March 2010

It had been clear and calm earlier in the day, but since Jacobs’ death an unsettled feeling had fallen over the valley, though Karen couldn’t be sure if the link was real or imagined. Still, when she left the house, she had to pause for a moment to take it all in.

A scene of incredible beauty and power greeted her when the door opened. Dark clouds rolled from horizon to horizon. There wasn’t a breath of wind, just an eerie twilight and the distant rumble of thunder.

“The calm before the storm,” Karen murmured. “I’d better get a move on.”


You never appreciate your mortality so much as when you’ve been injured.

“Scale this up a little, and I’m dead.”

It’s the little wounds that make me think the most. The other day I was trying to open a stubborn container of creamer and before I knew it my knuckle was gushing blood from a scrape. A little thing like that had the power to wound me so deeply I still carry the scar of it wrapped in bandaids.

That’s what it was like with Maxine. She gave me but a little nick, but the scar stayed with me to this day—and I’ve often wondered how much more it would have taken to end me.

The impact slammed Matthias against the bulkhead like a limp rag doll. He could still hear the alarm blaring, mingling with the ringing in his ears, but his body felt drained, empty. He didn’t even feel any pain, just a dull sensation in his lower back.

“Depth charge! Depth charge!” Someone—it might have been the captain—was screaming, but it was hard to hear him over the roaring and rattling that filled the air.

Matthias thought it all very silly; what good was it yelling about anything? He was too relaxed to care, and despite the seawater beginning to pool around his ankles he felt quite warm.

Everything would be all right after he’d had a little nap.

Without her, the house seemed empty and foreboding. The sun didn’t shine as brightly—the entire world seemed faded, as if it had been bleached.

Marshall looked out the second-story window and sighed. “Where are you?” he said.

The treeline at the edge of the yard undulated in the light summer breeze, answering the question with another.

“What am I supposed to do now?” Marshall asked. “I…I never thought I’d say this, even to myself, but I’m lost. And I don’t know if I can stand to lose you.”

Boughs rocked back and forth gently, as if nodding.

But I digress. This professor, who I believe I said should remain nameless, had it in his mind to debunk before the class each and every emotion known to man.

And he started with love.

“Love,” he said,” is merely a biochemical reaction designed to see that our genes are passed on. Do any other creatures feel love as we experience it? Of course not! It’s all instinct, from the courtship dance to the nest building. Anyone who says otherwise probably works for a greeting card company or chocolatier.”

“When you reduce things to their basics,” he continued, “it’s all biochemistry.”

My neighbor in the lecture leaned over. “Word has it he’s conducting some practical experiments along those lines after hours.”

A good book is like a fine meal. Every bit you take only increases your enjoyment , and although you’re curious what dessert is at the end, you’re sorry to finish it since you know nothing can compare to that first taste, even if you sit down to the same meal again.

Some people are gourmets, carefully savoring the taste as they consume the portions in their proper order. Others are gluttons, choking tomes down as fast as they’ll go, sometimes even starting with the dessert first.

Me, I’m a glutton who likes his desserts. The first thing I read will invariably be the last chapter of the book. My literary-minded friends find this heretical, but for me the focus has always been the journey, not the destination. And there’s always the chance that things will go differently, and that the ending I read at the beginning won’t be the one I arrive at when the book is finished.

I remember the first time that happened…

The note was creased and worn, as if it had been worried over for some time. Erased words were still visible beneath their replacements and sometimes a whole lineage could be traced. The first words had the smudged look of old pencil, but the last were fresh enough to rub off on one’s hands.

I want to tell my children about a day that was so bright and clean and pure that you could shout possibilities to the heavens and no one would question them. I want to tell them that I devoured that day, let its juices drip down my chin; I want to tell them that I lived that day as fiercely as if it were my very last.

What I will tell them, if indeed I tell them anything at all, is how I spent that day behind my desk, watching it blossom and fade in snatches. Through a window here, a door there, sunlight dancing its life away on tiled floors. I will tell them how I emerged only as the day was cooling and dying to embers about me.

Zero gravity does funny things to your mind. One minute you’re clinging to the floor, then it becomes a wall, then a ceiling. Tim had a little zero-g training, but nothing had ever been this bad. His one ride on the Vomit Comet paled in comparison to the real thing, and even that had filled two puke bags. Tim was on a nonstop roller coaster with shifting directions, and it was making him sick.

Angrily, he thought of what he’d been told before signing up for the trip—that the artificial gravity was foolproof, that there was no need for any specialized training, that no commercial craft’s gravity had failed in over ten years.

Then again, the men in those fancy suits were safely on terra firma, and who could have predicted such a catastrophe?

“You don’t understand me,” Brown cried. “This city’s about to fall! She’ll be killed if she stays! I’m just trying to do my job!”

The bartender sighed. “Listen to me, Marine. Perhaps you are right; perhaps when the rebels come they will kill Ms. Anne. But perhaps not. Perhaps the rebel at the very front of the column was a schoolmate of hers. Perhaps the soldiers that burst in here know her from playing in the streets. She grew up here, and cannot believe the land would allow any harm to come.”


“I have survived several coups, Marine. I will survive this one as well. The men are always thirsty. They are thirsty for other things as well, and if Ms. Anne wishes to wait, to see her old school friends’ faces when the men come for her, who are you to deny her? Go. Ms. Anne does not want to leave, and I will shoot you if you try and take her.”

The book had obviously been well-used; it was worn and tattered, so much so that Kim could barely make out the title: “Collected Rhymes and Verse, 5th ed. 1919. Brylhard Faberhart, editor.”

She ran her hand over the cover, feeling the decaying cloth that held the volume together. Gingerly, Kim made her way to the attic window. Carefully, she opened the book and held it up to the light. Written in ink on the first page were the words “To Francine, with love and hope, from John. Dec. 24, 1920.”

“He gave this to her,” Kim murmured. “He gave this to her less than a week before he died.”

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