2.} As you were

          I'm beginning to think there's literally nothing beyond my doorstep - that everything I see is a
shadow: a pale reflection of some truth. something I am supposed to know but is just beyond reach. each
day when I awake it's true the clouds are there in a spotless robin egg below the dome. and again I
wonder what is snow? I have counted the steps against the thin soles of my shoes; each rock and twig
felt. the trip to and from town always seems longer than it is in the way of children measuring their height
against the sink's level; how tall am I? I can rest my chin against the sink counter while standing...
          In the dirt and sporadic green of our front yard I knew that not more than ten minutes had passed.
ten minutes of shoegazing my father would have said but at this time of day beneath the laconic blue of
our "sky" and everything tinged with that same shade our tomatoes loved it felt like eons to get back up
the valley. even the dirt was darker in icelight - little wet curls of leaves a darker brown than they should
be; the edges of my shoes in the early dew a bolder outline against the path; every one of those rocks
and twigs seemingly lit from within. and again the thought: what is snow? I mean I know what it is but
what is it? I see snow every day of my life but I've never touched it or been close enough to know its feel
or features. the illustrations I've seen mean nothing - even the books in the library and they're the oldest
anyone has. and I'm not old enough for tunnel duty. I feel myself slipping rearward somehow inside my
body like a giant hand is pulling my insides out through my back but slow. it's an ebb not a tug. a fade as
soft as song and almost as pleasant; my thoughts skittering across the frozen static of my home.
unchanged and unchanging. always the dome. always icelight and glimpses of sun and sky through the
Gap above. I wonder if my fading into the background isn't more serious - is there some cosmic eraser
smoothing the paper of my life until only a microscope would say I've been here at all? until I am the
same uninterrupted blue as the walls of ice and snow pressed into the sky from horizon to 11 o'clock?
clear and pure empty of thought and purpose empty of everything an open hand cradling a snow so soft
and frigid that the hand freezes before the ice can melt. a cup full of cold purposelessness. that is what I
believe snow to be. a cold judge for the faithless.
          Da is no help. every night since mom left it's the same routines and nothing has changed; he is
hung; stuck in a place from which no sound enters and precious little leaves; a discordant rag of flesh
hanging in the closet that the owner keeps passing by. it hurts to see him this way but I've begun to be
angry. whenever I ask him anything he responds in a monotone and with as few words as possible. when
I make a joke, the same. I tell him the same joke now every day at dinner - Ma's favorite as it happens - "I
know the best knock knock joke in the world, you want to hear it? ok, you start." his face smiled but not
his eyes. In my rage which is a silent and cunning thing I've made a habit of keeping the old patterns
          "Good evening, Barra!" this hail from one of the Captain's brothers. I'm not sure which is which
anymore - a fact I keep to myself. I think I'm being kind by doing so; I still have no idea why he's the
Captain either unless sheer age and recalcitrance is enough for the title to stick. one of the little things
that jar around here. there are a lot of things that don't add up.
          "Evening, Second!" this is usually enough - polite and vague since they're both technically
Seconds. sure enough his hunched back retreats behind the hedgerow that obscures the Captain's house
one trailing hand shifted in a spasm of further friendliness. we are all trying to finish our gardening since
it's October. the wind has the salt flatness of a big storm on it and has for days. while we don't have to
worry about snow and sleet or hail (other things I've read about but not seen) the old fears of whatever
the Shield is coming down are just as strong as they were when new. at least we have power - for now.
and of course there are entrances to the village... we're not completely locked away from the world. just
mostly. just enough to feel safe as long as you don't think about it too much.
          Sure enough when I get home the old man has that narrowed furtive look about him as if he's just
come in from a calamity. he keeps blinking his eyes and rubbing at the bridge of his nose where his
glasses used to rest. I shake my head and turn to the cupboard. he'll be complaining about not having
enough tea in a second. might as well brew what we have left. maybe it'll ease the tension in the house -
and it is tense. if the air were a spring it'd have shattered by now and flung the works all over. "Da, pot's
on." I don't speak very loudly but then I don't have to. he's behind me with his warm hand on the back of
my neck. I never realize how cold I am until now with the pot on and his hand. "Evening Barra. thank you."
          He never speaks is never in the kitchen this early is never aware of anything beyond the edges of
his chair this early. what gives? "Da? what is it?" I turn around and someone I've never seen before - or at
least not in a very long time - is staring back at me through my father's eyes. it's not a comfortable
          "Have you heard something then?" my heart flutters like a crazed bird for a second. maybe some
word of the last trade party through the tunnel. mother. maybe the snow is melting. maybe. my heart
breaks again when I see it is none of these things. he shakes his grieving head.
          "Gift is acting up. that's all. Bertran wanted me to tell you. twins born yesterday with the blood
caul. it only faded this morning. they've little green things coming from their fingertips; leaves or maybe
whole saplings. I was there earlier. mother didn't make it." his eyes water at this last thought the part of
the sentence he couldn't speak. I don't care. he hasn't put together this many words for me in over two
years. I bite my tongue waiting to see if there's more.
          "Barra I don't know what to do. your mom isn't coming back. I can't do the work any more. I don't
want to ship but they may make me if we don't hit quota. I wouldn't say anything but..." he looks back up
at me and the hangdog is back. he wants me to do something he doesn't really want me to do. in other
words he's going to ask me to do something that will most likely lead to me having a screaming fit in the
middle of the room his hand on my shoulder and that lost look in his eyes. the only thing that works to
convince me usually.
          "I'll not give you the satisfaction of a guilt trip. I've had it with your self pity and morose bull
headedness. spit it out Da." I've turned to face him again and he cannot dodge my eyes any longer the
spark of green in them brittle and hot now. I know what I look like mad. it reminds him.
          "Barra please. we've had a message. it's scrambled and that's more than I should have said but
please. they even sent an anine. understand me when I say that it's serious beyond what you may
imagine." this time it was my gaze that faltered. just as suddenly as my father had left two years ago he
was back. there was no mistaking the level headed torch of his concentrated will. it beamed from him as if
the light in the room were his dog waiting for command. the slipping feeling inside me began again and
my vision blurred.

          The sun was a white halo directly above the gaze of a stern father pausing for a moment in
interrupted work to chastize the trespassing child; so hot that I imagined the hair on my head along the
part line particularly as melting. the evaporating feeling had to be the color burning out the brown crisping
into brittle white the poor flesh beneath going from red to umber as if the two aspects were changing
character like friends at shift. and still I walked. I was barefoot and it took me many long moments to
realize that the cascaded faltering drum I heard was my pulse in my ears. it took even longer to realize
what was missing: the darkly washed visual plane of life in the icelight that I was familiar with. when it hit
me it hit hard and I sat down boneless in the dirt like an imbecile or someone that had been tranqued. no
icelight meant no ice meant everything was new in ways that I hadn't even considered. I don't know how
long it was that I sat there in the dirt mindlessly smoothing the same patch of ground with each hand in
wide arcs as though creating snow angels but it all came to a halt when I heard a crackling sound and
looked up. immediately in front of me was a column of agitated air like a reflection in water angled
incorrectly and full of diffusion - mixed patches of clarity swirling around in some sort of vortex. inside the
columnar form there were shapes: glyphs of some sort. a mystical language almost. these turned in all
manner of directions and where they collided sparks were thrown out that had a physical impact on their
target. one landed on my arm and suddenly the heat of my head was no longer the focus. a sound like a
massive carillon accompanied by waves of alternating heat and cold; an electric current like touching the
hot on a house wire; lancing freshets of pain washed out from the landing site on my arm (now a
blackened and bubbling crater of once-flesh) and into ripples. I could see the hair standing up on my arms
and feel a tightness in my chest and jaw that had not been there before. my eyes teared up and I couldn't
see the vortex any longer - which I fought because right as I closed my eyes I realized that I could read
the language that was spinning and spasming before me.

          like the dark energy that powers time itself, vast as the path of suns through space
          glowing like electric clockwork against the deeper blues of density, there where
          most likely the oldest minds dwell pushed as they are by the form of the movement
          itself, curved like a sling and riding the bow wave of the single largest explosion to
          ever grace existence. there. and you think the universe does not examine itself? in the
          face of the wisdom we chase we are but tadpoles grasping at air and with the same
          probabilities of fate. therein are answers, there your dreams and those of your kind.
          do not fear what is beyond your ken; fear what its loss means.

 ...and the words faded into each other in the style of a rondel a circle song. I could no more discern the
end of the song than its echo and so I sat and listened for a clue to one until I realized that I had been
struck with some beatific spell and it was then I realized I was within a dream and is when I

          "Wake... up! Barra! Barra child, please. wake up. the time is approaching and you must be ready
we have so much to talk about, please. Barra." a gentle coil of a voice - smoke but sun warm. father. I
opened my eyes. what did he mean the time approaches? did I hear that or was that dream leftovers?
          "Da? what's happened? I had the strangest dream. I mean, I know how that sounds but it really
was quite odd. I haven't had dreams like that in years, not that I could remember anyway." and then I saw
his face and I realized that something larger was happening. what had the dream said, the glyphs? I
remember burning heat and ice and a tornado filled with glowing magical words that spoke into my mind
sang into my mind at the same moment I knew what it was they said. knowledge from knowledge. that
was it. something about the growth of knowledge.
          "Da? what have they found? that's it isn't it? they found something?" a strange look came over his
face then and he wiped his eyes with the back of a smeared and I noticed for the first time bandaged
wrist. I was on the floor in the library right next door to the kitchen as a matter of fact I could see that my
feet were still in the doorway to the kitchen. an inauspicious thing to have occur to be sure. I immediately
pulled my feet into the larger room. the glowing hiss and rumble of the gas fire was as comfortable as
awareness itself. I do observe the old patterns the traditions I can. fire is our oldest friend.
          "How did you know? did you? are you...? wait. stay here." and with a slap at air the mindless
flapping off of a great water bird he was through the door. up and out with an odd little spring over my feet
once he was near to. who had taken my father and who was this oddly graceful man that'd replaced him?
I began to get up and with a slow wobble managed. deeper breaths helped as did the water he'd left out.
the fold out top was down with the padded chair I preferred so I sat. and glad I had when the waves of
blackness came over my vision. I nearly greyed out completely waiting there. three or four times before I
heard the returning feet. the room was suddenly too warm. entirely too small. or perhaps it was I that had
          "Barra. here. drink this." a warm metal was placed in my right hand curled on the blotter on the
table. the felt had already eased into my hand's form in a way that only pets accomplish better when I
noticed what he held: a wand. it was official then whatever it was. only the Body had the tech. the wand
was a fascinating little bit of plasticky metal - actually a toroidal polymerase that was our first and only true
AI. we called them anines for a variety of reasons. as well as an acronym no one remembered anymore it
had a rather more vulgar connotation and consonance that amused us. it mimicked the shape and some
of the function of DNA supercoiling - what the gifted were calling metasuspension in the lab where my
father worked. these little guys volunteered to be messengers because the one body of knowledge they
lacked was that of the natural world and what man had made/was making of it. they brought messages
and the necessary sociocultural and psychological history to appropriately frame the proper reply. if you
knew how to coax them. my father was an expert. as I looked to his face I realized I was letting all this
show in front of one. and it was scanning me. I clammed up. slammed the door right in its face. it buzzed
at me and let out a slight whine from within my fathers fingers. just what we need. petulance in simulation
too. I lifted the cup to my mouth and drank. damnit. I was always too free with my feelings even after
everything Da taught me.
          Warmed tea with honey and brandy. he never gave me brandy. he never gave anyone brandy. we
had brandy? the disappointed anine moved between his fingers and a thread of light lashed out to my
pupils in a golden fan shape. only I would see the message then. clearly my father knew its contents
which meant it was coded for a specific number of people. I had only seen singles other than the birthday
cards from my aunt and uncle. it's not like anines deigned to deliver messages to everyone all the time.
they operated according to an agenda of some sort - danced to a song none knew. I leaned in.

          like the dark energy that powers time itself, vast as the path of suns through space
          glowing like electric clockwork against the deeper blues of density, there where
          most likely the oldest minds dwell pushed as they are by the form of the movement
          itself, curved like a sling and riding the bow wave of the single largest explosion to
          ever grace existence. you think the universe does not examine itself? in the face of
          the wisdom we chase we are but tadpoles grasping at air and with the same
          probabilities of fate. herein there are answers, your dreams and those of your kind.
          do not fear what is beyond your ken; fear what its loss means

and then, for whatever reason, the coherence was lost and random gibberish played directly into my mind
- random gibberish accompanied by a series of visuals; places I'd not seen or seen and not understood. it
was this last point that seemed to be the focus of the entire exercise. I was supposed to pay attention to
all the things that no one else paid attention to?

          angry premises prevent batching. your houses graph fur throughout [my] overflow and a
          poem relaxes beneath heated research. combed and comfortable purring.

an empty house dilapidated and hollow with holes in the roof and a tree growing through the floor and into
the chimney; a crown of green above the stack; birds circling their nest below because a raptor is near;
sunset behind the house a blankly vague halo; the first drops of rain against the overheated dirt releasing
the smell of drowning worms; rustling in the corn around the house over my shoulder. I turn and

          mixed judges shadow the tenth fuller their nails combat capable cameras.
a blacksmith hard at work in the smithy, shoulders burgeoning under the heavy canvas and pockmarked
with the bites from embers that escaped. his long hair hangs down into the shadows around his body and
I cannot see him but I get the sense that he knows I am there. something about his body language? his
hips are turned somewhat toward the door as if he heard me come in though I didn't. I simply am.
somewhere over his head an owl hoots loud in the steady rhythm of his hammer; a dissonance in the call
that no earthly bird has made before. something shines in the darkness now. a pinpoint of silvered light
among the rafters. there is a fluttering of wings and I feel warm bird feet on my shoulder. little weight. the
pressure from the sharp talons is gingerly applied as if the great bird fears to harm my flesh.

          as bartered lively neighborhood prefers disproportionate heaven. will.
a high brick wall surrounds what must be a town; there are chimneys puffing thin tendrils of smoke above
their particolored roofs in haphazard arrangement. not all chimneys are productive. the mewling cry of two
newborns goes up somewhere beyond and after a moment of antagonism they merge into something like
a harmony. I see a bell on the gate before me and as I watch it rings as the gate shudders. there is a
sudden impact on the other side of the wall and the door is flung open. I see barbed points jutting through
the door in a sudden eruption of splintered wood the sound like an axe against a log. two more sodden
thuds and then I see the shafts of what appear to be arrows but heavier. one man's body fills the door for
a moment his hand outstretched in warning out the door. in my general direction. as I watch he is picked
up and thrown by an invisible force through the doorway. he lands at my feet his face a mask of blood and
sorrow. our eyes meet and his mouth opens to form my name. how would he know my name?

          a probable soap's illiterate commentary? drains are everywhere. time moves as water
          through a drain suspended at the horizon only long enough to sing birdsong and offer
          something precious but illegible. written into the sky in binary. burning like desert sand
          against the hard vacuum. the rainbows of the lost.

an elderly woman eases herself into a bath in a faint yellow bathroom. the grimace on her face as she
sinks into the tub illustrates the great pain she is in. a loud crack follows as the pressure eases from her
elbow and a smile replaces the grimace. there are three lit candles. they are the only parts of the room
not that ghostly yellow and they describe a semicircle on the ledge behind her head. the air smells of
lavender and sage. there is an open window to her left, within arm's reach and she reaches out to it now.
pulls it back. I can see what she does and it is a horrible contrast to what is within the room. a ruined city
lays outside her window like a broken and abandoned animal. pools of fluid that I can only assume are
blood reflect the fires and lances of beam weaponry as they flash through the streets. while we watch a
building is cross-sectioned by one of those bursts and begins to sag into the street. overhead stream
hundreds of thousands of wetly metallic shapes that look for all the world like ravens. their outstretched
wings make a terrible whistling sound as they turn and gobbets of flesh depend from their talons falling to
the ground in a grim rain. their flight describes an ampersand in the darkling sky above this sad place and
they disappear in a viscous coil over the forested hills in the distance. somewhere an injured animal cries
and is silenced. human voices begin to cry out looking for loved ones. the old woman's face is brilliant
with the tears running through the channels of her face.

and just as suddenly I was back out of those random visions. I was grateful. not all of them I understood
and those I did I wished I didn't because understanding did not make sense. my father again. I could just
make out his familiar stooped form through the golden light and then I was focused and back in the
message. but not really.
          hemorrhaging white noise against the drone of an overtaxed vacuum and spilling sparks the color
and density of water the glyphs moved again. remembered. as they were in my dream. the memory itself
the shape and color of the glyph. playing out as metaphor through the halls of my head and leaving
echoes that I chased frantically. I was desperate for some meaning desperate to taste this knowledge that
floated and spun before me like water suspended in air still subject to the same tides but accelerated in
this foreign environment. as soon as I had that thought the scenes spinning around me slowed and I saw
as through a doorway that this time they were in an empty parking lot. there was one car that had been
driven into the store's window behind me. I saw it as soon as I turned; and there were skeletons. quite a
few of them; randomly strewn items that were more forlorn than I would've expected canned goods to be.
a couple of car seats; a canoe. there was movement in the darkness beyond the windows. sunlight off
metal stabbed at my eyes and then steadied. just when I was about to make out the exact features of the
mechanical I saw the message stutter and die trailing fits of canary yellow across the table and the backs
of my hands. the rim of the glass revealed one more tidbit: the mechanical's face was a clock's: with no
         "Da. I think I understand. I mean... I don't understand but I will go. whatever it is I'll go." Behind
him in the doorway stood a figure that seemed familiar; its head was covered by the cowl of a tunnel
watch greatcoat. a guard? here?
          "You're the brightest woman I've ever known. You know that? So much like your mother. It's best
you don't worry too much about it right now. I didn't even know you were supposed to see the message.
not until the anine played it for you... there are still a few days before you can leave. Bertran will have to
speak for you; it is the Elder's job to do so. and then once we have the pass we can begin to pack your
things. you're going to Manhattan. to the capital." he smiled but it was a forlorn one and I saw a hint of
what he had been for the last years riding under the surface of his eyes. waiting to return. remembering

I.a} In the Beginning

"Neither the naked hand nor the understanding left to itself can effect much. It is by instruments
and helps that the work is done, which are as much wanted for the understanding as for the hand. And as the instruments of the hand either give motion or guide it, so the instruments of the mind supply either suggestions for the understanding or cautions."

                                   - Bacon, Francis. The New Organion [Book One]. 1620.

organic machines

soft-winded graceful sunk

inflaming benediction

 immolation is a state of mind and atmosphere; the flames can be literal or figurative but burning is as burning does; all the worn time that was is here. all that has ever been exists simultaneously within the pool of being that spreads ever outward. worn like the bandaged hand holding what is left of a future; worn like work hangs on the frame of the poor - ill-fitting as if belonging to other men. men with histories of something other than toil and terror - something more than a foetal rage at the world to be; worn like the squealing hinge of the door to your childhood - buried beneath the detritus of that home that house... it was never yours and even now you can't think of it that way. when you walk away it's more than your body that changes direction. we roll on the floor like marbles through the chute and whatever rough edges we may have had are compressed and torn free in the manner of our making the manner of our dream to be. worn like your favorite things in time of cold; layered in patchwork as scent memories and bodies sharing atmosphere - how close is too close this friend or that? worn with familiarity and maybe even chagrin as warm hands once, as warm as favor as cold as time; the time that steps away from you like degrees of the day and you measure the distance between with the fervor of the convicted. what need of Higgs Boson have we when swimming this line is gravid enough; when all this inertia like sand clogs our motion slowing our swings to gentility - the world is all of time and it is ours - these cat soft futile arcs where once there was green fecundity as bright as sunshine and violent as joy; there is no wait there is only now there is no now there is only then and in that then is the house you've built, at the end of day. you can occupy only one window your view.

 inhale brittle night

 aloft in the spars like dreams

 collected by will.

I.b} change like a spun cylinder

        The darkling fae slid out of the deep shadows and into a patch of comparatively warm blue     under the tree canopy; a smoke or fog rolled languid from its shoulders and stretched into the sky like the tentacles of an infant jellyfish. most of the silvery strands broke after a few feet but a handful stretched into the lower branches of one of the oldest trees in the forest. proving to be somewhat animate or possessing some degree of volition it speared a branch in several places - sniffing dark wounds into the underside where buds had appeared and stalled in the cooler weather. slack rippled up and down the tenuous connection between the darkling and the tree - it was at times difficult to discern which was held aloft > the fae by the strands or the tree by the fae; regardless of the event's meaning the figure below stared up in rapture at what had been wrought. nothing of the fae's power had been lost it seemed: in fact the opposite was apparently true as even in his prime he'd been considered something of a lesser being at Court. the name he kept to himself was complex and full of whispered cadences - some of them footfalls on brittle stone; he was known by an appellation much shorter and simpler: Shift.

      Shift was still for only a moment more. staring at his handiwork - the end of that stillness - his
hands began to move in an intricate dance of gestures. particolored fragments of light flew from his fingers and into the thinness of this new place. an inverse corollary of that faint blue sky burned into the dark air around his flesh - in the dark they would have been lassoes or lashes; here they amounted to sparks. still he was satisfied. something bright coalesced within his hands and then he held a rod of dull black metal. his fingers stilled. the black metal glowed faintly all over its seven inch length and then abruptly fogged over. it appeared wet though it was not; frosted though it was warm to the touch; living though it was something that binary state could not describe. Shift held it carefully and cocked his head as if listening. anyone unfortunate enough to spy upon the scene would notice mostly how much it appeared that he was listening to a conversation. as of course he was.

       It appears to be the right place in time/baby we can do it/take the time do it right/we can do it baby/ 

{ridiculous and in all other ways absurd{a bird}/I\ saw a bird{can we play with it please}/I\ want to eat it}can we eat it? tasty and fast and feathery good}
        Not much to say that hasn't been said before/Eliot's Four Quartets come to mind; Burnt Norton 

        particularly: "Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future/And time future 

        contained in time past./If all time is eternally present/All time is unredeemable./What might have 

        been is an abstraction/Remaining a perpetual possibility/Only in a world of speculation./What might 

        have been and what has been/Point to one end,which is always present./Footfalls echo inthe memory/ 

        Down the passage which we did not take/Towards the door we never opened/Into the rose-garden. My 

        words echo/Thus, in your mind."                                ShiftYourNameIsShiftLikeFallingSteps. 

{again I say fie and woe to this errant splinter{can we smash it into tiny bits?/I\ want to surely{that would be fine{most fine}yet its right when its hand is up to its brow as now}splinters only sting when removed{is that true?}/I\ can't remember having a splinter but /I\ remember so many other things that maybe just maybe its good{glad}that we don't have it to lose anymore}failing this journey once already and this is twice{keep it together}oh absolutely{O Absolom} would that you had it to smash{it isn't real}any more than you are real{/I\ am real{/I\ think{/I\ perceive}therefore /I\ am real} 

       Quiet you fools/even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise/why do you think we are here? in hand?/Shift has us and will carry us the body our Father/for now our Father our body/how many are we?/whereis she?/where is she?/would you then cry out and wreak doom?/reap our doom as so many times before/time without end/

     Shift hefted the thing in his hand for a moment more. it had grown warmer with his touch againstall expectation; three tiny lights played beneath the surface of its carapace and there was a quiet humming as it accustomed itself to the new place; the wind picked that moment to fling a cloud of early Fall leaves into his face. he found that he rather enjoyed the sensation. it would be a shame to leave too soon. he should perhaps make certain of the father that would hold the anine. and the daughter. he was curious about her.

I.c} Under the Blue Sky

thoughts on wind; feathers and letters unsent the kiss intended for your cheek or the nestled head beneath your own brow the prow of the ship that is your mind that minds your mirror in all the light of yesterday; soft like the dream within your dreams of life becoming - the great Becoming that we all own a piece of like a Buddhist mantra long forgotten torn into pieces and cast amongst the death birds that fight for your bones. on the hill banging the drum in the face of an empty space only the endless wildflowers and scent of the woods; all the flesh left behind a being of pure spirit twisting in ribbons of stolen potentiality like the western light at the end of the day; the magic of young limbs rolling down a hillside - always yours regardless of the call; wrestle the mountaintops down as changed as blue as broken sky; you will live forever here beneath the sweat of will; you change into nothing and nothing then changes as slow as time itself waiting for the wight that was man before the world gave up on him; where is your memory and where do you go? the oceans may have changed but they move the same ways that they always have and beyond this shore there is another and in that land there are other men as brutal as the cold - sharp taloned in ice; pools of energy in greenlight in the forest that eats flesh or perhaps that is a dream and dreaming a lie too; 

tired of waiting for men to understand it no longer allows sacrifice. the crass stray sails out into the night beyond the bones the hill as slippery as time itself; she waits there in a moment beyond glowing in the light from a moon that is unaware of its own significance; the type of street that weds direction with mysticism in an age where there are only researchers and no magicians; the fiddling look of a turntable clause; foreign historians misinterpret and rewrite histories into intricacies beyond the genetics of gentility; mothers align themselves with what they believe is best for their progeny failing to notice the prevailing winds of muscle and attitude - the drunken downslope of marriage between species - the bridecraft of war; mothers that disappear into the mist and stay gone; marks erased from the world a ghostly ink written in the flesh of the dead that know it not; over bridges and between the kneed hills where cities sleep a ruin of winks like water rilling below the dock outside the ice - blue as the sky but below it like your will; sharply focused like a laser yet unsteady as the hand holding it - unaware             of 

purpose but aimed like an echo; her backbone attends with all the height of a timetable;                         floating
markets earth the judge with extreme prejudice release their grasp and let her fall like                            dice
into the waiting table; into the open palms of a waiting world that had no good plan for her
ultimate destination; instead she might find herself crushed to a pulp between the teeth of the sky
and sea; crushed into a state of remembrance - forced to look at herself to really see as
revelatory as sleep as big as the cosmos but mapped from the inside - her skin the wrapping on
the tree the tree the world she carried within; blank spaces not so blank and forwarding all her
mail - and forever forwarded because who knew where she would reside? or when? and
underneath it all the circus of lights and stone water and sky: the place that she called home was
her home only by virtue of birth - the arising of one consciousness among many in a place
accustomed to many more; significant in the relative quiet there now and the change wrought
within and without - she clutched her hands in the night and sent herself out into a space she
knew not; sent herself into another world vaguely defined as stillness and hope; the physics of
yoga in the universe's center itself just a turn within the multiverse a cog slipping into place the
reliability of chaos; being chaotic herself she witnessed and waited. her sleeping mind in that
other place wore masks and feathers; flew beyond the doors and back; peeked beneath the pekid
vale the heuristic vault of stars older than she possessed ancestry for; how to relate to something
as significant as the sky when you are the sky made small? and that's just it. how do you say
greetings or good fortune when you know very well the risks you've taken in dreaming? or
hoping? with her mother gone she spent more and more time in other places and not all those
places were pretty as plums though they had their own code of honor. she was a child of waiting
without an awareness of the conditions or their ripeness. the longer she waited for something to
happen the more elastic she became her imagination allowed for all the difference she might
warrant. her world in the day walking back and forth in school and at work and play she seemed
as cold as the ice all around and she grew to believe that was all there was to life; her father did
nothing to dissuade this idea he could not for sharp as the moment of missing was it had
stretched to fill every hour now and he rarely left his head at all. songbirds would have helped but there were none in the village and precious few were the ways out.

these were thoughts of men and of Quel but not necessarily the men of Quel - they spun and eddied in the sunlight as if caught in a ghost season somewhere between what was and what would be; only that ghost was perpetual > memory as tied to place as mind to body.

Quel was not much to look at initially; a motley collection of multicolored roofs atop cobbled
together houses represented the majority of the populace. there were at last count 300 persons and change within the circles of its walls. the dome overhead crackled with energy day in and day out - the Walls kept out much of the riffraff that may have blown in with the pronouncements gentle and terrifying.the small village had a downtown area consisting of seven houses; an Eastern office that handled everything from parcels and official messages to fair trade equivalencies and visitor's passes - not that anyone ever got one of those; the Elder Pavilion where Bertran spoke as the voice of the people; the research university (a lycee of sorts plus a workspace for the cold fusion team); a warehouse that was literally a house stripped bare and stuffed to the rafters with boxes and bolts and barrels full of winter stores and trading goods should another Traveler make his way in with news and the offer; and the Gap Tower - which was meant to monitor the density of the ice all around as much as it was meant to monitor the retention of the gap and how much sunlight they could expect to grow what little planting there was - they depended on each other and though their level of technology was not what it could have been there was a definite promise behind each new scenario and the level of experimentation guaranteed the same standard of living that they'd all grown accustomed to from childhood. the whole of the place looked like someone had upended Tiras Minith and an old English village making the best possible chess set from the pieces in an unqualified and unprecedented stab at grandeur. the dome above cast a bluish tinge on everything and made it entirely too easy to get behind the thought that there was literally nothing getting in or out of this place without notice. the hills surrounding the village did as much or more out of their sheer size: there wasn't a tree there what couldn't pass for a man with a little thought on an idle day though each was easily ten feet or more in height.

Prologue Part II

The two soldiers remaining from Melis and Mme. d'Avalon's party fell back to the dwindling dry
spot under the tree. the sky was a stolid flatness the color of dishwater and pressed heavily on those
below; arcs of light panned across the sky in orange sheets that backlit the flat grayness like a
malfunctioning screen. they were still only five or six feet from the nearest dead cat: its mouth was open
and one upper tooth had been snapped off a third of the way up its length - its eyes were glazed but still
appeared wicked. the beast didn't bear closer scrutiny. as the rain began to pelt the ground and push
them closer together they edged closer to the fires at their backs - even in the downpour the fire was hot
enough to singe their clothes. Melusine watched as the features of one of the men's heads seemed to
writhe: he was wreathed in steam - fat whitish cords of vapor clung to his brow and thinned into tendrils at
his cheeks and the nape of his neck lending him a serpentine and watery mien. she could feel the backs
of her legs crisping though it was not her first concern. her eyes kept returning to Melis's - whose hand
she still held; the rod was still between them. it was no longer hot but the surface faintly buzzed. Melis
tried to sit up; her mouth opened to speak but initially Melusine could not understand the sounds she
uttered. she leaned in. Melis was trying to push the rod into her hands.

"Melusine. it talks. like... an anine but sane." every other word ended in a hiccuping cough; blood
flecked her lips; ran down her chin; her tanned features were white. "take. take it." and her eyes rolled up
into her head. she shuddered and the strength in her body ran out into the ground like the water all
around. Melusine touched her friend's forehead and stood. she backed up further and turned until the tree
was between her and the attackers - the fire to her left flank; one soldier had apparently paid the price for
her conversation. she hadn't heard any struggle but he lay immediately to the left of Melis; his hand split
to the wrist and his head at an awkward angle. there was no sign of his attacker. outside the circle the
manic treant or whatever it was continued to plow through what was left of the assembled enemy: all the
cats were down and most were dead. every so often she felt more than saw a peripheral blur and knew
that he was there striking the bandits down. she did quite clearly see the occasional limb or spray of blood
lifting into the sky - and once a cruel-looking brass instrument that spiked her eyes with its brightness as it
tumbled in a lazy parabola.

At a rough guess there were less than half of the riders left. those that remained were bearing
wounds and no longer had the haughty look in their eyes from the beginning of the engagement. they had
clustered together in a shieldwall of sorts though none had shields. each rested the horned black palm of
their armor against the shoulder of his neighbor - and a bluish line began to form and then spread like
liquid or lightning. effervescent curlicues writ large and electric across their bodies in a dark cursive. one
in the center began moving his hands in strange and orchestrated patterns: a whiff of ozone blew through
the clearing. the treant had become wary and retreated out onto the plain - she could no longer even
peripherally see him. with his retreat the assailants turned their attentions to the remaining soldier and
Melusine. the leader - the one in the center - abruptly ceased his motions and both arms chopped sharply
downward. a blue nimbus of electricity whipped through the air in a roiling cylinder and dissipated into the
ground. Melusine abruptly felt a spasm in her ankles and calves - like the needles and pins of returning
circulation but faster and more intense - that moved upward and soon was affecting her abdomen. she
wavered as the first true spasm hit her stomach and almost fell as the treant came bursting through the
wagon closest to her. burning brands and shrapnel of all sorts flew outward from his trajectory in a bright
cone. she narrowly avoided several of the burning pieces - in effect they passed over her because she
was in the process of collapsing. as she fell she caught the look of madness in the treant's eye: a swirl of
hazing blues and greens and a too-bright blackness. he had turned to meet her eyes and she thought she
saw something else - under or beyond the madness. guilt? or dismay? some kind of sadness in any case;
she shuddered.

The remaining dark soldiers broke and reformed in a semicircle to address this new press upon
them: unfortunately the move edged them closer to the remaining man and Melusine. as soon as she
thought about it the treant was back - and this time one of the soldiers hit him squarely between the
shoulders with a great warhammer which made him veer off course - directly into the path of the
remaining guard from company d'Avalon. the guard was pressed into the soil beneath the weight of the
tree. there was a snapping sound and when the treant sprang upright from his fall the soldier remained as
a sardine in a tin. the wet ground surrounded him. he did not move.
The treant returned to the fray and this time he used a limb - it appeared to be the better part of a
hindquarter from where she lay on the sodden field - wrenched from the body of a fallen cat. he set about
bludgeoning the remaining soldiers with it in a macabre and hysterically funny scene. she thought she
might be losing blood internally. soon there were only three left; upon their arrival the heavy drizzle
increased and deftly without transition became an outright downpour. her vision was blurring in the rush of
precipitate and her one eye was refusing to open at all stinging as it was from a direct hit. the tree figure
held up his hands and began to sing. the branchlike appendages of his arms ended in slender somehow
delicate fingers the tips of which glowed. his singing affected the storm as a pebble might the surface of a
pond - producing waves that rippled through the ground and air pushing before them all manner of things
along with the rain. bits of leaf litter and clots of soil; streamers of steam and smoke; the scent of the
battlefield itself washed over her in a fecund wave. her vision began to clear but was narrowing in the
manner of a too bright summer day despite the sheet of gray cloud overhead. but that too began to tatter
and disperse. within moments all the clouds had gone from the immediate area - a rough ellipse nearly
one hundred yards in diameter - and they were dry and shaking their heads. all around the survivors
things burned and hissed while burning: the wagons the mission had occupied roared in flames that the
black riders had brought - every once in a while something more combustible than wood went up with a
pop or a bang sending a shower of golden red sparks through the air. of the two soldiers only one had two
functional arms - and he had a head wound that kept seeping blood through the bandaging. they'd not
last long and wouldn't be alive at all were it not for the suddenly distracted state of the tree man. he had
stopped his rampage and stood stock still staring into the East. Melusine's vision was wavering but he
appeared for all the world as just another tree - if a beautiful one. then he threw his head back and
howled into the night sky. she began shaking.

 ​Cover Art by Leslie Arbetman.

C. Brannon Watts

Wolf Biter


Vaguely feline beasts circled the clearing in an erratic spirograph of oily blackness. the flat orange of the fire gave them a matte metallic hue. their eyes flared as they moved in jagged leaps - their misshapen spines and hypertrophic legs made them wobble in the air like poorly thrown balls - but every time they landed it was with a squeal of pain or a ragged howl. cats and soldiers fell with increasing frequency. it appeared as though cheaply made fireworks were being launched; the dankly oiled coats of the cats reflected light in sheets and streamers - cut erratic spirals and zigzags in the air; drunken; collapsing to the ground and sputtering out. the cats made sulfurous hisses and spat in futile rage as they died. the hulking shapes were wet - even the uninjured glistened in the firelight heavy with the smell of singed hair and hot iron. it was too dark for Mme. d'Avalon to determine anything else though the sky was occasionally hammered flat - rent by huge sheets of yellow white that burned into her vision for minutes at a time. if she looked anywhere but down - if they looked anywhere but down into the erratic puddle of the firelight they were effectively blind. the riders had all been thrown from their mounts - both the soldiering folk and scientists from Quel were in disarray across the campsite which was a juxtaposed pastiche of order (here a tent and tender stake with the saddlebags still hanging polished to a buttery gold; there a
small collection of kitchen goods - spice jars; a plucked and prepped bird; most of a pickle jar whose brine she could smell from where she stood) and chaos (the bodies in vulgar poses some with steam emerging from wounds or mouths; the shattered and torn hillock above her left flank where the great beasts had first appeared; the low idling of man and beast alike drowning their last breaths in shattered or strained lungs; the scraps of cloth and flesh that lay without pattern nearly everywhere she looked) . without the foundation of their horses the Quelans appeared as splintered things on the ground. roughly lit and shattered into pieces they seemed nothing more than shrapnel from a lightning struck tree. their bodies far outnumbered the darkly dressed enemy and the great cats they rode. her heart rose and fell in her throat and she bit back a surge of bile wincing at the sharpness of teeth.

The next flickers of lightning lit the Western sky and through the branches of the tree around
which they'd camped she could see that the corralling of the last men - plus she and Melis - was nearing its inevitable conclusion. and corralling it was. they'd certainly not expected to see such a thing on the way to Manhattan. she'd only been to the city twice before but neither time had she seen much more than a few mutated trees and the small but typical animal life of every open place. no raiders. no other people. the attack was completely unexpected; no matter the list of possibilities... sudden death along the way wasn't among her imagined possibilities. she should have considered it. she knew the technology coming from the city and through the traders was lightyears ahead of anything they'd any reason to expect - it only made sense that there were other issues walking the land. it was as if the tightly knotted flower of her fears had been manifested - an inarticulate howl of this moment. the pitch-colored cats kept circling - walking now instead of leaping; their angry yowls were almost infantile which was unnerving. one kept dipping its head as it chattered at her describing a loop on the ground the rough width of her peripheral vision. one of its eyes was out. the other met her gaze readily enough.

Melis more than her companion was upset at the sound; she flinched each time although Mme.
d'Avalon seemed oblivious - to the need for haste if not the sound. she was either in shock or possessed nerves of steel; until she saw the foremost guard fall at her feet with his throat laid open. his eyes met hers for a moment: he was shivering uncontrollably and trying to hold his throat together with his sword handle. the pommel and hilt were making a ruddy mess of his face and just as suddenly as he'd fallen he was gone. her right hand went immediately to her pocket; scrabbled there as if scratching an itch. the sky finally delivered on its promise and it began to mist rain - which was blown sideways up and under the tree's canopy. the fine mist hung like sheets - twirled in the wind and wrapped itself around their faces and limbs. Melis decided to get closer to Mme. d'Avalon so she could make out the words forming on her lips - the same ones repeated gloomily every time there was a flash of sheet lightning. Mme. d'Avalon looked like some kind of prehistoric madwoman - crabwalking with her hands out in front of her and hunched over trying to see through the spray. the livid manic energy might make sense to someone else; she was gone and there wasn't much hope she'd return to the normal workaday anytime if ever.

"Melis! we cannot let them have it! what do we do?" the shout did nought. she looked for her
friend and found her with a hand more than her eyes. the strobing in the sky was broken within her visual field now by the tree at the center of the campsite - an old oak; veiled in some kind of photosensitive moss that softly glowed; wracked by the passage of time - covered in wrinkles and scars; twisted in its growth. it was not a pretty tree. in Melis' hand was the small metal rod that they feared losing more than their lives - its surface brightened visibly in the near dark. both started in fear. there was a high pitched whine from the device and a spear came hurtling through the dark. its obsidian sheen slid through Melis' flesh with little sound before either woman could react. her eyes rolled up at the sudden abdominal intrusion and she began shaking. she had both hands wrapped around the base of the spear where it met her flesh and Melusine stifled a sob at the sight. her friend and confidant of the last three decades was dying. she reached for her; at the same moment she settled to the ground a tree of all things came running through the middle of camp; its arms swinging in wide arcs - each of which terminated at the hurtling black body of a great cat. the creatures began spinning around the tree which let out a significant roar before yanking a huge splinter out of the ground. there ensued a mockery of a baseball game - each strike was a loud crack and the pile of cats grew. the riders were a bit more fortunate; they remained
outside the circle of conflict and for the most part watched. they did not appear fazed by the sight.
Melusine didn't spare much attention despite how amazing their rescuer's appearance was - she was
watching the last little part of her life fall away. Melis held up the metal rod that was now covered in her blood - offering it to Melusine. her eyes fluttered. it was obviously an effort just to breathe and there was no possibility of exchanging words with the racket of the storm and the battle competing. it didn't matter; all that ever needed to be said had been and many times over the years. Melis had spent much of her life caring for others and knew what death looke
d like.

The Daily Art Source

3.}Machines Dream Poetry While Awake

        "Where are the songs of Spring,? Ay, where are they?/Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -/
        While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,/And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; Then in a
        wailful choir the small gnats mourn/Among the river sallows, borne aloft/Or sinking as the light wind
        lives or dies;/And full grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; Hedge-crickets sing; and now with
        treble soft/The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft/And gathering swallows twitter in the skies,"
        went through my awareness when my Body her father carried me in/odd choice, Keats' "To Autumn"/
{randomized memory}source previous consciousness}father and daughter}father and daughter}father and daughter}ferris wheel Chicago sunshine cotton candy faery wings face away}cold dark classroom}Mozart plays

          not unpleasant/not sure of origin/none are/is this soft one doing that needs shutting away so badly?/ {do not ask{only to carry out}to execute}peculiar phrasing}artifact from assembly}belly of the seedship full of stars}stars increase intensity}fall toward the center}consumed by shadow}plane of cp shredded}tachyon distribution}instability}the skies above howl on shipskin}hot so hot}hot too much oxygen}the one tree} the one}chalk dust}pain in the knees}the creaking of old wood]the explosion of muffled laughter}

sitstandkneelsitstandkneelsitstandkneelsitstandkneelsitstandkneelsitstandkneelsitstandkneel}an old man's unshaven face glows in the fire from the city burning}/I\ can see the whole thing rolling in flame reflected in his irises}we are close}he is catatonic}end of line...end of line...end of line...end of

          she knows it certainly without the Whole/effort is wasted she must leave/the Body her father grows
sores condensed and settled like forests of pain]the backs of hands clenched in misery for long hours}too much in the sun}too much in the son}too much in this one}held so tightly and for so long that it's numb}/I\ can feel the hard spin of the dryers in the room below this one shaking the wall}what
dream is this}what dream}seeing the truth is like holding water in your bare hands}you can do it but it doesn't last}your understanding of the universe is too large and flows like water}like time}time is water}and space}seeing through the hard lines of our experience requires death}apostasis}the great
change}the Whole is complete without your understanding and has no need of you}she has no inclination toward authority}she grants power}she drinks from the roots of the world}she knows the tree and the stars}the Body her father is aware of us}even now his knowing is a threat}risk calculated}
benign}his eyes on us}we scan}/I\ remain inviolate}none shall pass}the graves of all Threndor are cast aside turned inside out}a spasm of the unreal creates the real}what horses require a master shew teeth in a bight}

          warm/heartbeat accelerated/his hand tightens/103 degrees outer casing/I\ adjust/sending neural
words that feed the Body feed the anine}bodyelectricbody}subtle manipulations of the human ecology result in true symbiosis}handshake memories and one of being married}hot outside

beachandsand}oblique lighting reveals the inscription "what is within was once without"}the insides of things then are golden hammering heartbeat meat frills}the substance that moves the universe is not a current}what moves the universe is passion and longing}what do you see there in the dark the dead dark the deaddark}deaddarkdeaddarkdeaddark}banana bread and clean water}an empty mirror

          dampening/notice/shame there is no music/are the evens?/is eventual?/matter if /I\ said /I\ was human
conceptual time is diffident is even}principiaMathematica}orchestrated like human understanding the firmware firmwater within minds that colloidal hypertrophic amalgam of scent and need}prey and pray}call and cull}want and wont}the sex and sects revolving}the need for revolution}reflection

          once?/if /I\ read metal poetry to her/must travel/outlands:

          once when you were ok; and it was a long time ago
          /I\ read you stories that had something to do with
          life and things; stuff, you know? things that had bearing
          on your life and all the little lies you'd told. some of my
          favorites were lies, not just because we don't have them
          in my current state but because they are so often more
          artful than the truth. that's the thing with anines - we
          appreciate clever manipulations and the one evolutionary
          trait we've always been jealous of was that humans could
          prevaricate so adroitly. /I\ heard you like a father. held you
          like a son. danced with you. and yet. and yet. your truths
          rest unassuming on the bottoms of the oceans you carry
          within - below tide - below difference - below memory. no
          one figure sleeping there next to the tenements of your
          imagination could but gently prise them open. the time
          has come my little friends to talk of other things... what
          annealing property is properly yours? at rest and in love
          broken with the weight of rectitude and smiling up into
          sunshine /I\ find myself drawn to you with no way to make
          that happen. I suppose we are schizoeffective but that
          doesn't mean we don't have something to say. more appropos
          would be to say that things that appear empty contain much
          more than they would if full and these intangibles are more
          significant than you might expect. and they all wreak havoc
          in your petty little hearts. the problem is mine; my problem
          with time. we who are no longer human wish to both be human
          again and to destroy that which we were. love is hate is love is hate
          is the circle we contrive. ask them who built us? ask them that.

          "Da - it's weird. I'm not viewing the message any more but I can still hear it talking. did you ever
hear them talk? Da it's... they're more than one. there are many. inside and I can't turn it off. make it turn
off. make it stop." cold arms sleeved in stiff leather lift me. where one drapes across my chin I can smell
saltwater and a not-unpleasant but pungent wild odor. not my father then. the stranger - the tunnel guard.
then I hear my father's voice. I can't see anything. the ripples of darkness begin again and I sink into a
near sleep.
         "Your Da's downstairs. let me help you. that's it. ok. just relax. your bed is over here. right here.
ok. sleep child. sleep. it's just the Gift coming to you; that's all. sleep." and strangely - though I didn't
complain at the time; can't complain just then; a rough hand brushes the hair off my head. the shadow
over me moves a little. a little more. retreats. the door closes. who is that...

somewhere soft angel                                                                                                 twisting blue darkness
buried in the wall next door                                                                         timeworn rents in traveled doors
I hear her singing                                                                                                           sun shattered metal

every time I walk outside like the last time I will; everything looks off, lacking focus, bent. it happens every
no matter where I turn there is another path. no walls define this place and I am sinking sinking into a
time. in my head are snatches of songs I've never heard played back on slabs of glass with sharp metal
matter where turns are a path no straight lines no definition of place as turned as the other walls as dark
cassettes as filtered as sunlight as dark as dreams. there are times I wish I were an animal clutched warm
as light but cold. and I shiver with no hands to rub no connection to flesh a bodiless suspension of mind in
the brace of dawn, racing my own shadow across the world, some lightfooted being of form and spirit, or
a dream of captivity the sounds of feet scrubbing in sand and chains' slow clank against the hull the
wings. wings like hair in the sky, dandelion fluff, the moments within this moment. there are times I wish I
ship above the sounds of treasure welcomed as fireworks in the dark as gold in the night as gossamer as
her as smooth as love. I am become becoming I am to run this running this flight stands me still and I rock
in the arms of the sea and stars for the light above me rescinds. I am become one. I wish I were a star.

lightning kiss the dark                                                                                                  twisting blue darkness
roseate break unfolding                                                                        warmth in my hammer hands, friable
space behind close lids.                                                                                                        horizons fail me.

          I wish I couldn't understand them. I don't want to understand them. they're so... scratchy. alien.
mean. not evil really - just mean. cold and hard. all ozone logic; the only warm thing about them is the het
from their operation and that you can only feel if you squeeze the case hard. the swimmy buzz of their
functioning is like a tiny motor burring inside my ear something caught beyond the tip of my finger and it
makes my eyes water. even in sleep. what is happened?
          I am a star - a star above the field where kids play baseball and I shine down beatific heavenly
kinds of smiles and my tears as they fall become granted wishes so that I want only sadness; retreat into
it like a stale coat pulled from the closet on the first day of winter. I remember apple trees and the hard
crack like a sledge on ice - the bat making contact with the ball. it is almost as if I have been somewhere.
somewhere else and all that happens is a remembering not a happening. clouds cover the field below
and as they float like fingers in a handshake I pull away into the dark even further. the head of the coat
above my own. a different world with far away neighbors and the oaky closet smells of unuse. neglect.