Aqaara: Moving at Hawking 4X Speed*

The connector to Dee Pod was empty, the infinitesimal vibrations somehow building out here with the view out the oblong windows of the deep blackness. Calli stared out into it, looking for something to move, the stars to move past, a planet to appear as a fleeting shadow, but she only had a vague sense of motion, moving forward maybe, and then not, just still again, going nowhere, hovering. And then as suddenly, forward again, something there and then gone, a planet, moon or fragment of something like that, thrusting forward, and then suddenly back, hard, twisting around, the thing coming past the other way, falling backwards now, thinking she might vanish like that, her heart in the back of her head, plunging, a real sense of going down that rabbit hole, in that thing, going forward and back at the same time, not in the same place, but around and around, up and down, all at once. And then spat out of that, lurching ahead, really forward at Hawking 4X, At that speed so close to light, feeling that, getting somewhere, the glare and things in the blackness really moving past, leaving those for the next, exploding ahead into the darkness, as fast she was she was moving still, on into nothing.

*Hawking 4X: four time Hawking Speed which, at .21 light speed, is the fastest speed Stephen Hawking believes humans will ever be able to travel.

The Anga: From “Aqaara”

…where we leave our guarded understanding to break free from that containment to find the universe that lives within all of us.

“We sat on the rocks. All of us we were naked, stark naked. It wasn’t a sex thing, none of that. It was just being naked by the lake.” Liyuan’s mouth was too big for his head, his hairline a straight line on his forehead; he wasn’t as old as he felt, moving his hands slowly over his knees as he spoke. “We saw the storm at the far end of the lake, billowing up, thick and black, rich, swirling over the tops of the trees. The trees were lush green in that light. And the thunder, the way it rolled down from the heavens, the lightning echoing behind it, that was the magic. The rain came racing up the lake, that pristine darkness suddenly a tumult with it hammering down. The drops splattered on our skin and the rocks, so cool and wonderful. And we slipped into the water, pushed out from the shore, our bodies wavering beneath the surface, and drifted out into the downpour. It was the most natural thing on earth, swimming into that glorious darkness, so warm, out into the middle of the lake.”

Ashe knew all of this. She had experienced these very thoughts, floated in this exact dream, but it had vanished. She could not hold it.

“We were in the middle of the lake, the rain coming down in sheets, just sheets and sheets of it. That’s what I remember the most, the rain, the lightning a mile away, the quiet, the sound of the rain against the lake, the black clouds and the still water, so dark and pure. And I’m afraid of that. I’ve always been afraid of the dark water. Always afraid. But not this. Not this.”

Po appeared on the shore, floating just above the lake, indiscernible for the woman, not Ashe, who tried to will her away. It never worked.

“We stayed in the lake, our faces looking back at each other, turning around, spitting out water, little streams of it, the impression of our fluttering arms and hands beneath the surface, just a hint of those. This was it. A moment of divine existence. Yes. Exactly that.” He closed his eyes as he rocked slowly forward and back, his hands out for balance. “And then the lightning was right there, a streak of it across the black sky and into the water, the thunder ripping through us, the storm right on top of us. We knew we had to leave. It was dangerous. And we didn’t. We stayed, thinking we might die like this, struck dead, floating belly up, and we were good with that. I was overjoyed. Overjoyed.” He stared at her, wide-eyed.

“The program makes you get out of the water.”

“Out of the water?” His face suddenly became creased, his eyebrows moving sharply down, his mouth pulled tight. The light had gone out of his eyes; he was going to cry.

Ashe pulled his hands together and cupped them in hers. “None of that. You hear me?”

He held her eyes, staring back, dark, his mouth a sharp line, and then reached out and touched her chin. “That’s an error. That was the purpose of creating it, that lightning shearing the air, terrifying blasts every second moment. And yet never have I been so without fear. I belonged there.” He sighed and sat up straight again. “Sometimes I think that I might still be there, still in that water.” “The program needs to be rewritten.”

“Yes.” He nodded back firmly and let out some tears.

More of Aqaara can be read here:https://www.outerplaces.com/science-fiction/item/19061-aqaara-three-don-gibson

Read more of Aqaara on “Outer Places”

The spaceship Anori approaches Hawking Speed as it exits the Earth’s solar system: https://www.outerplaces.com/science-fiction/item/19034-aqaara-two-don-gibson

Alone in the Mountains

I have a conflicted passion for hiking alone in the mountains, simultaneously reveling in and terrified by the solitude. This Aqaara excerpt reflects that:

It was clear ahead, the sky suddenly bright, all the trees gone. The summit was close, the trial suddenly steep. A small tree acted as a handhold and then a shelf of rock. It was unavoidable to not kick the edge, to not let it gouge into my ankle and thigh. The pain was almost good. It wasn’t a surprise to see it not there, to see more trees ahead, that this was just a blow-down, the trees twisted into a brambled heap, like a massive hand had swiped through. I watched my hand reach out ahead, pulling me up, watched the sleeve rumple up and flatten down again, over and over again, like I was a machine, reaching, pulling, moving ahead, a marvelous, thoughtless thing, moving on, knowing there were miles yet to the top. It was good knowing that it would not stop, that my legs and feet would have to not stop, that the path would wind ahead to the next false summit and I would turn and find more ahead. There was something on the horizon, far off through the trees. It was coming, slowly at first, seeing me move away, and was then moving faster. That feeling ground into me, about to be eaten, as I returned down the trail, jumping rock to rock and then climbed up into a tree, breaking the branches. The beast was still far and yet it wasn’t. It was awful how it crept closer, watching my ridiculous attempts to climb further, knowing what I would do, more than me, dreadful. The thing was still coming, methodical. It looked like a lion but stood on its hind legs and looked at her like something else, with awareness. I broke the final branch and clung to the peak, but the only escape was jumping now, and that is what I had to do, except the thing grabbed me by the neck and held until I stretched out like a cartoon, and then shook myself awake, and lay there, still, the images still hard and real.

Gerald Durrell’s “My Family and Other Animals”

But the shyest and most self-effacing of the wall community were the most dangerous; you hardly ever saw one unless you looked for it, and yet there must have been several hundred living in the cracks of the wall. Slide a knife-blade carefully under a piece of the loose plaster and lever it gently away from the brick, and there, crouching beneath it, would be a little black scorpion an inch long, looking as though he were made of polished chocolate. They were weird looking things, with their flattened, oval bodies, their neat, crooked legs, the enormous crab-like claws, bulbous and jointed neatly as armor, and the tail like a string of brown beads ending in a sting like a rose thorn. The scorpion would lie quite quietly as you examined him, only raising his tail in an almost apologetic gesture of warning if you breathed too hard on him. If you kept him in the sun too long he would simply turn his back on you and walk away, and then slide slowly but firmly under another section of plaster. I grew very fond of these scorpions. I found them to be pleasant, unassuming creatures with, on the whole, the most charming habits. (153)

Franz Kafka’s “Amerika”: Nightmare Travels

It was so dark that Karl could not tell at first whether the curtains were drawn or the room was perhaps windowless; finally he noticed a little attic window and pulled back the cloth, letting in some light. The room had two beds, though both were occupied. Karl saw two young people, who were fast asleep and seemed less than trustworthy, especially since for no apparent reason they slept fully dressed and one even had his boots on. (85) In the morning, the two men had no objections to Karl’s accompanying them. Karl had no sooner agreed than they gave him the friendly advice that he should take off his beautiful suit, for it would be a hindrance in finding jobs. Actually at this very inn there was a great opportunity for disposing of the suit since the chambermaid dealt in used clothing. They helped Karl, who had not yet reached a final decision about the suit, remove it and took it away. (91)

Nathaniel Philbrick Explains How to Eat People

Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea details the tragedy of the Whaleship Essex in 1819, a journey that ended in cannibalism. And he describes the procedure fully:

He, like most sailors forced to resort to cannibalism, began by removing the most obvious signs of the corpse’s humanity – the head, the feet, feet, skin – and cosigned them to the sea. They next had to remove the heart, liver, and kidneys from the bloody basket of the ribs. Then they began to hack the meat from the backbone, ribs and pelvis. After the lighting the fire at the bottom of the boat, they roasted the organs and meat and began to eat. (166)

Dumpster Office

I got a job. And it’s a good one.Flexible hours and a place to hide.

Florida Keys: After Hurricane Irma

Four months after Hurricane Irma, the Florida Keys are still covered by the detritus of the storm. Although many residents have returned, abandoned homes are still a common sight. Big Pine Key, the worst hit of the keys, remains cluttered with boats, refrigerators and motor homes. And yet the Key Deer, an endangered species, seem to be as plentiful as ever. 

Make Up Your Mind, Stubhub!

Stubhub messed up. Sold me tickets for the Inter-Milan Derby and then didn’t send anything. After three weeks of emails and one hand-written letter later, I got this: And then I got this: Not sure what it all means.