 hours, 26 minutes – up to 7 hours, 50 minutes in traffic):

C. Los Angeles, California

1. Oh! The freeways and cloverleafs!
2. Lots of lights! Lots of cars!
3. Oh! The silicone breast implants!
4. Lots of strip clubs and stars!
5. Don’t turn down the wrong roads.
6. Never trust a valet.
7. Careful snorting while driving.
8. Buy a hands-free coke tray!
9. Party at clubs with ridiculous covers.
10. Drive like you’ve got the heart of a beast!
11. Avoid being on a reality show.
12. Onward, the desert awaits to the east.

792 miles later (about 12 hours, 19 minutes):

D. Albuquerque, New Mexico

1. Take that left turn.
2. (You know that you want to!)
3. Make fun of the town’s name.
4. Just where no one can hear you.
5. It’s a good place for business.
6. And for jobs (Forbes says so).
7. But they drive like they have
8. Nowhere special to go.
9. So just drink some peyote.
10. View the great color fountain!
11. See hot air balloon fiestas.
12. Then head on up the mountain!

449 miles (about 7 hours, 11 minutes):

E. Denver, Colorado

1. Celebrate that you’re here!
2. Your adventure is done.
3. Drink beer and get stoned.
4. Pretend you’re in Oregon!
5. It’s the Mile High City.
6. Snow’s a beautiful scene!
7. Reflect on your adventure.
8. All the places you’ve been!
9. You’ve had traffic and parking.
10. Yes, at times you were vexed.
11. But it’s your destination!
12. Where will you go next?

The little girl awoke, unbound, aware of a great rolling movement of musculature beneath her. Shapes and curves resolved into the structure of an enormous pachyderm. She’d been sleeping on the back of an elephant.

She looked over one side; its ponderous walking took them both across a frighteningly narrow tree branch hundreds of feet above the ground. She let out out a small squeak; the elephant’s trunk periscoped over its head and seemed to look at her.

“You are awake.” A low rumbling voice that sent vibrations through Anya’s legs and up into her teeth. The beast did not halt in its ambulation.

“Yes,” Anya said. “Where am I?”

“My realm. I am the Olifanz.”

“Don’t you mean elephant?”

“Did I misspeak?” the Olifanz said.

The little girl was quiet.

“Madame Spider delivered you to me.”

“Will you show me the way home?”

“No. But I will bring you to the Turtle, who will. Now be quiet, or I will change my mind and eat you up.”

“But elephants are herbivores. I learned it at school.”

“As I said before,” the creature boomed, turning its massive head and fixing Anya with one harsh green eye, “I am not an elephant. I Am The Olifanz.”

“But why are you so grouchy?”

“Because I must deal with incessant questions from little girls who do not belong here. Plus, something behind my right ear has been causing me irritation and pain for months.”

Anya gently lifted the flap of the Olifanz’s right ear, and discovered a wickedly sharp-looking black object lodged in the skin. Tri-cornered, a bit like a shark tooth, and the darkest fuliginous black she had ever seen. Without a further thought, Anya reached down, gripped the tooth in her hand, and gave two quick tugs. The tooth came free, and in the process, one acuminate corner shallowly bisected the fate line on her palm; both she and the Olifanz cried out in unison.

“O! O!” trumpeted the Olifanz, then sprinted forward. Anya stuffed the tooth in the pocket of her jumper and held on. The Olifanz abruptly leapt forward into thin air. Anya screamed as they soared through the spaces between space, a lateral dimensional shift, vibrant colors blazing past her eyes, until, just as suddenly, they stopped, surrounded by a dense bamboo forest.

Before them stood an ancient tortoise, its skin fathomably wrinkled, its shell whorled and swirled with rune-like arabesques.

“As promised,” said the Olifanz, reaching up to snare Anya with its powerful trunk and then place her on the ground, its bulk towering majestically over her, “this is the Turtle.”

“How did we get here?”

“A moment of pure joy,” the Olifanz said, then lumbered away without another word.

Creative Commons License

00: Mini Buddha Jump Over the Wall
01: The World, Under

A well-constructed young woman barged into my office Monday morning, breathing hard after running up two flights of stairs. When she regained her composure she told me her great aunt had “drifted away from her moorings.” Some time Sunday morning the old lady had started devouring livestock, not just raw, but still living. By day’s end she was dead.

“What do you want me to do, Miss Clarendon?”

“Oh, Mr. Deadbolt,” she replied, “Why did she eat those critters? The great aunt Sylvia I knew would never do such a thing. She might have been murdered. Maybe by a hypnotist.”


“I’m sure you know why I have gathered you together,” I began. “You are the relatives of the late Sylvia Clarendon. I was asked to investigate her death, to find out whether foul play was involved. I’ve checked into all of you carefully, as well as anyone who had business or social dealings with the deceased. I turned up nothing. Ms. Clarendon was universally liked, and was far from wealthy.

“I did partially solve the mystery. She really did take a double dose of several powerful prescription drugs last Friday night as she went to bed. Sunday morning she swallowed a common housefly, and then a spider in hopes that it would trap the fly. Because of the limited opportunities for web construction within her digestive tract, she chose a jumping spider, but of a perfectly respectable species. When the spider failed to return, Ms. Clarendon swallowed a small bird. Its mission was to retrieve the spider, but by 0900 hrs it had failed to do so. Her choice of a house sparrow, a seed eater, may have been part of the problem. There followed in rapid succession the following commandos: a rat, a cat, and a dog, all with rather obvious goals. Her motives of the afternoon are less certain. About 1320 she swallowed a goat, which might have been a bad choice considering the size of the dog it was supposed to subdue. Be that as it may, around 1500 hrs a cow followed the goat. This was a highly reliable operative named Bessie who had successfully completed similar missions in the past. At 1545 a cleaner named Dobbins was sent in, with what tragic results you all know.

“I have, as I said, worked out most of the details of the weekend’s tragedy. However, one thing still puzzles me about the whole affair. I don’t know why she swallowed the fly.”

The end


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