Помните ли Копнежа за български фантастични разкази за чудо и показ от 2008-а година?
Един от петте отличени (По-желани 😉 ) разказа в него, в превод на английски от членове на Фантазийската преводаческа школа, току-що излезе в първия брой на англоезичното електронно списание за фантастика Marginal Boundaries. Разказът е „В началото бе метрото“ на Любомир П. Николов, а българска компания му правят два други превода на ФПШ – „Сиянието на реката“ на Атанас П. Славов и „Сънувах човешко лице“ на Ивайло П. Иванов. Задругата допълват шест американски разказа и новели… по-долу ще видите сами. Общият обем на „скромното“ издание е около 300 стандартни страници, йей!
Преди да спра да ни фукам 😀 – вътрешните илюстратори са Стефан Василев, Калина Атанасова и Ертан Мусов. А външният е Георги Танев, когото нямаме честта да познаваме все още, но ще наваксаме пропуска при първа възможност…
В представянето долу има инструкции как да си купите първи брой. А купите ли си го – следващите ще са още по-„скромни“. Това го обещава не друг, а мистър (Тим) Андерсън :D, главния редактор на Marginal Boundaries.
Enuff foolin’ around – just get on with it!
– – –
We are pleased to announce the first issue of Marginal Boundaries, a fresh face in the speculative fiction market.
The cover art above was drawn by the talented George Tanev. You can find more of his work here, as well as read the bio page for more information.
Our first issue contains a number of different stories for your reading pleasure. Stories like „A Stitch in Time“ give a clear-cut look into the mind of a killer, while tales such as „Blood, Magic and a Concubine“ take you on a journey into the seedy underbelly where the gods of old and creatures of legend alike live their lives in a tenacious balance with humans. „Tears of the Jade Moon, Red Blood on Her Lips“ takes you to a strange planet on the fringes of unknown space where wild rides through the jungles and forests are part of the daily routine for merchants and braves alike, and „The Glow of the River“ tells the tale of an old warrior, remembering his days gone by, pondering his own future.
There are 9 stories in Issue One of Marginal Boundaries, each tale filled with adventure, excitement, intrigue, mystery, murder and all the trappings that make them such wonderful stories in the first place. The talented team of artists put together some phenomenal interior art to go along with the stories, allowing the reader to not only glean entertainment from the words themselves, but also the spectacular imagery that helps bring you into the moment of each and every piece. To give you a taste of what you can see inside, we give you the following excerpts to whet your appetite….
A Stitch in Time
Cullen turned off the tape recorder and pursed his lips in disgust. He honestly wasn’t 100 percent sure. Was the creep really crazy, or just playing him?
Len Markowitz sat before him in a dingy interrogation room, the weak overhead bulb shining sickly pale and yellow on the murderer’s drawn, heavily-stubbled face. Markowitz took a long drag on his cigarette, the shackles clinking on his bony wrists. Cullen rubbed his tired eyes and yawned. Why did he always get the sickos?
“Okay…let’s get this straight. You believe if you hadn’t murdered Joe Pratt, he would, at some point in the future, invent time travel and blow up the world, right?”
Markowitz exhaled and sighed, shaking his tussled head. “No, dude. That’s a Hollywood movie. It’s not that simple. No, Joe, I guess, was gonna make a kid who’d make a kid who’d make a kid, on and on, for God knows how long, until somehow it ends with time travel being invented. Joe was one of the special ones. He had a special mutant gene, or something. Like the first ape who had the gene that would someday let his descendants walk and talk and build H-bombs and shit. In Joe’s case—again, I’m just quoting the university types I talked to—he must’ve had something special that, someday, when the science is far enough along to use it, would let people see time in a way we can’t now. Some say time’s like a living thing. Only a special few can feel how it moves, how it really is.”
“No, dude. I’m not like Joe. I’m something else. But, I’m special too, no doubt.” Markowitz chuckled a bit. Cullen felt like taking a night stick to him. He gritted his teeth and held himself in check. He didn’t want to ruin the case. “It’s like that little English dude in the wheel chair. He can’t talk, cause he’s got the baseball player’s disease. So, the little guy, he has a computer that talks for him. I’ve heard him talk about this stuff on T.V.”
“Yeah, that’s him. I heard him say once he doesn’t believe time travel’s possible, because, if it is possible, why aren’t we constantly being visited by people… and things… from the future? Well… you’re lookin’ at the reason, dude!” He smiled a broad, yellow grin.
Cullen sneered in a combination of awe and revulsion. He’d seen his share of freaks, both on the job in the States, and in Iraq, but this…. “So, you’re our ‘savior,’ huh? You’re on a mission from God, is that it?”
Markowitz hunched his shoulders. “Doubt it. Never been the religious type. No voices in my head, no burning bushes in the desert.”
“Just visions. You see people from the future coming to kill us?”
“Not always people. Sometimes, it’s robots. Sometimes, it’s metal viruses that think. Sometimes, things made of pure energy. Sometimes things I can’t even describe.”
“Okay. How do you know who to kill in order to prevent it?”
“I told you; I can see time bend.” He picked up one of the crayons they’d given him, and started drawing long, curved lines on the sketch paper in front of him. Cullen glanced down to see. “The lines all stem from the same point.”
A Missing Piece of December
Eidetic playback shows a man. He is neither heavily wrinkled nor heavyset, just hunched over with a weary expression on his face. Defeated. Old. All I knew was his name. Emmet Derrickson.
The old man had begged me not to record the meeting, but these are the precautions a shamus has to take. I met a leisure boy from Marin County once, met him deep in the Oakland woods—his idea—to show him some footage I’d gathered on his wife. He did the usual reaction number. He tore the prints, swore echoes into the redwood trees, kicked rocks that scraped his Johnston & Murphy oxfords, and then he looked at me. I knew he meant to bash my head in with one of those volcanic rocks near the ancient fault line. His wife was the heir to one of the biotech firms in South San Francisco. He was the chief executive officer of a company about to merge with his wife’s. A scandal at such a sensitive time was unthinkable. Signs of internal instability were unacceptable, so he was going to kill her, as soon as he disposed of the messenger. It was safe to guess his closest friends knew about the affair by then. Husbands and wives are always the last ones to know about their mate’s infidelities, but that’s the mind of a company man for you.
He almost got me too. He was tanned from daily golfing, fit and trim from time spent at the country club gym, while I was dealing with the comedown of a weekend fizz-binge. He kicked me in the gut, knocked me on my ass, and would have killed me in that forest if it hadn’t been for Chago and Nelson, who I had posted nearby to keep an eye on things.
So, I always record a client meeting. And like many jilted husbands, Emmet Derrickson tried to play it casual at first, like it was no big deal.
“Neonato Gomez, huh?” he said, his mouth forming a hint of a sneer. “The shamus himself. Take a seat,” he ordered, and I did.
“I prefer Neon Gomez, or just Neon.”
“Sure, whatever you say, Neon.” He looked me over. “They say you’re sensitive, that you can catch a whisper out of an arena full of screaming kids.”
“I prefer not to comment, and let the legend build itself in your mind.” I cleared my throat. “Anyway, that kind of work requires closeness. I prefer to distance myself from the client. What I do takes finesse and impartiality.” I sat back in the chair. “Sensitivity and the promise that I don’t ask for more information than what you give, which I’m guessing is why you’re here.”
The old man’s joviality vanished. His round face became charged with lines of weariness as he took in the surroundings; the bossa nova music coming through the ceiling speakers, the staccato from a hundred different conversations in Portuguese around us, the scent of meat roasting on the long swords in the rotisserie. The Oasis Restaurant was one of my favorite places to meet a client.
He still hadn’t said anything, so I said it for him. “I already know why you’re here.”
“You know everything, huh?” He said. “A shamus can read minds, too?”
“What I mean is, everyone comes to me for the same reason,” I explained. “I don’t know the details, but I get the general picture. The individual details you provide.”
He looked away, focusing on three girls a few tables away, laughing loudly at a private joke. After a few seconds he sighed and unbuttoned his beige jacket. He took a picture out of the inside pocket and slid it across the table face down toward me. I picked it up. A woman. She was pretty, with uncomplicated features and thick brown hair cascading over an oval face without makeup, smiling in a carefree way.
“You took this picture,” I said.
He looked at me, interested. “How did you… a shamus can figure that out by—”
I shook my head. “It’s just something about the way she’s smiling. She doesn’t know she’s being photographed.” I looked at him now. “You wanted to get a shot of her the way you remember her. Pure, before you suspected she was up to something?”
He looked uncomfortable now. He avoided my eyes, played with the wide neck of his shirt. When he spoke, his voice was different, softer.
“I love her,” he stated. “She’s a sweet girl. Puts up with my tempers and long hours at work.” A handkerchief appeared out of somewhere and he wiped the sweat from his beefy face. “All she demands is a little of my time, and I haven’t even been able to do that for her. I’m willing to change for her, but I need to know first.” He looked at the orange Formica of the tabletop for a while before meeting my eyes. “I just need to know what I suspect. Or for you to tell me I’m wrong. I do not need the details, no explicit pictures. Just tell me, is she or isn’t she banging someone.”
I nodded at him, lifted the picture to eye level and blinked, activating the flit-scan feature to collect the image in my eidetic recall. I slipped the picture across the table back to him.
“You can keep this,” I told him. “I won’t need it anymore.”
“Photographic memory?” He asked. I said nothing. He thought for a moment, then asked, “Couldn’t we have done this over vid-phone if I gave you a picture?”
“Yeah, we could’ve,” I told him.
“Then why this whole number?” He gestured at the restaurant in general.
“I like to take my precautions,” I explained to him. “I’ve been threatened before.”
He became interested. “By info-couriers?”
“You think I’m scared of them?”
“They’re the only ones that get licensed and approved by the state to snoop. Your kind is a dying breed.”
“If I want to disappear, I just do it,” I answered. “Even if you walked out of here now and reported me to the state licensing board, I’d be gone before you could make the call, and no one here would remember me, or you. Besides,” I told him, “With info-couriers, you don’t get discretion.” I leaned toward him. “And which one are you paying for? Discretion, or fast results?”
His meaty fists were resting on the table, and he clenched them. “I was just asking. No need to be coarse about this.”
“You asked. I answered. Besides, I like to look at a client, to read the sincerity in his voice.”
The old man pursed his lips at me. “Well, you’ve read the sincerity in my voice. Get to work.”
I got up and left without a backward glance.
The Covenant of the ARC
Out of the corner of his eye, Clark saw a set of red, white, and blue flashing lights pass the bus. Five seconds later, the bus slowed down. At the same time, Clark, along with all the other passengers, was pulled tight against his seat by a twelve-point passenger restraint system that held him like a child in the grip of a giant. When the bus came to a complete stop, Clark pushed on the restraint-release button but the straps held tight.
“Please, everyone, stay in your seats.” The voice coming through the loudspeaker was that of Janice Comings, the American Freedom’s Friend-Counselor.
Amanda gave a small gasp as she awoke. “What’s going on? Why did we stop? Is there a problem?”
“I think we were stopped by the police,” answered Clark.
“Why would we be stopped by the police?” Amanda said, her voice high and anxious. “This is a Federal Security sanctioned bus, there’s no reason for them to—“
“I don’t fucking know why we’re stopped!” Clark blurted out as he furtively pushed against the restraints.
Amanda’s face tightened up. “Why do you always talk to me like that? Why can’t you talk nice like everyone else?”
Because I’m not like you and everyone else. I can’t just blindly accept all the shit that’s turned our world upside down and not have it eat me up inside!
“I’m sorry.” Clark tried to keep his voice calm. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
“You should have used a Calmer before we went to sleep. You’re a much nicer person when you use them.”
Clark gave a huge sigh and quit struggling against the restraints. “They make me feel dead.”
“Don’t exaggerate. Just because they—“
Amanda’s voice was cut short as the doors of the passenger compartment were flung open. Four federal anti-terrorist police dressed in coal-black body armor, mirrored face shields, and carrying twelve-gauge street-sweeper shotguns entered two-by-two into the bus. Clark’s mouth went dry and he could feel sweaty beads form on his palms as the police came closer. They’re coming for me, he thought for no apparent reason. They’re coming for me!
The first two police stopped one meter in front of Clark and turned to their right.
Clark felt like he was watching a slow-motion movie as the police aimed their large weapons at the Dickenson’s, the couple whom Clark and Amanda had eaten dinner with the previous night. A look of terror spread across Candi Dickenson’s face as both her and her husband’s restraints came undone and retracted back into the seats.
“You are under arrest for terrorist activities,” the first officer said to the couple. “If you resist arrest, upon conviction, all penalties will be doubled. Do you have any questions?”
“I do,” said Eric Dickenson. The short, obese man stood up and adjusted his tie that was adorned with tiny American flags. “Just where in the U.S. Constitution does it say you have the right to barge in here like Nazi storm-troopers? I want to know—“
The movement of the officer’s arm was so quick that Clark couldn’t say for sure that he saw the officer’s fist hit Eric. One second Eric was standing toe-to-toe with the officer, the next instant, Eric was one his knees with a large, dark welt forming on his left cheek. When the officer bent over to pick him up, Eric swung a left fist of his own and struck the officer on the side of his head. The policeman reeled back, tripped over the officer behind him, and fell onto the floor next to Clark.
He doesn’t look any older than my twenty-year old nephew, Clark thought as he glanced down at the officer, whose face shield had been knocked sideways by the fall. The young man had a scraggy blond mustache and a red-shaped tiny U on his cheek. Clark guessed it was either a birthmark or a branding used by the federal police to identify one of their own.
The taller officer pulled out a 10 mm Glossan semi-automatic pistol from his side holster so fast that it looked like a magic trick
“Any more trouble and you’re both dead,” he barked at the Dickenson’s while helping the younger officer stand up. Eric Dickenson, his head hung low in submission, walked with his wife into the middle aisle, where they were shackled in body chains and necklaced with electric collars.
The officers led the couple out through the doors of the passenger compartment. A moment later Clark saw the lights of the police cruisers speed past them. Only when the vehicles were out of view did the restraints holding Clark and all the other passengers retract into the seats.
“Can you believe that Candi and Eric are terrorists?” said Amanda. “They seemed like such nice people at dinner last night.”
“We might have talked to them, but we didn’t know them.”
“I didn’t say we knew them. All I said was that they seemed like nice people.”
Clark took another deep breath and tried to blow it slowly out, just as his psychologist had taught him.
The Glow of the River
At times he regretted he had lived. He had escaped, a ruin of a man. He dragged his body, turned into a single wound. He crawled to the Heavenly Woods on his own, and the sages cared for him. They healed his body, set his bones and joints. Well … but for his right leg. His right leg remained crooked. There he first saw the tunnels of the Deinors, cut into the cliffs. At first glance they were nothing more than holes carved into the rock, until you reached the middle and the images from the opposite opening rushed at you, crystal clear. You could see the faces of people many days’ travel from here, even the unimaginably distant Daerlin.
It had seemed good for a time, living in the Heavenly Woods. What reason did he have for leaving? What purpose was there in wandering from country to country, frightening everyone with his fame?
Denn Sirr strode onward, head bent, lost in burdensome memories. Gradually he became aware of some change, as if the space around had broadened; the air was more intense, charged with an invisible power. He looked up, stumbled over thin air and froze. He had arrived.
The road ended in a round opening, crowned by a structure that looked like the gazebos from the coast of the Small South. Only the size was different. Eight pitch-black pillars joined into a ring some dozen men’s heights above the ground. They stood upon a low, broad, circular platform. This was what he had been searching for, the place called by the Deinors Talieshom Siboonaay Phimoyazolo’kaay.
In the Syltam Temple, under the hieroglyphs of the name, a translation was inscribed: “River that joins the times of all worlds”. Denn Sirr walked up the three steps to the gazebo. The pedestal was crossed by an arching trace of hieroglyphs. The hunter recognized some of them, but separated from the whole of the ancient text they read lonesome and senseless. For three millennia already these glyphs had been delivering their unintelligible message to unknown recipients. An odd thought flitted through Denn Sirr’s mind: were not these signs similar to him, having lost his life’s meaning just as irreversibly in the past? He sighed, sat down and brushed his fingers against the smooth hollow of one of them. They seemed to have been scorched, not cut, into the strange black substance, which was neither stone, nor metal. Only now did he notice that nowhere, at the base or on the platform itself, was there even a trace of dust. As if someone maintained the place. The Deinors had possessed many skills.
I Dreamed a Human Face
The blue glow of the second sunrise was slowly transforming into sunset over the horizon. The shapeless shadows of the old city dwellers began to unfold, bringing movement to the otherwise motionless ruins. Joshua had no idea what they were; he was here for the first time. So far the old ones were showing no signs of aggression, instead peeking out from under thickly-overgrown concrete slabs, gathering into small packs from time to time, not to prepare for attack but just for the sake of it—perhaps to indulge their curiosity before scampering away in search of something more interesting. He caught a glimpse of a figure once, but beyond that there was nothing of interest in the ruins of this once-city, nothing but curious eyes following his every step.
The rubble beneath his feet had been a main street once, long ago. It was impossible to judge the height of the buildings on either side because they had slumped into amorphous piles; a mixture of feeble vegetation and pseudosoil. He saw only one almost-preserved building but it had been stripped of whatever valuable possessions it might have had long ago. Two times the sonar pinged and he stopped to mark the locations on the map. Eventually, Joshua came to a massive concrete hill blocking his way and was forced to find a way around. He discovered a region thick with coiling plants, their colors suddenly brightening, the greens bursting into sparkling hues in some places. Nearby, somewhere beneath the surface, crawled a glacier, moistening the soil above. It was the only way such surface vegetation could sprout so thickly. There would likely be more dwellers here. For a while he wandered aimlessly, simply following the tiny path looking for a shelter of some kind to spend the night in, but the shrubs stood thick and unyielding all around him. He began to contemplate going back to the old city.
Joshua had spent the last couple of days making his way through the jungle of lianas and air roots. Fatigue was setting in. Endless tangles of climbing plants, robust and dry as wire ropes, made it difficult to find a place to rest. The sonar never ceased its endless cries, pushing him continually onwards. On top of that, he wasn’t always able to record the data; he had to resort to memorizing some of it, which wore down his stamina.
But now he was finally in an open space and everything seemed to be safe, at least enough so he could drop his guard and set up camp. Before him spread an open plain, bare and green, surrounded by a group of hills, shallow outcrops here and there, eroded formations and taluses. The grass looked surprisingly fresh. There had been a city here once, but the enormous glacier underneath had turned it into nothing more than a rolling landscape.
He was reluctant to continue his journey among the hills, so he walked for a while by the overgrown ruins until he reached a shelter under a collapsed slab. It was a little too close to the jungle for his tastes, but it would have to do. He rummaged through his pack, ignoring the writing pad and hunting instead for his pick. He hadn’t eaten all day; the notes could wait.
The soil was dry and hard until roughly a span down. He managed to find some ashtese roots, but all of them were inedible. He tried soaking them in water but to no avail–they were almost completely devoid of nutrients. He shrugged off discouragement and rummaged deeper in his sack, finally producing a tiny aluminum box. The last of his human food. A few morsels of cheese and some concentrated proteins. If they took longer to answer his signals, things would get worse.
He took a small chunk in his mouth, savoring the taste. He suddenly sensed movement from the bushes behind him.
In the Beginning was the Subway
I hear the doorbell ring.
“You have a package.” There are two courier guys in uniforms at the door. One of them hands me some papers. “Sign here.”
“What is it?”
“I haven’t ordered one. Are you sure this is for me?”
“This is your address, isn’t it? And you are Vladimir Petrov, yes? Here, it’s a receipt from Valentina Kirova.”
“You said Kirova? Yeah, yeah, I remember. Here, let me sign.”
They bring the solarium in. I probably look rather excited for someone who has just received such a mundane item. Naturally I cannot explain that it’s not really just a tanning bed, but something more.
“How much do I owe you?”
“It’s on the sender. You pay nothing.”
“Is there a sender’s address, a telephone?” I ask impatiently.
“A P.O. box – Central Post Office, box 138.”
“Any other information?”
“No. Nothing,” says one of them, and they leave.
The truck drives off normally but even if it had taken off like a flying ship I would not have been surprised. I walk around the solarium several times. This is the last object I will ever use. Solariums can be harmful, but this one is from Kirova, and I would sacrifice myself for her. I am not comfortable when I call her Madam any longer, because now she is my age. I unpack the delivery, find the user manual, and discover a hand-written note thrust inside:
Vladi, here are your “spectacles.” I hope it will not disappoint you. This apparatus is very special. Accept it as a personal gift. Its applications are really shocking. Please, experiment with it. Valentina Kirova.
P.S. You can call me Valentina, since we are now colleagues.
The apparatus looks strikingly like a normal sun-tanning bed; you lay down inside and close the lid. It could be probably mounted on a car roof, allowing one to travel inside, sleeping all the way to the seaside, and rather than need a tent one can have a more high-tech shelter for the evening. I hope Kirova—that is, Valentina—does not read my thoughts from a distance because she will immediately take back her pot for stewing people. I mean it not with disrespect, I am just a little bit nervous.
Blood, Magic and a Concubine
Thor had his own problems, though. He never could get over the fact that people didn’t worship him anymore. If you think it’s bad when a burned-out rock star or washed-up actor appears on one of those Where are They Now shows, imagine it happening to a god. It isn’t pretty.
I found him in his usual hole, the third barstool from the left at The Bloated Kingdom. I’d told Manny to wait outside because you never knew what kind of mood Thor was going to be in when he’s had a few too many. It wouldn’t do to get Manny killed before I could help him.
Thor was wearing a black t-shirt that was about two sizes too small. His muscles threatened to destroy the fabric. His jeans didn’t fit any better, and they looked somewhat ridiculous tucked into his giant-stomping biker boots—though I’d never tell him that to his face. His long blond hair was a mass of tangles, and it was hard to tell where the hair ended and the booze-soaked beard began. His massive hammer, Mjollnir, hung at his side.
“How’s it hanging, Blondie,” I said as I parked on the barstool next to him. He always had open stools around him. Thor was a big man, and sitting on the barstool, he was more than a head taller than I was. I hoped he was in a good mood.
Thor swiveled his head toward me and recognition brightened his blue eyes. “Johnny Stone, you magnificent bastard! Drink with me!”
You don’t say no to a god, so I ordered a stout and sipped at it while I explained Manny’s problem. The big man nodded a lot and stroked his beard. I wasn’t sure how much was getting through his alcohol-glazed mind, though.
Tears on the Jade Moon, Brave Blood on Her Lips
Lorrum’s air is just fine. Tart. Chalky aftertaste. That’s what gets said by those visiting, like they’ve got the standard. The air on Lorrum is fine…as long as you’re not out hopping with your metabolic rate thundering; that’s when you need the air hit, and that’s why braves invented the “he-game.” Dare-deviltry. Death-defiance. Fun when you’re young.
I had been a guppy during an odd arc of the rotation. I became a brave when the other braves were ten and twenty years older and I had few fellow guppies, one of whom was Brennur, all of whom are now either no longer braves or no longer alive. Later, as the wheel spun some more, enlistment surged anew and I had lots of guppies wriggling around my ankles. So, sitting up on the scaffolding, with the jade moon shimmering over the wild-land outside the city walls, I was the oldest. There’s a deference that goes with that—and occasional hostility. Sometimes I’m looked at askance when I offer an opinion, but that’s just age.
Usually, up here we would look at the lands, at the wide perimeter of creamy black soil and beyond, at the foliage and the tracks that cut through it. On the night before a hop, you have to come take a look. If you can resist it, you’re put together wrong. Tonight, just about the whole company, even braves that weren’t going tomorrow, draped and braced themselves on the crosspieces and teetering planks. A breeze shook the joints and two dozen bodies shifted, adjusted, then resettled in the warm Lorrum night. The breeze tasted fine to me.
Our eyes, however, were trained upward, to the cloud-quilted sky.
“It could come tomorrow,” said a brave.
“It won’t come tomorrow,” said another.
“Tomorrow’s a hop.” That was Grinda, mothering Grinda, on a strut up above and slightly behind my left shoulder. “Be thinking about that.”
But we were thinking what we were thinking. Hops occurred. We had all been on hops. Lorrum had known many, many hops, but the Hammer had never fallen here before.
My feet were dangling. Someone the next tier down on the scaffold moved position, and hair brushed my right bare sole. I drank red tea, cold. My eyes pulled toward the rising moon, the inviting color of it, more pleasant than the inhuman stars; but I made myself look back into the starlight. It might not come tomorrow, but it would come soon. Soon enough.
The low, lazy conversation continued intermittently and went nowhere. Now and then there was easy laughter. I finally contributed to the conversation. “Soon enough,” I said, and that was worth a beat of deferential silence. I felt the brave sitting closest to me give me a secretive suspicious glance. Probably disappointed. I should know. I should have answers.
I finished my tea and looked down over the wild-land. It was my hop tomorrow, along with five others’. It was time to sleep. I made to climb down, barefoot, no armor on my shoulders. The breeze rose again, sweeping out from the city and I savored it.
I gave that callous, silvered black sky one more sturdy gaze before I climbed off the scaffold. It didn’t tell me anything it hadn’t said an hour ago.
Mary Had a Little Lamb
Half an hour brought her deeper into the city. She headed south to get to the Arch, but now she had made an about-face and was walking northwest. The buildings she passed on the street were dark and foreboding, with black iron bars protected protecting the windows from intruders and outsiders.
Around her, the streets were alive.
People seemed to come from every corner, every hidden and dark place. They were white, Hispanic, black. The night knew no color when it came to its occupants. They had only one true desire: to grow old and die in the dreams of their youth.
Mary felt out of place here. She had known so much love, so much generosity, that the thought of a dreamless existence was beyond her. These people around her, she knew, had no hope.
Because they had no God.
They knew only that they needed, but not in which direction their desires went. Lucifer had smiled upon their souls, and they had succumbed to his temptation. She knew that the one and true God frowned upon the weak and spiritless, but that He nonetheless allowed them into His kingdom. They were, after all, created in His own image, and subject to the weaknesses of the same.
Like His weakness for mortality.
It had been that urge that which drove Him to her mother, the ensuing pregnancy and child rearing. It was a weakness that only the truly devoted—like her mother—knew. A weakness that He hid from those who followed him blindly.
It was His will.
Mary knew those ways intimately, having experienced them since the dawn of her creation. Most people remember little from the womb; but she recalled it all. Her Father had divested in her the urge to know, the desire to reason, while the embryonic fluid still coursed through her blood stream.
But this world she found herself in was beyond her reasoning. She felt afraid here, vulnerable.
It was an alien emotion to her, and she was not prepared for it.
Still, she had to go to the place she was drawn to. It was God’s will.
Ahead of her, the street seemed to take on a surreal appearance, halo-ish lights creating a tunnel through the darkness for her.
As she stepped underneath a streetlight, she heard the voices. They were there, in the blackness of an alleyway.
“Hey, baby,” one of them said. “Come here.”
She paid them no heed.
“C’mere, bitch!” the voice shouted. It echoed through the silent streets, drifting off into the city.
She began to run.
Behind her, she heard the footfalls of several men as they followed, her heart pumping with the rush of excitement and fear. If only she had the powers, she told herself, she would not have to be so afraid. But, like her brother before her, the abilities bestowed upon her were limited. To live with humans, one had to become a human.
One had to understand their hopes, dreams and, yes, even their fears.
She looked behind her and saw three young men closing in on her. Then, as she swung her head around, she saw the fourth one. He was standing just ahead of her, in the middle of her escape route, a large switchblade knife in his hands.
“Come to papa,” he said, and the will to run left her.
The other hoodlums closed in on her and she knew that what was to come next was not of divine construction. Not even remotely so.
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