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He pictures the skins on the fossils every time something new comes in. They're wrapped in plaster, the leg bones thicker than his waist or the small claws the size of a pendant or the skin imprints in flat plates of caked mud. He lays them out on the counter and carefully undoes the ties and the burlap. He lays the bones out and labels them. And as he places each part in the drawer for its species he pictures them alive. Dromeosaurs stalking through the corridors of the museum at midnight, Stegosaurs eating the ferns. Making it less lonely.
Reviewing prose is like reviewing food: each have their own language. One doesn't usually think about the many words for tastes. Usually foods are described as like one another; cheese is nutty, wine is fruity. Connoisseurs judge layers and endurance and tannins.
It is the same with prose: reviews use words like "pacing", "intensity", "character". These words describe themselves and nothing else. Equipped with these vocabularies in our minds we see life differently. People are characters, events (parties, TV shows, divorces) are the plot. Days are story arcs or episodes, lives are epics. We drink this fermented story.
Silently, Melissa Carter dropped onto the alien scout, clamped her armored knees around its head, and followed it onto the grass. Her Bowie knife slid into the jaw under the snarling, spitting face. She felt the scout's shoulders heave as it raised its scimitar. She activated the wings. The hair on the back of her neck stood up, even separated as it was by ceramic armor and smartfoam from the atom-thin wing edge. The wings kicked in and the world tipped as they powered out toward the ocean. Green lights on her HUD spelled out "1000 experience points gained."
This is the deli worker's prayer. We, keeper of all flesh, serve all flesh. May the flesh walk toward us gratefully, and place its order with all the grace of the saints. You who sing our place, our plate; may the yoke be light. If we split the flesh, may it split clean. May we give unto others as is given onto us; the flesh, the milk, the cacao. And one day will come the rising again, when the heavens open and food is free. Oh keepers of all flesh, may your sandwiches not fall over. Hold the onion. Amen.
She sniffed leaves, following the thin, day-old scent of a dying baby brachiosaur.
Her legs scissored beneath her as she worked her way carefully around rocks and fallen logs, her killing claws held up in their relaxed position.
Her prey had fallen a meter away behind a stand of ferns. It mewled softly, opening its wide, pink mouth in a gray scaled face.
The raptor started to unhinge her claws and run forward.
A leg as thick as a tree pounded down in front of her. She skidded to a stop, looking up at the face of a mother.
Linguistically, the Dij does not follow normal trends. Computer-based devices tend to take the name of their predecessors: digital cameras become simply "cameras"; cell phones become "phones". Other things have no names before the invention of the device itself; iPod, internet.
The Dij contains things with borrowed names: sites, nodes, people. It is a proper noun, a place. "I'll meet you in the Dij." This is unlikely to change. Its name comes from a shortening of "digital", and is in popular usage now, pending inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary.
After all, people cannot simply call it "the world".
Rushing, sliding, star-glint.
You will wait for me once, in a far-flung
touch-near future; you will have been
leaving for a long time, but you will
have returned. time is distance, and this distance
is immeasurable. keep moments
momenting, keep seconds
seconding themselves in twinned loops waiting
dancing distance down into a long, dark time.
blank pages, swinging
silver limning rime and pressing
onward, ice-shivered, cracked open,
the slow, walk, afterward.
the end at last
ends, although its beginning
took so long to finish--you remembered, once
that I will remember you in this
rushing, rhyming marching following
through with allegations of allegorical
Mickey pulled her pink hat down further into her forehead and wondered if the one of the cat ears that kept flopping over had flopped.She pretended to be browsing a pile of plushies as Carl's voice came muffled through her Bluetooth.
"There's an oni dressed as a businessman headed toward the artists alley."
"Don't panic," she muttered, "but it's right behind me." The crowd pressed around her.
"Crap. Initiate a system seventy-seven. It's a class three."
"I'll do what we're here to." Mickey said. She slipped the poster tube out of her belt loop. "I'll save New York."
There is a stone in Central Park, cracked and gray, and a little girl sitting on it, tucked against the warmth of summer granite. It is a solid friend, however much it thinks only of the fossils it once held and the winters it will endure. It was chiseled away at once, and men took its parts and cataloged them for the museum. It rolled down from the Catskills, and people built a city around it, and then realized that they needed the grass and gave it back something of its natural habitat: the park. It is her only embrace.
We pretend they're still around. We line up for autographs, we gather as many people as we can for swap meets. I stayed in line for hours to cheer for a picture of George Lucas. Meeting with people in line was something to do, and maybe a way to survive. Creators were taken by the swamp just as equally as fans. We've still got the superheroes inside. Somebody hangs up a tattered poster of the Flash and we say "welcome to Comic-Con 2117" and we keep a lookout for the muckbreathing fester-beasts that came to inhabit our world.
My mother always said to hold on to what you love, whether it's a person or a pet or a stuffed animal.
So I hold on to this, even though you might not call it love. I'm her biggest fan--it says so on my t-shirt. I sit in front of the TV and watch the award shows--watching her hands, really, the rounded tips under the nails and the way she moves them just like anybody else moves their hands. I get a bit teary sometimes.
One day I'll meet her backstage "by accident". It's all planned out.
The dragon whipped around and opened its maw and spewed hot lava-breath out into the courtyard. The horse buckled beneath me and I felt my knees hit the ground and the armor on my left side grow hot like an oven. I don't remember how I avoided being crushed by the horse or tagged by the dragon when I scaled the ladder, but then I was up on the rampart and uncouching my lance. The dragon turned within the courtyard, its snake-tail flowing behind it as the wings rose to try and give it more maneuvering space. I threw.
I wonder what it's like to be a chameleon climbing down between colors. One paper-thin, veiny part says leaf green! Life, shoots, pushing onward, sun! The other solid, stoic part says rock-cool. Dense granite, striated and studded with its nobbly growths of quartz.
One eye looks forward and one looks up and the solar-powered reptile brain stalls with one foot in the air. It is pausing for a long time. It is rearranging its melanins and pigments.
It chooses, because the landscape is moving beneath it and tipping onto the pads of its feet. Stone for now.
hings in the woods with eyes
effect-yellow; fox-noses peeking
under your blankets, swamp-warm.
Halloween things, human-animals
taking places for their own.
Do you fear them because you see the beasts lying
You lie awake with your ear to the phone, soft bodyheat warmth on one side and sharp electronics heat on the other, reminding your fingers that time is passing while you talk to me
about things in the woods with
eyes like dog stars.
It's very sad.
You're too emotional.
It's very sad.
Fake blood makes you laugh and your eyes crinkle.
the blankets, wolf-warm, breathe forests
proof of belief is that we require
no belief. curtain-called, dagger
writ; I will press my face against the arras
and breathe in denmark-dust. the trees
release their motley, scattered it gifted to the cast;
rosemary for remembrance, rue for rouge,
pansies, mocked, for thought.
You autumn yourself, shading into blacks and grays
and do not dim; keep my contrast hidden
somewhere in your memory
light like a skipping stone.
the depths down here are not crushing.
not too much.
three persons; who speaks? are we only
looking out of our own eyes? Do I mean myself?
Save the last. Seek knowledge. Selah.
This is an entry for 100 words. It is very ironic because it is on the subject of 100 words. Why one hundred? I think this represents the centennial. Some literary trends occur in cycles of one hundreds.
One hundred, however, is not as important as 23. Shakespeare was born (and died) on the 23rd of April. So did I. Or at least in the birth aspect. Not sure about the death one yet.
However, 23 words is not enough for a story with a proper beginning, middle, and end.
Or is it?
Now I'm finished. (That's self referential!)
She stares at the clock with the intensity of someone who has finally solved a puzzle. The problem never was that she wasn't thinking hard enough. She just wasn't seeing right.
So she stopped scrunching up her face and rubbing her temples and doing all those things people do when they're trying to move something with their mind and only succeeding in scrunching up their face. And instead she blinked and saw the world differently. She erased distance. It didn't matter--it was as irrelevant as air to a fish. Time, though, was her new element.
The second hand ticked backwards.
Her arms had been locked around his neck for so long that they started to tingle at the elbows. He kept slogging on, long, smooth steps with the occasional hitch where the ground had been torn. The sky was gray-yellow. Her wound had matted and dully ached, but she wasn't dizzy any more.
It wasn't worth asking when they were going to stop. It would be when they found safety.
His voice rumbled. "Eyes in the sky," and he hurried up, heading toward mountains in the distance.
"On your HUD?"
She shook her head, feeling light without hers.
"You're wasting your time. Every single person who ever said you'd inspired them will forget. They'll busy themselves with grocery shopping or their new crush and you'll be dust again. And you're fooling yourself. You're not smart, you're not better. They laugh at you. It's cute how serious you think you are."
"That's not true. I've got vision. I'm a writer. I'm immortal."
"A writer! For internet forums and paperback magazines! How can you call yourself creative?"
"I have to."
"That's sad. Confidence is just psychology and chemicals."
"I go on somehow."
"You don't deserve to."
"Yes I do."
Maureen's hawk hung in the air above the forest, barely flapping. Michael's scouted ahead, long wings cutting through the air. Micheal pulled himself up onto the boulder, breathing heavily and dragging his bag of herbs behind him.
"Anything?" Micheal asked.
"Not yet." Maureen put her fingers to her lips and whistled. Her hawk flashed one golden glance back and dipped a wing that sent it wheeling down toward her.
Micheal shook her arm. "Look. What's that?"
She caught view of it almost immediately, a little emerald shape winging through the blue. "Is that..."
"I think so. It's a dragon familiar."
"I'm pretty sure," Strykyn said, leaning back and ruffling his wings, "that my species exists purely to prove that evolution doesn't."
"You really don't know where you come from?"
"So how's life with you? What name are you going by now?"
"Tried Sheherezade for a while, but that's no name for gunfights.
We're making a good living getting hired to kill each other. He's the best there is with space, and I'm the best with time. We have a good thresh until the money runs out or the gangs change hands, and we survive them. It works."
The emissary's dragon familiar was a kaleidoscope of greens and golds and whites, and Maureen's hawk mantled as he felt how much she envied it. She reached up and buried her fingers in his breast feathers, scratching at the warm, pocked skin like he liked to try to reassure him.
But that was a beautiful familiar. The emissary walked between two long rows of castle-dwellers, and Micheal put a finger to his lips and said "Shh" when Maureen's hawk made a quiet eep eep ee of disapproval. His own bird was staring at every person in line in turn.
She adjusted her headset and looked around the tiny room. The web of wires kept her from seeing the door. Audio, visual, neutral, audio-visual, visual-neural; a synethesis of information plugging in through her skull. It hadn't all been turned on yet; she was responsible for that herself. She knew she'd pick on little strand of date to feed on first; a camera, probably, showing the navy-blue darkness of night and the yellow city lights. Fall was a season of contrasts. Even in the night you could smell the trees shedding and see the starlight. She was collating.
You wait for a minute before peering out of the bushes. The leafless, branches scratch like fingernails. Your breath sounds loud, and as if it it's admonishing you.
Your creation walks by on hydraulic legs and you can't help but admire the fact that even though it has been living here in the wild forest for so long, it has kept itself clean. Some rust limns the edges, but the creature has been working at those spots with its steel-wool tongue, and they are patchy. You grip the controller in shaking hands and start the hunt.
Your work can be seen on your face. The lines are the little bird-tracks of universes, branching off of one another and cracking into your skin. They've dug down to your throat--gentle, gentle, little bird-feet-- and cracked your words as well. It sounds like you're crying, even if you're talking very calmly (almost crying) about the history of the Mystic Order and its First Lord, Agoth Maskas, or the way the Second Order overthrew his violent ways, only to be destroyed by themselves....
(Maybe you hold such tragedy inside you, maybe all worlds are dying together now.)
It's tiring, scooping up cloud underfoot and jockeying the wind, but deep and permanent in his mind there is always the sense that it's worth it. Skydiggers, they call them, some weird fusion of earth and sky, an elemental anomaly, these prospectors of the seeded clouds of Elysia. She's a fertile planet, puffed with clouds that pull rust from the ground and store it so the sky during the day is red as blood, red as ruby-riches, and some humans have got to don their face masks and leave their shiny-with-no-rust cities to skate the sky.
He waded out into the water and filled the heavy ceramic pot to the brim. Green seaweed strands and dead fish, reflecting sun in patches like the ripples, floated past his calves on their way toward the delta. Cold water, dead water. Some things still lived; the boys caught the frogs that pushed themselves deep down into the mud. Those, though, were deep-eyed and tepid; ice chipping from their rounded bodies, they would only wake up if they were thrown.
Kahout lifted the pot from the water again and knocked off the trailing seaweed. He returned to the bank.
The cat rubbed along the banister like she was trying to form a perfect s-shape. Her white face with its long nose, sloped on either side like an African plateau, defied the long drop on the other side of the banister. She counted herself queen, from her diamond ears to her rosetta nose, of the carpeted steppes and the Fancy Feast food chain. Her eyes were green and glittering, freckled color around a reactive iris. She was heavier around the spine than around the belly, where the flesh hung as if she had recently given birth. It missed kittens.
The creature stalked along the edge of the pumpkin patch, its paws pressing into the soft dirt, occasionally stepping on a stem. The air was cold, although leaves blazed hot desert colors, rust and sienna and adobe.
The creature was vine-hewn itself, leaf-minded; dug out of the earth of itself, turned inside-out, infinitely born.
It is autumn-orange in its eyes and leaf-tang in the smell of its fur, and it allows the children to walk beside it and occasionally, when something worse than Halloween scares them, lets the children rub their faces against its fur.
It was the summer of 2003 and we
walked backlots empty with trash-confetti,
we were quiet, waiting, ready, and hometown
starlets. We knew what we wanted, knew
what we couldn't get, and the last set
of the night, the black music danced
along the highways, entranced and open
singing, we knew it was three years
after the end of the world.
It was the summer of 2003 and we
knew that each other made the best company
we would, pretend to meet over and over
taking our time, learning each other
if anything could be said to be meant
to be, this was, meant to be
this crowded emptiness, the summer
The one thing you've really, really got to realize is that I'm not leaving.
I'll always be here. I've always been. You can't listen to that song, even that chord, without a glimpse of my narrowed-eyes voice and a hint of--oh, that was a good metaphor. Decent, anyway. Might even have explained something everybody feels but nobody's put into words before.
I'm always going to be peering down alleys, poking into language looking for new things to define. When we put it that way, I'm not so bad, now am I?
So embrace me. I might hit back.
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