“Light, dust, and water are the alchemy of the universe.” Ritual words murmured softly by myriad voices, powerful as a roar, effortless as a whisper. “I will consent to be made and unmade.” An initiate must never walk in. Many elders raise the cocooned body high upon their hands and process into the open space, to lasers alight in a pin-and-string arrangement of bright green on dark velvet. “To burn to ash and dissolve in dew.” The elders guide the still, surrendered form up and into the core of the lattice of light. “I am but dust and ashes; for me the world was created.”
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” screams Aria. Her voice goes up raspily at the end of the exclamation, giving her the affect of a mewling cat, and she is embarrassed by the profound uncoolness of such a tone. She slams her fists on the Versa’s console to compensate, to physically demonstrate the depth and seriousness of her anger, causing the subtelar ship to rock violently in the warpwake. Don’t judge her; Aria Astra is usually a very cool person. She likes good food and knows a bunch about film and uses lots of swears and has great fashions.
The Warhosts sit in the lees of the starships while the sky grows less flushed with dawn, playing cards. At the same time, the regulators within the Red emissary and our own play their own game across a moist medium of flesh, chemical brew, and stench to determine where the next battle will be fought. We—the Purples—have been fighting the Reds for possession of this moon, jigsaw piece by slow jigsaw piece, as deliberately as a pavane or carved ice. The Reds have grown increasingly desperate. The moon has a certain strategic importance, and the Reds are very close to having to cede it entirely.
I’ll never forget the taste of my mother’s marrow. I think of it now, as I rub oil into the stiff, cracking heels of my shoes: how I scooped it still warm from the bone, like pale butter. How it lingered in my teeth for days after the harvesting. And I think further back, as I often do lately, to the way her hands jerked and fluttered close to her bony chest before she passed. She was too weak to shape her signs properly so I can only guess their meaning. Perhaps I’ve guessed wrong—Aefha thinks so—but I can’t forget. Follow the ghosts.
Two hundred ships moved through the stars, leaving an iridescent trail of transmission beacons in their wake. Five billion kilometers long, the beacons stretched all the way to Earth, a desiccated and shaken planet that the passengers once called home. Sometimes simple messages from the ships arrived in the data. After a long time, images came and—after an even longer time—clips of the passengers going about their lives. But the vast distances meant these clips were rare. Normally an image arriving on Earth was cause for celebration, because it meant the crew was still alive, or at least the ship’s systems were still functioning.
The boy stopped playing after his Mom and Dad chained the iron man to the Kingdom’s heart. The boy used to run alone and brave through the welt within the walls, and even ranged as far as the borders of the wood. He tossed the ball his mother gave him into the sky, gold against blue with the sun behind, and laughing, caught it again. The ball purred in his grip. Sometimes he asked it questions—how to build a puppet, how to open the castle gates, how to change the color of the sky— and it answered. How questions were the ball’s job; why questions were Mom-and-Dad’s.
Pop-star uber-sensation Jaim Janan rockets off to promote their third album atop a SpaceX Dragon VII capsule today, where they will stream a live musical performance from orbit, some 350 kilometers above the Earth. Before today’s launch, when asked if they were feeling nervous about the trip, the young pop star coolly responded, “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.” It’s not clear how many of Jaim’s obsessive fans, or “Janatics” as they are sometimes known, recognized the star was quoting twentieth-century pop legend Elvis Presley [click for bio]. But by mid-afternoon #TruthIsLikeTheSun was the most popular hashtag on Twitter.
The mountains were beautiful, even though the roads that took you there were broken. Even though the whole world was broken. Tara sat on the side of the pitted road, soaking in the autumnal sun, gazing at the distant snow-capped peaks in awe. Forgetting, for the moment, the ache in her feet and the emptiness in her stomach. “The Sivalik Range, children,” said Anju, pointing at the green hills that rose around them. “The word literally means the ‘tresses of Shiva.’ Cross the valley, and you stand at the feet of Pir Panjal, the inner Himalayas.”
A recon detail brought in another one just after dawn. The soldiers had donned full biohazard suits; nothing could convince them that this wasn’t contagious. They set the body on a gurney. I wheeled it into a quarantine room and inspected it. This time, for the first time, it was a child. A girl, about eleven years […]
When I was a girl, my sister Susanna and I had to get up early whether we were rested or not. In winter particularly, our day often began before sunrise; and because our dormitory was in the south wing of the house, with narrow windows facing the central courtyard and thus facing north, the lurid, pinkish light sometimes was hours late in arriving and we would wash and dress while we were still uncertain whether we were awake or not. Groggy and only half coherent, we would tell each other our dreams.