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: Liyuan & Xisi

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

Xisi appeared in Liyuan’s childhood suitcase, a brilliant glowing dancing dollish sprite. Liyuan was running away. His mother and father disdained him. He planned to go the playground on the hill and then find a bus from there.

“Let’s go!” Xisi vibrated with excitement.

There were swings on the hill, and nobody else there. Liyuan placed his suitcase in his lap and watch Xisi begin to swing higher and higher. Liyuan was timid, worried about losing the suitcase, but got faster too, and was swinging higher than he had ever imagined. Xisi leapt from the swing into the grass, Liyuan after him, where Xisi stood up straight and fell down like a piece of wood, rose up again, over and over, like a trapdoor to a secret world. Xisi changed colors too – blue, purple, green – and went up and down, up and down.

“We should go back,” Liyuan said sadly.

“Where?” Xisi demanded.

“Home.”

Xisi stood straight up again, duplicated twice and sang and he started to float. Liyuan grabbed crazily after him, and then found he could float as well and could sing too. They made a house in the trees and watched the nighttime creatures fly around. And that’s where Liyuan awoke, his little suitcase still tight in his arms. But Xisi wasn’t there. Frantic, he looked down to the ground far away and thought he would fall and then heard Xisi’s song and found him inside and star-filled world too.

“Let’s go!”

Xisi spiraled down, Liyuan after him.

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.

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.

The Planet Mina (Half Draft)

They arrive at the cluster of planets. The first several are not promising. And then there is life. They land in search of intelligence…and find it. The first sense is that of agoraphobia – a genuine nausea at being outside – and they are unable to stand and are overpowered by an intense desire to stay by the ship, huddled together. They wonder if they are going to survive. And then Kim, empowered by a keg of Cyfy, leads them on. Wherever he stops, he spins the keg off his back and imbibes, looking out, his forearm taught, his young face already showing wear. He jet-bikes on, as one by one they are overcome with asphyxiation until it is only him and his sister, an attractive girl with blue eyes, but hard and angry, a survivor of pre-ordained disasters.

Train Platform Dream

The platform was crowded, people on their way home for work, a woman with her two girls, one holding a half-eaten apple, a man slouched forward over his phone, three young women talking excitedly to each other, a man walking through, all of them waiting with her, on the platform across the tracks, the local and express, some glancing up into the tunnel, others barely aware they were there, the electronic board stuck at three minutes and then flashing orange. Ashe closed her eyes. The sound was distant, moving away, echoing out of the tunnel, and then it was above, heavy over the joists, coming through the cement block ceiling and walls. The train was here. It was odd, standing there, as if in a dream, going nowhere, dark and crowded, not scared, not anything, just there. They pushed past one another, some patient, and filled the train. She pressed back against the door to the next car, the cool of metal against her hip, and the train doors closed. It was slow at first, starting, only to lose momentum, starting again, slowing, and then began to gain speed, moving alongside the local train, pulling even, looking back at the people looking at them, and them moving ahead fast, swaying back and forth, clacking over the switches and breaks, flashing past the cement pillars, yellow lights and local stations, until it was almost too fast, and then braking, the woman’s mechanized voice announcing Grand Central, clicking into the station, slowing hard, stopping and the door’s opening for the swell to go out and in. She stayed as she was and watched, the little man dash of the one empty seat, the older woman pause and stand over him, the young women, still there, rotating around their pole, still talking, the young man moving his head side to side with his music, the hand reach in to stop the doors, waiting him and then another, before moving again, deep into the tunnel.

That collection of Drugs we call Knowledge

It’s not like I don’t believe in something. I treasure the moment of my eyes coming open, seeing that I am still here, that collection of drugs of knowing something. And then realizing that, that it’s not what it’s supposed to be, knowing it’s a lie. I’m going to be dead, just that. A mantra of sorts. I wait for the next thing in fear, tense and in delight. Everything is now. And if not, in a bit. It will come again. And I will have it then. That’s what I tell myself again and again.

Penthouse in a Bag

Davis stood in the back corner of the convenience store, nervously eyeing the owner. She was old, an Asian woman, who probably didn’t care. Or maybe she did. Maybe she would lecture him and call his step-mother.

Heart pounding, he snapped the Penthouse from the rack and approached. The woman took the magazine, slid it into a paper bag and waited to be paid. He walked outside, pausing at the corner of the parking lot to slide the magazine into his pant leg.

“Hey.” His step-brother, Flynn, appeared behind him. “Can I see that after you’re done?”

Davis redid his shoelace. “Huh?”

“That Penthouse.”

Davis couldn’t understand how he had appeared, where he had come from. “Yeah, okay.”

It was a good issue, four pictorials, lipstick lesbians, the centerfold Pet leaning back with a cigarette in her hand. He took the magazine to Flynn and went back to his room, laying uneasily on his bed. He never spoke with Flynn. They had nothing to say to each other. And now this. Was this some kind of turning point? Would they talk about the naked women? Which was best? What they liked? What they did as they looked at them? What were they supposed to say? There was a knock. Davis sat up abruptly, crossing the room and opening the door to find the magazine, face down on the beige carpet, Flynn’s door closing down the hall.