Thursday, April 30, 2009

post 581. byron's trip.

     Byron is looking in a mirror, dragging a comb across the few hairs he has left. He is thinking about how much shallower he looks than he did when he started on this trip. More lines. Sagging. 83? 84? Who knows?

     There is a knocking on the hull of his space ship. Then hundreds of knocks, a cacophony. They’re excited to meet the inhabitant of this tin can that has landed on their planet. What is it doing here? Why didn’t it park in the shade?

     Byron is adjusting his tie. Carol gave it to him for his first day in Congress. God, Byron thinks. Congress. So long ago! The tie has a small duck pattern on it, an inside joke between husband and wife.

     There is a chittering outside the door of the space ship. They’re excited to meet the first Human Being that has ever landed on their planet, although they don’t know Byron is a Human Being; they’re just hoping whatever is in the tin can is nicer than those jack asses from Alpha Centauri.

     Byron tucks The Encyclopedia under his arm ceremoniously. All of Earth’s history. The whole kit and kaboodle. All of it. And Byron, the last of them all. Delivering the memory of the Human Race to the universe. Preserving our place in history before the Earth was turned into a giant fungus by bad people, rendered quite unlivable. All the memories. All the stories, lost. A pinprick in such a large place like the universe. All your memories, gone.

     There is a gasping silence as the door hisses open, the gangplank groans down, and Byron wobbles out. Two suns: how about that? Byron squints. There is a loud cheer as he raises his raisined hand to say hello.

     Byron is delivering the greatest speech in human history, The Encyclopedia recording it for inclusion. As old and crazy as he’s become from twenty years in space, he has not forgotten the forty years of speech writing. It’s a doozy: epic, personal, touching. There is a loud chittering cheer, although it is for the melody of his voice, since they don’t speak English. Byron remembers his acceptance speech, his run for the Presidency, cut short because of his son’s death.

     There is a giant crowd around him for his last days. They are much shorter than he is, and call him “Byrud.” He is having children all over again, showing them pictures on The Encyclopedia, smoking from his pipe. He starts talking about his wife. Carol, Carol, Carol.

     Byron is trying to hold on to the many hands clasping his. There in the shade of a giant, alien plant, is a crowd as far as he can see, smiling at him. Then his fingers die, forgetting how they wiped the sweaty strands of hair off his wife’s forehead after giving birth to David. Then his arm dies, forgetting how it held Carol on the boardwalk during their first night in Capital Metropolis. He asks for her, and there is a comforting chittering. The sun fades. His eyes die, his brain dies. His memories are gone.

     Like this one: Byron and his wife, finally cleaning out David’s room. The books he read, the drawings he made. They were just objects, they realized: the stories that made them important died long before.

post 580. mr. nunemaker comes to visit.

Friday, April 17, 2009

post 575. thirty minutes.

     I have thirty minutes.

     Blake and Chesty have probably already left. No – now they have. I hear the pop and thrust of the escape pods. They’ll be on their way. Good.

     But now I have twenty-nine minutes. And I have to find Shane.

     The ship is listing, a drunk stumbling through space. The computers are barely holding it together. Circuits snap. Chairs, clipboards, broken things are sliding to starboard. Larger things clang throughout the ship.

     He’s down in the engine room. Doing what, I don’t know. He’s so new, he probably stuck to company guidelines. In the event of an emergency, do this, this, and this. I remember. That’s what i would have done, before I realized that these trips you take are so far from home that the company can’t exactly call you into the office for a hand slap, and besides that, this job doesn’t exactly get the best class of character. Every man for himself.

     I have twenty minutes.

     There are low, expressive sounds, strange rumblings coming from different places as I pick my way through the ship. Death rattles. Suddenly the sprinklers go off. Sprinklers! It’s funny, in a way. Like an old person in dementia. I watched my Grandma die, I watched her losing weight, her body caving in, calling me by her dead son’s name, an uncle I never met. Hopelessly spending the last months of her life listlessly pawing at the battery case for her hearing aid. The ship doesn’t know, it can’t know, that it’s dying. It’s trying to figure out how to save itself. Sprinklers. I’m cursing.

     Shane, sure, was just like us. Running from something, trying to forget something, somethinging from something. Cloudy. Quiet. He glumly took his hazing, which made Chesty give up. I found him, one night, looking out the porthole. It’s funny how it sticks out in my memory, ‘cause no one ever looks out the porthole.

     A lurch, and I get thrown against a bulkhead. A gash in my leg. I spit out curses at the ship. But I have to get up. I got to save that kid. I stumble on.

     I have ten minutes.

     Ten minutes?

     Did it ever take me this long to get to the engine room?

     Come on, old man.

     I wouldn’t be this stupid, chasing after some kid, had I not been through it before. I was on a ship, forever ago, right? Hit by a comet. Don’t ask how we missed it, just one of those things. I was Shane’s age. A mess. You’re in the middle of a giant black vacuum in a tin can and suddenly the people you were eating with minutes before are cut in two, shit’s flying out into space, fire…I remember looking out. There was nothing between me and the end of the universe. It’s different, from the ground. You look up, and there’s nothing between you and the moon, or the sun. There’s a pretty blue sky, and the grass holds you. But it’s different when the moon and the sun and all that blackness is trying to pull you into it. A cold hand, yanking on your leg. For a moment, it was quiet.

     There she goes again. More noises. I try to block them out. The ship’s still trying to fix itself, and the rain comes down. More snaps. More crackling. More banging. Like a body, losing it, falling apart on the inside. I’m stumbling forward, and my leg’s turning numb. I can’t panic. But now I’m a ship in danger. That’s not good. Engine room, Shane, Escape Pod, Emergency kit.

     I have seven minutes.

     A shower of sparks. More noises that don’t sound good. Moans, like the ship wants to let go. My Grandma, in the last weeks, leaning over to my mother, with a voice from from deep, deep inside her, like she knew it was coming. She would say, “Please kill me.”

     I have four minutes.

     The engine room clangs open and there he is.

     He’s crying. In the din and dirge, it echoes off the bulkheads, the catwalks, the giant space, and sends a shiver up my spine. Tinny.

     “Are you all right?” I ask.

     “No,” he says. “What are you doing here?”

     “Getting you, stupid,” I said. I meant it in a fatherly way, but it came out wrong.

     Then it happened – the ship lost a major organ, and a muffled explosion threw us all about. I guessed the ion converters in the bow. I prayed that Blake had shut the lines.

     This sucks, I think. I see Shane. He’s close by. I lunge for him, and I grab his arm. At that very instant, amidst the ear-splitting sounds of hell, the klaxon sounds. Now, the ship is telling me: You have one minute.

     “No!” he yells. I can barely hear him, one foot away. His arm is bent in a funny way.

     My leg really hurts. I’ve lost a lot of blood.

     I grab for him, and he lands a solid punch to my eye. A shower of sparks inside my head.

     “She’ll never come back!” He yells, and scurries away.

     What the fuck? Grandma? Some chick? A dog? what the fuck? And why do I care, here? I was there. I know. He lost someone.

     “Come on!” I yell. I stand. I wobble. Ship lists. hand on something hot. He’s trying to stay. He’s trying to kill himself. Could he have…? I can set this kid straight. Out here, in the blackness, if I can just get to him.

     The klaxon sounds like it’s moving faster, like the heart monitor on my Grandma, showing her heart give one last try. What did she call it? “The old college try.”

     Lurch. I fall.

     I see the airlock to the escape pod. All the way over there.

     I hear Shane, yelling something.

     I have ten seconds.

post 574. springtime in new york city.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

post 570. dream casting twain.

(Tim's cast.)

HANK MORGAN ... Brad Pitt

KING ARTHUR ... Jeremy Irons

SANDY ... Ashley Jensen

SIR LANCELOT ... Daniel Craig

MERLIN ... Bill Nighy

MORGAN LE FAY ... Kate Blanchett

SIR SAGRAMORE LE DESIROUS ... Peter Serafinowicz