He read all the labels by all the paintings he guarded and he picked up the guided tour things, too, when they were available, and listened to them. He took to ducking in to the members' lounge when a certain girl was working and getting her to make him up a lox and cream cheese sandwich with a little crème caramel on the side. (Never ate like that at home!)
He went for smokes with an older lady named Hannah out in the park on his lunch breaks and listened to her talk about her kids and that crap husband of hers, Kim, or sometimes he would eat his lunch with Benny Chan. Chan even invited him out to drink brandy and play cards one night, but Chan was a hard-living guy, and Claude didn't even like to stay up past ten, so that never really panned out. But the long and the short of it is, he got used to the place, and stopped worrying about feeling more special than he ever had.
He had laughed. A spirit he was not, but he knew a few, if she ever wanted to meet them, and strangely, although she desperately wanted to, she always declined. She would bring the question up, then dance evasively away, and he only smiled and moved on to other things. Denys was a patient man with only one agenda, and it was clear for anyone to see. It was clear in the early mornings and the late nights and the sleeves rolled up and the endless time to listen to any old man or child or work-worn woman who stopped him in his passage through their day.
Yet Denys was not a spirit after all. He tired and he might have wept, if weeping had been an option, but instead he poured a little kleren on the concrete and sipped the fiery drink, and wiped his hand across his eyes and finally slept.Until the day he rose from his bed and washed himself and dressed carefully as every day and stopped by the home of Rochelle to walk with her awhile.
As they stepped back into the street, he drew back to allow an urgent man to pass, and fell with a sickening cry beside her, his belly slit by an unseen knife.
Rochelle dropped to her knees and gathered him furiously, crying out, "No! No!!!" and pressing a helpless hand to his flesh in an attempt to hold it all together, a futile attempt to seal it back on itself, to roll back the seconds and unmake the attack, and as her own reality rushed violently away Denys, without a final word or glance, succumbed to a faint and on toward death.
ChiBraa sat with the slender, glass-clear jimns coiling and uncoiling around her body, her eyes set in the deep trance she could achieve in moments with the jimn, while I set about preparing their meals (a bit of slud and drunn) and, setting them aside, preparing hers and mine.
She was a tungdra emissionist, ChiBraa was, and serious in her work. She examined the emanations patterns of the vast but miniscule jungle we had come to study. By individual, by species, and in association with the emanations of other organisms and the environment—it was her job to tease out each and begin to make some sort of sense of it all.
It was a mind-crushingly complex and subtle field, from where I sat. A taxonomist only; that was me. Collect, dissect, and classify. Collect, dissect, and classify. Collect some more and return to the collection and redissect, reclassify. All the little informations were beautiful to me, from the molecular to the phenotypic, and balancing them one against the other was my favourite way to pass the time.
It was a soothing pursuit and far less ethereal than hers but I was well aware that there are many strands to Mother Dextra's Web. I could only cling to my own, while watching others somewhat bemusedly as they clung to theirs.
After Hours at the Black Hole
He would have thrown away his own mother (he liked to joke) if she hadn't thrown him away first, for a price, of course, and a handsome one. He had towed space dirt of every kind, from the rubble of abandoned colonies to the floating jetsam of war—living or very, very dead—to the entrails of planets that had somehow gotten tangled up in somebody's personal space.
Whatever—he didn't mind. But today's cargo was a whole nother thing, and it worried him.So, okay. Maybe those trusty black holes had swallowed everything so far without a burp. But he thought he'd spotted some energy shimmering where it ought not to last time circling Old Guzzler here, not just harmless vaccuum fluctuations, but something else. It was nothing he could pin down instrumentally and he let it go and puttered back for his next "desperately urgent" something that needed to be lugged away.
Now here he was, circling slowly at a distance of a handful of lightyears, a long trailer of ruinous lives in his wake, and he was nervous.
The White Worm of Dun na Gall
The Morrigna, three raven-black battle queens, standing like tall stones on three sides of Muirne's fallen form. Large, grey-bodied crows perched on their shoulders as they stood. The central queen had but a single, frightening eye, and a single powerful leg on which she stood without a quiver. As he walked closer he saw their eyes fixed hard on him, but he was not distracted. His own gaze was bound to his mother, and the upwelling of grief in him was even harsher than in losing Sabha, his wife.
When he came up beside her, his eyes were blurred with sorrow. "Mother," he said. He lifted a hand to her uncovered face, black on one side with matted hair and blood. At her throat was the golden torc she always wore. He pulled back her cloak, examining her wounds, many and grave. She still wore the plaid tunic and leggings she had fallen in. Her hair was limed and her mangled hands lightly grasped the hilt of her sword, whose point stood out beyond her straightened knees. Her flesh, several days dead, was a misery, and the colour of her garments indecipherable for the blood. As he beheld her, one of the crows drifted from a Morrigna's shoulder to the corpse, and settled on the cage of her chest. It slipped it's beak into a crusted gash and tugged on the crumbling flesh.
"Morrigan," he said, taking a breath as he prepared to continue. "Do not waste her time," she hissed.
Neamhain and Badh stared hard on her either side. Fionn closed his mouth. Nodded, eyes lowered. To a Goddess, even a leader of warriors was but a servant. To a Goddess protective of her kin, even a man who was half-God had best pay heed.
The Morrigan pointed to a leather bag beneath the bier. "You have one night to rest in Almu hill. We will stand with your mother in final vigil. When you return in the morning, place her in this bag, and carry her with haste to Dun na Gall." She thrust her head low and forward on her outstretched neck. Her very cloak and mane of hair seemed to rise like feathers. "Do not delay."
He was a man torn in two. Yet she was right. He would no longer play this fidchell with himself. He bent his head beside his mother's and clutched her horrid clothes. In the darkness of her blood-stiff hair, he began to weep at last.
I would take my lead from her, with or without stage direction, and fill in the atmosphere the best I could. If Lisa was there, Aggie would give her a fair-sized role, and a fair amount of scope within it, but Aggie was always at the helm. She would interact with me only as the game demanded; she would stand delivering grand speeches or throw herself body and soul into her story, and yes, she was remote, unreachable by me.
But it was more than that. It was how deeply she plunged, and how, sometimes, quite without warning, I would be carried in with her, and it was where, in her terribly accurate way, she could drag us both.
Now when I look back on certain games I don't see her skinny self with bobbed hair and striped t-shirt and pale green shorts, standing in the front yard waving her arms around and spinning tales. I see instead the character she was playing, the room she was in, the misty headland or the silent sepulchre. My breath grows deep and slow and I am swept back to the wonder and danger of each place.