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

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.

Aqaara Scene: “Sex to Avoid Death”

The crowd was larger, people up both walkways, chants and holograms everywhere. A bright orange drone floated above, slowly coming down.

“Hello, how are you doing?” It was the man from the Hive, now dressed and atop a glider, floating behind the drone.

“Want me to smash that thing?”

“We’re making a film,” he replied.

Dee frowned.

“Name’s Norich.” He raised his eyebrows at her as he glided down. “How would you feel about me filming you now?”

“For what?”

“A document.”

“For your personal pleasure?”

“Sort of Cinema Verite.” The camera-drone, an orange sloped contraption, floated down over his shoulder. “I’m examining the nature of The Hive for the Ark News. The impetus of that, right? I’m thinking individually, right? Why do we do the things we do?” He looked half drunk, the way he glanced back and forth between them. “Like, what is to experience it?”

Dee shrugged. “Go ahead and try it.”

He landed, leaning forward, wincing at the effort to think of an answer that could not be deflected. “Wisdom, knowledge, that is very human.”

Dee studied his long face, almost earnest, knowing he wanted to listen, his hands open in front of him, waiting for something. “Sex, that’s what I think you’re after, sex and more of it.” Norich nodded back at her. “You know how people say that men want to have sex with young women to avoid their fear of death? That gorgeous taut flesh, so primal and real, the dream of the boy through the old man, it’s got nothing to do with dying, my friend. It’s just being alive, that sexual drive, mindless and direct. But to avoid death? No, it’s not that. Everything is to avoid death. Eating, drinking, going to the bathroom—”

“What about good driving habits then?” Dee added.

“That’s sure as hell part of it, awareness of what you are – your limitations, that you have a perspective, that you’re aware that we tend to think that we know something—”

“You men?”

“Us people. That we know something that no one else can exactly understand. Even with as much as anyone might know, in their mind for a certainty, whatever is gathered through books and media, experience, relationships, there’s only that, only that perspective.”

“Humility then,” Dee ventured.

“Yes, that’s part of it.”

“I think what you really mean is sex,” Dee concluded. “And the answer is no.”

“It’s more our limitations.” Norich tried to pat her on the shoulder. “It’s all about being aware of that.”

“So we’re in agreement then.” Dee went past him into The Hive.

Safe. Writing too.

I know my blog has been lacking as of late – and will be again – but in the meantime, I will get at it as I am writing as I should, attempting to complete a third draft of Aqaara, the second part of my speculative trilogy. Anyway, here is an expunged scene:

“You ever been on the subway in New York, Faith?”

“Yes, of course I have.”

“Ever take your son there?”

She looked scared, like she might leave. “Yes.”

“I was on the subway a few years ago, and there were two men arguing, two guys yelling at each other. Everybody backed away from them. It was the commuter rush. Nobody wanted to get near. And then one of them punched the other guy, hard, knocking him backwards into a wooden bench.”

“Bam! Bam!” The boy jumped up and down.

“The guy yelled, ‘And stay down!’ And walked right onto the train with us. No one spoke. He was standing right beside me. I knew I should have said something. ‘You assaulted that man! That is a crime! You can’t do that.’ But I didn’t. I said nothing. I did nothing, like everyone else. I was afraid he might have a gun or a knife. That’s what I told myself. The subway doors closed. He looked around at all of us, defiant. Nobody would meet his eyes. And we stayed like that, us commuters just going home like it was a normal day, a criminal with us now, and then it pulls into the next stop, 59th Street, and he gets off. I looked at the woman next to me. We were both so relieved to have him gone. The doors closed, and we continued on our way.”

New York Subway Story

“I had a chance to do something another time a week or so after that, on the subway again,” Liyuan offered. “A young boy, maybe 10 years old, was performing a dance for a crowded train, with his father watching beside him.”

The boy approached Icarus again, head twisted to the side, humming a tune to himself.

“It was late at night, maybe midnight, and so I said something this time. ‘There’s a reason for child labor laws, you know.’ He glared back as the train pulled into Union Square. The doors opened, and he kicks me, hard, just like that. I was so surprised by that. ‘Mind your own damn business.’ And he storms off the train, pushing his kid ahead of him. It took me days to realize that I had been assaulted.”

“I liked living in New York,” Dee offered. “The people are real.”

“Even if they’re racists?” Faith demanded.

Expunged from “Aqaara”

Fragments are getting set adrift from Aqaara as I trudge through Draft One:

“Lying to your maker, Em. That won’t get you anywhere.”

“I miss you, Dee. I really do. I look forward to seeing you. I think about coming here. I look forward to coming here to see you and my cat.” Em opened her Bearing, glancing through the images. “And then I don’t.”

“There’s nothing worse than high expectations.”

“I keep mine very low.”

“This is cellular,” Liyuan interjected. “This exchange, all of this is cellular. That’s who is speaking to each other, your cells.”

“Ignore him,”’ Dee replied. “And tell us about your politics. They make you a senator yet?”

“Lai got me an Ethi for a present.”

“What do you get out of it? To do your bidding?”

“Her name’s Emma.”

“I mean, what’s the point of it? Does it tell you how great you are?”

“Dee, why don’t I bring Emma here so you can insult her, like you do with me.”

“Insult you? Em, I only talk to you like you were me.”

“That’s it, isn’t it?”

Seven-Week Writing Session Done

Seven straight weeks of writing an average of 3-5 hours a day, culminating in 55,000 words, more than half of my second science fiction work has left me feeling empty. I think that I have done something – a summer well spent – and then I think, “So much for what?”

Aqaara: The Decision to Leave

Och engaged the signal and listened with the rest to the bitter message from Earth. “This is not open to negotiation. You are ordered to return.”

“We are leaving,” he replied simply.

“We condemn your actions. Your assets are to be seized, everything you own on Earth.”

“We give everything we have left behind freely. It is all for you. Use it for the good of all.”

“For the good of all? You have abandoned your families, your countries, your species.”              “We are on a journey to find our new home.”

“Your families will pay a dear price for your betrayal.”

“We would like you to accept our departure, commander. What else is there for you to do?”

“Set your course for return or you will be condemned.” The radio went down.

“They hung up on us?” Dee asked.

Och nodded. “It’s like a bad break-up.”