(Originally published as “Neverland” and “On Tormance we stand”


A cordial Hello to all who may see this, and may the day embrace you!

From your history books, you will know that our ship Neverland left the vicinity of Old Earth 11,000 years ago, bound for the solar system of Arcturus.  Neverland was constructed in space, over a period of 50 Terran years, and encompasses a length and breadth of about two of your kilometers.  The people aboard, numbering 196 (98 pairs), were the first voyagers.

I am Sheela, a female of the 112th generation born on this vessel.  I am 25 “years” old.  There is an expression that I have read in books.  It says, “We stand upon the shoulders of giants.”  And, yes, so we do.  Many of the ancient stories from the beginning of this exploration tell of the challenges, tragedies, and triumphs of our forebears.  Books have been my world, as I have no other.

I have never known Earth, our ancestral home, except through writings and legends passed down.  I do fervently hope that my little story will reach there.  I hope also that its people still survive, in the eleven millennia since Neverland took flight.

The curious name of our vessel has been a source of amusement for many of us. There is a running joke that we will “never land”.  It is unknown what we will find on Tormance, the second planet in the Arcturian system.  Its name comes from an obscure novel written in Earth’s 20th century.  Our technology tells us only that it will be “habitable” to our species.

We of course have our own sustainable food supply, consisting of numerous crops in rotation.  We do not eat beasts here, as was done on Earth, nor do we have any on board.  Our protein comes from botanical sources, and the fish that we farm.  Diets are kept from being dull through inventive hybrids and recipes, and our chefs enjoy a certain exalted standing in our small society.

Person of Earth, I will never know you.  If we were to meet one another, I am sure there would be much strangeness.  You have known a real world.  I have been farmed like the fish.  Earth has a violent history, and, at the time of Neverland’s birth, its very makeup was rapidly deteriorating.  We too, aboard this fleeing bubble, have at times been in a mode of self destruction, even though our original crew had been picked for their stability.  There have been murders, factions arising within the people, and irreconcilable differences.  Still, we soldier on towards the purpose.  Our numbers have been as few as one fifth of the crew that left Earth, and, as I write this, we are 125.

This may seem unsavory to you, but we compost our dead here, with rare exceptions.  Services are held, in keeping with the beliefs of each family.

We, of “The 112th Regiment” (as we are called) will be the first of The People to set our feet upon the planet of a new star.

Truly, we will be Interstellar.


In my twenty-five years of life, all of it aboard the great ship Neverland, I have known naught but the constructs of humankind and the black robe of space.

For the last two years, our excitement has been building here.  Through the luck of the genetic draw, we are the people, the gleanings who will complete this pilgrimage of 111 centuries, born in Earth’s orbit in times that are ancient to us. As I write, we are still many millions of Terran miles from the Arcturian disk, yet its glow of deep orange paints moving murals upon our living rooms, filling a great swath of our vision.  We are in escape velocity, on a trajectory to stay clear of his magnetic influence.

The constellation in which our new sun holds sway was known to ancient Earth as Boötes.  Funny, but constellations now are moot to us, shape shifting as they do, with space and time.  I sometimes think that our early voyagers must have wished that the secrets of new dimensions could have been unlocked, permitting space to be folded upon itself, granting them new worlds within their lifetimes.  These were the bravest of people, spending all their lives to a purpose, but knowing they would never see its fulfillment.  And now, as was said, we stand upon the shoulders of these giants.


It is time!  It is THE time!  With Tormance in aphelion from its great sun, our rendezvous has been plotted.  We are but days from history, close enough to see our World.  I feel the adrenalin rising within me as this day of fate comes near.  Sleep is becoming difficult but imperative, and I must medicate at times.  As one of the Science Officers aboard, I will have the privilege of being in the first landing party.

Here.  Now.  Be mindful of your training.  Let not your emotions rule you.  We are twenty, in the first shuttle.  All with at least some piloting experience, gained from trysts with unnumbered asteroids in the cascading years.  Our instrument readings show a mean gravity 1.3 of our normal.  An average surface temperature of 290° Kelvin.  An atmosphere slightly higher in nitrogen than our standard.

And now, we get our first head-on view of the world.  A peculiar thing to say.  A foreign feeling, after a lifetime of steel and glass.  Tormance explodes into our field of vision.  Its dun tarnished silver is like a new color.  The enormity.  The buffeting as we achieve entry into its atmosphere, bathed in copper light.  Will I ever wake from this?  In our fellowship of the shuttle, I see that many of us are overcome with awe.  Someone, in an ancient history book, said “They should have sent a poet”.  As for me, this religion has captured my very soul.

Our touchdown is made on a terraced flat, minutes before the blood sundown, and, still wearing our slicksuits, we crowd the open hatch doors to drink our fill of this miracle. Our First Officer sets his foot upon the gray mica-like rock that glints in the crimson dusk.  And we follow.  We follow.  We hug.  We cry.  A crosswind blows, and the airs smell like brimstone, but we breathe.

Upon Tormance we stand.

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The folding of Cain Coven

Down a choked and muddy stream, through dense thickets, warrens, and vine curtains, lay the charmed coven of Cain.  None knew it, as it was bound with a spell of bewilderment.  Through the attrition of years, most of its first thirteen souls had gone to grass, their bones and plasma powdered and cast into the blue.  Only the strong, the hale, and the powerful remained.  Being different in the extreme from common men and women, these tall but stooped creatures shunned the light of the wide world.  Known only in legends and wives’ tales, they were called Witches.  Never were they found by purposefully looking, though legends had sprung from chance encounters in deep dusk.

In the second century of Cain’s existence, a singular event occurred there.  A baby was born to one in the coven.  Its mother Merylyn had been held in awe, suspicion, and fear when the changes to her body had begun in earnest.  She was made a pariah and was cast out of their hovels to do for herself.  But Merylyn had a knowing, and instinct was seeded within her.  The birthing was hard, and she came nigh onto dying, but lived to suckle and to warm her daughter Elfeena.  In the fragrant warmth of a rotting oak, she stayed thus, wrapping the girl to her breast and sleeping for two days.

In want of food, and still with some pain and bloodiness, Merylyn swaddled the girl in what fabric she had, and covered her somewhat in the oak’s leafy mold.  Risking the light of late afternoon, she went abroad in the dense wood, unprotected by any hiding spells. Her cunning and her patience soon brought her two coneys, and she sacked them in her canvas bag, thinking to reach her bower by half-light.

Those at Cain Coven, numbering now only four, were aware of her, and sent a fetching spell to the ravens of the valley.  With dusk coming on, the birds began an assault on the unfortunate woman, hitting her in thuds and tearing at her flesh and hair.  All defenseless and streaming from many cuts, Merylyn was at last close to her home when she suffered an attack from the largest raven of the black flock.  As it went for her head, grappling with sharp talons and marring her face, her terrible rage was aroused, and she fled no longer.  With swift motions, she broke the beast’s neck and tore off its ebon wings.  The rest of the flock took flight.  With her warm quarry still in its canvas sack, she found the ancient oak at the close of day.  Too weary even to tend her wounds at first, she gathered Elfeena to her.  Her breast would suffice until morning light.  The red blood she could staunch with a poultice of wet leaves and vine.


As was said, those of Cain Coven differed greatly from common men and women.
Now the girl Elfeena, born of a Coven witch, might have elicited fear or revulsion if seen by an ordinary person.  Approaching three years of age, and learning eagerly from her mother, Elfeena was all spindly, with skeletal limbs and fingers.  Her tallness (for her age) was achieved, in spite of a short torso, by very long legs and neck.  The roundness of her large head was made more startling by her widely set eyes, by a mouth that was barely more than a slit, and by the strange appearance of her tiny ears.  All of this set within a complexion of perfect albinism.

With Elfeena’s willing help and surprising strength, mother Merylyn had gathered sufficient deadwood to build them a small but comfortable shelter.  Walled on one side by the roots of an enormous fallen tree, then cleverly disguised as a green hill, it served them well, having been favoured by whatever oaths that Merylyn could lay upon it.

Elfeena had proven to be a quiet child, and her mother despaired at times of her slowness of speech.  Whenever they went for their dusky walks, Elfeena would wear a faint smile and would reply to Merylyn in monosyllables, all the while keeping a firm grip on her gown.

On the sixth day of the sixth month, Elfeena’s sixth birthday, Merylyn had made them a nice stew of roasted rabbit, mushrooms, and leeks.  When they were done their supper, she gathered her daughter to her.  Stroking her hair, and having kissed her forehead, she spoke in low tones:  We need help, and you will need more than I can give you.  Our walks have been a little longer each night, to a purpose.  I have had a visitation in the night, a guidance.  We must go, many miles, over the tall hills.  There, we will be welcomed.  The people are Others, like us.  They know we come.  It is called Coven Gryndal.  It will take many days, and we must shelter as best we can.

The little girl raised her face to her mother.  There was that faint wistful smile.
“It is all right” was all she said.


Gran of Gryndal Coven had been expecting them.
In a carved-out clearing she had waited since mid morning.  Peeping through fronds and foliage, one would have seen her resting on a stump, holding onto a string that curiously disappeared upwards. Clothed in a sagging fabric of shabby brown that resembled cheesecloth, she seemed to be fighting sleep, nodding every once in a while. This was exaggerated by the tall but squashed hat that she wore, seemingly strapped under the chin.

Indeed, she was fast asleep at an hour past high noon when Mother Merylyn and her odd little daughter came to the clearing.  They had seen the bright kite that Gran was flying, fashioned from dyed and scraped skins.  Not wanting to wake the old woman, Merylyn motioned for Elfeena to stop, sit, and wait.

It did not take long.  When Gran had snored a particularly loud one, she woke herself and sat bolt upright, blinking her eyes.  Merylyn and the girl stood up and walked slowly into the sunlight.  Gran rose to her full height, adjusting her wayward cap.  “My Meryl” she said.  “Ye I have not seen for too long.  I see grayness, Meryl.  Come to me.”  With Elfeena still clutching her robe, Merylyn moved to meet Gran’s outstretched hand.  The old woman cradled both of Merylyn’s hands within hers and turned them palms upward.  “You’ve been alone and without Sisters for years.”  Looking for the first time at Elfeena, she said “How comes this one?  Why was it not killed?  For it is an abomination.”

Merylyn stepped back, struggling to control her anger.  “SHE is of me.  She came from my body, six years ago.  I was nigh unto death.  You will please call her Elfeena.  She is my child.”  “Does it speak?” said Gran.  Merylyn took her daughter by the hand.  “Come. We go.”  “Mother, it is all right.  We have come so far.”  But Merylyn was unmoved and made as if to leave.

“Stay” said Gran.  “I spoke out of turn.  I have not felt fear in a very long time, but she has a look that disturbs me.  Please give me your hand, Elfeena.”  Even in Gran’s old and wrinkled hand, Elfeena’s looked so small and white.  “Sit here a moment if you will.  I must talk to your mother.”

Gran spoke quietly to Merylyn by the clearing’s edge.  “We will keep you safe here if they get over the shock.  How was she fathered?”  “I don’t know” Merylyn said simply.
“I see by your eyes that you believe this”, said Gran.  “Were you perhaps sick for a time, and losing your faculties?  Laying unconscious?”  “No.  And you know that none comes to Cain of their own free will.”  “But this child is not of our kind, nor of other kind that I have seen in my long life.  She has spoken but ten words here, and yet I feel that she can command.”

“Please, if you will, Meryl.  Come with me.  Our hold is some distance away, but you have come many times that much already.”

Merylyn knelt to her daughter.  Saying nothing, she searched her eyes and found encouragement and assurance therein.  And so, they turned to follow the old woman, Merylyn maintaining a suitable haughtiness and silence for a time.


Gran Gryndal was not to be denied at her coven.  Nonetheless, she had gone ahead to prepare them for the shock of the peculiar visitors, and to caution them sternly about hasty assumptions and liberties they may have thought to have taken.  She apprised them of the pair’s circumstances, and of how Merylyn had been banished from Cain.
They were to help in the care and upbringing of the strange and white daughter.
Her last words in private to her women were “She is not of us.  I know it.  But she was born to of one of ours.  We will see her colours soon.”

And so, the three made entrance, through a land of confounding dimness, to the hidden coven of Gryndal.  The forms of seven cloaked women stood waiting in a semicircle, some looking grim, and others displaying a keen curiosity. They had ornate headdresses, fashioned from vines and the flowers of summer.  On Gran’s right hand was Merylyn.  Her headdress was of simple black, crowned with the wings of a vanquished raven.  Elfeena had broken her habit of clinging to apron strings, and held gingerly onto Gran’s fingers.  Her big round eyes did not blink as she looked unabashedly from one face to another.  A keen observer would have noted that her small thin lips moved as if with words while she studied them, though she did not speak.

“Come.  Lay on your hands.” said Gran to her coven.  “These are ours, now.”
And so they did, without waiting, though more than one averted their eyes in the embracing.  “Speak, Elfeena.  I know you can.”  So, as each of them knelt to embrace her, the girl said, with her simple shy smile, “Thank you.  Thank you.  It will be all right.”

Though tired from their long journey, Merylyn and Elfeena spent their night around the fire, hearing stories of Gryndal.  Speaking but little, they began to feel, even on this first night, the tentative beginnings of acceptance.  As the dawn glow crept upon them, and they were preparing their beds, Gran took Merylyn aside and asked a strange question.
“I had asked you whether you were ever in a bad sickness or had lost your faculties for a time.  Please think, Meryl.  Has nothing odd or out of place happened to you that you could not explain?”
“Yes, I have thought on it, Gran.  My sleeps are at all times the same.  Except that one day I awoke some two hours later and did not know why.  One of our women said to me “Where did you go?  I did not see you in your bed and went out to look, hurting my eyes. And now, here you are, back where you should be.”  “I ridiculed her, saying that I could not sleep and took a walk.”

Merylyn and Elfeena became used to the customs and people of Gryndal and helped as they could with the coven’s work.  Some few of the women were slower to accept the girl than were others, but her mild manners and willingness at chores served, in the end, to endear her.  She had, at times, some curious ideas as to how things should be done or could be improved, but was never ostentatious or arrogant in presenting them.  Indeed, her quietness sometimes made one listen to her more closely, and she had a way that made the women think that these new ideas were their own.  The girl smiled her smile when a group discussion took place, and the ideas were bandied about.

Merylyn did much of the hunting for game, since she was an accomplished trapper, and many days they had fresh rabbit or even a wild turkey or two.  On a time, she spotted a large hare and resolved to trap it.  It was amazingly fast, and she had laid out a number of snares before it was finally caught.  She was home in time to clean and dress it for their supper, when, on close inspection, she felt an oddness about the animal.  Its eyes were not right, but it was not from illness.  As she made her cuts to do the skinning, its veins and arteries stood out more than they should have, and, most peculiar, its blood had a greenish cast to it.  The gutting gave her the real shock, for the rabbit’s stomach held a hard object.  As Merylyn rinsed away the offal, she saw it:  a small golden medallion.
It was the symbol of Cain Coven.  She quickly stowed it away, and told the sisters that her catch was diseased, could not be eaten, and was to be burnt in the fire.


And now Merylyn knew that the Sisters of Cain had placed a spell of finding and of withering in the gullet of a hare, for they had seen Merylyn’s changes as the work of the devil, and were in fear lest she return.

Seeing that her mother was quiet and withdrawn at the night’s fire, Elfeena sat by her, stroked her hair, and drew her pale lips to Merylyn’s ear.  “Mother, I see you have a sickness.  You shall tell me, for you know who I am.  Tonight, I will not leave your side.”


“Those at Cain have hexed me” said Merylyn to her child.  They were in their bed chamber, and Elfeena was helping her mother with her dressing gown.  “Mother, why do you make fists like this?  Let me see your hands!”  Merylyn, shaking with emotion and with weakness, sat down on the edge of the bed and unfolded her hands.  Elfeena gave an exclamation of shock.  Her mother’s hands were red and blistered in the palms and fingers, as if burned.  “It was in the hare that I caught today.  My hands were bathed in its cursed blood before I knew what it was.  At the last, there was something I was meant to find.  A thing of gold with unique design.  A proof from Cain.  Its handling has burned me.  The blood of the hare has mixed with mine.  I wither, Elfeena.  They cast me away, saying I was under thrall of the Devil.  And now, they have done this last evil.”

Elfeena slowly closed her round eyes and bowed her head.  Quietly, she said “and where is this thing now?”  “I have stowed it in a rag underneath the bed.”  “Give it me, that I may see it.”  “NO!  You are not to handle it!”  “It will be all right.”  Elfeena reached and found the knotted rag.  Undoing it, she held up the glinting gold.  Merylyn, crying, said “What do you do?”  “Mother, see.  It will not harm me.  You know who I am.  I must keep this.  I will have need of it.”  To comfort her mother, Elfeena tried salves that the coven had for the treatment of cuts and burns.  Helping her into bed, she lay beside her until sleep took them both.

In their morning, Merylyn was in a fever of delirium, and Elfeena ran to get Gran.  She begged two things of her- that Henna, Shaman of the coven, should care for Merylyn above all else, and that the women should swiftly prepare a travel pack and make ready the pony for her, as she meant to leave as soon as could be made possible.  Gran balked at this, saying “Where do you mean to travel, girl, by yourself, leaving your sick mother?”
Elfeena said “I go to Cain.  Please get Henna, and I will tell you both.”

And this eldest sister of Gryndal coven, long accustomed to command, turned on her heel and went to do the bidding of a tiny pale girl.


She ran once more to the bed chamber where her mother lay sleep talking.
“I may be a fortnight” she said to Henna.  “May you be blessed in what you do.  Her blood is in mine, and I hope that I may do honour to her grace and courage.”

Elfeena kissed her mother upon the forehead and was startled to see her awaken from the talking dream.  With bandaged hands, Merylyn gestured to her nightstand.  “Wear my wings.  They were for you, all along.”  Elfeena did not cry but closed her eyes once more with bowed head as Henna set the raven crown upon her.  And so, uplifted to see her mother lucid, at least for a time, and in Henna’s good care, Elfeena kissed her once more and made ready to leave.  All of the sisters stood to watch as Gran finished loading up the pony. “Wait a moment, girl, before I wish you Godspeed”, she said, and went into her private quarters. She returned with a long parcel wrapped in linen. “I do not know your full purpose at Cain, but I know what you carry. I do not know how you will find your way, for they have confounded the airs with a hiding spell. If you win through, they will fear you, small though you are. They may even guess the import of the raven’s wings. Carry this staff, and at least they will know from where you came. Its crescent moon is the symbol of Gryndal.”

For six days, Elfeena made her slow passage through hillside, bush, creek and thicket.  On three of the nights, she faced a cold and torrential rain, a tent of oilcloth her only protection.  The sad looking pony grazed despondently on wet grasses. They came upon predators in the forests, but the beasts kept their distance. On the seventh day, they came to a choked and reedy stream and followed it up current. At last, a dense thicket blocked their progress, and here Elfeena tied the pony. From her mother’s tales of the place, she knew she was close, and so left all behind save for the staff of Gryndal. The keening of cicadas grew stronger as she cut her way through clinging vines and undergrowth. The very air grew warmer and crackled with the noise and feel of static electricity. She felt as if she were breathed upon by some hot-blooded beast. But Elfeena and her ken were not known to the spell-makers, and fear of earthly artifice did not come to her.

In an hour’s work, she had climbed through the coarse bush, and stood upon a rise with an open view ahead. She saw, as though wavering behind a heat curtain, the thatched roofs and fencings of a compound. Her mother’s home of old. There was no one about, only a few sheep in a pen. Elfeena rightly guessed that the inmates had not arisen yet. On a stump she sat, some few hundred feet away, and waited. One could see the whiteness of her face, the roundness of her eyes, and her slightly open mouth as she read what she could of this haven and divined the scriptures of its shut-in inhabitants.


The airs about Cain still wavered some and would have vexed an ordinary seeker.
The four crones who abided there had never seen an intruder during their lifetimes, and, coming and going as they chose, they caught game and harvested what fruits the forest had to offer.

Elfeena had camped upon her stump since mid afternoon, and now the slant of late sunrays made long silhouettes on the greens of the pasture.  In heightened alertness, she spied the coven’s four come trooping out for their morning chores.  She did not move, for she wanted them to discover her.  This did not take long, as her whiteness was in stark contrast with the darkening trees.

One of the crones was surely their leader, shown out by her stature, her age, and her habit of command as she moved about her work.  Of a sudden, she spotted Elfeena, dropped her rake, stamped her foot, and let out a scream of alarm.  The others rushed to her side and stood abreast, blinking in the half-light.

Elfeena, sitting until this moment, now stood and began her slow approach.  Appearing as a bent old woman, she leaned upon Gryndal’s staff.  “STOP!”  said the tall crone.
“What are you, and what do you do here?  This is forbidden ground.”  But the small and stooped creature walked on, head bowed as if in supplication.  Thinking it was either deaf or quite brazen, the mother of Cain signalled her brood to join hands.  All was silent until they began the feverish uttering of a seldom used but long-practiced spell of banishment.  One of separation, with no return.  They feared indeed the touch of this creature and would not lay hands upon it.

Having stopped just a few paces away from the Sisters, Elfeena stood erect, and each beheld the other.  Her round eyes seemed to grow larger as she studied her adversaries. Fear, hesitation, and confusion were betrayed in their faces.  Their spell was left spinning in the crackling air.  Head Mother spoke once more in a wavering voice.  “Who are you?  What is your name, pale one?  What is your purpose?  Know that I have hexed you, and soon you will be banished from this earth.  Your staff says you are from Gryndal, but they do not wear raven’s wings, and they do not suffer such things as you.”

Elfeena gave a short and unsettling laugh.  “Yes, I have a name, dark one, but I will not suffer such things as you to know it.”  Reaching into her gown, she brought forth a small thing of gold.  “I bear another token.  You will know it, as it was in your employ.”  Looking quickly to her cronies, the Mother said, “and what is this to you?”

“You have done the unforgiveable to one that has my blood.  She lies now in a death fever.  LISTEN NOW” And her voice rang suddenly within their minds.  “Today we will have two reversals.  Take ye this thing in your hand and put upon it your voiding spell.” The Mother, shaking with a desire for control, nevertheless reached out her hand. Taking the medallion, she bowed her head and muttered so none could hear.  Returning it to Elfeena, she said “It is done.  I care not for your mother, and I see that you stand here as proof of her contract with the Devil.  Now go!”

“I said that we would have two reversals today.  Take ye the second one.”

A witch’s spell stays not unused for long.  The four Sisters doubled up, as if from a gut punch, and began their lament, for now they knew that their cruel spell had been set upon them instead, at the behest of this queer and vexing creature.  As if guided by a puppeteer, they started their long walk of fate, each to a compass point, their pinched faces looking back, looking back on the author of their misfortune.


Upon Elfeena’s return, Merylyn was still walking through forests of fever.  Drenched in sweat, she had become even more thin and delirious.  Henna had only been able to try and cool her and to give her drink.

Rather than come to her mother directly, Elfeena gave the token to Gran, asking her to bestow it.  And Gran came and put it into Merylyn’s hand.  The sleep talking trailed off and was quieted.  “My Meryl” said Gran as the breathing slowed and became deeper.  Elfeena came into the room and saw her mother’s eyes open in recognition.  “More cold cloths!’ said Gran.  Merylyn began to cry as she saw her daughter, raven-winged and road weary.

Elfeena bent down by her ear, and said these things:

Mother!  You will be healed tonight.  By tomorrow, your strength will begin to come.  Then, we are to go, Mother.

“To go?  Where, child?”

Oh, Mother!  We have many meetings!  You know who I am.  We meet the Others!


[Art by Scott Radke]

Joe’s Diner

You know a Joe. Lots of us do.

My Joe, well, he’s got it bad. Back in the day, my Joe was kinda livin’ the Dream. With a nice young wife, a good job that he liked, and, with it all, a beautiful little daughter growing up fast. A bit too fast. Young, impressionable, sullied by the sordidness of high school cliques, she lost respect for her doting parents. Emotional scenes at home, exasperation over her rebellion, lost nights of worry over her increasing absence.

Joe drank a little too much. His wife Mary had a health scare, and they decided to get life insurance. Over two hundred bucks a month it was, but they kept it up. Joe was working sixty hours a week, and thought he was a lucky guy to get it. A few more drinks when that blessed weekend came. He deserved to relax. Their girl left home at seventeen, and went God knows where. Mary’s diabetes medication was getting expensive, and secretly she stopped taking it. Joe was getting depressed and anxious, and got some sort of under-the-tongue pills from the Doc. They levelled him out pretty good. A month shy of two years of her insurance payments, Mary went to coma and died. The insurance company would not pay out the policy.

Broken now, Joe began to bumble through his job, but always made sure he had enough of those funny pills and something to wash them down with. When he forgot to pay the rent for a while, and made too many mistakes at work, his fate was sealed. Now my Joe sits under a bridge. He’s got the goddamn shakes ’cause there’s no more booze. He pats the pocket of his smelly jacket, and yeah, that plastic pill bottle’s still there, the last of his three months’ supply he begged from the Doc. Just to check, he shakes it. Oh please, God. Oh please. Two left. Fall is in the air. My Joe rises, takes his grocery bag, and in the city twilight, walks his well-worn path to McDonald’s dark dumpster.


She saw this mincing figure doing a comic amble toward her, stumbling as if drunk.  Couldn’t have been, though, ’cause that silver platter he was balancing never tilted an inch from level.  In dirty tweed and tacked-on tails, our Joe, with a toothy grin under several hats, presented Ella with the finds from his daily dumpster dive.  Cups of Coke or root beer (half empty or half full), some straggly fries, uneaten nuggets, questionable lettuce.  Fine fuel for tonight’s stomach ache.  With a flourish, he set down his garbage can lid and cozied up beside her, doing a quick study of her person. 

Ella of the red-rimmed eyes, the broken nose, the several teeth.  But, most of all, Ella of the Mona Lisa Smile.  She had been gone these recent days, and Joe had feared for her.  He said nothing, but returned her smile, then stood up to stretch and scratch. “Garçon!  A bottle of your best house wine!”  says she.  This cheered him some, seeing her old sardonic sarcasm, but he did not laugh.  The winds of late October papered them with leaves in crispy flight, and he felt the chill. 

Bumping hips, as if to shove her off the broken bench, Joe tried to be playful, to coax some more of that smile, but Ella hung her head and looked away.  He gathered her to him, cradling her head, angling her shadowed face up to his.  Ella, that hard-bitten girl, that leader of the old rat pack, was giving up.  With her face bathed in grudging tears and runny nose, she bade him “Get away.  Just get away!” They were two of the same.  Finding only ugly hurt in their lives, they did not know how to accept love.


It would not be long for old Ella, Joe thought.
Slumping, with hunched shoulders, she rocked gently on the hard bench.  With her only warm garment being a bright red scarf, she averted her eyes from him, hummed a broken tune, and shuffled her feet in an effort to outrun the cold.

Joe said to her “I’ll be gone for about half an hour, Ella, but I will come back with something to keep us warm.”  Used to empty promises, she chuckled sardonically and idly waved him away.  Joe was hoping the last dumpster he had seen on his travels had not been emptied yet.

True to his promise, he returned with a sheet of dirty foam rubber and a discarded reel of wire.  These he spread out on the sidewalk.  “Ella, I want you to lay down here.  I’m gonna keep you warm for the night.”  “You crazy?” she said, but, before she could protest further, he picked her up, laid her down on the foam sheet, and rolled her up as neat as you please, her scarlet scarf visibly entwined between the layers.  With the wire, he tied up the package in two places, just below her feet and around her shoulders.  “There you are, the human Jelly Roll!  Or….or….a winter cocoon, soon to be a summer butterfly!  You warm now?”  Her sad eyes said a thank you, and there was a thin-lipped smile.  She made as if to sleep.

Joe boxed himself in the thick old appliance carton he carried as a backpack, did up the buttons that still remained on his jacket, and tried to settle in for the night.  Within ten minutes, he knew it was no good.  The wind had picked up, and fingers or toes would be frostbitten by the morning.  He got up and went hunting down the steep slope of the ravine not far from them.  As Heaven would have it, someone had ignored the NO DUMPING sign and he found a green garbage bag full of discarded clothing.  It was his turn for a wan smile, and, before long, he was snoring in his own cocoon.

Our curtain now closes on the darkling scene:  A sleeping jellyroll dozing on the park bench, grateful for the warmth.  A crude igloo of cardboard beside her, all hands on deck, all blinds drawn.  If one peered into the waning light, one would see, through glittery snowflakes filtering down, the word REFRIGERATEUR on his side door, shown out by the fizzling beam of a faulty streetlight.



Melrose 3- five oh eight eight

Karla had just turned 42, three nights after Christmas. At a brisk pace, she hurried back home from the corner store in the cold dark dribbling rain. Up the six steps of cracked concrete, she turned her bent key to the apartment lobby.

Still dripping, she heard the same old squeal of her very own dented steel door, unit number 11. She had tied her plastic shopping bag against the rain, so tightly that her cold achy hands grew impatient with the knot, and so she grabbed the dull scissors that hung above the sink. The six-pack of stale cupcakes, each of a different color, and the mini sparklers, would be her party tonight.  In fact, she had two good reasons for this solitary celebration.  Ten years ago, on this exact date, her divorce had come through.  Not an imbalance of blame on either side, really.  No abuse, but not enough caring.  It had taken them three years to find out they were each looking for someone else.  Since that date, Karla had found her way into three different relationships with men, and all had ended in rancor.

Happy Birthday, you four-time loser.  A little chuckle as she lit the sparklers.  Haha, I ain’t blowin’ these things out, but I’m sure as hell gonna eat every one of those cupcakes tonight.  Her “loser” comment was only a repetition of something she had overheard, an ex-friend’s vitriolic comment to another, supposedly out of her hearing.  That kind of thing hurts the worst.  She had lived the ins and outs of these sad tales, and knew well the foibles of everyone involved, herself included.  She knew also that she was not a bad, evil, or false person and felt, in her heart of hearts, God damn.  We just can’t forgive each other our trespasses.

A little bloated, and on a sugar high, she pushed in the last cupcake in one go, washing it down with a glass of milk. The spent sparklers went into the trash bin. God, only ten o’clock? Ah well, let’s go to bed with a book, ’til the sugar wears off. Brush the teeth, take a pee, on with the nightgown, jump into those covers.

At 10:03, her old green wall telephone, with the kinky coiled cord, rang three times.

Paul, in those doldrum days between Christmas and New Years, had returned to his flat after a couple of days up north with his folks.  He had always liked to visit them, (sporadically, that is) even though lately his Dad had been making a few innuendos about his decidedly single life of late.  At 45 now, he had not been in any kind of relationship for over two years, since his wife Patty had been killed in a crash.  The time was coming soon, though, that he would tire of the solitary life, and he was feeling it tonight.

Two weeks back, he’d been out for a drink with some of his buddies, and somehow the conversation had gotten ’round to what their lives were like when they were kids, or teenagers growing up.  One guy had said Hey, you know something? I’m forty-seven goddamn years old, and you know what?  I can remember my goddamn phone number from the house I lived in on Calvington Drive until I was sixteen.  How many of you schmucks can say that?  Paul had asked him what the big deal was, we all had things we remembered from our childhood, then was sorry he had said it.  His wobbly little buddy was nonplussed, but not belligerent, and got up to go home.  That had ended their night.  The thing was, Paul thought, yes the funny thing was that he had found himself remembering exactly the same thing on his way home.

Tonight, in the quiet cold rain of December 28th, as he lay in his comfy recliner watching some brainiac show on television, he didn’t realize that he was smiling as the number surfaced once again, as if it had floated into view on one of those old Magic 8-Ball toys. I’m gonna have a little fun tonight. This’ll be just like being a kid and playing Nicky Nicky Nine Doors. He slid his phone out of his pocket and dialed the number: *** 743-5088. Melrose Three, Five Oh Eight Eight. He had to see what soul was now at the end of this nondescript number he had held in memory for thirty years. He was uncertain as to what he would say to them, or how they would react, but his curiosity was in high gear now. ………At 10:02, he dialed.

Three rings, no answer.  He suddenly lost his nerve and hung up.  Sat there reproaching himself for being such a chicken, lit another smoke, then took the plunge.  Three more rings, then a woman’s voice.  “Hello?”  Hi.  My name is Paul.  I…..  “ I’m not interested, thanks”……..No no, I’m not selling anything, please give me a sec.  “Who are you?” I know it’s a stupid thing to say, but I had your phone number growing up, until I was fifteen.  I just wanted to see if it was still around, and who it belonged to.  “Well, that’s a bit crazy, right?”  Yes, I’m real sorry.  To have bothered you, I mean.  No more questions.  I’ll let you go, and have a good night.  And, haha, please don’t report my number.  “Now, how would I do that?”  Well, it must be showing up on your phone, right?  “Showing up?  Haha, no, buddy.  I’ve got a green wall phone from the 1960’s.  Don’t worry about that.” Ok, well, goodbye, and sorry once again.

Paul, red-faced, lay back in his chair again, an annoyed squint upon his face. Why so nervous, old man? It seemed that serendipity had done its ellipse back to him after his time of grief and loneliness. He remembered once again how he had met his wife of fifteen years. It was over the telephone. He had called to make an appointment with a dentist. She had answered the phone. If an electronic signal can convey spirit, it did on that day, in both directions. Something in her voice, her inflections. They had started to chat, at first haltingly, then as if they were long lost pals. He had gotten up the nerve to ask her out, with freezing still in his cottony mouth, after he had come out from his root canal. She had thought it was hilarious.

Something about this voice tonight. He dialed the number again.  Boy, this time I am going to be in hot shit. The line was busy.  He hung up. Dude, go to bed. Then his own rang. *743-5088 is calling you.*

“Hello? Listen, I’m sorry, I ….”
It’s okay. Don’t worry, Paul. You didn’t wake me up or anything. I just don’t normally get many phone calls. The more I thought about your little request the more I laughed about it. It’s something that I would probably do myself. What made you do it, anyway?”

“Oh, Just something stupid. One of my buddies was bragging that he could remember his childhood phone number, and it made me think about the same kind of thing. It was just an affectionate thought that came to my head because it was a nice time in my life those first 15 years. Stability, same place, same friends, happy parents. Good time. I just got curious if the old number was still around, did not mean to upset you.”

“You’re a bit strange, aren’t you? Maybe kind of like me. By the way, my name’s Karla.”

(Paul is thinking “maybe I’ve got a live one here”) “Are you kidding? Your name is Karla?”(pause on the other end, then “something wrong with my name?“) “No. No. It’s just…haven’t you heard about the infamous couple Paul and Karla who went around killing people?”

“Oh, for Chrissakes, yes. And we’re not a couple.”

“Forgive me presuming, but it feels like you’re alone.  Would you like to go out for a coffee sometime?”

Forgive me for not assuming, but are you alone or attached?”

“Okay, touche.  I’m two years a widower.”

“Oh Jesus.  So sorry.  My mouth gets me in trouble once again.”

“That’s okay.  But you didn’t answer my question.”

“More alone than you might think.  Divorced ten years ago.  A few short relationships since then.  I guess I’m just a bitch.”

“Well, meeting for a coffee can’t hurt….unless you think I might be one of those internet stalkers.”

“What’s Internet?”

“Are you kidding?”

“Listen, buddy.  You’re talking to somebody who still has a wall phone and gets two channels on her television”.

“Hah!  This might be fun, you know?  I could pick you up on Saturday.”

“Um, you’re scaring me a bit.  Could I take a raincheck and call you?”

“Sure, Karla, I’ll keep the afternoon clear.”

(She is thinking “Boy, I’ve got a real live one here.”)

She lies in bed, lights out.  The bitchy old TV staring at her with its snowy screen.  Finishing her chocolate milkshake and chips, she wipes the crumbs away.  I’ll vacuum later.  She wrestles with conflicting emotions.  Lonely too long, but comfortable in her penury, like an old shoe.  Her long-time job as a cashier, just enough to pay the rent and eat a little.  This guy just might be one of those internet creeps.  And, am I gonna go through this stuff again, for the fifth time?  The very last thing that worries her to sleep is her broken tooth, on the front, of course.

As for Paul, he has no such worries.  He sleeps the sleep of the dead, probably the best one he’s had in years.

Thursday morning found Karla at the local butcher.  Well, actually, dentist.  She and her friends had called him The Butcher because of his reputation for bad jobs or not enough anesthetic.  But, he had filled the need for someone affordable in this sad neighborhood.  “Can you make this look more like a tooth?”  He assured her he could, but it would cost her five hundred, cash on the line.  “Three hundred.  I can have it by Friday”.  Four hundred would do it, he said, but the price would go up next week.

Thursday afternoon found her at the local Coin & Stamp shop, toting a plastic bag containing a large album.  It had been her father’s.  He had been a collector, and she was certain that some of the things in it had value.  The short grey-haired man behind the counter began to leaf through it, paused a couple of times, took a closer look, then said: “I’ll offer you two hundred”.  She knew then that there was something he wanted, and said “I just came from the library, and I looked some of these up.  Just some of them.  And it looks like this whole thing is worth at least five.”  “Ma’am, those stamp catalogs are just guidelines.  The market fluctuates.”  “Okay.  I’m going somewhere else.”
She walked.  “Will you take three hundred?”…….sold.

By Friday afternoon, she had taken half a mouthful of Tylenol for the pain and was scratching her top lip and itchy nose.  She took one more look in the mirror.  It would have to do.  She hoped the glue would hold out as long as he had said it would.  He had taken the three hundred, with a promissory note for the rest.

She made the nervous phone call to Paul.  Great.  He would pick her up tomorrow afternoon.  They would go for their coffee and wherever else she wanted to go.  Everything would be fine.  She searched her closet and dresser for her Sunday best, and found some pantyhose, a tartan pleated dress, a white lacy blouse, and a pair of her sister’s hand-me-down shoes, in navy blue.  Then spent an hour ironing each one of the pleats in the kilt.

It could be said that Karla was close to being as blind as a bat without her glasses.  Horn-rimmed and sturdily built to last the ages, they had a thick lens on one side and almost plain glass on the other.  While she was bent over the ironing, they fell to the tiled floor with a click.  Oh God.  Oh God.  She panicked and stumbled about looking for them.  Then, crunch.  She found them.  In two pieces.

Now, almost in tears, she remembered the tube of glue the butcher had given her, to be used in an emergency in case her new tooth broke again.  Went to the dresser, pulled out the old magnifying glass, and set to work.  That, my girl, is enough for one day.  We’re going to bed early tonight.

“No, don’t come to my building. The lot is full and they’re parking on the street. I’ll meet you at the diner. It’s right at the corner of Main and 5th. Oh shit….how will I know you?”

“I’ll be the only one wearing a hat that says HI KARLA on it. Don’t worry, we’ll find each other”

So, Paul is there about 15 minutes early, after ripping a page out of his calendar in the glove compartment, penciling her name in big block letters, and sticking it on his hat band. He sits and orders a coffee, fidgets a bit.

Karla takes one last look in her closet mirror and slumps a little. Jesus. This whole outfit just screams 1960’s Bag Lady. Oh well, it’s a good test. If he can’t take me as I am, I’ll know it right away. No sense in wasting time.

She’s 15 minutes late. He’s on his second coffee, when he sees, through the slits in the blinds, a woman kind of peeking in the front window. He doesn’t know if she’s looking for something inside or studying her reflection. At any rate, it’s a little comical. A crooked pair of glasses rides on a face that squints a little as it studies its own teeth. She walks on, and a few seconds later, makes an awkward entrance.

He’s a bit stricken. Is this her? A tartan skirt with neat pleats, only a few folded over on themselves. Nylons….nylons? who wears nylons anymore? Shoes a little too big, making for a mincing stride as she walks towards his table. But, bright eyes. Yes. Bright eyes. One a little bigger than the other with those peculiar glasses. Full of spirit.

Paul stands up and smiles. What Karla sees, aside from the ridiculous hat, is a nervous guy dressed in Sunday best blue jeans, a suit jacket, and construction boots. But, he was clean.

Good. We’re both nervous. And he hasn’t laughed at me yet. Perfect start.

Paul pulls out a chair for her and smiles diffidently.  Then does something that neither he nor Karla is expecting.  Impulsively, he picks up her hand and puts his own over it.
“I’m Paul”.

“I thought you must be.”, she says, looking at his hat.

(Here is a real original, he thinks)

“What can I get you, Karla?  I’m all coffeed out, but we can have lunch”.

She orders, then sits primly, with fingers entwined in front of her.  Her eyes move quickly up and down, then she turns her head to the side with a little embarrassed smile.

All at once, he is charmed.  She has said only five words, but, in a flash, he has taken in his first impression:  Shy, but playful.  An unconscious batting of the eyelashes, like Betty Boop or Mae West or one of those.  He thought that kind of thing had went the way of the Dodo.  The glued cockeyed glasses.  The unwillingness to smile openly (wonder why?)  The baggy socks pulled on over her nylons, but not enough to cover the run in them.

She sees him as a guy who’s going a little grey (he’s taken off his hat).  Someone with a quirky sense of humor, maybe? (The note is still sticking out of it).  Someone who has had a great sadness settle upon them.  What has touched her the most is the sudden gesture he made, taking her hand like that.

He tries for the humor once again, saying “You know, I am not used to having strange women just walk up to my table and sit down.”

“And I’m not used to having someone pick up my hand like that.”

“Did I offend you?  The devil made me do it.”

“Well, no.  It’s like something out of the movies.”

“Hah!  Funny you should say that.  Just now, I was thinking the same thing about you.”

“Okay.  Now I know you’re buttering me up.  The last thing I look like is a movie star.”

“Now, this may sound weird.  Smile for me a second, Karla.”  (She does, but just a grin)
“No, smile the way you felt when I picked up your hand.”  There we go.  He sees the funny crooked tooth, a little bit off color from the others.  She looks down at the table.

“That’s it!  I know!  You’re somewhere between Carol Burnett and Mae West.”

“You better not be making fun, ’cause I don’t know either one of them.  I told you, I only get two channels.”

“Both charming women.  Don’t worry about that.”

“I was waiting for you to say something about my clothes, and then I thought you had better not.  You came to a date wearing work boots!……sorry, Paul, it’s just funny, that’s all.”

“So, I have two things to tell you.  First, madam, I came in jeans and work boots because they called me in for a couple hours this morning and I had no time to change.  The sports jacket was an afterthought.”

(Karla has a sheepish look, thinking she has offended him)

“Secondly, I see in you someone who has maybe disrupted her own life just to come and see someone like me, and I am touched by that.”

“Yes, well.  You cost me three hundred bucks so far”


“Oh Geez, never mind.  It looks like we’re both glad we came out, eh?”

“I am, Karla.  (he leans over to her).  “Come with me, and I’ll show you my etchings”.


“Never mind.  It’s something from the movies, I think.”


A dream Dad, a burning yearn.

Why’d you lead me into corn-stubbled hills? This mind of mine swirls with overthink. Come on, old man. We’re supposed to be waiting by the highway for that Buick to pick us up. It is to take me home. You’re just a distraction.

Suggestibility is a downfall of mine. I’ve followed too many false prophets. And, why do you take the name of my dead Dad? You’re not him. So I’ll turn and defy you. Walk right by you. Screw the corn, it’s without meaning. Highway it is for me.

Hah! I look back and see you following in your rubber boots, making dusty puffs in the dried mud, defeat and aggravation on your puss. Now, over the last rise, there’s the fence by the highway! The beige Buick with the young kid driving it…

He must have been waiting and didn’t see us, ’cause now he’s pulling away.
I shout. Shout No No No! and he sees us, stops. Smiling braces, freckles, ball cap. Say something, Old Man. I done beat you, you couldn’t take me to your false halls.

We start to roll on the smooth road. The young kid is from my nucleus. He’s been sworn not to say much, but he tells me the car has to go in for repairs, and he’s going to drop us in town for some “entertainment”. And, Old Man, I know you’re a lecher, and I do believe that you and Alfred, here, have been talking. Entertainment. Yah. He drops us off in the red light district, and you try your come hither again, but no, not this time. So you shrug, and I watch you descend long long stairs into a floodlit mine.

I know my lot is going to be something better today, and I don’t even care about the Buick no more. I walk slowly, through side streets of old houses. I wonder why I’m so warm, and then I realize I’m holding a cat. Then, through a hedge, I see a house with a picture window.

The living room has a soft glow of orange, and there’s someone in a rocker. And I stand, a voyeur with his cat. Kitty purrs now, and I can feel it through my chest.

A slow hand parts the lace curtains, and I see knitting. And I cry a man’s tears at the rosy cheeked face of Mom.

The coldest knight of the year

Sack of a face. All dragged down by gravity and surrendered muscles. It’s supposed to take more of them to frown than to smile, but nature disagrees. And what’s he doin’ now, that old Aqualung? Shufflin’ along the sidewalk. Dangerous as a stage player. There, he’s found the metal grate, the rising heat curtain. Marilyn Monroe ain’t around today. Takes off his cracked vinyl mitts, sets ’em on the steel, then, by God, his shoes too! Turns ’em upside down for the free warming. He has a small buckle-down suitcase that has kids’ cartoons on it. This is his seat while he warms his feet. It’s funny, you know. He’s at his ease, if you please, as he parts the stream of the flowing crowd. Made his peace, knows his destiny. Has already had his talk. The disdain is theirs. Maybe they see. Some of them stop for our Joe, and they know where to put the coins on him. One woman told him she was coming today with new mitts. If he can stand here long enough, he can store up the warmth for a while. Just yesterday, Joe got told to move on, because he made a mistake. He’d let his bitterness get the best of him, and had jumped out randomly at passers-by, scaring them. Never would hurt anyone, not really. But it’s hard. And now, there she comes. The lady with the red scarf. She waves and smiles, gives him a purple velvet bag with a drawstring top. “Your mitts, Joe”. She smiles and pats his shoulder, then walks on. Joe had nodded and hung his head. He sat a while longer before he opened the bag with cracked fingers. There were his new insulated mittens, and some other things. Some other things. He closed it quickly, put it inside his coat, and hugged himself tightly.


[image: ]

Child of grace

Just this morning, Clarice went to coma. In hallways of cottony grey she swims, but not aimlessly. She has shed the displeasures of the flesh, and does not feel, as they slide the needles and tubes into it and make the lungs rise and fall. Only hears, in a fast fade, the pops and clicks and hisses. She knows there will be no visitors for a time.

So small now, with lightness, this sprite of being.
The singularity awaits, the neutron star that holds the knowing. She can touch it, she senses, but waits for divine invitation. In her life of walking, she has been shown but parts of its great story and, in those moments, her friends and kin have turned away and left her in quietness.

And soon, we know now, Clarice will return, and fill the languishing body with a spirit of soft fire. The quietness will stay in her person, and grace will shine. If you are the one to whom she turns her eyes, beware, for she may ask you to walk for a while.


When they went to clean out the dead man’s room, one could see their noses wrinkle from the smell of his cigar years.  There was sweeping and wall washing to be done, but the first thing was to get that stuck window open.  Brother John was dispatched to the hardware for a crowbar.  Their old man had really been a slob.  Floors, furniture, and nearly all other surfaces were rimed over with a thin coating of smoke-embedded grease, and the tile floor was cracked and puckered.

A fold-up easel leaned against the wall by a closet door, and a battered metal case stood beside it.  Since his retirement at age 60, Henry and his loosely-knit family had fallen away from one another.  When it became clear that all he wanted to do was smoke and paint, mother had cut her losses and ran. Henry took this dim little room above a second-hand store. He had enough money to provide each of them with a meagre living and to buy himself unhealthy food and have it brought to him.

And he painted.  Once a month, in summers, he would slide some of his canvasses into the back of his Ford pickup, and set up shop in the pothole parking lot of a small plaza. His stuff was different, oddly pleasing, and a cut above what you would find at Woolworth’s or Kresge’s.  John and Sheila had seen his work, and thought it strange but mediocre.

This night, as they aired the place out and began scrubbing, Henry’s landlord came to the door to see how things were progressing.  Sheila asked him if he knew of a key that their father might have kept for the lock on his closet door.  “No, and that will need fixing too, once you get it off. And no, I don’t have no bolt cutters.”  John nodded, and made another trip to the hardware store.

The deed was done, and the door creaked open with a musty smell.  Dad’s old football jacket, a beanie, some mitts, and a pair of snow boots.  A half dozen shirts that looked as if each might have been devoted to a day of the week, and one worn twice on weekends. And, on the floor in the darkest corner, some rectangular bundles wrapped in towels and tied with twine.

The two kids, having no tools of their own, used the bolt cutters on the heavy string.  When they unfolded the towels, they found Henry’s treasures.  Three paintings as real as photographs.  The first depicted a man’s shirted shoulder, and his hairy arm with a rolled up sleeve.  A leather belt dangled from his fist. In the background was a blurred shadow.  A small figure cowering on the floor with its hands protecting its head.  The second, in stark relief, was of the man’s fist, held up in a threatening manner. A gold signet ring leered back at the viewer.  John and Sheila knew that ring.

The last was a portrait of a boy, barely into his teens.  His bruised face and contorted mouth told all that was needed.  The boy was Henry.  Besides his cuts and bruises, he had one other thing to remember his father by.


Photo by Brett Hurd.


If you found me this evening time (for such it is),  you would know things that have been out of your sight.  The way that I put on my skin and my bones.    How my legs bend after dark.  What I do with the possibility of fingers.  How my movements compare to yours, since I have learned the body.

In this world, there is one who is Nemesis to me.  Her native name is known to none here.  To the few with whom she has spoken, she is Sarah.  Always, she is young, and speaks with a soothing silken tone.  Know that she is false, though she appears handsome and trustworthy.  Soon, she will reveal herself as an emissary from a benevolent civilization whose great concern is the well-being and survival of this world.

Believe it not, for I and my fellows will show, by our true actions, that we are the ones to whom you should look.  The Sarah-body shall be found and rendered inoperable.  Its pilot may flee or, at the least, face the rehabilitation of another that is suitable.  We will be tireless in our pursuit.

In the beginning

In the bleak black crack of a Singularity,
a palindrome world is hid.
It had a name that time forgot,
but none could mispronounce

Doppelgangers dwelt in its brimstone airs.
Fleshed out from learned lives in Otherlight,
their honour is the keeping of an Obelisk.

Placed upon this cinder world,
and not made by man or creature,
it is outside of space and time.

None may see it closely,
save for the days of their death.
And, when their spirits flee,
they will have seen a thing, etched in its glassy gleam:
The Yin and the Yang of Existence.