“Aqaara” on “Outer Places”

The first installment of Aqaara has been posted on Outer Placeshttps://www.outerplaces.com/science-fiction/item/19034-aqaara-two-don-gibson

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Aqaara Outtake: Up the Narrow Gap

It’s been a long time since my last post – six weeks, a new record. Have I lost interest? Am I just writing? I don’t know. Here is an outtake of what I am working on:

There was just the sound at first, high overhead, the wind bending over the trees, branches dipping down into each other, and then the sunlight flashing across her arms. And then the smell of the lake nearby, water splashing up a narrow gap, her feet on the cool rock, toes gripping onto the cracks, tight to the bumps and scales of the surface, padding down the porous surface, a little girl there, crouched down, by the bushes at the shore, scraping at the lichen, poking her fingers into the water, and she was beside her, both of them, bending down, tiny fish schooling nervously against in the dark alcoves, and felt the girl lean into her, her hair ticking her arm, her breathing mingled with the sound of the water, and then looking back at her, her sharp hazel eyes, looking back briefly and then back down into the water. 

“I spoiled you.” Dee was there now, and they were walking together on adjoining paths. “I did everything you wanted. I never said no.”

The trees rose up on either side, languid and old, the wind pushing hard through their tops. It was a comforting sound, like waves on the shore, protected in the shadows. It was a remarkable thing how each step was made, the next rock calculated, up to the next one, crossing from side to side of the trail, measuring the gaps, moving forward.

 “Slow down, Apollo.”

“That’s Icarus.”

“Is it?” Calli squinted ahead, the sun slanting across, the shadows now sharp and long.

Dee was getting ahead, Icarus and Apollo beside her. “You need to catch up.”

“Don’t be cruel.”

“That’s who I am. That’s who we are.”

“I’m not.”

“You’re the worst.”

“No.” Calli had to use her hands now, pulling up on the edge of each slat, and then her feet, full-fledged climbing. Icarus and Apollo were way ahead now, almost at the foot of the castle. They were going to get there in a minute. She couldn’t believe that, that they had climbed so fast. It was amazing. Dee was almost there too, and then there was the sound of something coming apart, tools scattered loose in a box, rattling against the sides, hard back and forth, and then suddenly released, a last slip of a metal shaft against a metal edge, and then nothing.

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.

Bouncing and Rolling Like A Kid

After 1,100 posts – and watching The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling – I have come to realize that for this blog to mean anything, it should be more personal and real. And so we’ll see how that goes…

There was no greater pleasure as a kid than to lie on my side in bed, my left side, my arm bottom bent a little out, my top arm flopped forward, and roll to music. My brother did it too, the record player between us. A favorite was The Beatles. I liked the Blue album; he liked the Red. It was a simple act, rolling back and forth on my side. It was comforting and helped me drift into the music.We bounced too, the three of us, my brother, sister and I. We listened to The Partridge Family in the living room and took turns in the bouncy chair, which wasn’t really that bouncy, but rather a wingback chair that had some bounce in the back. We each got a song and then the next person got to go. I loved bouncing. And then we realized that none of our friends seemed to bounce in their chairs listening to music, or certainly never talked about it.

That’s when it all became a secret, the bouncing and rolling, subjects of shame. My older sister insisted that she had stopped bouncing, but we caught her doing it on her own. And then she mocked us for rolling, something she had never done. “Are you still rolling in bed? What babies!” And so my brother stopped, or said he did. Not me. We were now in separate rooms, and I liked rolling. I rolled in the darkness of my room through middle and high school, because there was nothing as safe and perfect as that.

I tried rolling again years later but didn’t get it. It was an odd thing to do, and I couldn’t find the rhythm. I was no longer a kid.

Donald Flynt – Burdens to Bear

Donald Trump has been a heavy burden on my psyche over the past couple of years – the fury, the vitriol, and most of all, the deceit. I try to laugh it off but then I think it’s better to drink and forget and do that instead. It was during one such purge that it occurred to me how Trump isn’t unique, that he is the same as so many nameless other millions, to say nothing of the named ones too – Sean Hannity, Larry Flynt, the Koch brothers et al. – and they’re what we’re stuck with if we’re to perpetrate this fantasy of free speech. And, while we should throw these idiots in jail for their hate speech, the reality is that most people suck, and another racist/misogynistic schmuck will just take his place. Which is another good reason to drink.

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)

My Bucket List

  1. Voice displeasure at anyone having a “bucket list” because it’s childish and inane. (Okay check, did that.)
  2. When I search “Amazon”, get the jungle and not the shipping monopoly. (Maybe when they get bought out by “Sahara”?)

Kill-Devil into Rumbullion

Tom Standage’s History of the World in Six Glasses details the discovery of humanity’s first spirits: The planters of Barbados gained more than just sugarcane  and equipment from Brazil; they also learned how to ferment the by-products of the sugar-making process and the distill the result to make a powerful alcoholic drink. A traveler who visited Barbados in 1651 observed that the islanders’ preferred drink or “chief fudling” was “Rumbullion, alias Kill-Devil, and this is made of sugar-canes distilled, a hot, hellish and terrible liquor.” Rumbullion, a slang word from southern England that means “a brawl or violent commotion” may have been chosen as the drink’s nickname because that was frequently the outcome when people drank too much of it. Rumbillion, shortened to rum, spread throughout the Caribbean.

Criminals’ Heads Strapped Together

She wanted to leave the party for the tour of the Mali pavilion so that we could steal their catalogs. I was terrified because I had just seen a documentary about how they kept criminals confined with their heads strapped together. But she was insistent, leaning forward, tightening her pants.Traffic was bad, both getting there and then with all of the magazines falling over from their stacks, and there was a roadblock at the bottom of the hill.I cursed her for getting me into this, and I almost turned off into the bushes. She laughed at me. “They don’t care about us.” And she was right.

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)