A dream of poets in space,
of painting the universe:
an excursion gone wrong,
a fatal crash flashing across
the story halfway through
and poets learned to navigate
coordinates in strange new terms,
the singers croon to cable sparks,
painters smeared in machine grease
appear from the ship’s bowels
giving thumb-ups to the ragtag crew:
disillusioned but stubborn artists,
officers with broken bones;
the ship half gone,
writing a story twice as intense
And should the stars dim
way before morn
as a shadow passes overhead
silent, gliding between roof and sky
we know to ready, in our sleep,
to catch more answers in a web
of coils and questions:
notebooks at hand
to say the word, hear the word
checklists open, screens alight
shadow brought in, machine whirring
with imaging but
artifacts, nothing but artifacts
and flames and smoke,
the shadow sliding away
She hated the round not-sky, the curve of the horizon following her eyes all the way up to where the stars were supposed to be. The stars were sideways, in the round blackness of the axis windows.
Born into this not-world and still all her instincts screamed wrong at her whenever she looked up from her books, her work, her path.
One day, she’d stow herself away on a ship and try to make her way planetside, Earth or whatever solid sphere came first.
The price of magic was to be payed in hair. For each spell, each incantation, sorcerers lost a hair or even a whole strand. Sometimes, they resorted to using their eyebrows or, if they had one, their beard as well once all the locks were used up. A shining bald head was the medal signifying a magical life well lived.
One day, a new sorceress arrived in town. People started whispering, pointing at her full head of thick, healthy curls, bouncing against her back as she strode.
“So, you’re too vain to do any spellwork, then?” an elder sorcerer sneered, “Or are you just really bad at magic?”
The sorceress smiled sweetly but deadly at him. “Oh, I believe I’m pretty good. They never said anything about having to use the hair on your head, did they?” She winked at the flock of younger sorcerers behind the elder. “I was gifted with a healthy amount of leg hair, my friends, and I’ve never been afraid of making good use of that.”
It’s been quiet for so long,
you forgot you’re undercover;
you painted your walls,
you bought some plants,
you got a library card and a job
and when the door bell rings,
you get up from the table,
leave your friends to their meal
there’s a man with a forgotten face
and a pizza you didn’t order:
you used a wrong gesture
last night at the bar,
you blew you cover,
and you need to leave right now —
“I know everything about you!” The shady guy who had cornered me laughed, in a supposedly menacing way.
But I knew an opportunity when I saw one. “Oh cool, neat. Saves me a lot of money and trouble, then. What’s my blood count? Which vaccinations are due this year? Any hereditary diseases I should be aware of? What’s the best career for me? What is the password for my old email account? I keep forgetting to reset it. Can I wear my white shorts to the beach tomorrow or will I get my period early? Oh, and when did I last talk to my father; should I call him this weekend?”
We entered the abandoned space station. The second door of the lock slid open just before we reached it, then light flickered on.
It was a feeling of welcome and comfort, for a moment.
Then, the mission leader grabbed a handhold to stop his momentum and turned his head back us, slightly shaking: “I don’t remember them ever mentioning installing automated systems for that. You?”
Shit. He was right.
We were still trying to think of the best course of action when we heard a thin but steady voice.
“I didn’t mean to startle you. It’s just been such a long time.”
A milky shadow moved into sight, translucent. The scheme of a middle-aged man.
“Welcome to my humble home, comrades. I started the heater, should be getting warm in a moment.” He gave us a ghostly grin, lopsided.
Finally, it dawned unto us, the grin familiar from photographs. The one cosmonaut who didn’t make it last time, fallen victim to a faulty EVA suit.
Well, we had seen weirder things on our missions. And a ghost in the space station sure seemed handy.
She discovered her math did magic.
It started out with harmless things, numbers glowing in the dark, sums humming upon solving. Things began to become more noticeable the day a particularly complex differential equation burned a hole straight through the paper and into the wood of the desk underneath, leaving a smouldering mark shaped like parentheses.
That day, she started to pay attention to the effects of her work (after hunting down a damp rag to extinguish the affected patch), taking careful notes and keeping a fire blanket at hand.
Soon she figured out which kinds of math were more harmonic, resulting in gentle light radiating from the ink on the page to keep her company. Other aspects went less well; especially certain types of fractions wreaked havoc more often than not, setting off tiny explosions either immediately or with a delay in direct inverse proportion to the denominator in case it was even and less than thirty-eight on a Tuesday.
After a few weeks she managed to create her first portal, tiny but still big enough to reach through the indices for the mug of coffee left in the kitchen two rooms away. Not much later, she travelled by the numbers and started writing into the sand of lonely beaches, trying to shift reality in subtle ways but not quite sure how far to go into touching the fabric of the world. Maybe just knowing she had the power to stop the universe was enough.
There’s a little girl
who loves the shadows,
loves the ghosts of ancient times,
often sitting between trees and tombstones,
sneaking out at night,
listening to tales of old
whispered from beneath the ivy,
somewhere in the ground;
and sometimes at midnight
for a minute between days
she meets them for a moment,
the spectres keeping her alive
with company and gentle tone,
hushing her despair and fear
with all their love and memories fond
of other girls who lived before.
“Alien abductions on the rise”,
the headline says,
and below, in smaller letters:
“Countless alien parents demand their children back from the human scientists who took them against treaties and trust.”