Larry is pretty sure he grew up going to the same school as Constance, but as time goes on he remembers less and less of her. For a while in June the trend reverses and he graduated college with her, married her, and had two kids before he died of an aneurysm at age sixty. What were their names? Willis and– and was it Bobby? Then the moment is gone and he only remembers remembering. Now she is only a faint memory from third grade; a girl who transferred in and then out. He is and has always been alone. What would have made her want him? The shades of memories are too faint.
The Mantinai swim through time.
Martina was once a senator from the state of Colorado. She remembers this, despite being eight years old. It will be decades from now, but as the evening progresses she knows she’ll die, high on crack, after her high school graduation. It’s far worse than monsters under the bed, but the same solution applies. She sleeps, a terrified child who in the morning will recall another future.
The Mantinai swim across time.
Dead Earth. Nothing living.
The Mantinai prefer worlds with sentients, whose futures and pasts are ripe with branching points to nibble.
Yusuf lost two brothers to the third war with the Saudis. Then there was no war, but then no brothers either. He sits in the café, knowing it will be bombed, will be intact, will never have existed, all at once.
The Mantinai are instinctual, clustering at decision points, eating bits of future, excreting others.
Alice knows Yukio remembers Nora will Philippe never Nmala hasn’t
Everyone goes insane. This does not change.
“As for the whole question of women fightin’, Major, I told ‘em I wouldn’t have it in my regiment. Ridiculous bringin’ up the whole question in the first place. Take this new school on Skye—” said Captain Markby to Major Daneham.
“Old school, sir. Reopened after two thousand years, sir,” put in Lieutenant Jennings.
“Thank you, Jennings. I believe I was speaking to the Major?”
“No, do go on, Lieutenant. I hadn’t heard that they had finally got funding,” said Major Daneham.
“They didn’t, sir.”
“They didn’t, sir. They raised it themselves.”
“What, through jumble sales and coffee mornings?” joked the Major.
“Something like that, sir. Over fifteen hundred of them, in three years. They had bake sales, as well. Got rather famous for something called the Amazon Roll, actually.”
“Good heavens. Organized bunch of—ladies, what?”
“Yes, sir. I believe they gave weapons demonstrations as well.”
“Marksmanship, that sort of thing?”
“Yes, sir. And weapons of historical interest, such as the naginata, and the claymore, sir.”
“Really?” said the Major, and wished he hadn’t, because Lieutenant Jennings’ eyes had lit up, and Major Daneham could tell he was about to start jabbering about weaponry. The Captain came to the rescue accidentally.
“Yes, yes, yes, but the point is, the point is!—I’m sure you’ll call me an old-fashioned man, but whether you like the numbers or not, got to face ‘em. When some dashed starburst has done for the computers and you’re out there in the field, face-to-face with the enemy and half your armor blown off, give me a man’s superior strength any day. Women, bless ‘em, well—damme it, I’m a traditionalist. ‘Her Place is in Space’ and all that. I mean to say, when I want a colony on Mars, nobody better for it than a lady! Taught my own daughter how to shoot so she could go to the Moon and serve in the police, didn’t I? And as for rocket design—! But when some dashed chap is telling me I can’t have Australia back, give me a regiment of men, thank you very much.”
Major Daneham noticed with relief that it was five o’clock and high time for him to pick up his wife from tae kwon do. He walked the Lieutenant out with the coffee cups, saying, “Can’t change old habits all in one go, you know.”
A cold wind blew in off the desert. The walls of the bunker vibrated in sympathy, producing a low moaning at the limit of audibility. The wind never varied. Chalmers played the radio constantly to drown out the ghostly sound, but he could feel the vibration every time he touched anything that was anchored to the floor or walls.
Easy money, he’d thought, when he saw the job listing. Staff the outpost for a year. If anything needed to be replaced, like a battery or a memory block, replace it. There would be plenty of consumables and an almost infinite library of films and videos. He had never particularly needed company anyway. Discharged from the Guard and having no other prospects, he couldn’t say no.
Chalmers made coffee as hot as he could stand. He stood by the small circular window and stared at the blowing sand. The wind seemed to be whipping the sand past the window faster and faster, but the instruments consistently reported no change in wind velocity, no change in temperature. Chalmers shivered. He reheated the coffee and took a cautious sip. The trembling walls formed words. “We will blow you away, you cannot stay,” repeated again and again.
Chalmers woke with a start. He was at the hatch, fumbling with the controls. He had undone two of the 12 latches. And he had been, still was, whispering. “We will blow you away, you cannot stay.”
Chalmers put the table and chairs in front of the hatch and returned to bed, huddling under the blankets. It was hours until dawn, but he didn’t sleep at all.
One month. Chalmers had been in the outpost one month.. Under the relentless pressure of the wind the entire station was moaning. He had woken up again fumbling with the hatch, and had since rigged metal cables to seal it shut. There was no way he could undo them in his sleep.
The outpost was abandoned. The hatch was open and a meter of sand covered the floor of the facility. Chalmers had missed his weekly checkin and had not responded to queries over the radio, so a team had been sent.
They finally shoveled enough sand out to close and seal the hatch. Tegmen pulled off her helmet and rubbed her scalp vigorously.
“Oh God, that feels good!” She looked around. “This place is cozy. Killer video system. It would be a nice gig.”
Lambert cocked his head, listening. “The walls are shaking. Almost sounds like words.”
A four-pointed star: the city of Ramne, simplified for the sake of ceramic representation.
A willow with six thick branches that keep pale cats on one side and dark cats on another; the latter cats are in a smaller space. The artist’s choice of cats to represent the people of Ramne can likely be traced to her childhood at her mother’s cattery, where the animals were kept in willow-wood pens, and perhaps also to the enduring popularity of cats with the people of Ramne.
A cat neither dark nor pale curled at the willow’s base. Knowledge of Adne’s actions makes the meaning of this tile clear: the cat is dead, self-poisoned, and its proximity to the tree means it too will die, just as Madar did from Adne’s touch. A deceptively peaceful tile, but these are for popular consumption.
A triad of drooping willows, and in each corner of the tile is the Ramne-star. The stars’ positioning signify that the drooping willows occur with Ramne. In truth it took longer for Adne’s rebellion to have the small effect it had. The artist’s need to hide meaning in trees and cats, almost a century later, indicates this.
Though it is sad to see Adne’s sacrifice rendered as bathroom tiles, its presence during a daily cleansing ritual makes up for this somewhat.