Septemus 42

7eptumu7 Thinks on Love

septteen304

After my talk with my pops about souls and bizoobi and joining the Rebels for Right, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. I’ve come to this conclusion: It’s the most important. Nothing beats it. At all. And everything depends on it. As in, all and everything.

When the agency decided to place us with hand-picked care-givers, they did the right thing. My pops says that his friend Geoffrey was behind that decision.

“He knows that what kids need most is love,” Pops told me. “He learned this the hard way. His own marriage lacks warmth”–That’s my pops’ euphemism for sex, romance, and emotional intimacy–“and he’s got one estranged son and one rebellious son. I think this was his way of trying to make up for those misfortunes.”

Pops has this belief that every misfortune rights itself in a blessing: Like, for example, when his own mom and dad died, he got to live with Nonny and Poppy, who gave him the kind of home that his parents couldn’t have. He says it was Nonny and Poppy who taught him how to be able to be a good dad to me.

And with the crash of our spaceship–in fact even with our whole tragic history–that all allowed me to come here. He says I’m the biggest blessing he could have ever had in his life. I know he just says it to make me feel good, but still. It’s a loving thing to say.

septteen407

I think of our bizaabgotojo all the time now. I can’t get over what she sacrificed for us to be here. It makes it a little bit easier to believe my pops’ philosophy and to know that each of us is now with someone who loves us. If it is even remotely true, what my exaggerating Pops says, that I somehow make his life better, then that means that 143 other people’s lives might also be better now, too, since my pagotogo are with them.

And I can feel how much each one of the pagato is loved in return. Even if there is harshness in life, my siblings are loved.

I’m a little worried for Fi. Her song carries echoes of what we came from:

Unseen-unknown-unchild-unfound

Closeyourmouthstraightenback

Puppetsfeelnothing

I want to sing back to her, to reassure her, but I’m not sure what to sing yet. I need to think on this. But even with these memories, she is loved and loves in return: I feel this.

septteen306

Love is why I haven’t given up on Wolfgang. I’m convinced that it’s stronger than his anger. I’m also convinced that it’s what he needs.

Lucas told me that he loves his big brother, but it’s hard. Wolfie’s always been a bully to him, and when you don’t even feel safe in your own house, it’s hard to have the energy to change those hard patterns.

Sometimes I try to get a feel for what’s happening inside Wolfgang’s head. I keep thinking that if there’s some mixed-up wiring, some old coding that’s not needed in a world where we don’t have to fight those giant tusked elephant-guys that used to roam these parts, like there were back when Wolfie’s ancestors were developing their characteristic traits and responses, then maybe I can find the right response to trigger him to start rewiring them.

septteen303

So far, it’s not going so well.

“Get out my head, twerp!” Wolfgang yelled the other day when I was looking for insight.

Pops was watching us through the front door. Ever since Wolfgang broke my dollhouse back when I was a kid, Pops has never trusted him. He keeps an eye on him whenever he’s over.

septteen506

I apologized.

“I was just thinking of wooly mammoths,” I said. “Did you realize they used to graze along the ice flows that were where the river runs now?”

I showed him a website that traced their former range in Magnolia Promenade.

septteen507

“Oh, man. That’s so cool,” Wolfgang said. “I love those things. Can you imagine that guys used to hunt them with spears? Oh, man! ‘Honey! I brought supper!’ And the family eats for weeks.”

septteen508

I knew I was onto something with my theory about coding. So what’s a guy supposed to do? He evolved to feed his tribe by hunting big prey, and now, he’s got this paved world with with shopping markets on every corner. You don’t have to spear anything in the produce aisle. What’s he supposed to do with all those hunter’s hormones?

septteen509

That’s where love comes in. I can forgive him for being mean to me. I can almost even forgive him for being mean to his pagoto–almost. But not quite.

I don’t think I could forgive anyone, ever, for being mean to Lucas.

Darling whopped Lucas on the head last week when he dropped by.

septteen808

She apologized after, and Lucas said it was OK. No big deal.

But it was a big deal to me.

septteen809

Nobody beats up Lucas.

Which gets me to thinking of that other kind of love.

Pops has always steered clear of anything to do with romance, but me–I find myself thinking of it. Dreaming of it. Mostly, I am dreaming of one face, though I’m not letting myself even name that face to anyone, not even here in my journal. (Except I already have named it, but not directly in association with those three little words. OK, maybe in proximity of those three words–but not adjacent to them.)

septteen305

That comes later. If at all.

Pops says not to rush love. I’m young. There’s time. But has he read Shakespeare’s early sonnets recently?

septteen311

Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface,
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure ere it be self-killed. (Sonnet VI)

I don’t want to wait. I want to taste the “distilled sweet,” to drink the vial, until I’ve had every last drop, and then to lick the vial clean.

Oh, man. I’ve got to put a name to these feelings soon before those eyes bore straight through me.

septteen312

I can’t believe in this language we have just the one word for it, especially when that word has got to carry all the flavors of all the other warm feelings along with it. Even though we use the same word, it’s not the same as what I feel for Pops, that’s for sure. Oh, no. This feeling is something else entirely. It’s more like baxirrakiya. This is big-life-sun burning inside of me.

<< Previous

Author’s note: That haunting song we share here comes from @For_Eorzea/ Summonerd’s Fi in Chapter 10: Firewritten.

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Septemus 41

septteen613

Dear Sept,

You’ve always asked questions that have made me think. I’m no longer surprised by much.

But I’ll admit. Our conversation yesterday surprised me.

We were watching a show about CC, the first cloned kitten.

“That’s a beautiful cat,” I said.

“Do you think that clones have souls?” you asked.

I paused for a few beats.

“Well,” I replied, “I suppose it depends on how we define a soul. Let’s say that a soul is the recorded experience of a specific cluster of consciousness–what we might call an individual. And let’s say that particular bundle of individual recorded experience lasts beyond a single lifetime and might even, if the individual cluster of consciousness is able to hold together, travel from lifetime to lifetime.”

“Like reincarnation.”

“Like that. If we take that as our definition of a soul–and I can’t really think of a better–then I would say, yes. Every being that contains a specific cluster of consciousness–every individual, let’s say–has a soul.”

“Even a clone.”

“Even a cloned kitten,” I said.

We watched the rest of the TV show. You did your homework.

Over supper you said, “You know I’m a bizoo, right, Pops?”

septteen708

“You’ve mentioned that a time or two, son, yes.”

“Do you know what a bizoo is?” you asked.

“Well, from what you’ve said, I have gathered that bizoo is the Vingihoplo word for ‘slave,'” I replied.

“Not exactly,” you said. “It’s true that every bizoo was created to be a slave, but it’s not true that every slave is a bizoo.”

“You sound like one of those logic questions in the SAT,” I joked.

septteen709

“A bizoo is a clone, Pops,” you said.

A clone. I almost choked on my sandwich.

You were silent for a few moments to give me a chance to process. By the time I caught up with my mind, I said, “Son, you have a soul, if that’s what you were worried about.”

“Pops,” you replied, “I know I have a soul. I feel it like a bright and shining CD within me, on which is recorded every moment of every experience in every lifetime. But what I needed to know was that you believed I had a soul.”

Your voice was so quiet when you said that.

“Septemus, my son,” I said, “You have the biggest, strongest, brightest soul of any individual I have ever known. You’re Big Soul, son.”

You laughed. “That’s what my bizaabgotojo called me. Baxin’ivre.

“That’s a nice name.” I tried pronouncing it.

“Accent on the second-syllable, Pops,” you said.

We played a few games of chess after supper. You’re getting so good I can hardly hold my own.

“So, all things considered,” you said, “I’m feeling it’s my good fortune that I’ve ended up here.”

I was glad to hear it. I still remember how lonely you were as a little moonbug, when you were missing all your siblings. I used to wonder then what kind of life you’d left and whether you longed for your home planet.

septteen701

“Yeah,” you continued. “If I’d stayed there, it’s likely that someone else would be looking through these eyes of mine. This heart would beat inside of someone else’s chest. Who knows who would have my two livers and three kidneys and seven gall-bladders and–”

“Wait!” I screamed. “Roll it back for me, son.”

septteen702

You went on to explain how bizoo were created not only to be slaves, but also to be organ donors–conscripted organ donors.

“It’s a matter of economy,” you said. “Like your theories about the economic basis for oppression.”

“Economy be damned!” I said. I launched into a tirade. I must have talked for fifteen minutes without stopping. I used a fair share of swear words. You just sat there and let me talk.

By the time I was all talked out, you asked, “You finished?”

I wasn’t. “How do you know all this, son? What’s your source?”

“I downloaded it,” you said.

“You mean like from the Internet?”

You laughed. “No. Like. You know. Like how I download things. It’s been stronger since they took you. What was that they told you again? The part you remember?”

““Rebelforcesarestrongerthaninjusticefortheyfightthegoodfightwithlove,” I said.

“Spaces, Pops.”

“‘Rebel forces are stronger than injustice for they fight the good fight with love.’ You’re right. It’s stronger with spaces.”

I’ve remembered other things, too. I remembered that it was a small group that I met with. We landed somewhere–I just remember blues and purples. Nothing definite. They took me into a small building, like a cabin. It was sparsely furnished, but it felt good in there. It felt strong and peaceful. It felt like I feel when you’re filling me up with your good feelings.

“I think we’re part of something bigger,” I said. “It’s not just the two of us, here in this little house. There’s a bigger purpose, isn’t there?”

“I’m starting to think so,” you said.

“So, what next?” I asked. “We just wait around like soldiers on leave? What do soldiers on leave do, anyway? Drink? Raid towns? Go fishing?”

“Play chess, most likely!” you said.

septteen703

I wonder if you have started to question whom you were cloned from. I’ve got to admit I’ve been thinking of it since you told me what a bizoo is.

Whoever that original person is, he must be someone mighty regal: wise, intelligent, kind, gentle, strong, loving, and brave. For son, I have never met anyone more remarkable and amazing than you. And whoever he was, he provided this strong container that you grace with your bright soul.

septteen704

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Septemus 40

7 Sorrows of 7eptemus 7s

septteen205

I’ve always heard the buzzing. It enters through the crown of my head and tingles through the spaces inside of me.

I know the buzzing is what I pick up from the others, the singing of my siblings, yes, and also the messages from far beyond beyond. I have always felt this.

Since Pops met my people, it’s gotten stronger, and it never stops.

It’s the sensation of data downloading.

septteen204

I don’t mind it, but there’s a lot to unpack. Some of it is about the rocket. I know how to build it now. I can see the blueprints. I see that map through the stars. I know that path to the Far Star, and there’s another star; in the shadow of the blue planet, behind the Far Star. I didn’t come from there, but that’s where the rocket is to go.

I haven’t been able to parse it all yet. More comes in than I can decode. It doesn’t all feel good. Some of it hurts.

septteen207

It swirls with my sister’s song:

The moon rises,

another day’s gone

and now it’s time to

sing my song.

I hear the voice of my bizaabgotojo in my sister’s song. My bizaabgotojo–there’s pain there.

septteen210

I don’t want to unpack it. Is it better not to know? What if what we know crushes us? Isn’t it better not to know, to be happy? What is my bizaabgotojo doing there in the data?

I feel her blue hands cradling my face. Black eyes: vintaknu. Remember.

The buzzing hurts my cells. Everything vibrates.

septteen206

Unpack it. It is better to know. Unpack it. I can do it. I’m strong enough. If I unpack it, this pain will stop. My heart will hurt, but at least my cells will be still. This pain…

She was the first one to love me.

She was my bizaabgotojo. The bizaabgotojo cares for the bizoopagotogo. She cared for me. I was a bizoopagoto. I am a bizoo. A clone. She was the one to take me out of the gene pod, the first to hold me. She was the one to care.

I am a bizoo. The buzzing carries scents: blood. Bone dust. Disinfectant. Ether. Sounds: a drill. An electrical saw.

It’s too painful. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know what bizoo were for.

septteen209

Another song from another sister cuts through the buzz:

Shirhajotu gotukodauki
A in’i Desu in’i Tickles, couldbe
A yo in’i E
A yo in’i Fi
Yo refi
Refi Fi – 

Fi–are you a bizoo, too? If so, we are safe now. Stop crying. We are safe. Safe from the saws, the drills, the tables draped in metal sheets. The waiting canisters sit empty. They won’t fill with our hearts, our eyes, our lungs, our brains, our clusters of nerves.

We are free.

I remember our bizaabgotojo. She picked me up. She held me close and she whispered to me: O yoshirhufi. O xirrufi. O xirrufi doxni. You won’t die. You will live. You will live free.

She used to place her blue hands, so cool and soft, on my chest, and she would whisper: O inna-inna xirrin’ivreliu. O in’i xin’ivre. “You have a soul. You’ve got a soul.” Vintaknu. Remember.

These were the last words I heard her say, as she buckled me into the pod as we prepared to enter this planet’s atmosphere. Vintaknu.

Baxin’ivre. That’s what she called me: Big Soul. Or sometimes, pabaxin’ivre. Little Big Soul.

septteen213

She was the first to love me.

What are these memories of her doing wrapped in the bundles of data buzzing through me?  This is the story of our freedom, her sacrifice.

I am a bizoo, and I have a soul.

septteen212

My sister’s song returns:

I hear yours all the time

and it makes me feel happy inside

I hope that you can hear mine.

She sings in the voice of my bizaabgotojo. I wonder if she has her eyes. I would like to see the eyes of my sister.

septteen214

144. There were 144 of us! Not 100. 144. Where are the others?

We weren’t all bizoo. Some were from slave camps. Did they think they lacked souls, too? Golden horns. Golden skin. Red eyes, fangs. “Enemy” races, shunt up, locked up.

I thought war was only here, only on this planet with those who can’t feel what’s inside of another. If they could feel, they could feel I had a soul! You don’t attack another.

The data is rushing now. I want to slow the flow. It’s too much. I can’t process it. It’s too much. Stop.

It’s. There is cruelty everywhere. No place is safe. There is no safe home in the Far Star. We can’t go back. My bizaabgotojo died for nothing. We are stranded. For nothing. For no reason. Because of random cruelty.

septteen215

I am a bizoo.

How do I tell my pops? He knows that I’m a bizoo, but he thinks that a bizoo is a slave. How do I tell him that a bizoo is a clone? What if he, like them, thinks that clones don’t have souls?

He wouldn’t. But what if he did? Sometimes people pick up beliefs they don’t even know they have until something stirs them, like sediment that muddies the surface.

septteen216

I hear another sister’s song:

I’m on a quest to look and see
Where are the heroes just like me?

She didn’t act alone, my bizaabgotojo. There were others!

I can’t decode these bundles. There were others, and it was part of something. We were part of something. There was something bigger. There’s something bigger going on.

It was a sacrifice, but it was worth it. It’s part of something bigger.

I don’t believe that, but that’s what they’re saying. I don’t believe it was worth our bizaabgotojo. I would give anything for her. I would die for her.

O in’i xin’ivre, pabaxin’ivre.

This is part of something bigger.

septteen211

It wasn’t random.

It wasn’t an accident that my peoples took Sebastion, Pops.  It’s not random that I’m here.

There’s something bigger happening. My bizaabgotojo didn’t act alone. That’s what the data says. There was a group behind her. They’re still fighting.

I’m a bizoo, and these rebels, they’re fighting for me. For me and my bizoopagotogo and all the refugee pagotogo.

septteen208

It’s not an accident. It’s part of a plan. If it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here. I mean, my heart would beat inside someone else, my brain would think inside another.

But I’m here. I have a soul, and I’m here.

If I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t have meet my pops. I wouldn’t have met Lucas. I wouldn’t know what a mockingbird sounds like. I wouldn’t know a blue sky or pink flowers or the smell of bubblegum and the flavor of grilled cheese. We would have ceased to be long ago, or, spared the harvester’s drill, we’d be slaving in the basement factories that keep the technology running.

But we’re not. We’re here and we have souls. And we have people who love us.

Little ones,
my pagotogo.

You are my heart
My little brothers.

You are my eyes
My little sisters.

septteen203

Hush. Don’t weep.
Your pops loves you.
Your mother sleeps.

I’m here with you.
We are safe.
We’re not alone.
Yomastikokopa.

Vingi, vingi xin’ivre.
O inna-inna xirrin’ivreliu.
O in’i xin’ivre.
Vintaknu.

We are free.
We are safe,
You and me.
O E, Oe.

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Author’s note: A thousand thanks to Xantheanmar for inventing the plot of the rebel bizaabgotojo and the ongoing resistance to the “dark side of alien culture.” You can find the first references to this plot-line in Dove’s letter to Meadow.

The songs in this chapter come from Ny275’s Whisper, For_Eorzea’s Fi, and Thymeless’s Pandora.

Septemus 39

sept3016

Dear Sept,

You’ve always been a thoughtful kid. And you’ve always looked like part of you has been tuning in to some frequency I can’t quite hear.

But after my abduction, the times when you listen to those unsung voices seem to have increased.

I don’t dare interrupt when I come upon you listening.

sept3015

But sometimes, what you hear makes you so sorrowful that it hurts to stand by.

sept3014

You don’t reveal much when I ask you about it.

“I’m unpacking it, Pops,” is the most you’ll say.

One day, you hopped up to announce, “All right! I am ready! Let’s build that thing!”

You led me out to the tiny tarmac. Per your instructions, we’d ordered 144 sheets of titanium.

Without hesitation, you began instructing me in the construction. We worked for a few hours. By the time we stopped for a break, we actually had something that looked a little bit like the base of a rocket.

septteen510

“Where’d you pick that up?” I asked you. “From school? From those projects we’ve been doing after school?”

“I downloaded the information,” you said.

“Downloaded? Like from the Internet?” asked Darling, who’d dropped by for a visit.

“Not exactly,” you said. “The downloading part is easy. It’s the unpacking of it that’s difficult.”

sept3013

It seems the downloading can happen at any time, and it’s not something you can control.

You picked up whole packets of data the other night in the middle of one of our noisy parties.

sept3003

I’m not the only one who notices when this happens. Miko watched on distraught. I pulled her aside later to tell her you were all right. It was just one of those things.

sept3002

When this episode passed, you seemed more than all right. You smiled one of your basking-in-the-benevolence-of-the-universe smiles. All is right in the world. I heard you say, “Squeegee,” though your lips didn’t move.

sept3001

It’s not easy being an extraterrestrial on this harsh planet. It’s not easy connecting with your people ten thousand light years away–or more. What do I know of light years?

It’s not easy living here with those of us who can’t access our own deepest thoughts, feelings, and memories, and so have not a chance of accessing those deep regions inside others.

But here you are. When I see you smile that way, it makes me feel that you are indeed–and will be–all right.

–Your loving pops

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Septemus 38

septteen515

Dear Sept,

I felt so strange the next day after that dream, as if I weren’t all there. While you were at school, I painted. I have no idea where this composition came from–three fish, swimming through space. These were no ordinary koi. These are cosmic koi.

I felt drawn to the blackness of space.

I had to go inside and sit down. I felt so strange.

septteen601

What could it be? Why could I only remember fragments of that dream?

A few years back, Brio sent me a letter. I looked through the folder on the computer where I save all my correspondence. There it was.

“I know for a fact that me carrying my children had to do with those hours I cannot recall…”

Those hours I cannot recall…

Why can’t I remember all of my dream? I was still trying to reconnect with that dream experience when you came home from your study session at the library.

“Son,” I asked, “do you ever have dreams you can’t recall?”

“I forget them in the everyday,” you answered, “but on some level, their traces remain with me always. What’s up, Pops?”

“I feel odd, son,” I confessed.

septteen605

“Let me see you, Pops.”

I stood before you. What came next can only be described as the sensation of a total and complete body scan. It wasn’t unpleasant. It tickled. But it felt like blue rose petals, and it brought me back to myself.

septteen610

“You’re OK, Pops!” you said. “You’re fine. You’ve just had your first extra-terrestrial experience, that’s all!”

“Oh, man. What do you mean?”

“That dream? That was no dream!” you said. “You met my peoples!”

septteen611

“How can you be sure?”

You launched into a long, detailed explanation about the storage of memory within the consciousness of cells.

“Nothing’s ever lost, Pops. If it happens, it’s there somewhere.”

“But what about dreams? Maybe the cells were storing dream-experience?”

“Nope. Dream-memories taste different. This was my folks, Pops.”

“What’s the purpose? There’s got to be some reason for this, right? It’s not just some random act.”

“Well,” you said, “I suppose it has something to do with me. They want a connection to the person I’m most connected to, which would be you. They like you, Pops. In fact, one of the data-pieces I picked up in your cells contains a very specific coded message.”

“And that message would be?”

“You’re to expect a very special delivery,” you reported.

septteen612

A few evenings later, it arrived. We heard a whirring noise, and when we went out to look, we found a pile of crates sitting on a tiny square of tarmac.

“This is it, Pops!” you said. “Our very own rocket-kit! Straight from the Far Star!”

septteen501

I guess maybe your folks thought we needed another father-son project.

Looking forward to doing some building with you, son.

–Your pops

<< Previous | Next >>

Author’s Notes: What… you were expecting a different sort of delivery? So was I!

Many thanks to Kira for writing Brio’s letter! You can find Brio and his family’s story at KK’s Sims Stories.

Dr. Jasmine’s Casebook: Just Like A Vacation

This story was written for the September 2017 Monthly Short Story Writing Challenge held by our writing community at the EA Forums. If you write SimLit, we’d love to have you join us! We have a new challenge each month.

vacation12

“Pack your things!” Deidre called.

“Where’re we going?” Edgar asked.

“Didn’t you hear, doofus?” Tiana said. “It’s a mandatory evacuation.”

“I don’ want to go,” Edgar said.

“Just think of it as a vacation,” said Tiana.

“But it’s not even stormy.”

The sky had turned an eerie gold, and the bay, though calm on the surface, roiled in its depths. Hurricane Kali was expected to make landfall in 38 hours. The forecast track targeted a direct hit on the city.

vacation11B

Shelters had been set up in schools, gyms, and the convention center.

Deidre surveyed the rows of cots.

“No way in Hell we’re staying here,” she swore. “How am I supposed to keep my babies safe sleeping next to strangers?”

vacation10

They had enough gas to make it across the bridge. Maybe they could refuel in Newcrest or, if their pumps were dry, in Magnolia Promenade.

vacation11

One look at the lines at the gas stations along Newcrest strip, and Deidre kept driving.

“Mama! I gotta pee!” Edgar said as they reached the turnoff for Magnolia Promenade.

Tiana took her little brother to the restroom while Deidre filled the tank.

Store windows were boarded up.

The family took a stroll along the river path to stretch their legs before getting back in the car.

“All of this will be flooded,” Tiana said. “Think so?”

“Likely,” replied Deidre. Magnolia Promenade sat below sea level.

vacation09

“And what about these trees?” Tiana asked. “Think they’ll all be blown down?”

“Most likely so,” said Deidre.

“Awesome,” said Tiana. “Like the apocalypse.”

“What’s an Apoca?” asked Edgar.

“The end of the world,” said Tiana.

“Don’t scare your brother,” warned Deidre.

 

Tiana had to pee when they reached Willow Creek. People had set up tents in the park and were grilling burgers as if it were a Fourth of July Barbecue.

“Can we stay here, Ma?” Tiana asked. “They got free Wi-Fi.”

Deidre glanced over her shoulder towards the creek. When the levee breaks, this will all be underwater, she thought.

“No. We’re moving on.”

vacation08B

“Where we going?” Edgar asked in the car.

“I thought we’d go to the mountains,” Deidre said.

“Great,” replied Tiana. “Where all the forest fires are.”

“Will you look up the air quality?” Deidre asked.

Tiana pulled out her phone.

“Oh. It’s OK. They had a cold front and rain. The air’s good now.”

The wheels hummed over the pavement, clicking now and then as they passed over the cracks in the blacktop. The rhythm carried a sense of calm, in spite of the circumstances.

vacation01

“Wish I had a Tea Cake,” said Tiana.

“What’s that?” asked Deidre.

“I want tea! I want cake!” yelled Edgar from the back seat.

“Like Janie,” said Tiana. “To ride out the storm with.”

Her sophomore English class was reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. Deidre chuckled.

She had her own Tea Cake back when the last big storm crashed into the city, sixteen years ago. Matter of fact, that’s likely when Tiana had been conceived.

“Just as well you don’t,” said Deidre. “There’s plenty of time for all that.”

“It’s gonna be a cat ten,” said Tiana, checking the #HurricaneKali tweets on her phone.

“No such thing,” said Deidre. “Doesn’t go past five.”

“Still. If it did. There’s this boy in my class who’s this major league climate-change-denier. His parents are mega rich. They live right on the bay. All their windows face the water! I hope their house gets smashed.”

“Tiana! That’s a terrible thing to say, and an even worse thing to think!”

“It would serve him right.”

“Don’t ever.”

“OK. But still. You gotta admit that’d be some beautiful irony.”

They drove on in silence.

They reached the mountains after nightfall. Edgar slept in the back seat while Deidre and Tiana pitched the tent in the dark. They were too tired to fix a meal, so they snacked on granola bars, bottled water, and Starbursts for supper.

Deidre woke before dawn the next morning to grill a proper breakfast.

vacation06

They charged their phones at the Visitors’ Center. When they weren’t hiking, fishing, and pretending to be on vacation, Deidre and Tiana followed the tweets about the storm.

Edgar chased butterflies, looked for salamanders under rotting logs, made bows and arrows out of twigs and branches, and hunted for arrowheads in old midden mounds.

vacation02

Hurricane Kali, aptly named, was the first category five to make landfall in the city. For decades, the city council failed to enact a storm water plan, ignoring the recommendations of experts. Instead, codes were lax and construction boomed. The storm brought widespread flooding, collapsed the sewage system, tore bricks and decks and tiles off of buildings. The entire power grid went down, and it would likely be weeks before it could be restored.

“How bad is it?” Deidre asked her daughter.

“Pretty bad,” Tiana replied.

vacation05

Deidre called a neighbor who was staying with parents in Oasis Springs.

“That bad, huh?” she said, after she got the report.

vacation03

“How bad?” asked Tiana.

“Our apartment building was condemned,” said Deidre.

“What are we gonna do?” asked Tiana.

Deidre had next month’s rent already saved up, but there’d be no way they’d get back their deposit. She was sure that skinflint landlord would file for bankruptcy.

“Guess we’ll have to start over,” she said. “How do you feel about the desert?”

For now, they stayed at camp, trying to relax and beat the stress.

“It really is like being on vacation!” said Edgar.

vacation04

And it was. Except when it was over, they wouldn’t be going home. They’d be starting new.

Septemus 37

septteen101

Dear son,

For the most part, your nightmares seem to have fled. I’m relieved. I like to glance across the room and see you sleeping soundly.

Maybe the dream-fairies have shifted over to me, for I had the strangest dream last night.

While you were at school yesterday, I spent some time contemplating the model of the solar system you made. You cut out a rocket to paste onto the back-screen. I found myself daydreaming about the rocket.

Your song about the far star began playing in my head.

Moonshine! Moonlight.
Smile shine. Smile bright.

–something-something, something else–

And when worlds turn and stars burn
We’ll find where our home is…
By the far star…

One of the parents at the forum asked about the far star. I’m guessing this parent’s kid is one of the ones you’ve been singing to all these years, but maybe it’s something else. Maybe you and the other kids have memories, genetic memories or early imprints, of your home solar system. In fact, the longer I studied the model you made, the more I realized that this was not our solar system. Did this come from your memory or from your imagination? Is that sun in the center the far star?

septteen406

You were busy with homework, so I didn’t get a chance to ask you about this. And then you went to bed early.

While I lay in bed, trying to fall asleep, I kept hearing your song.

It’s far. We’re here.
Let’s go. Have no fear.

I’ll see you in my dream
You’ll see me in yours.
And when worlds turn and stars burn
We’ll find where our home is…
By the far star…

I fell asleep with it running through my head.

And that’s when the dream came.

I dreamt of a strange light. I was pulled towards it.

septteen102

It wasn’t moonlight: it was a saucer, as in all the old sci-fi movies I watched as a kid.

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I had to chuckle at how, even when dreaming, my imagination was formed by B-films.

With laughter, I woke up inside the dream. I used to practice lucid dreaming often, back before you came to live with me, so the experience felt familiar. I noticed details. The space craft wasn’t really like the flying saucers in cinema. The center glowed like an eye, and strange membranes pulsed with light around the iris.

septteen103

I began flying, lifting up, like I’ve done in a hundred lucid dreams before. It felt as exhilarating as ever.

septteen104

I was drawn upwards into the eye.

septteen105

After that, the lucid dreaming stopped. It’s almost as if the dream stopped. When I think back to that time, I feel heavy. It’s that feeling one gets after a massive study session: the mind is full of data, and the brain hasn’t yet created the structures needed to store or process it.

I felt like I was downloading terabytes of information and knowledge.

When I woke back up, I was still inside the dream. I still couldn’t access what had happened during my non-lucid interval.

A shaft of light carried me down towards ground.

septteen107

I heard distant voices, though what they were chanting, I couldn’t distinguish through the echoing.

septteen108

I landed softly, without a stumble. I didn’t want to step out of the light-shaft. It felt warm, and surrounded by it, I felt happy.

septteen109

I must have sleep-walked, for when I woke up, I was in the living room, dancing, full of an overpowering feeling of peace, well-being, and contentment.

septteen1010

You came out of the bedroom and found me there.

“Pops?” you asked. “Are you all right?”

Rebelforcesarestrongerthaninjusticefortheyfightthegoodfightwithlove,” I said.

“Pops?” you said. “Spaces, right?”

I chuckled. “Thanks, son. It’s true what they say: Kindness really is stronger.”

septteen202

“You feeling OK, Pops?” you asked.

“Kinda sleepy,” I replied, and I shuffled back to bed. I kicked off my shoes, and as I crawled between the blankets, I wondered when I’d put my shoes on in the first place. I didn’t go to sleep in my clothes, did I?

Strange times, son.

–Your pops

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