glass bodies 241 250

the nun’s tale

She was a short, angry woman with a leaky voice. High morals were seeping through her constructed sentences, and a sense of resentment was evident in everything she did. At the table, she was sitting directly across me and her patience seemed to boil over when the astronomer began speaking. Shortly after our land-crash, we set out toward the moors, arriving early at the foot of the hill. It is said that Richard the Second had stayed at the castle on the hill, now in ruins. The wind was blazing strong, and this band of rebels was defeated, but not defiant. Only Arion seemed to want to put up a fight. Most of us had already given up.

The nun had something grandiose in her. Her short, fidgety fingers always seemed to linger as if on a button for Truth. It seemed, in youth, she had had a romantic relationship with the astronomer. It seemed ancient Egyptian history from that vantage point.

The evening was coming in, and the multiple stars in the sky seemed to burn a little less intensely, and the empty space above us was suddenly flooded with the most diverse range of hues. Murmuring softly, the wind was calling us to a rest. We wanted to reach the coast, but as we arrived at the hill’s foot everything seemed to make sense and we camped up. There was deep sadness in each and everyone of us. We were in mourning. We felt wronged by fate, and those of us that did not believe in fate felt wronged by the empire. I believed in fate, then.

The nun began talking, and we all went hush. She had been a beautiful petite child, but somehow she had stopped growing, she informed us. Digging deep into pockets of the soul, she was pouring forth years of resentment, and was letting go the image she had of herself. She had visited a monastery in her youth, and then she had been taken in by nuns, and then she had been constantly psychologically abused by them. Life had had to move on. We listened, without pity or any particular feeling, half bored with our own lives. There was not much else to do entertainment-wise.

Suddenly, she broke off, and almost in tears, she began reciting a poem, and she revealed to us that all of the young women she had been in charge of had been killed in a raid. I didn’t feel anything. I just looked at her, I could see her wrinkles wrinkling up evermore.

I stopped listening, because I had been reminded of my own life events,. It is odd how at times, when sharing life experiences, the flow of energy momentarily bursts through, and we are alive for a short moment, and all the meaningful moments in our existence become presently interconnected, and we are all-aware for that one short moment. And for a brief candle the soul feels light, and then it feels the chain anew. All those moments are inter-linked, and I like to think that somehow they constitute a hidden layer to the multiverse, and they give us purpose. Somehow, looking back, looking forward, it all makes sense, this ruse of a story, this poetic narrative with no end. Not a linear story, not a hyperbole, not a circular ploy.

The nun had been a steady force in our ranks, and her death marked a heavy loss on our side in the war. We did not know it then, but she would become quite the hero. We all thought better of her after the event, but even then we could sense that there was something special in that resentment, in that sense of injured, broken justice. Not the broken love of the astronomer’s selfishness, but the broken dream of a young child, who had seen God and had genuinely tried.

glass bodies 231 240

Under the lid of the sea, waters were frozen. In the deep, an unchanged species of fish waited in stupor, all fins in labour to sit still mid-ocean. There was a lesson to be learnt from the planet core, from the glowing atmosphere.

The astronomer, one of many, stood transfixed staring not at stars but at flames nevertheless. Cannonades from ships imperial were echoing through the unbowed stratosphere. The day was breaking, attacked from all sides by starlight. Kyniska was shining through her eye, soul pointed in one direction. They were all speechless, watching the pirate ship engulfed in a devastating blaze. Xin, still amputated in mourning, was restless fidget and broken back. The great gloom shivered on. From the corners of the planet, satellite shadows began to emerge, a collection of debts.

The ship was swollen, turning its side over, tormented by the flames. Wronged by their planet of origin, the pirates had run aground, chased like guilty foxes to the sinister edges of the galaxy by relentless marketeers. Unable to oppose gravity, the former crew slumped forward, their thoughts took off like a flock of frightened starlings. The first false passion to turn the style was regret, followed by anger. The taoist fraud-master was cussing away, the galaxy looked on unoffended as all religions reeled. Faith was about to divide them up. Huxleyism vs Panglossianism. Not a single cloud was spaced wrongly in the sky. Factions forming, chancing a survival, plotting a suicide mission. There were darker spots in the eyes of stars, moving slowly like a pirate’s curse. Earth would never have rotated so. The pendulum of reason keeps swinging. The oak lies now where ashes stood high. The ship collapsed on the beach, pulverised. Violet flames where hope had been. The wind changed course. An idea flew wide, a journey afoot. A survivor of an earlier crash approached. A vision like a curse. They begged to be carried away to another world, their Charon eyes rolling to white. Arion was defiant, Steve now collected bones of brothers and sisters, charred. After the first few minutes, conversations started to grow. The spirit of Europa was deeply sad. Down we went into the empty space of the sea, she says… heroes to no sound. Particle gales, black squalls of matter. Circling the truths like sharks, afraid to bite. Our ship did drive so fast. Echoes will be contended.

They began to notice the planet’s flora, composed of seashelly gentianaceae. Everywhere, peaceful, eerie. Basalt rosettes, parallel winds, emerging. The Tabard harbour long lost but a new haven on this shore. The fire cracked on. Computers were howling. Flowers with yellow antlers and compassionate looks. The planet’s rotation murmured softly. The pilgrims were now alingering. Radiation from the stars. They suddenly remembered the false echo of satellites, and their religion was made of one shared experience, without question.

glass bodies 221 230

S: Hello, my name is Steve. I am a rubbish collector. I detoxify the city. I see you looking at these houses, there is no way for you to move in. The people who live here are a closed community.

A: Hello, my name is Angel, but I used to be called Xin.

S: Hello, I am a rubbish collector by vocation. And who are you? Are you nobody, too?

A: There is a pair of us.

S: Let me buy you a pint, and tell you my story.

A: Let me beg for forgiveness, and tell you mine.

S: I’m working class.

A: I’m upper middle, I used to be a slave. How is that possible. The wonders of the empire.

S: I watch a lot of movies, and feelies, too. I am very busy. But I am very busy. I mean lonely.

A: I am too busy to be lonely, but I feel broken. I used to hate the Joyride, now I am one of ’em.

S: One of what? We are all one in our ecological rubbish dump. We are all in the gutter…

A: But some of us feel guilt.

S: I don’t feel guilt, I don’t think there is anything unfair about the multi-verse.

A: I used to be a child with a red-passion track suit. Now I am trapped in a grey flannel suit.

S: But you are still that child. Just remember to take one step at a time, and breathe.

A: I can’t breathe, at times. I don’t gamble so much more, anyway, but no matter how much money I spend, I feel empty. I am not sure why I am talking to you like this. Do y’know, I used to be in the army? They told me: “In your mind, you may think you are a woman. But in the army, you are just a faggot.” They beat me, because I was reading a book. Savagely.

S: What was the book?

A: King Lear.

S: I grew up around here, I was an orphan.

A: My father killed himself, so I grew up amidst women on Rex Nebular. My mother hated me every minute of her life. I was born with a genetic mutation.

S: What was the mutation?

A: I was born a man in a world of women. I tried to please the community of women that my mother belonged to, I had to change my sex. But they still hated me. They called me a genderbender. So they sold me into slavery at the age of twelve. I have been on the run from them all my life. I think the miner’s colony was better. Then there was the rebellion. Then… then, I forget. Was I in gaol before or after that? I think I was tortured. I don’t remember much. I think I was in a war.

S: What you need, is a bit of the old detoxification. You need to go out and live in the woods. Plant trees. Watch flowers grow.

A: I have business to attend to.

S: Money doesn’t sing.

A: My mother wouldn’t approve.

S: And your father wouldn’t mind.

A: Don’t talk about my father. I hate him. He was an immigrant on a planet of women, and he killed himself. He left me there.

S: You are not a child anymore.

A: Says who? I thought you just said that I still am that child.

S; You can’t be. Not after everything that’s happened to you.

A: I just want to get even. Sorry, I have to go now. There are people that work for me that I need to punish. They are slackers, and they waste my money and time. Forget what I said.

S: I will be here next week. I always go for walkies. See you around.

A: See you. The next time you can tell me about yourself… sorry.

glass bodies 211 220

Xin

A crescendo in time, soulless timesharing. My fellow soldiers in flames. Barracks, giant hot planets, pirates declaring independence. The history of the Mint. At a crossroads, I came out of prison to be alive, and I found myself in debt. I used to be a man, so I became a slave. But as a woman I built multiversal screens creatively. I joined the revolution. Then I escaped from camp. It was a wet ridiculously hot colony of miners, and the stars in cluster were backburning, and the shockingly scorched KELT-9 system was about to burst. Its tail, with semblance of a feeble threat, was level with my eyes. Pirates and criminals, rejected by our Joyride had been my companions. The day I was arrested my mind was 650 light years away, locked in perpetual light. Our folly, searing heat of exoplanets, was to believe we could be free. In a cloud of evaporating helium, our hard fought rights burst up in flames. All violent fumes where violet had been. The imperial troops were claiming the Capulets of our brain, nerve thresholds and all, our electric lives. Then, I was tortured, cast aside, tortured again. They were kind to me. Old soldiers, you know, pensioners with one foot in the grave. I was afraid they might catch a cold. “Reality isn’t real”, they would tell me. Before our star died, every good intention was blasted away with one button push, and all the shingles in my conscience would be swatted aside.

Now, friend, I am a real estate agent, claiming a cool 17 percent on Proxima Centauri. My teeth are no longer a concern. I operate with the help of the Empire, my accountant is from the sub star system. He is a weasel. With today’s technology I can instantly soulshare from the palm of my hand, and every shiny app A lister, every 20 mil people is found in my address book, orbiting my parties, horse racing at my day at the races. I made it, yobs. I sell, therefore I am. I PR. I market. I think, what do people think? But I dont do G-type stars any longer. Now I am better. There is a thing in my voice, I go to lessons you know, from one of the citys top people, a chairwoman of Glory. She once knew the great leader, our dear departed. I wear hats, most extravagant. Bring me your business, then.

But before I was this rare particle, I had to survive in the Free Liberty of the Mint. I came out of gaol only to find myself tiptoeing around debt collectors, I found a way to frustrate every murderer’s choice. I was like water, no reason. One side of my face always points to the Sun. My spectrum was the pit and pendulum, but I since discovered gambling, and I am cured. On this balmy day, many years ago, I stood before the gates of barracks and accepted the fact that I would become a killer, mediating death and the elements. The hounds of guards were furious, snapping at our heels. My fellow recruits had voices of pallor, already quickly dying inside. I am dead now, and this is my echo. It burned in water, in oil tanks, and in the exploding rounds of bullets.

glass bodies 201 210

An imperial trooper

The national anthem is sung with the low murmur of extra-terrestrial beetles, I feel my head spin. We are explorers on Mars; proud solid men cloud-bursting, wandering and confused by the spin of gravitational waves. A group of kids scurrying in the canyons; here and there we rush into a little skirmish with the local tribes. Five hundred years ago, a Conquistador explorer came here, looking for lost cities. He left a trail of little trinkets. Finders, keepers; losers, weepers. I guess that’s why we are here, really. Treasure.

My father entrusted me with the fate of the nation, as well as sperming-on the dynasty. I am a good soldier, I am. He was an archaeologist, in search of a Faith. He found a silver coin in a needle-cave on a spear-shaped island, and I have admired him ever since for his bravery, tomfoolery and audacity. I have been educated with she-books carrying images of Byronic scenes of battle: the losers and the lost, the Turkish and the Russian, the Persian and the Greek.

The traitorous Alp, a long way away from the twisted city surrounded by walls of water, Herodotus at Thermopylae, and all the rest. In victory, I have found that coal is a long-lost commodity on this side of the diamond-studded sky. In defeat, we empirical soldiers have followed the way of the Little Bighorn. But now I am a winner, a gold-showered recruit in the imperial troops, fresh from days of jubilant massacre.

The undead rebels may be wallowing in the basalt marshes, or rising in the wasteland, weathered in the alkaline dust of native tribes. The curse of the living carries on. I am as tense as violin string, that’s why in fifth grade my school-teacher chose yours truly as an ambassador of the Truth-nation. The eternal monkey stares at me through this thin carbon dioxide atmosphere (sprinkled with argon), and as we trek across the wide craters, the long valleys, the ginormous volcanoes towering, full many an imaginary gem bursts from the crust’s dread mouth.

As recruits, we walk in pairs, in utterĀ silence, almost tip-toeing hand in hand. I am a sailor of the Empire’s Class-Xenophon Frigate, driven by guilt, fear and worthlessness. These are my favorite emotions. Everything I do, everything I own is tinged by the colour of these thinly scraped emotions. My space suit is replete with shame to the brim, my cosmic gait is somewhat slow and immodest at the same time as being irrelevant. Our black uniforms absorb the light of the not-so-distant star; inwardly we decry imperial meritocracy and corruption. But then we slither on, lacking the humour to complete this morning’s walkies, an unremarkable task unsuited for us superior centaurs of unremarkable prowess.

glass bodies 191 200

A rebel

We had provisions enough to last a few days. We were boarded by a
clumsy deep-space galleon of some Galactic Conquistadores, needing
a fix of murder. The night of dark space was more loving than any
rising star. I was a young man, stupid and in awe of the multiverse.
Everything was so fresh, so surprising, so venturesome, so interesting.
After being captured, my consolation was that I formed ideas about
evil and wealth, and these will tell you everything you need to know
about what it means to be involved in imperial politics. But our ideal,
the revolutionary man, does not aspire to be a leader in a perished search.

The story goes also that within echo-memory, in my early days as a “Caelum
nostrum” sailor, I fought bravely. Those who have read any account of my
buccaneering this side of the Sulaco federation, will know that the
prevailing tone of those stories is far from calm, and that a vast gulf
was formed in my chest where once my heart might have been. Autres
gentilhommes! In a caustic tone my guilt hangs over my head, still.
All of what you think is made possible by class-conventions and settled
modes of thinking. When captured, we sailed past the Azuera belt,
a wild chaos of sharp asteroids and stony moons which were cut about
the time of the Carrero Blanco rule, and now, many years afterwards,
the ecological destruction of that part of the galaxy lingers on.

The Conquistadores had particle revolvers at their belts. They had started
to chop their way through strange gaseous self-energy coasts by the stars.
Ominous shadows lay in the sunken rocks and galactic particle tempests
seemed to assemble in the distance. On the quantumeous shores, the Sulaco
federation had found an artistic mine. They were digging for a bit of Anglo-Saxon
spirit, which would have allowed them to hang on their Conquistador dream.

But this is the idlest of dreams; for already then I understood perfectly well
that imperialists are just buccaneers in disguise, with an added touch
of Scalping philosophy, the latest stage of multiversal Capital worship,
which was taking shape across galaxies as ethnic cleansing of the Ute,
and many other outer frontier tribes.

A long becalmed photonic gale made us unable to move at all, and our galleon
would lie becalmed, where your modern ship built on gravitons would exploit
the curvature of space-time and sail on. As a young man looking ahead in anger
I understood perfectly, if scornfully, the fate of rebels such as we were.

glass bodies 181 190

a farmer growing rotifers

planets are wanderers in space, bright matter-wave
soliton trains whose long-standing question is
whether to tilt, elongate, compress, vacillate,
run out of course, spontaneously form or dissolve.

my job is to rapidly harness repulsive to attractive
quenched interactions from ultra-cold atomic gases,
grow a Rotifer farm, crystal vases from another sea,
transparently gliding, Leviathans from the deep.

I am a Leviathan farmer on Triton; we have been
captured by Poseidon in our quest for a better
ecology. My husband died while working the
cryovolcanic vents, sublimated nitrogen had him.

Like Io and Europa, Triton has an inner life, and
while we dream on a surface of frozen nitrogen,
sipping water-ice cocktails from ice-seven,
ice-eight and ice-ten crystalline forms, our

disordered hydrogen bonding has led our
Conochilus colonies to be to be ripe and
supple, and metastable ices made our
eco-farming techniques very sophisticated.

Kyniska and her solitary cosmographical
boy-friend are often far and away on their
Mount Meru metaphysical searches, or
relieving imperial ships of their dark matter.