I realized when I saw you dancing with the kraken that I didn't want to lose you. You and I were on the beach, in one of those shells the Homelanders set up during the last war to protect our shores from the Invatien. Never needed, since the plague and the Surrender, left to moulder on the sand like turtle nests once the eggs have hatched. You cut your hand on the rusted steel edge of a sliding door, and hopped out onto the sand in dismay, comical at first but you made me afraid with your fear that the lockjaw would strike and you would be laid out flat on the beach like driftwood to be carried away by the next tide. I almost thought it was a joke when you stumbled into the kraken's nest and their sharp, hungry beaks tore into your flesh, but lucky for you the fear had already infected me and I was out on the beach in a moment, pulling you back into the shelter of the Homelander's shell, cleaning the sand from the kraken babies' sucker marks and wrapping my shirt around your wrist as a tourniquet to keep the poison from seeping further into your body from the bluish slash across your hand. I called for help on the cel I swore I'd never use and gave them our location; the lifter landed a few minutes later but they wouldn't let me help you in, you already blue and shivering from reaction to the krakens' poison. I had to follow in my own car - you forgave me for not being with you but it took a long time even so, time I'm glad we had the chance to spend together.
You pushed back the woven door of our mud hut after going to make sure the chickens were settled. The moon outside spilled in for a moment and we saw each other, eyes gleaming. It was a lucky time, the gods said, to make new life. We did not question their decision. You let your robe fall to the straw on the floor and I rose to meet you. This time we coupled on the altar in the middle of the village. The godstalker lay asleep, under the spell of the gods who had awakened us, so he could not by spite prevent us this time from consummating our passion. When both our bellies swelled a fivemonth later, we knew we had been blessed, and when we both carried our offspring to term, all in the village knew we had been blessed. The godstalker whistled and waved both hands but even he had to acknowledge what the gods had bestowed; he gave both our children names together.
When you came back from your sojourn overseas, I was lucky to see you sailing by and came out to greet you, all dressed in white like the lands you'd coveted, my white wings furled around the smell of spices the others had been working during my long apprenticeship. I knew you were not to be forever free of dark spirits' influence, but thought their magic might be weakened by your year away from them, and hoped I could like a secret insect lay within you the seed of our possible life together. Gifts appeared at your feet, and dazzle in your ears and eyes. Some lucky alchemy sparked a perfect union untouchable by any other. But then a roaring noise came down from above - you threw up your hat to meet it, grew and swelled and broke your shell and flew away on black wings as big as night itself, a night from which my sparkling fences could not protect me. I wept, until you lent me feathers for my own dark flight. We rose through the smoke, though villains gnashed their teeth, to join the Sunlit Lands together.
The sun never moved in the sky, a benign golden rectangle blinking on and off to rhythms our cells remembered even though our minds did not. We were reclining on a low-spin slope of the cylinder, sharing the fruits of a hydroponic surplus we'd engineered ourselves, when the alarm came. The habitat sat on an L5 contested among a half-dozen bigger and brasher than our own, so the invasion from New Col was no shock, but rather a revelation of schemes long suspected even by our rank and file. You tossed me a suit before putting on your own and almost lost it there when the helmet you donned revealed itself as holed. The rats they'd launched as shock troops wouldn't wait for you to find another one. The suits would stretch but not enough for two. I took a deep breath and pulled my helmet off, handing it to you with a grin and then leaping into the center of the habitat, where free fall would save me from the rats for a moment longer. You came after me, then, distracted as Horatio had never been, forsaking your post at the lock in your haste to hand me the mended helmet - you'd had a kit on your waist that I'd never seen. I had time for regret as the New Col battalion threw itself through the undefended lock and captured us both, time to watch the very air we breathed become a reproach as we labored in the radiation-filled core of New Col's latest conquest, yet counting myself lucky that our life's last months were spent together.
You held the flame thrower one-handed, dousing the zombies with jellied fire. In combat augmentation I had time to lean over and lick your ear as I ran by, whisper an endearment you'd hear as mosquito wings. I saw the smooth wave of flame you spread quiver as you registered my passing. You were lucky, then, the alteration in your pattern catching a few of the smarter zombies who'd figured out your left to right sweep and tried walking between the gouts of fire. It never pays to get too confident and I know that now better than I did; the tripwire the zoms had stretched caught me even with high-speed reflexes, since I was focused on your foxy face instead of on my faltering feet. You quelled the fire at once and leaped to my support, shouting into the mic of your combat talker as the shudder of blades ripped the sky and medevac came down from above, throwing the zoms into terminal confusion and saving the day for me and thee alike, two old troopers sharing medals and stories in the cafeteria long after, our times, like twin trees, grown together.
©1999 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.
This document was last updated (fixed mailto) April 7, 2001.