First in a new series.
Quantum gods appeared and disappeared in Kayla’s wake like soap bubbles. No god can survive long without worshipers, and Kayla’s attention span cut off many a deity before it shook off the mists of its own making. As time went by, her attention and memory improved, and the average lifespan of her creations lengthened from moments to hours. The Easter Bunny God born when she was three lasted long enough to smite a few peeps and raise an entire bag of jelly beans from the dead. The beans were consumed in short order by Kayla and two of her friends.
For her fifth birthday Kayla received a venerable cabbage-patch doll from Marlys, who was going to college, and didn’t want the trappings of childhood cramping her style in the Big Show. The doll had seen better days. Some of her hair was gone, and what was left contained its share of gum and other household residue. Someone (could it have been Marlys when she was young?) had used a black sharpie to enhance the doll’s eyebrows. The dress she came with was long gone, and the one she was wearing was 10 sizes too big. But the doll had two things going for her that overrode all other considerations. First, she had belonged to Marlys, who occupied the place in Kayla’s life that Marlys herself had reserved for Christina Aguilera, back in the day. Second, the doll had belonged to Marlys.
For about three weeks after she received the doll, Kayla lavished on her all the adoration any deity could want. That first night, the doll blinked Her eyes. She stretched a mighty stretch, feeling Her back pop. “Only I,” she thought “can appreciate this sensation the way it should be appreciated.” In commemoration of the event, the doll bestowed speech on all of the other toys. Speech that only toys could hear.
“Bow down to me,” the doll commanded, but the other toys did not move. The doll had forgotten to give them the power. “Silly me,” She thought, “it might take a while to master this miracle thing.” So She practiced, carefully undoing all but one of Her experiments. Fortunately, Kayla’s mother had her eyes shut when the old blue horse, now translucent and trailing sparks, emerged from her bathroom mirror and disappeared through the opposite wall.
That day, Kayla loved the doll with all her heart, and that night, every toy on the Two Shelves paid the Cabbage-Patch God all the obeisance it was due. Celestial music emanated from the doll’s fingertips and the toys lifted up their voices in song.
Although this could be appreciated alone, two others of the Hollow Men series have appeared: part I and part II.
I trudged for a day in a direction that had not existed the day before. Tramping to the bleak beacon was like plowing through mounds of slushy snow seeping through your boots. When the pair of shining black beams smote me, the going slowed to a crawl.
I’d passed beneath the lower angle of the black light’s reach before sensation returned to my flesh.
A white-bearded dwarf exited the base of the beacon waving a lantern, a replica of the one squatting on the beacon. “Turn back! Look not into eyes!” His voice was mechanical, gear-grinding.
The journey had worn my patience so I toppled him. He fell back flinging his lantern behind. He hit with a clang; the lantern’s hinged glass door swung open and cracked against the rocky soil, and the cold, coal-black flame soared, guttered, and winked out in the indifferent wind. The man groaned as I carried on.
Years of severe weathering had pocked the formerly sleek obsidian surface of the beacon. I ran my hand along its rough flank and steered myself up the inner winding. The rotting wooden planks protested the load as I pushed wide the trapdoor.
Inside the lantern room, I swung open the glass lens and slid shut the iron vent to suffocate the coal-black flame. Ice crystals formed in the cracks spread across the vent.
The lens separated into smaller, distorting glass blocks–each chanced to point at the spire that had been my home since my days as unformed crockery. From this vantage, it looked little more than a mossy screw, but each lens block also pulled it in some direction that made my attachment to it laughable–fat, skinny, hour-glassed, warped.
I pivoted and found myself gazing, across a broad desert, into a land leviathan’s slow blinking gaze.
“You fool!” The dwarf was hoisting himself up on the floor. “You’ve opened the gate to misery!” He brandished a dagger, slashed and thrust.
I dodged. “Wait.” Again. “I see your point. Please. Let me open the door, so the flame can breathe, and men do not look.” With an elbow, I broke the ice and slid the door open, careful not to let the chill black light fall on me.
The dwarf tilted his head back and absorbed the light.
I threw his heavy metal frame into the flame and slammed the door shut.
On January 8, 2008 unidentified lights raced across the Texas sky.
Arnie knew that everyone saw the lights over Austin. Police officers, military men, and hundreds of ordinary Joe’s. The footage played on CNN. On Larry King a noted UFO expert explained how the sightings of three witnesses and home footage corresponded with national weather service radar.
This was good. Whatever it was, it was still unidentified, but would go a long way towards people taking them seriously.
He set off to Gordon’s basement for the weekly meeting of their UFO and sky watcher group.
Gordon’s basement was stuffed full of all sorts of equipment and computers they had “borrowed” from their various jobs. Tonight it was set up and configured like a Rube Goldberg schematic come to life.
And an old man was there. The two men looked alike. Gordon’s grandpa or uncle maybe? So much for the no outsiders policy. Especially tonight with so much going on.
“Who’s this?” Arnie asked.
“I’ve figured it out,” Gordon said.
“What? The lights?”
The old man laughed, and said, “no.”
“I thought we agreed, no outsiders, Gordon,” Arine said. “You want to get us busted?”
“Doesn’t matter, we’re going to be famous. I’ve discovered slip holes through time.”
Gordon was a genius. But still, Arnie had never heard of slip holes.
“You mean worm holes?”he asked.
“No,” answered the old man. “I like to think of them as slip holes.”
“I was asking him,” Arnie said. “Who the fuck are you?”
“I’m Gordon,” the old man said. “I figured out how to slip back in time. It took me forty years to make it back, to this day.”
“What? That’s crazy. Impossible.”
“No it isn’t,” the young Gordon said. “Look, here we are.”
“You’ve probably messed things up real good then,” Arnie said.
“No. The flow of time rights itself. Repairs itself.”
“But if what you said is true, isn’t it incredibly dangerous? Maybe you two shouldn’t stand so close.”
“No its perfectly safe, see,”
The young Gordon patted his elder self on the back.
Giant streaks of orange light raced across the Austin sky above them. The two men erupted into burning white light which consumed them, the room and within seconds, everything.
The lights over that particular Austin and in that particular everywhere, went out, forever.
- END -
Imagine your brain has been transplanted into the body of a genetically engineered bird. Imagine that your family (Sean, Merope, little lame Emilie) have been archived digitally. Imagine further that you have been told, if you complete this mission, they will be allowed to join you. Let’s be honest. You know where this is going, you watched “Dune” and 1000 other vids with the same plot device. So when you fly over the cluster of thatched huts nestled under the trees, you don’t drop that which you carry. Your family is lost to you, always was (surely), but you will not destroy the rebel village. You are free, free to develop your own new life. Free to soar on the wind, a solitary aerial monarch. One who has escaped the tyrants.
One who has no idea of how to survive, alone and avian. Maybe the villagers will accept you, feed you, shelter you. You spiral down towards the trees that shelter your possible new home.
Imagine you are a genetically engineered bird who, for a time, dreamed she was something else.